One of the most terrifying things about having mental illness is the sense of loss of self. Never with a physical illness do you say to yourself or your doctor “Where did I go? This isn’t me. The person I was is lost and some stranger has taken my place…”
Never, even if you are so physically ill that you are in the hospital, do you lose yourself, lose the essence of who you are.
But in a mental illness such as depression, there is the feeling of a loss of sense of self. The first time it happened to me was 1985, without knowing what it was at all, I had fallen into a deep depression, and all I knew was that the person I had been was gone. It was one of the most frightening things I have experiences! Until then, I hadn’t even known that such a thing as losing yourself was possible.
Instead of me, there was a blank, terrified, forlorn, lost shell of a person, who wasn’t even sure of how to put one foot in front of another to take a step forward. That lasted for a few months until I was put on antidepressants, although they brought me out of my depression, they of course those pushed me into a full blown manic phase. A story for another time…
A family member is going through a rough depressive episode and it brought all this back to me.
The good news is that you can recover your lost self! As the depression abated, I became me again. Oh my goodness, what a relief, I wasn’t a hollow shell of myself any more, I could think my own thoughts, I could laugh, I could sing, I could be me! Then the bipolar roller coaster took me on a manic ride, but I recovered from that as well with the help of Lithium. And I have recovered from depression and mania many, many times since my coming down with this illness in 1984/1985.
So here’s the hope part of this blog. Never fear, with Lithium or another mood stabilizer, you will recover. At least there’s this as the silver lining to the storm cloud of bipolar disorder. You will recover. Hang on!