Why am I suddenly feeling better?
April 21, 2008 4:41 PM   Subscribe

How can I prevent a relapse of depression?

I've been depressed - flat mood, apathy, suicidal ideation's, crying at the slightest provocation, etc. I've been what I think is manic - I went through a phase of extreme insomnia, getting really really excited about new things and then dropping them (sometimes in a matter of hours), I'd have excessively high moods that led me to believe that I was a new breed of human being, etc. Really f*cked up mood swings that would last for days or weeks, and then I'd swing through 180 degrees, and go the other way.

This went on for about 4-5 years. And then, about 6 months ago, it stopped. My moods stabilised, I feel "better", I got a new job, and life is back on track. I was in a depressive phase, and started heading back up. I just got back to "normality".

The thing is, I didn't do anything to cause this change. I've never had therapy, or even been diagnosed by a professional as being depressed/manic. I haven't changed my diet, my level of exercise, the amount of coffee I drink - anything. The only thing that changed about that time was getting another job, doing exactly the same thing with a different company. I have never smoked, never done any kind of recreational drug (marijuana, alcohol, etc), nor am I on any kind of special diet, or prescription medication.

So while I'm glad that I'm no longer spending small fortunes on ebay, I would like to know if there is any way to keep this new "normal" state? Basically, I want to stay like this, hopefully for the rest of my natural life. What can I do to ensure that that happens, if anything?

I'd speak to a doctor, but I feel a bit foolish saying "Hi. I used to have [these symptoms], but I don't have them any more. Please tell me why this is the case, when you've never even met me before and have no case history." I don't have money to spend on someone saying "We don't know".

Also, what could cause the change in my brain chemistry that has brought me back to normalcy? Most of the reading I've done on depression states that it can be hard work finding the right combination of medication and/or therapy that will help, and that even then it tales time. I haven't done anything. If there is no known reason that this happened, then that's fine. I just would like to know if there is one, and what it is.

WTF is going on?


Possibly pertinent info - male, mid to late 20's. Slightly overweight. Average Joe. Contact email - nolonger180ing@googlemail.com.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Talk to doctor. Suicidal thoughts is life threatening. Not talking to the doctor is like saying 'I had chest pains, but I'd feel awkward talking to someone after the fact!'

Knowing I have depressive episodes, I picked a time when I wasn't curled up in a miserable ball to seek out the school mental health person. Being proactive about my mental health means that when I had another episode I had an easier time smoking it out, instead of lingering in a black funk of despair. As you're in the big, bad working world I'd check to see if your company has a therapist on tap, or schedule an appointment to see whatever passes for your family doctor.

But good mental health means good (but balanced) self esteem, a good diet, exercise, vacations and rest from time to time, and healthy relationships. Seek these.
posted by Phalene at 5:10 PM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bipolar comes and goes. Lots of bipolar people have times when they feel OK.

You can set up a plan with a therapist and psychiatrist now, while you're feeling healthy, that will help guide you if you do become unwell again--and prevent you from relapsing. You will also have a number to call, someone who is familiar with your problems and can start treating you right away. You can also make sure that there is nothing environmental that was triggering your mood swings. For example, many bipolar people report that a lack of sleep can give them manic symptoms.

As an example of the practical measures you can take, some people give their credit cards to a family member or friend when they feel like they're becoming manic. This and other safeguards can make your bad times a lot easier than they would be if you were unprepared.

Planning for the bad times is not a waste of money. It's a great investment in your future happiness.
posted by sondrialiac at 5:23 PM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

My impression from what you says is also bipolar, and I second the advice of Sondrialiac to set up an appointment with a therapist now, when you feel well.

Just describe what you went through, and your worries: the therapist will take it from there. The most important thing is to develop a good relationship with somebody in the health care field who will be able to help you if and when you need help.
posted by francesca too at 5:30 PM on April 21, 2008

You, alone, cannot guarantee that you will stay stable. It isn't something that is susceptible to conscious control and it isn't something you can control by use of diet or lifestyle. (Some will tell you that you can if only you use thus-and-so quack treatment, and they're wrong.)

You, with a therapist, have a good chance of keeping it under control. The most important thing will be the use of mood stabilizers. Lithium is the classic, but these days a certain class of drugs originally developed for treatment of epilepsy have been shown to be very useful for bipolars.
posted by Class Goat at 7:13 PM on April 21, 2008

yeah, go ahead and see a doctor. it's not silly to say, "this happened for years, and stopped, and i want to make sure it doesn't come back." especially since you don't know why it happened--the doctor will have some ideas that we civilians don't.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:20 PM on April 21, 2008

Doctor up. What you describe is bipolar behavior. Might be bipolar type two. You don't have to be batcrap insane to have the condition.

See your doc and bring with you a copy of what you posted.
posted by konolia at 7:25 PM on April 21, 2008

Talk to a psychiatrist about your frightening and life-threatening symptoms, symptoms that indicate the presence of a dangerous chronic illness.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:28 PM on April 21, 2008

That is some pretty scary brain shit there, and keep in mind that I have a high threshold for scary brain shit. This is definitely worth going to a doctor for - as others have pointed out, they are trained to ask you the right kinds of questions to figure out what has changed. (I'm not a psychiatrist, but I for one would definitely be asking you about your new job - no jobs are "the same." Perhaps it's a better working environment for you somehow?)

It's been a long, long time since I read An Unquiet Mind (written by a clinical psychiatrist who is, herself, bipolar), but I seem to recall that Kay Jamison, the author, went through periods between her mania and depression where she was almost normal. Please, please do see a doctor.
posted by bettafish at 9:21 PM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Nthing everyone else in here. You definitely need to talk to a doc.
posted by Roach at 9:30 PM on April 21, 2008

Right now is when you can see clearly that something was wrong and are motivated (organized, focused, calm, well) enough to seek help. Now is the time to find a good doctor or therapist.
posted by salvia at 10:23 PM on April 21, 2008

I think the useful saying here is, "If it goes away by itself, it can come back by itself." So it might feel really silly to walk in and talk about how you're thankful that all is finally well, but commenters above are right about it being the thing to do.
posted by lauranesson at 12:18 AM on April 22, 2008

You should definitely schedule a one-time consultation with a therapist. However, think twice before you jump into long-term therapy and prescription meds. You're healthy! Unless your therapist suggests otherwise, try yoga, exercise, diet changes, and meditation as ways to maintain your current positive state. If these don't work, you can start full-time therapy as a fallback.
posted by Gordion Knott at 5:50 AM on April 22, 2008

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