Why (not) hide it?

I don’t think I have a diagnosable form of depression or bi-polar, but I do feel like I have more extreme ups-and-downs more often than others. Maybe I have a soft form of hypomania or something.

It’s occurred since high school, but the thing is this: I’ve always just used it to fuel creativity. On my down swings, I read philosophy (Levinas is my favorite right now), I paint and draw, I write ideas or study/practice algebra and calculus. I do anything to remove myself from other people and work the creative-intellectual aspects of myself.

I’ve never talked about it with anyone directly before, but a very close friend of mine (co-founder of my startup) who has similar ups-and-downs told me in passing that its very bad to keep this stuff inside.

I’d like to ask the opinions of those who actually have a diagnosed form of depression: What’s your perspective on talking it out with someone vs. using the lonesomeness as fuel for creativity?

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the post. Sorry I didn’t see it earlier, or I would’ve responded sooner.

Please go see a psychiatrist and let them make that determination. If you do have clinical depression or bipolar disorder, then your risk of suicide goes up dramatically. Better to get a diagnosis - even if it turns out to be good news - than to leave a major illness undiagnosed. After all, would you let cancer fester if you suspected you might have a mild form of it?

I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder 4 different times. The stigma that came with the disease prevented me from accepting the diagnosis. As a result, I ignored it for years, ruining relationships, causing me to lose jobs, and just making me miserable to be around.

It wasn’t until the fourth diagnosis - 12 years after the first - that I got serious about finding treatment for my bipolar disorder. I’ve been on a new prescription for about a month now. And, it’s going very well. I’m a much more pleasant person to be around, which my wife and kids duly appreciate. My performance at work improving, which my boss duly appreciates. And, best of all, I’m sleeping 1000x better, which I appreciate more than words. (I’ve had insomnia associated with my bipolar disorder for years and not known it.)

Regarding creativity: I’m more creative now than I have been in years. And, it’s not just artistic endeavors It’s the witty retort to a colleague’s friendly jab. It’s the flirtation with my wife. And, it’s even cracking a joke on an elevator full of strangers.

I’m like you. I always thought I preferred to be alone. That I was an introvert. But, it turns out that the real me, the one free of depression, is actually an extrovert. And, all those years of being alone were part of my problem.

All of that said, be willing to try more than one treatment plan when you do seek treatment. The first plan doesn’t always work. No plan works for everyone. The first mood stabilizer I took made it impossible for me to feel either happy or sad. My mood was stable, but I hated my mood. Don’t do what I did and walk away from treatment for 12 years after one failed attempt. Keep working with your doctor to find another plan. My new treatment plan is working wonders.

Good luck to you!

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Just noticed that I completely forgot to address the “talking it out” point…

Counseling can be an effective tool. I’ve had some good luck with it - especially mindfulness meditation as a form of relaxation and learning to be in the moment.

Counseling can also be less expensive than psychiatry. A decent licensed mental health practitioner probably charges $100-150 / hour. Where a good psychiatrist can charge $300 or more / hour. (I’ve paid both. So, I know.)

Right now, I need to be seeing a psychiatrist because my symptoms are not fully under control. Once we get my medication right, I’ll be able to stop seeing him. (He even said that his job was to become redundant in my life.) After that, I might take up mindfulness counseling again, since I liked it before.

Talking it out CAN help. But, if you do have a diagnosable mental illness, you likely need to be on medication first. Once your illness is stabilized, then counseling can help you resolve other issues.

Think of it in terms of someone with a more extreme mental illness. If someone has undiagnosed schizophrenia, they will be experiencing the world in a very different way - probably in a way that is not helping them live highly productive lives. Once they receive a diagnosis and find a treatment regimin that mitigates the symptoms of their illness, they might want to talk out some of the scarier or more negative side effects of having had the illness. So, medication and counseling go hand in hand.