By the nature of mood cycling, I'm not always exhibiting signs of depression - because I'm not always battling it at the moment. But even in depressive cycles, I'm not always exhibiting what those without mental health conditions would think of as depression. Depression is so many things, and I think the best way to explain it is to answer some of the most common questions I get about it.
So your depression comes and goes?
Well, yes and no. It comes and goes because I cycle. But even in a depressive cycle, it's sometimes more evident - to me and those around me - than others. Not all depressive cycles are alike.
So you're not just always sad?
No, I'm always depressed when I'm in a depressive cycle, but I'm not always just sad.
What's the difference?
Sometimes I actually feel sad, or I guess that's what you would call it. I cry a lot, I feel really, really, really down. It's an incredibly deep level of sad. But there are so many other feelings that accompany depression: hopelessness, worthlessness, lack of ability to focus or concentrate, mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion, and the worst, nothingness.
Yes, the inability to actually feel anything. Like your emotions have been siphoned out of you,and you'll never feel anything ever again. You would even prefer to feel sad or hurt or angry or frustrated, anything, than nothingness. It feels subhuman.
So when you're sad, then you're just sad, right?
Not really. It's like a sadness. But a sadness that doesn't need an additional cause. If you think about it in terms of other illnesses, it's easier to explain. When someone has asthma, it can be triggered by certain things (allergies, air quality, increased physical activity, etc), but sometimes the reason they have trouble breathing is simply because they have asthma. There's no other trigger. Depression is like that. Sometimes, a trigger can throw me into depression. But often, I'm just depressed because I have depression as part of my cyclothymia.
So are you ever feeling normal?
(After recovering from laughing at the thought that anyone could think I'd be normal even without illness). I hate the word normal. Nobody's normal. I sometimes don't feel ill. I sometimes am not depressed, or hypomanic, or anxious, or experiencing any other symptom or stages of my condition. But it's always there. Always. It's like walking around with someone holding a bucket of water over your head that could get dumped on you without much warning, at any time. So I do have times where I guess you'd say I feel "normal", but I always know a cycle is not too far off, and it's hard to feel "normal" with that knowledge, though I try the best I can.