Depression and Anxiety Isn’t “One Size Fits All”

Aspects of my mental health have changed, and that’s more than okay. Yours has as well.

IMAGE: Unsplash — Sumeesh Nagisetty

Disclaimer: This article discusses accounts of, including but not limited to, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Additonally, this article does not contain medical advice nor am I a medical professional. Please speak with a accredited mental health practioner for adivce on the topics discussed below.

After a long period of doing really well, I have decided to seek professional mental health support again. At first, I felt a little bit like a failure or incapable. But I snapped out of that for the most part. My left-brain, logical side reminded me of the fluid reality that is the human experience. Though my journey with depression and anxiety has existed for as long as I can remember, this time in addressing so has brought to the forefront some “new” aspects with their expressions surrounding a word I never thought I would personally be associated with.

During the initial evaluation, my psychiatrist concluded that it was abundantly clear that I have both depression and anxiety, as she is able to prescribe me Prozac immediately. The unintentional shade from this woman was unbelievable. She’s amazing. My doctor then added:

I would like you to know though that halfway through our evaluation, I thought I was also going to also diagnose you with a form of bipolar disorder. However, I don’t think there is enough here to diagnose you with bipolar on its own. Rather, your depression and anxiety hold bipolar characteristics.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines Bipolar Disorder as, “…a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks…

Formerly, bipolar disorder was called manic depression or manic-depressive illness. The clarification down the line that changed the name altogether is because we now know that there are three main types of bipolar disorder, each of different expressions of anxiety and depression. Though all three hold clear or evident mood changes the “ups” and “downs” vary among them.

  • “Bipolar I Disorder” is described as manic episodes so severe they require immediate hospital care. This manic state lasting at least a week with a combination of depressive episodes, usually just as severe, that last at least two weeks.
  • “Bipolar II Disorder” is both depressive and hypomanic episodes. Hypomanic episodes, not nearly as severe as manic episodes, last a few days. (Read about the difference between hypomania and mania here.)
  • “Cyclothymic Disorder”, the third form of bipolar disorder, is essentially a long-term version of Bipolar II occurring for at least two years in adults and one year in children and adolescents. However, the hypomanic and depressive symptoms of cyclothymic disorder don’t fully meet diagnostic requirements as with bipolar I & II, thus creating their own cyclothymic standard entirely.

Though important to know in general, I personally have not been diagnosed with any of these forms as I don’t meet most of the bipolar disorder standards.

So why am I sharing this information then?

As relayed by my doctor, I don’t nearly meet the depressive and hypomanic standards of or within bipolar disorder let alone the manic standards. Being objective as one can be when processing their own mental health experience, I fully agree. But that doesn’t mean the depression and anxiety I have on their own is not of a level that needs to be addressed.

I have been so used to my mental health history of depression and anxiety existing on an unchanging line of consistency and severity that I unintentionally started to normalize them as the sole experiences of so; towards myself and anyone else. When these conditions started to occur for me in a “characteristically bipolar manner” as my doctor explained, this new spin on them so to speak resulted in me taking slightly longer than usual, even with a history, to even recognize that I was, in fact, experiencing depression and anxiety.

Wow.

Now getting the support I need, I find this to be truly fascinating.

Rather than the depression and anxiety occurring under a bipolar umbrella, bipolar-esk qualities exist under a depressive umbrella. My “ups” are not manic level, and my “downs” no longer getting increasingly worse were not yet at a bipolar standard. However, they were still concerning ups and downs nonetheless.

I do not have bipolar disorder. I have episodic depression and anxiety that were addressed before it got to a level where daily functioning would have been almost impossible.

What do we take away from this?

Whether you have a history of mental health issues or not, no one is immune to what the field of social psychology centers around, or even the larger, systemic issues sociology covers. By this, I mean my mental health reality I knew for so long, affecting my immediate world, essentially put blinders on my view of how mental health works as a whole. Mental health is not uniform because humans aren’t a uniform species. There is no universal answer to addressing mental health issues nor in addressing different types of mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

We are all individual people with individual lives and experiences. Though we overlap in basic wiring, we operate and exist differently. As corny as it is, just because a snowflake is made of snow doesn’t mean the patterns are going to be the same. Quite the opposite actually.

A healthy mental state or not, or both, your mental and emotional wellbeing changes. Mine clearly has changed and yours has as well. Yes, you. All of our mental states are constantly changing and that’s perfectly ok. If your mental state was completely stagnant and didn’t develop in any direction… that’s a sign to be greatly concerned as that goes against human nature. Leaning into the vulnerability of the unknown or unfamiliar is exactly the healthy route to take.

There is no one cause nor one approach to addressing most mental health areas. With this, you can find comfort in knowing that your depression and anxiety are not something to be ashamed of. Let’s continue to break the stigma and have open conversations like these because they are really needed.

If you are experiencing active thoughts of suicide or suicidal ideation, you are not alone and there is help. Please feel free to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255.

If you are an LGBTQ+ youth or young adult, you also have the option to call the TrevorLifeline at 1–866–488–7386 or speak with someone via TrevorChat or TrevorText.

You can find NAMI’s LGBTQ+, Black, AAPI, Indigenous, Latinx, and people with disabilities mental health resources on their Identity and Cultural Dimensions page.

Democratic socialist Queer rights activist who is sexually liberated and uplifts mental health. Email me: mthm100@gmail.com

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