I usually look and act completely normal in my hypomanic or depressed moods (well, almost completely). However, it takes a lot of effort to do so.
Since I cycle rapidly and have no real periods of ‘normality’, I usually have to spend about ten to twenty percent of my energy to act normally. I had never thought this as abnormal because I did it all the time, but I occasionally wondered how other people found life so effortless. It never felt effortless to me.
As the manic or depressive periods become worse, I have to divert more and more energy just to do the normal everyday things in life. I mean things like putting the milk back in the refrigerator after breakfast, or tying shoelaces. More complex things become a struggle.
The usual pattern for depression is: I think that I should do something. Then my mind diverts to thinking of something else, and I forget to do it. A few seconds later my thoughts sweep back to this task, (having made no progress on any other task) and I say I should do it. And of course my mind heads off in another tangent.
It is worst when my mind gets stuck in thinking of just two things. I switch between one and the other so rapidly I feel as if I am stuck on a high tension wire, vibrating back and forth and getting nowhere.
If I really concentrate, I can do what I need to do, but as the depression gets worse, winning this game becomes harder and harder, and I start dropping peripheral tasks, like dressing appropriately, to concentrate on critical tasks. Like getting out of the house. Or talking to people.
Sometimes it takes over sixty percent of my energy just to get dressed, get out in public, and maintain a reasonable public face. There is very little left over for work, or playing scrabble, or swimming.
On truly bad days, I spend over ninety percent of my energy just getting the minimal done – brushing my teeth, taking a shower, eating. If I am lucky, I might make it outside.
Then there are the days when all my fighting energy and all my courage aren’t sufficient. The thought patterns turn into an unreasoning anxiety and the anxiety overwhelms me. I panic, I cannot think clearly or make plans, and all I want to do is not think, not think at all about what is happening, and wait for the period to pass. I spend a few days not thinking (this is when I disappear) and then a few days later it does pass, and I thankfully only have to direct fifteen to twenty percent of my energy to basic survival.