Tumbling Like Alice

"I'm tumbling like Alice down the tunnels of my mind..."
Curved Air

Betsy Pennebaker

The Pit. When you visit the Pit, or even peer over the edge into it, you suddenly know how Alice felt falling down the rabbit hole with no idea how or where she would stop. When you're falling, everything feels impossible, energy vanishes, and just being alive and conscious hurts. Viscerally. Everyone says depression is a 'mental' illness, but you feel it in your body as much as you feel it in your mind.

When I am in or near the Pit I am actually grateful to be manic depressive instead of just plain depressive, because occasionally I have a glimmer of a memory of happiness, productivity, color, sound, joy—and I know, deep down, that the updraft of mania will eventually come to lift me up. I wait for it. Sometimes I can ride it just enough to get back to lucidity, without heading into the stratosphere.

Treatment for manic depression used to be focused primarily on curbing mania, because most anti-depressants send bipolar people sky-high. To a manic depressive, curbing mania without lifting depression feels deeply unfair—no rides into the wide blue yonder of creativity and exuberant joie de vie to compensate for the dark visits to the Pit. Now things are better. In the past few years, some anti-convulsant medications originally developed for epilepsy have been approved for the treatment of bipolar depression. In my experience, they work. I haven't even looked over the edge of the Pit in a couple of years. And some of these new meds even make you lose weight as a side effect—a bonus.

Acupuncture is also a boon. Whenever I feel like I'll burst into tears if someone even looks at me the wrong way, I call my acupuncturist and ask for an immediate appointment. The needles go in (no, they really don't hurt), and peace starts to settle over my tortured soul. An hour later, I walk out, and I am the Buddha. Centered, calm, serene.