Understanding those who struggle with mood disorders

It’s not a secret that I, like many others, struggle with issues of anxiety and depression. Since my diagnosis, I’ve been very open about my issues in hopes that maybe the way I cope will be something that someone else can use. 
This is why I feel that it is important to remind folks of a few things to remember when dealing with a friend or loved one who may be struggling.
We can’t always help it if we are feeling blue. Sometimes we can be perfectly fine and the dark cloud of depression will just pop up and we don’t always know how to make it go away. Just be patient with us, we are trying.
Sometimes some of us make irrational decisions. When you struggle with issues such as bipolar disorder, it is often hard to control impulses like eating or spending money. For instance, I’ve personally been struggling with some heartbreak in my life. That heartbreak has prompted behaviors not normal for me. Since August 1, I’ve bought a couch for my office, broke a very strict diet and gained 15 pounds, and went as far as to start on a tattoo cover up that one part of my brain said not to do, but the other irrational part let me walk into the tattoo shop to start it.
Speaking of the tattoo, pain is sometimes how we cope. If you’ve ever wondered why people self-harm (not necessarily commit the unspeakable), cut themselves or burn themselves, here is a quick explanation. Sometimes the depression is so awful that you do things to just feel something. Anything. Life with depression and the highs and lows of bipolar disorder can be so disorientating that you do things, even painful things, just to feel something.
Then sometimes we feel too much. I know personally, that sometimes I feel so many feelings at once that I can’t process them and I shut down. It requires me to sleep for several hours just to be able to function again. It can be debilitating, tiresome, and downright miserable to feel everything, and nothing all at the same time.
The thing is, I cope through not just tattoos, but through music, meditation and prayer, exercise, and various other hobbies. I try to also get others to join with me in sharing their hobbies because the best thing for me to deal with uncontrollable feelings is being with like-minded folks.
I’m not writing all of this to make readers feel sorry for me. The complete opposite is what I want, really. I want people to not feel sorry for my personal plight because the last thing I need is more pity. I write all this to inform people that sometimes those of us who deal with mood disorders really just need empathy, not sympathy.  
How can you help if you have a friend who struggles with mood disorders? Validate their feelings. Spend time with them, even if that means sitting on a couch binge watching The Office for the fortieth time. Love them. Be understanding that sometimes they will cry or shut down for no reason. 
One final thought about this topic. Mood disorders often present themselves through depression including suicidal thoughts. Monday, Sept. 10, was National Suicide Prevention Day. By sharing the number 1-800-273-8255, we can all help prevent suicide. This Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

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