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A Death and a Rebirth | My Story with Depression

CandleX exists to support the Beijing community by raising awareness of and supporting people living with mental illnesses such and depression and bipolar disorder. As part of this, we publish stories and pieces of writing by members of our community in our ‘My Story with Depression’ Project. Do you have a story to share? Send an e-mail to or write a comment below.

A Death and a Rebirth – My thoughts on bipolar

Diagnosis is simultaneously a death and a rebirth. How do you let go of the amazing highs? To be told that life will now be modulated by chemicals, specifically one chemical: lithium.

I asked my doctor: is there a medication that would let me be in a permanently high state? I felt like I was the best version of myself - productive, energetic, social, creative, charismatic! But she said, what about the inevitable crash? Months of debilitating depression, psycho motor retardation, as my doctor calls the way that I slow down my thinking and movements and confine myself to bed.

High functioning depressive I am not. Thatʼs not to say that those who are suffer less. In fact, perhaps that they can somehow keep it together means no one realizes how much they are suffering.

Me, my life comes to a grinding halt, I canʼt generate new thoughts, ideas, the only comfort is rereading old books, the characters and stories I know so well. I canʼt think my way out of the depression. I go to hospital as a circuit breaker because I know that I canʼt kill myself, and yet all I want to do is be dead. All day long I go between these two poles and I canʼt pick a side, so I lay down on the floor, and I just stay on the floor, people donʼt know what to do. Do you just leave her be, sheʼs not hurting herself or anyone else? Or do you pick her up and put her back in bed, where sheʼs been for the last month.

So itʼs off to hospital, to the locked down ward, into a room next to the ECT treatment room, itʼs not electrical shocks anymore they say, more like a brain reset. No you donʼt need that. Why? Am I not depressed enough? Later on I meet a guy who is having ECT and he is young and sporty and handsome. But the fucking black dog got him. Heʼs not someone I would have sat down and talked to in the real world, but here we are connected because we want to live and get back out there. So in many ways the psychiatric ward was a place of optimism, itʼs people at their weakest psychologically, emotionally, who are surrendering themselves, their freedom, so that they can be reborn. Take your meds. I am so compliant, lithium takes away the highs, but I fucking get it now, they make sure that the bottom doesnʼt fall out.

And for the first while, I yearn for the highs, and I feel I have to live a small life, contained. And I am afraid of other people, of them finding out that I have bipolar and that I need to be on medication. Sometimes I want to just introduce myself with it, hi, I have bipolar. Get it out of the way. I think of it constantly, the bipolar.

Slowly, gradually, I can now see more space around it, it doesnʼt take up all of me. And I am starting to see ways to live with it, small glimpses of the sun. Itʼs enough, I feel growth. Itʼs halting and slow, but I see the light.

Anonymous submission

Proofread by Lucy

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