The mc of my new work will be one who suffers from bipolar and/or depression. Lots of things happen in her life - she has a negative relationship with her sister, she loses both her parents AND a marriage in the same year, etc. She suffers acutely, physically as well as emotionally, and I don't want her on meds since her suffering will be a large part of the story. I usually write historicals, but this story is contemporary with a historical subplot.
What I'd like to know is, how, specifically, will she suffer? What sort of physical pain would she experience? For how long? Is she bedridden for days? How would she deal with all the stuff that happens in her life? How likely would it be that she has suicidal thoughts?
I know this is sensitive, and I really appreciate anyone's time providing insight. My story will probably be in first-person PoV so it's important I get it right.
Thanks very much.
I suffer from Depression (unmedicated), though it's not strong enough to be unmanageable. I've also encountered people with extreme cases of both.
Depression usually causes all the symptoms of fatigue, since it does wear down the nerves. Physically, the worst I've ever felt from it is a dull ache in my bones and a heaviness, and a very strong lack of appetite. There's also difficulty facing sunlight if you've let yourself turn into a hermit.
If she's bedridden for days, then that's a pretty extreme case. The most I've ever experienced is a few hours where I usually fall asleep, then wake up with more energy.
Depression makes you disinclined to go outside and dislike of interaction, which only makes it worse. There's irrational anger if someone intrudes on you depression, and a bit of shame since you know it's not their fault, but you can't stop yourself from feeling put upon. Although, during peaks, anyone willing to listen while I pour my heart out (typically over imagined wrongs) is treated as an angel.
As for dealing with stuff, it's important to have a strong self-image, so you recognize when you're going too far off the deep end. Unfortunately, over time, exerting too much control can makes you very closed-off in trying to keep your personal issues from affecting others or even being noticed by other (don't want those imagined wrongs make you seem like a whiney twit). Sunlight helps a lot, as does a 'happy place' to retreat, such as books with happy endings or books that make me feel like life isn't all that bad. Anything in the middle of those extremes is a no-no, though.
When it comes to feeling suicidal, it doesn't matter how bad it gets as long as there's an anchor in life. For me, that's my family. No matter how depressed I get, I know I can't off myself because they need me. I know other people who rely on religion (fear of going to hell). There's also the shock that comes from nearly succeeding. When that happens, there's the realization that you still have some fight left and, because you've nearly died, you lose fear dealing with the things that kept you depressed. ("What's the worst that could happen?") Think of it as a morbid pick-me-up.
I can't really say much about the internal workings of a bi-polar person's mind. However, I know I attract bi-polar people, since I'm forgiving enough to ignore how they're hurtful when they're having a bad swing. I know in one particular case combined with ADHD, she had such a bad mood swing that we went from physically fighting to, an hour or so later, her telling me how sorry she was for always treating me like crap. She apologized for nearly every hurtful thing she ever said, and she was in tears because she didn't know why she acted like that. Two hours later, she went back to her 'normal' mode like nothing had happened.
In both cases, the only 'suffering' is emotional, or comes from the consequences of actions taken while influenced, or is so internal that other people consider it to be a form of shirking (in old days).
...unless someone starts cutting themselves. Then that's a whole 'nother issue.
Hope that's helpful!