What Does Having a ‘Down Day’ in Bipolar Really Mean?

What Does Having a ‘Down Day’ in Bipolar Really Mean?

I hear people say they have “down days” in bipolar disorder. These people are, typically, those who are doing well but still have these things called “down days.” But what is a “down day?” What are these people talking about? I do not identify with this concept at all. My bipolar disorder don’t contain “down days” it contains days, weeks and months that try to kill me.

What Are ‘Down Days?’

I don’t claim to be able to speak for everyone who has ever used this term, but it seems to me that these people are not talking about serious, major depression. These people seem to be talking about days when they don’t feel their best. These people seem to be talking about non-top-drawer days. These people seem to be talking about blips on the radar. This is totally okay but it isn’t my experience remotely.

It’s also possible that these people are trying to downplay the severity of their illness for others, and, as I say below, I really wish people wouldn’t do that.

My Issue with ‘Down Days’ in Bipolar Disorder

Do mere "down days" really exist in bipolar disorder? If people say they have "down days" in bipolar disorder, what do they mean?My issue with the concept of “down days” in bipolar disorder is that it completely minimizes the experience of actual depression. It’s okay to say that you’re well enough that you no longer experience depression (after all, that’s what bipolar treatment is intended to do) but to say, “well, I still have my down days,” seems so invalidating of the experience of what bipolar disorder really is. Bipolar disorder is about major mood elevations and depressions – it’s about meteoric rises and craterous lows. If it wasn’t about these extreme states, it wouldn’t be a disorder.

I Do Not Have ‘Down’ Bipolar Days

I do not have “down days.” I have nothing of the sort. I have days that try to kill me. I have days that are so overstuffed with pain that I barely scrape by. I have days that are soaked in tears and are scored by a soundtrack of wailing. These are not “down days” and even if I only experienced this a day at a time (which I don’t) I wouldn’t characterize them as “down,” I would say they are potentially lethal days.

I really don’t mind how people describe themselves and their experiences, so if you want to say, “down days” that really is your business. I would just ask that you consider all those people with bipolar disorder that experience something so much more extreme and maybe work to differentiate yourself from those people. “Down days” sounds like a normal experience – and my experience is anything but normal. The last thing I want is the general population to think that real depression is a “down day” because it makes my fight against it and my fight to be really heard even harder.

Inset image credit.


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

, ,


Join the conversation → Add yours

Leave a Reply Please note, your comment may be moderated.

Get Your FREE EBook

Get Your FREE EBook

My newsletter contains mental health news and research, speaking engagements and more. By subscribing, you'll get access to a FREE eBook on coping skills.

Thank you for subscribing. Look for an email to complete your subscription.