What It’s Like To Have A Mixed Episode Of Bipolar

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A couple of weeks ago I had what’s called a mixed episode of bipolar disorder. What this means is that I was experiencing mania (the highs) and depression in very short succession, to the point that I felt both at the same time. In this post I wanted to write an account of what it felt like at the time, to hopefully shed some light on this difficult to understand symptom of bipolar.

I’m sitting at a table outside a restaurant, waiting to be served. I’m with my husband who is attempting to start a conversation. The air is warm and the sun is out and canal boats are drifting along the canal next to where we’re sitting. It should be an idyllic setting, leaving me feeling happy and contented, but I’m not. My head is abuzz with uncontrollable thoughts. The world around me feels very surreal right now, like I’m seeing it through a kaleidoscope. The images keep flicking backwards and forwards, never staying still. I’m restless and on edge, my whole body feels on high alert. Everything and everyone is irritating me. The chair I’m sitting on is way too uncomfortable. My husband is talking and right now I can’t stand his voice. The laughter from the table behind us is grating on me and I feel like screaming until my throat is hoarse,

“SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

My head is full of pressure, it literally hurts from all the thoughts racing in my mind. It feels like my head is going to explode. I can feel my hands and body trembling. It feels like I’m on the edge of a cliff  with a safety net below. I know I need to jump and if I do they’ll be a release from the ceaseless, building pressure. I can’t make myself jump. It’s like my legs are stuck and I can’t move forward.

Now, suddenly, I have an overwhelming feeling of dread. It feels like all the energy has been drained from my body and I feel utterly useless and completely broken. The pressure in my head is still there, and my mind is still racing away. The thoughts are negative and intrusive, telling me I’m worthless,  pathetic and don’t deserve to live. Ten minutes later our food has arrived and I can’t stop talking. My head is full of thoughts, mostly gibberish that I can’t decipher. I’m laughing but I feel like crying at the same time. I don’t like this feeling. I feel like I’m losing grip on who I am and the world around me. i can’t concentrate because I’m trying so hard to grip hold of some type of stability.

I feel like I’m at a crossroads and which ever way I go something terrible is going to happen, but I don’t know what. I maybe at the crossroads but some other force beyond my power is going to choose the direction I turn. Will it be mania? Or depression? Its a terrifying feeling to have seemingly no control over your own mind.

This had been going on all weekend and now it was Monday and I was mentally exhausted. We went home and I cried on the sofa, not knowing what to do with myself, as my body and mind continued to hum along with a relentless energy.

The mixed episode broke, eventually, but not to my relief. I found myself severely depressed, a depression I’m still trying to ride out. I hope my story helps others going through these experiences and shows people what it’s really like when someone says they’re in a mixed episode. if you want to help someone, listen and above all be patient with them.

 

The Mania Hangover

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The Best Feeling Ever!

When I’m in the grips of mania, I love Bipolar. The euphoria I feel is like no other drug. The feeling is addictive and I never want it to end. The mania is unbelievably epic, like I’m living in a blockbuster movie and I’m the star. The whole universe revolves around me. Continually going through my head are thoughts that instil an enormous, gratifying confidence: ‘I’m the best at everything!’ ‘I can do anything, be anyone!’ ‘Nothing can touch me. I’m invincible!’ It’s a feeling like no other and yes, when it ends I do miss it. Because of course, like any good thing, it has to end. I talk more about mania in this post Mania is…

Here Comes The Hangover

What I hate about Bipolar, above anything else, is what I call my mania hangover. First of all, I realise I’ve spent far too much. Imagine having a big weekend when you’re suddenly buying everyone shots, but that weekend stretches on for months. Or that clothes and shoes binge you’re on when you spend an evening sat in your pyjamas on the internet, but imagine it lasting weeks. I’ve found myself in crippling debt more than once, the first time meaning I had to move back home with my parents. I felt terribly embarrassed and an absolute failure for having to go back to live with mum and dad. Luckily I had that option.

Next, the realisation of my actions set in. I start to see with clarity and I realise I’ve done things that I’ll regret for years to come. I cheated on my ex, whilst I was away traveling in Japan. When I was feeling stable again the memory rushed toward me and I felt dizzy and sick over what I had done. It was completely out of character, and I was remembering it through a haze, as if I had been drunk. I see how much stress I put family and friends through with my unpredictable, sometimes rageful emotions. I’ve made family and friends cry with vicious words that cut them to pieces. I’ve done so many embarrassing, ugly things I regret over the years I can’t fit them into one blog post.

From constantly being full of energy and unable to sleep, now I’ve become emotionally and physically exhausted. I’ve been running on empty for weeks and not even noticed. All I want to do is to become a hermit, hide from the world in bed and eat junk food.

Hello Depression

Then, inevitably depression sets in. I hate the depression, and it’s usually part of the whole mania hangover. The juxtaposition between the mania and depression is ridiculous. I’ve heard the description of ‘it’s like living on a rollercoaster’ but it’s too simplistic a description. Rollercoasters for me are fun, and the lows of acute depression are far from fairground ride fun and games. Depression, just like mania, takes complete hold of you, and won’t let go. I can no longer function like the average person. I stop going outside, I have to force myself to shower and brush my teeth. Everything is an unbelievable effort.

My Hangover Cures

Ultimately, I would not want to be manic in the first place! To do this I check The Warning Signs of a Manic Episode that I have identified over the years. Even though at times it can be a tempting prospect to go back to that feeling of constant elation, it’s not worth the adverse effects. Taking my medication is the surest way to stop this from happening. If I do find myself with a mania hangover, I take the time to look after myself. I’ll take some time away from work and socialising. I’ll keep an eye on my mood and check for the warning signs of depression.

Relationships and Bipolar

 

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Relationships are difficult for everyone, but they can be even tougher when you have a mental illness. Each relationship I had before my diagnosis of bipolar suffered as partners found it difficult to be around me; they never knew which Katie they were going to be greeted with.

I didn’t have a serious relationship until I was twenty. I met someone on a night out and we instantly clicked. At first it was fun and we both looked forward to seeing one another. We went out for meals and nights out dancing together. We went on trips away to places like the Cotswolds. We were happy, but it didn’t last. She told me she could no longer cope with my unpredictable moods. She had enjoyed spending time with me she said, and could look past the bursts of anger and paranoia I had often displayed. But that now I had changed. I was no longer fun to be around and it was bringing her down. She had wanted an easy going relationship, but had realised now that I was too intense, too high maintenance.

I quickly found another partner, and we formed a bond online. It was a long distance relationship, with her in Manchester and me in Reading. We made it work and I admired her sense of humour and vibrant personality. Suddenly though, to me, she expressed an exasperation over my constant talking, my fits of rage, and my lack of concentration or planning that was needed to see her. My inability to listen to her concerns about my behaviour didn’t help, and she felt it was best to just be friends.

After two failed relationships in a row, that both ended because of my behaviour, I began to see my personality as flawed. I felt I was doomed to short term relationships, that sputtered out when they realised just how difficult I was to be around.

Then I met Jimi. We met online, then chatting occasionally on the phone when we decided to meet in person. We ended up having two dates in one day.  We bonded over our love of all things nerdy, and our similar tastes in music and literature. Our personalities were very different, but it worked. He was a calming influence on me and taught me to be more patient. I taught him to have more confidence in himself and to be less socially awkward. He has stuck by me through some of the most difficult times in my life. When I had a breakdown and had to leave my dream job. When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When I’ve been manic and unpredictable and angry. When I’ve been suicidal. He has taken it all in his stride and remained his compassionate, caring self.

We’ve now been together for eight and a half years and two and a half years ago we married. My Dad summed him up in his speech when he called Jimi “a true gentle man.”  I’m proud to say he his my husband.

It is possible to have a healthy, long term relationship with someone when you have a mental illness. I am proof of that. It’s not easy, but never settle for someone that doesn’t understand your illness. You deserve to be loved and cared for.

The Warning signs of a Depressive Episode

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Depression can be sneaky and creep up on you when you least expect it. I find the warning signs can happen either all at once, quickly and anticipated, or more slowly, like the depression is stalking me. I’ve written in detail about depression in my post 101 Things No one Tells You About Severe Depression This list is not exhaustive, and the warning signs can differ from person to person.

Feeling tired all the time. I will feel exhausted and sleep will no longer feel refreshing. I can sleep during the day; something I hardly ever do when I’m stable. I will constantly feel tired and all I will want to do is to go to bed.

Irritability. The smallest annoyance will have me losing my temper. Someone eating too loudly, people walking slowly in the street, not being able to find my hairbrush are all examples that will leave me seething and ready to snap.

Lack of concentration. I love to write, read and play video games, but when depression is near, I can’t concentrate. My world feels fuzzy with blurred edges. I find my mind wandering, often to darker thoughts, or simply zoning out.

Increase/decrease in appetite. My appetite will change completely. I’ll either want to eat all the time and find food comforting, or I’ll feel nauseous at the idea of eating.

Low self esteem. I’ll start thinking less of myself. I’ll look at my body and think I’m disgusting. I’ll look at my work and think it’s awful and want to rip everything up and start over.

Socialising less I enjoy going out and socialising, so it’s blatantly obvious that something is wrong when I turn down an invitation, or don’t turn up. I’ll feel a knot in the pit of my stomach at the idea of seeing friends.

No motivation My drive and positivity will go out the window. All I want to do is curl up on the sofa and watch tv, constantly. This isn’t just an ‘off’ day, this is when my motivation will disappear completely for weeks.

No longer enjoy my favourite activities As with a lack of concentration, my hobbies that once gave me pleasure and filled me with happiness, no longer do. Every suggestion made I turn down, not able to see the fun in anything.

As I don’t always realise I’m becoming depressed, I rely on my partner and close family and friends to keep an eye out for these warning signs. I’m much better than I used to be at spotting a change in my mood toward the low side, but I still occasionally miss a change in behaviour that’s glaringly obvious. Knowing these signs has made me feel more in control of my mental illness. I can act or make a change before the depression becomes severe and I find myself in crisis. There isn’t always an answer, but knowing I’m going to be ill means I can prepare for it. I let people close to me know how I’m feeling and I talk to my GP or psychiatrist. I’ve also written about mania in my post The Warning Signs of a Manic Episode

If you’re worried that you may be depressed, please make an appointment to see your GP. Many doctors surgeries offer double appointments, of 20 minutes rather than 10, so you can have more time to explain how you’re feeling and discuss options with your doctor. I always make double appointments when I’m struggling with depression, as I find it more difficult than I normally do to express how I’m feeling, and to get my point of view across. It means you won’t feel rushed and pressured to explain everything.

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Stability

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I’ve found myself in a a strange situation. It’s one I haven’t experienced for years. It’s called stability. My life has been full of desperate lows and extreme highs and not much in between. It’s been like this for over a decade. It’s true I have had periods of stability, but usually they only last up to a month. This time it’s different. This time I’ve experienced stability for nearly four months.

It feels strange and alien to me. I’m used to living an intense life, full of drama, fear, anger and emotional heights and depths. The euphoria I feel during a manic episode is unparalleled to any other I have experienced. I’ve experimented with drugs but nothing comes close to a full on bout of mania. I always say I don’t need to take hallucinagens because psychosis has that covered.

Back to life being surreal right now. I’m not used to this. I’m not used to feeling calm and organised, feeling happiness without worrying it will morph into something toxic. Or days when I wake up and I feel slightly on the down side, but being able to carry on without depression creeping up on me. I feel like I can accomplish things, without obsessing over a task and becoming completely absorbed by it. I’m wondering if this is normality, or if there is such a thing. Is this how healthy people live?

I’m lucky that I have finally found a combination of medication that works for me, and hasn’t given me extreme side effects. I’ve put on some weight, but now I feel stable, I’m less likely to drink and crave junk food. It’s something I could change if I wanted to.

I’m not always sure I like this feeling. Life feels quite bland and monotonous. It’s like my world is slightly overcast and grey, instead of full of darkness or bright sunlight. I don’t know how to act or to live like this. Sometimes I daydream about the fun side of mania and how if I stopped taking my medication I could get back to that. However, I then remember all the negatives that come along with it. The delusional thinking, the intense anger, obsessive and dangerous behaviour. There’s also that air of foreboding surrounding me that at any time I could become seriously ill again. If I push myself too much I’ll trigger an episode of mania or depression.

It’s a bit cliched to say but I’m taking each day as it comes. Life I know shouldn’t be full of extremes constantly and should be quieter. Sometimes yes, even boring. I’m grateful that I’m in this position and I’m trying not to take it for granted.

A Family Perspective of Caring for Someone with Bipolar Disorder Part 1

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I wanted to add something a bit different to the blog today.  I’m very close with my family and wanted to show their perspectives of my struggles living with Bipolar.

My Husband’s Perspective:

“I had been in the hills of Scotland on a mate’s stag do, and I’d had no signal since we had left behind the last town a couple of days before. We’d driven back towards civilisation to visit a nice looking pub we’d passed on the way. Looking forward to catching up with my girlfriend, I turned my phone on. It got signal, then the texts started to arrive. They started out asking how I was getting on, but then descended into ranting about I didn’t care and how she was sitting on the floor on her own drinking whiskey. The messaged said that if I cared I’d have messaged back by now. Uh-oh! I didn’t know at the time that this was a low. I didn’t understand what had gone wrong. I hadn’t warned that I’d be out of contact but hadn’t realised that I wouldn’t have signal where we were staying.

This sort of thing is fortunately kept in check by meds now, but I still have to bear it in mind. The main change that living with someone with bipolar has made to my life is that I need to make sure there is somebody nearby who can help on a crisis. If I go away, we plan who is going to be near to make sure there is someone to call if needed. Having caring family around helps a lot with this! The other side to this of course is coming back home to discover that it’s spotless because ENERGY! It make it more interesting; you don’t know exactly how each day’s going to pan out. Well OK, maybe that’s not a good thing. However, I think it makes us stronger too. If we can cope with this, we can cope with a lot more that life has to throw at us!

I suppose I’m well placed to have married someone with Bipolar, having already lived with a close friend who also has it. Living with someone before and after diagnosis also gives an interesting point of view. I like to think of it as a wave, like a sine wave in maths. The centre of the graph, the X axis, is where most people live their lives emotionally. The peaks and troughs are where I see people with Bipolar living – always in highs and lows.

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The thing about a sine wave is that it always cancels out. The time spent below the line is the same as the time spent above the line. It’s just that following someone with Bipolar means that the lows are that much lower, and difficult to deal with. However, that means the highs are much more extreme (and potentially fun) to be around. I think what I’m trying to say is that although ‘normal’ people seem to live on a straight line, we all follow that up and down curve to an extent. It doesn’t matter whether we look like we’re on a straight line of a graph or a curve going up and down all the time, we all average out to ‘normal’ people. Although with pre and post diagnosis things are quite different, I wouldn’t change a thing about my friend or my wife. They’re just as important to me wherever they are on my graph, however high or low their peaks and troughs are.”

My Mum’s Perspective:

“You were always strong willed, determined, and sometimes a raving tyrant of anger! You were quiet at school, in primary and early secondary, but not shy. Always creative, especially with reading and writing. You were a tomboy who never wore dresses and a typical teenager; you wanted to shock everyone with your clothes. In your teenage years, you became reclusive and spent hours in your room. Then the next thing you wouldn’t stop talking and rant for hours. I noticed this when you started work, some nights it was like verbal diarrhoea! It was like someone had turned the on switch but there was no off switch.

It is hard, difficult to deal with. I didn’t want to accept anything was wrong with you. The year you moved out things became very difficult. You wouldn’t eat, you were very thin. Then you became very depressed. But you do have long periods when you’re stable; a normal young woman. You can go for long periods of time with just a few small dips and highs. But when you go down that’s really down, that’s it. I find the lows worse to deal with than the highs.”

After this chat I received this text message from my Mum:

“There are times when you are speaking to a friend who is struggling and to trying to encourage them and being normal and speaking to your dad and interacting with normal conversations. Then when I saw you tonight just phasing out during our meal and so focused. Your face and eyes it scared me and your mood has changed so dramatically it was as if you were no longer with us! I want to cry now. So poorly, so poorly I want to help so much what can I do as a mother it is heartbreaking. Do I let my daughter read this or am I being selfish and looking at my needs as well, but I love her so much and want to mend her but what do I do and how do I do it? I want to make the right decisions when she is poorly. What do you do? What is best? What do you say? I’m scared of saying something wrong. Scared of doing something that will make things worse it’s like a balancing act or walking on a tightrope.”

Our relationship has changed for the better since this conversation. Speaking to my Mum recently she had this to say:

“I don’t think like that anymore. It doesn’t help either of us for me to be walking on a tightrope with you. Now if you upset me, I tell you and treat you and talk to you the same as I do with your brothers’. I’ve learnt that there is not much I can do to help. Material things, taking you out doesn’t help you. What I need to do is listen to you and be there. I can do practical things like helping you clean the house and taking you food shopping. It’s taken me a long time to learn this, but I can’t change your illness or take it away.”

 

A Story of Self Sabotage

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I am an expert at self sabotage. Over the years I have inflicted these self destructive tendencies on to myself. One example was when I was at college, studying childcare. The first year went smoothly and I was achieving A grades on every assignment. In the second year however, I changed.

My moods became erratic and I suffered from what I now know were bouts of mania. The class had a new lecturer for the year and our personalities clashed instantly. I would refuse to do assignments because to me they were illogical and pointless towards passing the course. When it came to coursework, this particular lecturer would hold me back and tell me my work wasn’t good enough. I became obsessed, and would bitch and moan, rant and rave about her to everyone. I ignored her suggestions and advice and accused her of singling me out, because I defied her during classes. I wasn’t going to pass the course if I didn’t take on board what she was saying and finally there was a meeting between me, her, another lecturer and the head of the course. I was infuriated that it had come to this and convinced myself I was being victimised. I knew more than she did. I was more intelligent and she was wrong. The meeting did not go well. Fearless anger was directed at them. I don’t care what this meant for the future. The three of them were waiting for me in the room. They had their chairs at angles, making a semi circle. I was motioned to sit in the chair opposite.

“Katie, we’re meeting here to discuss your academic performance and your attitude towards one of your lecturers, who is here today.” The head of department turned to the lecturer, who shuffled in her chair before she began.

“Yes I would like to say your attitude towards me has been unacceptable. You constantly argue the point with me and challenge me in front of other students. I have given you advice and support with your coursework after lessons, but you have ignored my suggestions and become aggressive. You seem to think that I don’t know what I’m doing; that I’m incompetent and you have told me this.” She had been sat forward in her chair, speaking animatedly. I could hear the frustration and anger in her voice, masked by her politeness. The head of the course remarked,

“We don’t expect this type of behaviour from our students Katie. Do you have anything you want to say?” I sat fuming across from them. I remember staring furiously at my lecturer as she had spoken. I hated her. I hated her ugly clothes, and the disgusting worn leggings she always wore. I wasn’t about to choose my words carefully after what she had said. Not being able to help myself, I said with barely taking a breath.

“I don’t agree with you, I don’t agree with anything that’s been said. I work really hard, I know what I’m doing. I have already taken A levels and have passed all of them with high levels of attainment. I’m intelligent and articulate, more so than you.” I glared at my lecturer as I said this, looking her up and down. To me she was a disgusting piece of shit with her worn out baggy clothes and red bloated face. I continued, “Because of this, I think she’s jealous and has taken a dislike to me. She has chosen to single me out from the rest of the class and victimise me. I am the victim here, the victim of her unprofessionalism. There is absolutely nothing wrong with my work. Last year I had straight A’s and all of a sudden, since she started my grades have dropped, and all because she doesn’t like me.” I refused to speak to her directly, not wanting to show her any respect. Until my last remark when I turned to her sneering, “And yes, I do think you’re incompetent.” Shaking, trembling with anger I stopped, silently awaiting for their reply. My lecturer responded, this time with more vitriol than before,

“I don’t appreciate your tone. You’re acting completely unreasonably.” She turned to the others, ignoring me, “See, this is what I was discussing with you both earlier, this is the attitude I’ve had to deal with everyday.” I couldn’t believe that she was treating me this way, pretending I wasn’t in the room, that my existence didn’t matter. I shouted,

“Don’t act like I’m not here, it’s insulting! This is the attitude I have to deal with everyday.” The other lecturer, who had been sitting quietly throughout piped in,

“You seem very angry. I think maybe you should calm down, so we can have a reasonable conversation.” That was the worst statement she could possibly have made. I felt patronised, treated as a small child that couldn’t regulate their emotions. I was twenty one years old, an adult, who didn’t need telling how angry she was. I was seething. How dare they treat me this way, me! At that moment I thought of myself as the most important person on the course, that I was special and deserved to be treated as such. No, actually I believed I was above everyone, the most important person in the world. They couldn’t treat me this way, singling me out when I was in the right and they were in the wrong. I couldn’t make them see the situation my way and I couldn’t understand why.  It was infuriating. The anger inside continued swelling and I was ready to burst with righteous anger. The head of the course began again with a more resolute tone than before.

“Katie, you need to understand your behaviour right now is completely unacceptable and is exactly the kind of attitude we have been speaking about today before you arrived. We expect you to show some respect for your lecturers, even if you don’t agree with everything they tell you. Now according to your lecturer, with the quality of work she is seeing at the moment, you will not pass this course. If you refuse to go to one to one tutoring and your attitude does not change, I’m afraid we will have to ask you to leave the course.” How could they? How could they! I though to myself it was unfathomable that i could be treated this way. In my mind I was being punished for being intelligent and daring to have my own opinions. I couldn’t contain myself. I said with a nasty, vindictive tone as I pointed to each one,

“Well fuck you, fuck you, and especially fuck you.” The room was quiet and stunned. I continued, “I’m not letting you force me out, I don’t give a fuck about this course.” I stormed out the room, me heart beating hard and my head pounding.  I went to the bathroom and cried angry tears. I was intensely frustrated. Then I began to laugh, laugh while I cried. I didn’t know what else to do. But I felt vindicated. I had made my point.

I realised later, when I was in a more stable frame of mind what exactly I had done. I was two months away from finishing the course. I could have just shut my mouth and carried on, but instead I decided to throw away two years of work. I had no back up plan, no job to go to. I sabotaged my life. Through sheer luck, everything worked out, but this is just one example of how I sabotage myself when I am unwell. It can happen when I’m manic, but depression likes to get in on the act too. Looking after myself and looking out for the warning signs of an episode and staying away from triggers is my best defence against self sabotage.

 

 

101 Things No one Tells You About Severe Depression

 

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  1. Depression is not glamorous.
  2. Depression is not fashionable.
  3. Depression and suicide should never be romanticised.
  4. Depression can be inflicted upon you when you’re at your most happiest and content.
  5. Depression is chaotic.
  6. Depression is full of frustration.
  7. Depression is confusing and bewildering.
  8. Depression is complicated and different for everyone.
  9. Depression is illogical.
  10. Depression is devastating.
  11. Depression is invasive.
  12. Depression does not discriminate.
  13. Depression is cruel.
  14. Depression is sneaky.
  15. Depression creeps up on you without you realising.
  16. Depression is a an obsession with your own self hate.
  17. Depression makes you fixate on the worst aspects of yourself.
  18. Depression will tell you you’re worthless.
  19. Depression will tell you you’re pathetic.
  20. Depression will tell you to give up.
  21. Depression will tell you everyone hates you.
  22. Depression will tell you you’re a freak.
  23. Depression will tell you that everyone will leave you.
  24. Depression will make you feel disgusted with yourself.
  25. Depression will make wild accusations about you and convince you they are true.
  26. Depression distorts your thought processes.
  27. Depression will cripple your ego.
  28. Depression will destroy your self esteem.
  29. Depression will make you feel guilty about everything.
  30. Depression will make you feel like a burden.
  31. You will ask yourself countless times, “Why me?”
  32. You will ask yourself countless times, “Why can’t I cope?”
  33. You will ask yourself countless times, “Why do I find everything so difficult?”
  34. Depression will make you vulnerable.
  35. Depression leads to obsessions and addictions.
  36. Depression will make you shut down.
  37. Depression will make you push yourself until you reach breaking point.
  38. The smallest event can be the catalyst for a depressive episode.
  39. Depression will make you feel guilty.
  40. Depression will make you feel you have let everyone down.
  41. Depression will make you feel embarrassed.
  42. Depression will make you feel ashamed.
  43. The more people want to help, the deeper your shame becomes.
  44. You will become accustomed to depression.
  45. Depression will make you feel paranoid.
  46. Depression will make you believe everyone is laughing at you and mocking you.
  47. Depression will make you close off from the world.
  48. Family and friends will walk on eggshells around you, never knowing what to say or how to react to you.
  49. You will ignore messages because you simply have no idea how to respond.
  50. Someone will talk to you, and you will have heard nothing of what they’ve said.
  51. When the phone rings or you receive a message, you will be filled with dread.
  52. Friends will become angry, or completely ignore you because you can’t answer their messages.
  53. You will not care about other people and what they are doing with their lives.
  54. There will feel like there is a wall between everyone else’s reality and your own.
  55. You will lose friends and become distant with family because of severe depression.
  56. Your sex drive will be nonexistent.
  57. Your lack of libido will put a strain on your relationship.
  58. You will wonder how you could ever possibly have felt happy.
  59. Clambering out of a depressive episode will feel insurmountable.
  60. Eating will become a comfort.
  61. Eating will be difficult because you feel you don’t deserve food.
  62. Depression will trigger other disorders you have suffered from in the past.
  63. Depression will trigger new disorders that you never thought you would suffer from.
  64. It will feel impossible to explain how you are feeling.
  65. You will feel blank and numb inside.
  66. You will feel so overwhelmed with emotion you feel paralysed.
  67. Feeling nothing will feel unbearable.
  68. Feeling too much will feel unbearable.
  69. Walking into a room and staring blankly for half an hour will become a regular occurrence.
  70. The world will look and feel dull and grey.
  71. Your body will ache from being so tense all the time.
  72. Your teeth will ache from clenching your jaw.
  73. You will sound different when you speak to how you normally do.
  74. The glint in your eyes will disappear.
  75. You will start to smell because you haven’t the energy or will to wash yourself.
  76. Clothes will be left unwashed for weeks.
  77. You will be irritable and snap at the people around you.
  78. Everything and everyone will annoy and irritate you.
  79. You will have suicidal thoughts daily.
  80. You can never quiet your mind from negative thoughts.
  81. The simplest tasks can feel overwhelming.
  82. Activities and hobbies that you loved will simply not interest you anymore.
  83. Your senses will feel dumbed down.
  84. You will not be able to concentrate.
  85. You will have to read the same page of a book dozens of times.
  86. You will have to watch the same programme over and over again because you will have taken nothing of it in.
  87. You will not be able to think clearly.
  88. The desperation to sleep can be powerful and all consuming.
  89. Your head will throb from tiredness.
  90. Your limbs will ache from sitting in bed for too long.
  91. Your hips and back will be in pain from sleeping or lying in bed for too long.
  92. You will not ask for help because you feel unworthy of it.
  93. You will feel like you need to be punished, and depression is your punishment.
  94. Depression will make you feel restless.
  95. Depression will make you feel on edge.
  96. The world will seem overwhelming.
  97. Depression can be difficult for an outsider to understand.
  98. Good things can happen whilst your depressed.
  99. You can have good days whilst being depressed.
  100. Depression does not turn you to stone, you can still laugh and smile on occasion.
  101. After depression you feel more empathy for others.

Maddening Creativity

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When I’m in a manic state, creativity becomes my everything. I have this incredible surge of confidence and self belief that comes from nowhere. I truly believe I can do anything. I have always been creative. I started playing the drums when I was eight, I studied art up to A level and I continue to draw, sketch and sculpt. I almost studied sculpture at University, but decided instead on creative writing. I am always writing, whether it’s non-fiction or fiction, or here on my blog. As anyone does, I have times when I’m motivated and focused, or I’ll be inspired by something. The difference with mania is the creativity is astoundingly concentrated. My whole life will be consumed with the need to create. I’ll forget to eat or sleep, the house will become grimy and messy. I won’t shower because that takes too much time. So I sit in my trash ridden house with grimy hair feverishly writing or painting away. I’ll put off paying bills and running important errands because creating will be all that matters.

My mind at these times is sodden with creative ideas. I can’t ignore it and it turns into a flood of activity; from researching, buying resources and creating. It’s like I’m possessed, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Except, I don’t want it to stop. I long for these moments, whether they last for a week or a month, when I can find inspiration from anywhere. I can pluck new ideas out of thin air. It is an enticing state, and one I miss when it has dissipated. I can be up and wide awake at three in the morning still sketching or writing. I show everyone what I’ve been working on, with a pride that verges on narcissism. I feel I have to do something with my work so I start a business, start writing a book, or both.

The only problem; it doesn’t last. Sooner than I’d hope, I crash and depression becomes my everything. In my mind I am useless and can’t believe how deluded I have been. I’ve told so many people about my projects and plans, but all I feel know is incredibly embarrassed. I have begun a novel and scrapped it in a moment of self doubt. Created intricate wire sculptures and torn them apart in anger and frustration. Blogged almost everyday, and then found myself unable to write a single word for months.

I don’t know what to do with all of this. This creativity is one side of many manic symptoms. Too many of them are unpleasant, self destructive and harmful. Unfortunately they co-exist, I can’t have the inspiration and confidence without the anger, over spending, delusional thinking and risk taking behaviour. I once thought I was a racing driver and crashed my car. Another time whilst driving I closed my eyes and let go of the wheel. I’ve believed I couldn’t be hurt and walked into traffic and put my hands under boiling water. On all occasions I could have easily have died or been critically injured. That is the other side of mania. It isn’t glamorous and definitely shouldn’t be romanticised. Despite these negatives, I still find myself longing for those flashes of imaginativeness and inventiveness. So I accept it, and wait with both dread and eagerness for the next time.

How the label of Bipolar changed my life – for the better 

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At 10am, 13th December 2012 was a life changing moment; I was diagnosed with Bipolar. My initial response was of anger, an anger that it had taken until I was twenty seven and fifteen years of pain and suffering to finally have a diagnosis. So many years of my life felt wasted, as I had dragged myself through horrific bouts of depression. I had self destructed countless times as my manic episodes had caused my behaviour to spiral out of control. I was broke, in debt and unemployed. I wanted to scream and yell at all the doctors that had misdiagnosed me over the years. I felt someone had to be held accountable for everything I had missed out on in my teens and for most of my twenties. There was no one though that I could single out and blame, it was the way it went for many people with Bipolar. I had to let it go. For my own piece of mind, my health, I had to let it go.

When the anger had subsided, I realised how this label I had been given explained my erratic behaviour. It gave meaning to my partner, family and friends of my sometimes bizarre actions. Instead of recoiling from this label, they were willing to listen and wanted to understand more about the disorder. I feared that such a diagnosis would scare my family and friends. It didn’t. This reaction filled me with the confidence to be able to tell more and more people about my diagnosis. When asked why I was not working, or why I was ill, I was always truthful.

Being labelled was a release. No longer did I feel weighed down with the burden of knowing that something was wrong with me, but not understanding what it was. I could prove that I wasn’t attention seeking when I was suicidal, or that I would magically just get over what I was feeling. I was armed with knowledge and I could now educate myself and learn how to combat and find some relief from this illness.

I’m not denying there is stigma attached to having a mental illness, of course there is. I’ve  encountered it many times. What I’m saying is that I felt I was able to wrestle some control back into my life. With the help of a psychiatrist, I was able to assess my capabilities. I could set realistic targets to have a sense of normalcy and stability I hadn’t felt in years. I felt empowered and that I could choose how to manage my illness with medication.

I’ve heard many different opinions about being diagnosed and how it has changed people’s lives. Many people don’t like the idea of having a label that comes with a mental health diagnosis. That it singles you out and makes you different, and for some, can make it harder to find support and care. This new label attached to me had given me clarity. I could look back at the years before and how not knowing what was wrong had decimated my life. Laid bare were the countless acts of self destructive behaviour, the violent outbursts, the almost insurmountable debt I found myself in. How my drastic moods had clouded my experiences and often left me feeling like a shell of a human being. For me, the day I was diagnosed and ‘labelled’ as Bipolar drastically altered my life but in a way I hadn’t expected. To anyone who is concerned they may have Bipolar, or any kind of severe mental illness, please don’t be scared of finding help. Don’t be scared of a label; it saved my life.