More than just a mood

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Bipolar disorder is part of a cluster of disorders classified as ‘mood disorders’. Most people associate high and low mood changes with bipolar disorder. For me (and probably many other people too) bipolar is so much more than just a mood change.

Drive and Energy 
When I am depressed I have NO energy. Seriously. Nothing. Every little thing becomes such a drama. Sometimes I feel I can’t even move. I don’t even have the energy to cry, I just kind of sit there. Waiting for time to pass by.

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On the other hand, at the other pole I am like a kid on a sugar high. I need very little sleep, I can’t sit still, I’m impatient with people who can’t keep up with me. I talk and talk and talk and talk. My whole body is fueled with energy…which can be quite annoying sometimes. I have so many projects and ideas. When I’m hypomanic this can be quite useful, I recently completed 10 days of thesis work in under two. But once I cross the threshold to true mania it becomes counterproductive. I have so many ideas that I can’t keep track of them all, I start a project then become bored and leave it. I become extremely annoying. My husband will testify to that 😉

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Self esteem:
When I’m depressed I hate myself. I’m ugly, I’m fat, why does anyone bother with me, I’m a waste of space. I dress in tracksuits or anything to hide under. I avoid social activities. On the other hand when I’m hypomanic/manic I feel confident and self possessed and this generally manifests anywhere on the scale between “Damn, I’m good looking!” to “Holy crap! I’m superhuman!”

ImageMystical experiences:
There is this other aspect that individuals with bipolar, particularly bipolar 1 tend to have…and it is often referred to as mystical experiences. Now I personally think that is just a nicer way of saying ‘psychosis’ myself. I mean how much cooler does mystical experiences sound?! Harry Potter anyone?

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Anyway I read somewhere that believing yourself to be completely normal is a positive sign for stability. When I was severely depressed I slipped into psychosis and started having paranoid delusions where the police were after me for being a bad mother. When I was manic I thought I was superhuman (because I didn’t need to sleep) and that my dreams predicted future events. I believed myself to be special, have special powers, and people were to pay special attention to me. Egocentric much?! 😉

So there you have it. To me bipolar is so much more than just a mood change. It’s almost a personality change. From self loathing to self loving. Failure to fabulous. Miserable to majestic.

And somewhere in between there is the normal, average, non-wizarding me too.

What are your experiences of bipolar disorder? Do you feel like a different person during episodes? I’d love to hear! 🙂

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Stockholm Syndrome

 

 

 

Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and
others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’
I say to you, they are unseperable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with
you at your board, remember that the other is
asleep upon your bed. 
Kahlil Girbran

The world is full of peculiar paradoxes. Have you ever touched something so cold that it burned your skin? Or laughed so hard you cried? Have you ever felt so much pain it’s pleasurable?

I think I have a touch of Stockholm Syndrome. I’m in love with my captor. I hate mania, I hate it, I hate it, I hate. But oh how I love it too. Flat as a pancake I find myself yearning for the high’s. Knowing full well the consequences of doing so.

For me the high brings such revelation, I suddenly understand my life and the world around me, everything makes perfect sense. But now nothing makes sense. I don’t understand how I am supposed to feel. I don’t understand how I got here. I don’t understand why bad things seem to happen to good people.

I don’t feel, when I know I should.

I just want to feel that manic/hypomanic energy. I want to be productive. I want to feel the unabashed joy and love. I want to dance because the music means something to me. I want to understand the universe again.

But will that come with a price of irresponsibility, risk taking, and psychosis?

Probably.

When I was about 18 I went through a period that I can retrospectively diagnose as mania…or perhaps hypomania. For about six months I didn’t sleep, I wasn’t tired, I became loud and argumentative in classes, I completely changed in personality,  I drunk too much, I got myself involved in all sorts of risky situations. I cared about very little.

And that is the crux of it really. I want to care. I want to feel those high’s but I want to care for my family and for myself. I want to be the best mother I can for my son, and the best wife I can for my husband. I want to be the best I can be, and I can’t do that when I am high.

So I keep taking the medication. If I were young, if I were single I would probably experiment with skipping doses. See if I could find a happy medium. But as a mother I can’t possibly risk that.

So I stay here, flat and stable. I’m in love with something I shouldn’t be. I’m in love with something that isn’t real. I’m in love with something that could potentially destroy my life.

But more than that I’m in love with what I have, my beautiful boy and husband. And so I will never succumb to the infatuation. For the pleasure, and the pain, are inseparable.

 

Feeling Good

It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new life
For me.
And I’m feeling good. 

– Nina Simone

I knew something was going to happen because my eye kept twitching. Twitch, twitch, twitch for four days, like a ticking bomb. When I was in hospital the exact same symptom preceded my manic episode.

I didn’t even realise I was immersed in it until it was over. But let’s get the facts straight, this certainly wasn’t a full manic episode. I never lost touch with reality, I never believed to have magical powers. I didn’t put myself in danger.  To the best of my knowledge I didn’t irritate the people around me.  Infact, I don’t think even the people closest to me realised anything was any different to normal. Maybe it was the more discreet ‘hypomania’, which literally means ‘below mania’. Perhaps my symptoms were prodromal of mania. Perhaps it was just one of those things.

What I did experience was euphoria, and ideas, projects. Despite the fact that I was physically very unwell, I couldn’t sit still. I had to start these projects. The only thing was, while I was in the middle of one project, I would spy something else that needed to be done and would move onto that. My ordinarily organised life was becoming somewhat chaotic. Highly productive, but chaotic. I absolutely loved playing with my little boy, we laughed and laughed together. I felt confident in myself. I felt in control. I felt good.

Of course there were some down sides. I  started experiencing psychomotor agitation again. All the pacing, twitching, jogging that I remember from before. I had amazing problems sleeping. When I went to bed my body suddenly felt like it wanted to run a marathon. I would get so angry at this that I would leap out of bed at 2am, storm into the kitchen and take two or three times my normal dose of medication just to try and get some shut eye. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. My thoughts raced, or sometimes I would just have one thought that would repeat over and over again in my head. I seemed to get bored easily, even when doing things I usually enjoy.

But all in all, it wasn’t an unpleasant experience at all. I think I enjoyed it. Nobody was hurt in any manner, and I did get an awful lot of things done. Does that make it ‘disordered’? Is it ‘symptomatic’? Or is it just pleasurable?

 

Why? I would say it was something to do with the fact that I was physically unwell. Lithium will only work if a certain level of the drug is maintained in the bloodstream. Too much will result in toxicity, too little will result in very little at all. This is why if you are dehydrated, such as during gastro, you need to stop taking the medication. I had fevers for a week, and became very dehydrated. I also took medication which interferes with Lithium. I suspect that my blood lithium level went a little awry and precipitated this experience. The lack of sleep would have further exacerbated the symptoms.

My ‘high’ ended rather abruptly one night in a rather humorous manner. I woke up in the night, sure that something had bitten my rear end. Envisioning all sorts of poisonous critters, I leapt out of bed, turned on the light and thrashed around trying to see what had bitten me. At 4am, Hubster was less than impressed, but still agreed to perform a thorough examination of the bed and my bum (have I mentioned that I love this man?). After, I lay in bed fuming. Now I had probably been bitten by something hideous, I’d have to go to the doctor AGAIN. Probably add another prescription to my collection. It was such a trivial thing, but I’d had enough!

Since then I’ve felt….flat. Certainly not depressed. But, it’s true, I miss the excitement and the euphoria and the energy. I miss being ‘high’.  The colours just seem to have faded. And as if for illustrative purposes, the sunshine outside has bleakened into rain. Hubster calls this ‘the crash’. And in a day or so I will be fine.

I still feel like I am learning so much from this experience. I still don’t feel like I know the first thing about bipolar disorder, and my bipolar disorder in particular. I’m trying to chronicle and examine and evaluate what I feel. I’m trying to make sense of everything. Is it ok to enjoy the ‘highs’? Isn’t the high part of the problem? How can something that feels nice be a bad thing?

The mind, and the mind-body relationship fascinates me. Perhaps one day I’ll be a step closer to understanding it all J