As many of you know, I am an individual with bipolar. A lot of people ask me what it’s like, and I end up fumbling to give some sort of generic answer. I’ve decided to sit down and share with you a more thought out, intimate perspective of what it’s like. I’m sharing not because I want you to feel bad for me, but because I want to normalize mental illness and #EndTheStigma.
HIGHS (also known as MANIA)
The highs are the best feeling I’ve ever had, or so it feels. It’s like a drug – pure euphoria, bliss, thrill, buzz, exhilaration. The colors are brighter, the tastes are enhanced. Every song is meaningful and the lyrics deserve to be shouted. Every joke is gut-wrenchingly hilarious. I believe my thoughts are brilliant, and they rapidly race out of my mouth. I don’t care what others think, though I’m sure everyone finds me endearing. Creativity gushes from me, and I must start every project that comes to mind – and so, so many come to mind. I dance everywhere I go. This all sounds great, right? It is, until it goes too high and turns toxic. Easily distracted, forgetting to take my insulin, not sleeping, extreme spending sprees without being able to afford it, promiscuity and unfaithfulness, reckless driving, risky choices, binge drinking – these are just a few of the dangerous behaviors I’ve exhibited. These are bad enough, but then what follows is even worse – the lows. Rock bottom.
LOWS (also known as DEPRESSION)
Depression for me is a deep fog. A shroud of unending pain and an indescribable sadness. A dangerous hopelessness as I grapple for any means to an end of my misery. It’s wondering how everyone else around me can function so highly, while I struggle with the most menial tasks. It’s not that I “lack motivation” to do things – I cannot do them. I can’t get out of bed, much less eat or change my clothes or shower. I struggle to form full sentences. I can’t concentrate on books or movies, and even if I could they wouldn’t bring me any semblance of joy. I can’t respond to messages or phone calls, and the guilt makes me feel even worse. When I have the energy, I cry.
MIXED EPISODES (the worst of the highs and lows)
I feel like this is a part of bipolar that people don’t talk as much about. It’s also something I’ve really struggled with on my journey. My mixed episodes present themselves with rapid mood swings and extreme anger. In one moment I will be laughing, the next I’ll be screaming and breaking or throwing things. I can enter a state of pure range, where I either hurt the people I love or myself. When I have self harmed, it has been during mixed episodes where I am mad at myself and feel I deserve it. My words are venomous, and I know just what to say to hurt people the most. The simplest comment can make me irate. And since it comes in rapid mood swings, I then come down and collapse into guilt, which may be followed by euphoric happiness. These episodes are the hardest for me.
Most of my life I’ve known that I struggled with depression. The highs were easier to conceal, just part of my A.D.D. or my quirky personality – which is why for so long my bipolar went undiagnosed. It wasn’t until my first stay in a psych hospital that it started to get pieced together. It has been a long, treacherous journey. Damaging my family, broken friendships and relationships, a lost job, and a whole spattering of meds. But the journey has truly been worth it. With many mental illnesses, you will never “get over it” – you just learn to manage it. And you have the realistic perspective that you may relapse. Right now, at this point in my life, I am happy to say I am stable, have a great med cocktail, have a phenomenal care team, and an incredible support system. Thank you to so many of YOU who are part of my support system. I greatly appreciate you.