What does Bipolar feel like?
As you have probably seen in previous posts, I have Bipolar II, you can read about it generally here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bipolar_II_disorder
Being Bipolar is like driving on black ice at all times. You are constantly touching the brakes to slow down, but careful not to apply them too drastically so that you crash. You can feel the out of control danger at all times and are constantly managing your feelings and actions. For me, it seems I run mostly manic with episodes of massive depression a few times a year. Last year I had 2 massive depressive episodes, one around my birthday and one after Christmas. It’s a constant struggle for me to manage the mania and attempt to harness the productivity. Mania can be an asset if you can manage it properly. I have to run myself just hard enough to reach physical exhaustion, but not over do it and end up in a depressive episode. It’s a precise balancing act at all times.
The worst part about Bipolar is that most people have no idea what it is or what it’s like. I tend to be introverted and generally avoid interacting with people because it’s just easier than trying to manage myself. That makes me seem socially awkward or unfriendly. My thinking face is often interpreted as anger. I generally keep my friends at arms length, even when I care deeply about them. If you never see me, but get contact from me, I like you very much. If you actually get to see me in person, you’ve got a friend for life. Yes, I’m a weirdo. But not that weird! Sometimes when I tell someone I’m Bipolar, they automatically think I’m a psycho. Read a book! Geez. I’m not crazy, really. I’m imbalanced. I try very hard to keep myself in check and episodes are rare (and most happen in private). I also get the reaction, mostly from older generations, of; “Well, stop it then.” Yeah, I can’t just stop being Bipolar, but thanks for the advice…
For me, Mania is my general state. I don’t go crazy and spend a ton of money or go on drinking binges or anything like that. I get super productive. I’ll clean the entire house, refile our papers, reorganize x, y and z, etc. In one of my manic episodes, I raked 2 acres by myself in a couple days. In another, I moved 2 tons of river rock by hand. Mania usually means I sleep around 6 (interrupted) hours a night and am up before dawn unable to get back to sleep. I do a lot to keep the mania in check, but it eventually boils over and I crash. Crashing for me involves getting way too wound up and ending up in full body protest, aka a panic attack. I’ll throw up for up to 8 hours, get fevers and chills and eventually be so physically exhausted that I pass out. I’ll sleep an unusually long time to recover, maybe 14-16 hours. Sometimes I wake up from one of these fits and can regain control in a day or so, but others, I wake up in massive depression land.
Massive Depressive Episodes make you feel like crawling into a dark corner and just not breathing anymore. It feels like there’s a huge hole in your chest, like you’ll never smile again and like you’d just like to stop existing. Mine usually last 4-10 days and consist of me laying like a lump on the bed, staring blankly at the wall, sleeping up to 20 hours a day and not eating. At least it only happens a few times a year, but I’ve found I need to be careful not to push myself into one. Using drugs like Ativan/Lorazepam for emergency situations often causes mini depressive episodes that last a couple days, so I am reluctant to use them.
I’m reluctant to use a lot of the traditional treatments for Bipolar. Many of the drugs suggested to me for treatment were anti-convulsion and anti-seizure and had heavy risk of organ damage. So much so that I’d have to get my blood tested once a month to check for Liver and Kidney failure. No thanks. I’ve found that gentle corrections in addition to my 40mg of Prozac/day seem to keep things in enough balance to manage. Things could be MUCH better, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my organs to feel a little better. Instead, I did some research and found that Omega 3 fish oils help with Bipolar, I even found a Mood Support formula. Walking every day helps to manage the mania and burn excess energy. When I feel a little down, some chocolate or some upbeat music does the trick. Too wired, I enjoy half a beer or find a puzzle to busy my brain. (Note: You should ask your doctor if you can have alcohol with your medications, etc) It takes more effort to do these things (and ruins any diet you might be on, but hey, you’re walking it off, right?) but since Bipolar tends to worsen over time, I’d like to avoid the big bad drugs as long as I can. Stay fed, hydrated and rested and it’ll be much easier.