I live with Bipolar Disorder. It’s a cycle of mania and depression. For medical purposes i’m classified as Bipolar I, for the reason that my manias are severe and long-lasting. This means that sometimes my manias and depressions can be so intense as to require immediate hospitalisation, and sometimes i can cycle between less intense versions incredibly quickly (days), or interminably slowly (years). It is, for me, a cycle though; one invariably follows the other. On and on, round and round. Circular. Perhaps relatively infinite.
It is both poetic and not. When i’m not currently depressed or manic, i can look at what’s past and describe it with clever metaphors and colourful analogies, which is fine – even good. It’s an indication that i’m ready to clean up any messes, take inventory, and restock my shelves in preparation for the next (potential) disaster. When i’m currently experiencing a depression or a mania however, if i’m seeing my situation within a poetic framework, it’s not usually good – it’s often dangerous. Getting all romantic about either feeling 10ft tall and bulletproof or suicidal while i’m in it, can be a red flag that i’m dissociating, and am or will soon be unable to control what happens next.
This last mania was prosaically endured. That is a bonafide victory. I was in it hip-deep before i figured it out, yet still markedly better than last time i was hit this hard, when i had to almost slip beneath the water before i realised how far i was from shore.
I figured out i was manic.
I did the things i’ve learned to do that can help:
- minimise social interactions;
- practise mindfulness throughout the day;
- avoid people, places, and things that provoke intense feelings;
- be gentle and forgiving when i’m not doing things correctly, (or at least as well as i do them when i’m not manic);
- process thoughts and feelings with a safe person, often.
It turned out pretty well, i think. No hospitalisation, no police involvement, no massive drama. I didn’t have any terrible fights with anyone — not even my husband, who is usually the target. I don’t have access to credit or cash when i’m manic, and my husband even keeps my ID with him for safekeeping (because i lose stuff when i’m on a tear — sometimes very important and/or expensive stuff), and to discourage me from going anywhere. I didn’t go on a bender, either. I drank a little, but not falling down drunk, picking fights, or crying jags. No drugging. This is all good.
There were things that could have gone better, of course. It was still gruelling. It was sometimes ugly and painful, and it was consistently scary to varying degrees. I lost my ability to write coherently – and i couldn’t find a fuck to give about it. My carefully crafted daily routines fell away, one by one. The paranoia and hallucinations (both visual and auditory) that often come with an intense mania, meant that my daily walks had to be put on hold. I can see people in my peripheral vision that i’m certain are coming to get me, and that can easily trigger my multiplicity; a complication to be avoided if at all possible. My brain got very busy, and it also got very scattered. Often, when my husband would text me he was heading home for supper, i hadn’t yet gotten dressed or washed my face. I started watching crap telly again, too. At those times i gravitate towards reality shows that highlight other people’s misery. I think that subconsciously i’m telling myself i’m not too far gone because i’m not bedridden by my weight, or hiding in a house filled with garbage. I don’t need an intervention, and you are NOT the father, so… It could be worse, eh?
When it was over i cruised for a while. I was exhausted, and it was the right thing to do. I also wanted to take some time to examine where i was at emotionally, to see if i could anticipate the timing of the depression that would surely come, and maybe even gauge its severity. I don’t know how realistic that was, but i did need the rest. I think that i may have quietly crossed the line into the next phase already, but i’m not sure, because it doesn’t feel as intense as the mania did. My downs are usually inversely proportional to my ups, and if i’m presently in a clinical depression, it’s a very mild one.
I’m tired and my desire to sleep more has returned (although i never have much luck getting more).
I feel a bit inept, and everything looks a bit greyer and somewhat ominous.
And i am definitely, definitely irritable. Ornery, even. I find those closest to me to be rather exasperating right now, which feels the most intense of all my symptoms.
Once again though, i’ve worked hard to find and develop ways of coping with this disorder:
- try to say Yes to one social engagement per week;
- practise mindfulness throughout the day (it’s always with this one);
- avoid sad stories/movies/tv shows, etc., i.e. no wallowing allowed;
- be gentle and forgiving when i’m low energy;
- acknowledge every accomplishment and small adherence to routine;
- process thoughts and feelings with a safe person, often.
So, as i have mentioned many (MANY!) times before, i just pick myself up, dust myself off, and resume my slow, steady movement forward. Mania means reining myself in, because going too fast can cause a stupendous crash, whereas depression means dragging myself just a few steps before i collapse, overwhelmed and tired for no particular reason.
But as i have also said before – it gets easier every time i do it, and this time was no exception. It was still easier than last time.
Even though this mania was far more intense and longer than the one that preceded it.
And despite wrestling with dissociation and losing time, sometimes days.
In spite of 2 or 3 or 4 angry walks, which have not occurred in probably a year or 2.
There just came a point where i knew the mania had waned to where i had the power to stop it. And i did. I decided i was done, i informed the Peanut Gallery that the shenanigans were over, that i’d be taking a little time off to recover, and then i was gonna get back at it. Their full cooperation was expected.
So there was a couple of weeks of no expectations, save arrested manic behaviours.
Then i started back to my routine. I went back to one thing, and that was to only eat between the hours of 8am and 8pm. Because i’ve had gastric bypass, i have a very small stomach pouch – but i can still gain weight by just grazing all day long. I did gain some back, probably somewhere around 10lbs, but that’s all right. The changes i’ve made to what, when, how, and why i eat are sound and healthy and meant to be lifelong, so a blip is okay. I have no doubt i will get back down to where i was before i started gaining a month or so ago, and then some. This is a process, all of it, the pace is necessary, and it doesn’t bother me.
I started with my 12hr window to eat, and then i just started adding bits of my routine back as i felt able. It didn’t take the months of dogged dedication that it took to make them habits. I didn’t even need to give myself a week before i added on something else. It’s all back except the exercise, the caloric restriction designed for weight loss, and the 1 home improvement chore per week. I’m back to my sleep schedule, my morning and night hygiene routine, my reading, writing, baking (which i never completely gave up anyway). The rest will come in the next week or so. I don’t know exactly when, but so far i’ve seemed to have decent judgment regarding timing, so i’m just gonna keep trusting myself to know when. For now. If i fuck it up, say, if i’ve taken too much back on too quickly -oh well- that’ll become obvious at some point, and then i’ll reassess and tweak my lifestyle where i think i need to, and then just keep on truckin’.
Just a reminder: I’m not trying to fix anyone’s life but my own. I’m looking for my own answers, my own solutions. I am not, and have no desire to be anyone’s life coach or guru. I share how my brain works, and the way i’m learning to live with it because i’m 50yrs old and still pretty fucked up. I’m not highly functional, but i want so badly, as i’ve wanted all my life, to contribute something to my fellow humans. To be of some use, some help, to do something good.
I’m working with what i’ve got, and what i have is what you see here on these pages. I’ve kept plugging along no matter what, trying to figure my shit out, banging on all the doors and crying at all the windows. I did all the diets and i’ve seen all the headshrinkers, attended all the groups, whispered/screamed/wailed all the prayers, and made all the sacrifices.
And it’s working. It has all played a part in who i am and where i’m at today. Some words, some wisdom, therapy, information… All embedded inside me like seeds.
ALL the kindnesses, the mercies, the graces, the forgiveness, the handouts, ALL the love… It all watered and sunned and fed my garden until it now produces enough to feed and shelter me, to nurture my thoughts and feelings, my dreams and desires. Now >>I<< till and water and fertilise this soil. My soil. I can protect the tender shoot from the invading weed, and i pluck that sonofabitch from the ground without hesitation and free of misgivings.
I share it all in the hope that you might believe that you can do as i have done, because i believe you can. Take anything you like from here and use it to seed your own garden, but do not feel obligated to plant any of it. Feel free to just look upon it, whether it’s to drink in its beauty or to see in it only what you don’t want to grow in your own.
You are welcome, regardless.
Enjoy your weekend, if you can.
I’ll do the same.
Love and Peace,
IMAGE: Markus Spiske