1. The “Mixed” State
Being in this state can be a real catastrophe. You’re too depressed to do anything, but there’s also this part of you that feels sort of excited. Your mind is racing — but it has also come to a complete standstill.
For me, bipolar is a dense demon to diminish. Although people experience it differently, this symptom showcases the complex nature of bipolar. It can be pretty hard to come to terms with, especially with mental illness being such a taboo subject. Personally, during a mixed episode, I usually just lie in bed fighting with myself. Do I get up and burn off some energy? Or do I lie in bed wallowing? A typical mixed episode gives you a low mood, loss of interest, low energy, lack of enthusiasm with activities, feelings of worthlessness and deep sadness. Now, imagine mixing this with feelings of euphoria, irritability, lots of energy, racing thoughts and speech, agitation and anxiety. This causes mayhem to the body and the brain. Often after a mixed episode, you feel exhausted and end up taking a long nap. It’s a difficult ball game. It’s surely hard to control.
Psychotic symptoms can occur during depressed or manic episodes. This element of bipolar disorder can be pretty vivid. You can experience real hallucinations, visualizing and hearing things that are not there. Sometimes you are unaware that you are the only person seeing and hearing these things. Psychosis can also affect your thought process. It is almost like you’re living in this make-believe world, like you have these monsters feeding you information that is not true. It can be heart-wrenching or terrifying.
Another factor is hearing voices. I remember being locked away in my bedroom too terrified to go to the toilet because I could hear people downstairs plotting and planning horrid things for me. In reality, I was alone and there was nobody there.
Hyperfixation is when you are completely immersed in something. Whether it’s playing a video game, re-reading a book serval times, continuously watching the same TV show, compulsively cleaning or being immersed in a person, your whole life revolves around this “thing.” Hyperfixation can be a coping mechanism, but you must remember to remain in the real world (although it is easier said than done).
Hyperfixation can be dangerous because your life no longer feels like it belongs to you. There is nothing more important in this world than the “thing” you are fixed on. You forget to make food, wash the dishes, walk the dog. Your self-care subtly, slowly, swiftly slips away. Personally, I rejuvenated my love for Harry Potter. This isn’t an example of a particularly bad hyperfixation, as I did not let it affect my daily life. I re-read the books and watched at least one film every day for about five months. It became a real obsession. I managed to break the loop eventually and no harm was done. However, you can see in more serious cases how this could really affect a person.
Now this is a deep one, and something that so many people struggle with. The only way I can think to describe it is it feels like a release. A release of pain. There is a vast stigma around self-harming. If you do not do it you are “not depressed enough,” but if you do, you are “attention seeking.” There is no fixed reason as to why people self-harm. It can be a response to many different elements such as bullying, money worries, stress at home, stress at work, abusive relationships/sexual abuse. However, in many cases, mental health is linked to self-harm. For people with bipolar, this might occur in a depressive state.
5. Substance Abuse
I abused alcohol. I drank a bottle of wine most nights for months. I saw it as a way of relaxing and unwinding after a long day in work. I did not see it as an issue until my psychiatrist highlighted it to me. For some people, alcohol and drug abuse is an escapism. It is a way out of your nagging mental health. For others, it is all about self-medication. Like me, others may feel a release from the substance. It may seem as though it makes everyday life a little bit more bearable. There are so many negative impacts drugs and alcohol can have on the mind and the body. The long-term effects just are not worth it, if you can help it.
Dissociation is like an out-of-body experience. It leaves you feeling numb, emotionless and scared. Your reality is a mixed up state of dreamlike memories and feelings of amnesia. You are on autopilot. Imagine waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror and not recognizing the person you see. You feel like instead of being in your body, you’re floating above it, drifting in a fantasy state. You get to work and you do not know how you drove there or if you ever drove. You speak to colleagues and it’s not you speaking. Everything is dazed and burred. Dissociation can last for hours or days. You go through emotions like a zombie. You continue your day feeling absent.
When you arrive home, you’re surrounded by loved ones and know you are safe. Your partner is trying to connect with you, telling you he loves you, but you can not feel it. You are not here. Your body is just a hollow temple. Words and noise fill your head, you feel sleepy. You decide you cannot continue with your day. You go for a lie down. You want to cry but nothing comes out. You do not know what mood you are in or what day it is. Your emotions are floating above your head like a drifting rain cloud ready to flood. You lie in bed thinking, who am I? There is too much white noise and the migraines intensify. You finally drift off to sleep. You wake up in the morning feeling foggy. What happened yesterday? Who am I today?
7. Impulsive Behavior
This can happen when you’re in a “manic” state. The easiest example to give is spending money. You feel like you are on top of the world. You want that car? You get it. You want that watch? Let’s have it. What about that new wardrobe? No problem. Nothing is too much, nothing is too much money. You may be thousands of dollars into your overdraft, but that is not an issue. You kind of feel invincible in the manic state. You feel so intensely amazing. You have never been happier. You’ve got all this energy you need to burn off. Maybe you’ll hammer the gym for a few hours straight. Or you see that mountain? Yes, you will climb it. Nothing is a bad idea.
Another example of a manic mind is obsessive cleanliness. Because of course, your wardrobe needs to be organized by color order at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. If I could tell myself anything while being in a manic state it would be… stop. Think. You do not need it. Whatever it is, it is not necessary. And you do not need to change your hair either. Sit tight and let it slide past until normality commences. Realistically, you know deep down this feeling isn’t kosher, however, you do not want to come down. But that is it! Whatever goes up must come down. And then starts the great depression.
8. Messy Depression
Bipolar is a vicious cycle because you clean while manic but cannot maintain it while depressed. Your surroundings become a disarray of clutter. Nothing is in its place, the washing is not done, the beds are not changed and the carpets have not been vacuumed. This is because you have not left your bed for three days. You cannot communicate, you can barely eat or drink. This feeling of superlative sadness lingers around your head, trapping you in its foggy darkness.
The depression stage of the cycle can make you feel physically and mentally exhausted. Sometimes I sleep for up to 14 hours from just pure exhaustion. In addition to this, the meds do not help. Some medication can leave you feeling extremely dazed, drowsy and docile. It can be pretty hard to maintain a social or work life with this. I feel like you have just got to fight through it, make yourself get up. Even if the exhaustion is killing you inside. You must do it. You can do it.
What would you add? Let Cherie know in the comments below.