My name is Nicole, but most people call me Nic. Mostly because it’s easier and faster to say, but also because Australians are fond of a nickname!
I have bipolar disorder Type 1 and am presently recovering from another lengthy manic episode. I could try and put a timeline on it all, but it would be unreliable. So, the best way to describe where I’m at presently is that well-worn in between place. No longer acute but nowhere near well, wrestling daily with medication changes and mixed episodes. I wait eagerly for the medication to find that ever changing groove.
As I lie here sleepless due to a change in antipsychotics, I am considering what to write as a first time contributor. I think it is best if I write the story of how I ended up here this time, how the mania manifested itself and ultimately took me down.
First and foremost, bipolar is insidious. Once kicked off, it extends its arms to me like a lover calling me to dance, and it is irresistible; a strange dance that grows in intensity every day. When this happened for me this time, I’m not entirely sure, but there were some triggers.
About four months ago, I lost my first job in three years after only two months of working again. The reason given to me was a generic one. Regardless, this lead to serious self-doubt, and I was convinced it was my illness to blame. In reality, this is quite possibly what happened. I will never know.
The process of being “let go” sent me almost immediately into a state of shock, and within hours I was becoming increasingly agitated internally; my mood elevating rapidly. The next day, the repetitive behaviour began like it always does, and at first it soothes me. For me, it’s listening to music. I will wear noise cancelling headphones and will pump music almost all day long, often listening to the same track over and over for a week straight before a new track appeals to my mood. My music collection is extensive, and I have go-to tracks for every bipolar occasion.
The musical arena becomes my bipolar world, and I do not like to be interrupted or extracted from it regardless of the reason. Put simply, it irritates me further.
Unfortunately, blocking and feeding the mania with music was only the beginning of my journey up. Before long, my inhibitions switch was flicked off and I began to behave in a risky and unruly fashion. For example, constant raving about absolutely anything to anyone with no filters, no consideration, no stopping. At some level I believe I knew this was happening but was unable to gain control, and in all honesty, I don’t think I wanted to.
Alternating periods of euphoria and dysphoria followed, deepened isolation, and then the rage found me. Interestingly this time, issues from complex post-traumatic stress disorder came to the forefront and served to feed the rage and mania. Those memories came out during my limited sleep, and vivid recollections featured throughout each day. The result was devastating, and in hindsight, this was the precursor to me finally fracturing.
By the time I reached the pinnacle, months had passed. A particular family issue lead to me finally snapping, and I recall at that point I experienced a moment of clarity where I realised exactly where I was at. I can still recollect that moment, and the realisation terrified me utterly. I was back there again. I searched my mind and scrambled to work out what had happened, though the result was total confusion.
I was so unwell my friends and family lead me to treatment, and a month or so later, I am early on the road to recovery once again. One month ago I would not have been able to write this blog, so things are improving.
As a side note, during the mania I remember someone telling me that bipolar was not real and that I should snap out of it. By that stage, my bipolar world was so complete no one could interfere with it, not even the ill-informed.
For the record, bipolar is as real as it gets.
The manic experience I have described has been on the wash and repeat cycle for me for quite a few years. Each episode erodes my sanity and memory further. As such, it has never been more crucial for me to become and remain well. Like us all, I do not have the luxury of time as I have a 2-year-old daughter to care for.
So it is time I give my illness the respect it deserves.
I’ve made myself a list of things I must do each day, and it is up on the fridge in bold lettering:
1. Take your meds
2. No headphones
3. Have a shower and get dressed
4. Eat well
5. Get to bed at a decent hour
This list may seem basic, but at the moment I need to employ what tools I can to get on track.
Although I am navigating the change of medication path once more, ultimately, I am hopeful. I think this is due largely to the fact that I have reached acceptance about having bipolar.
We can survive this illness, even though it is breathtakingly difficult. We can fight to find that balance that eludes us.
It is out there, I just know it.
Read more of Nic's posts here.