The Twists and Turns of Bipolar Disorder

Days are filled with ups and downs. At moments paralyzed from fear, anxiety and depressive negative thoughts. While at other times feeling driven and focused thanks to medication that appears to work for a few hours each day to pull me out of the darkness that I am experiencing recently.

How does bipolar affect every aspect of my life?  There is not an area that is not affected. The difference between the different manic, depressive, and mixed states of bipolar are described in this journal entry I have included. These moods are what I deal with every day. The moods are the underlying condition that effects every aspect of my life including my daily recovery from alcoholism and addiction and my ongoing transgender journey and my ability to connect with others.

March 2013 Journal Entry

The intense thrill and anxiety of roller coaster rides have filled my life for years. The winding tracks turning every which way with cars set precariously upon them balancing gently while simultaneously lurching at every twist, turn, drop, or forward propulsion are all too familiar. The experience is never the same. The ride is never smooth. It is always unpredictable. It is breathtaking and chaotic. The various twists and turns are an exhilarating rush while they last until they come to a crashing halt, and the thrill is gone and a low idle sets in. Followed always by the subsequent roar of the cars climbing up the tracks higher and higher. How long have I been riding this ride? Will the ride ever end? It has not been the familiar ten minute amusement park ride that I ride with friends during the summer months. This roller coaster ride is different. This roller coaster has sharper twists and turns. It has higher peaks and lower valleys. This roller coaster continues. The time doesn’t seem to end. This ride has marked the twist and turns of my daily life from the time I was young through my adult years. It has generated the highs, the lows, the flats, the side way lurches, and the upside down loop to loops that have produced the vast array of feelings that I have felt on a monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, and sometimes even, minute to minute basis.           

I have bipolar disorder. I have rapid cycling bipolar. “Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) is a mental illness highlighted by alternating episodes of mania and depression – elation and euphoric highs, followed by melancholy and severe hopelessness” (Behrman). No two mornings of waking up are ever the same. Some mornings I feel as though I am on top of the world and I can do anything at all. My mind and body are moving at an unprecedented rate of speed. My words and thoughts are being formed so quickly, that I cannot even keep track of what words I am using or what I am trying to say or even more simply what the individual words mean. My head feels as though it is going to spin right off of my shoulders. When I begin to spin like a top at faster and faster speeds, it is then that my world around me begins to get altered and I begin to question reality. My world around me begins to float and move and dart and dash. The entire world including me begins to run like an overcharged energizer bunny jumping, spinning, falling, hopping, and running in every direction possible all at the same time.

On the flip side, some mornings I wake up feeling dead inside and all I yearn for is that my physical body could fall apart and match my internal feelings. Still on other mornings, I wake up feeling one way, and by mid-day I feel the complete opposite. For example, Some mornings I wake up and my mind feels as though it is on the rapid spin cycle of a washing machine or like my brain is spinning on its own axis inside my head, and by mid-day I may be lying in bed depressed feeling as though I want to jump off the tallest building in the nearest city. Finally, on other days I am greeted with a mood that makes me feel as though I am flying or spinning around in circles moving faster and faster gaining speed as I go around, while simultaneously I feel as though I want to cry and scream and flail my body around and die all at the same time in a horribly uncomfortable and confusing mixed manic and depressed episode.

“Here’s the hell of it: madness doesn’t announce itself. There isn’t time to prepare for its coming. It shows up without calling and sits in your kitchen…you ask how long it plans to stay; it shrugs its shoulders and starts digging through the fridge.

But even that implies some sort of lag time between the arrival of madness and the actual experience of it. In the early years, it’s like a switch flips on, and though only a moment before you were totally sane, you have suddenly gone mad.

…Maybe it’s a chemical shift in the brain that the medications don’t block. Maybe it’s a stressor in your life that you didn’t expect. Maybe there is no reason, and you’re just going mad for the hell of it…” (Hornbachner, 225-226).

Bipolar disorder is messy. It is unpredictable. No day is ever the same as the last one. There is always a variable that is different or missing that causes my mood to shift one way or the other. There is never a place somewhere in between. It is impossible to prepare for what the morning will bring. I go to bed feeling one way, not knowing what mood (manic, depressed, or mixed) I will be in 6-8 hours later when I will open my eyes to greet the next day. Each night I lay in bed filled with anxiety not knowing what the roller coaster has in store for me. What section of the ride lurks beyond the bend? Is it an insatiable energy or a devastating lethargy? No matter what it is I will not be prepared. No matter what it is I will not know how long it will stay or how high or low it will go. The unpredictability and insanity of the ride destroys the fun of the ride. The amusement park ride may have been fun, but the ride that exists in my daily life is not fun. It is filled with the dread of not knowing what is ahead. It is filled with the dread of not knowing how fast the ride will be or how high or low the car will climb or descend on the track. The ride is filled with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

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