Disclaimer: This is 2-3 times longer than my usual posts. I had thought about breaking it up in two, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I had heard of Bipolar and Manic/Depression; I learned about it in school but never put two and two together.
I was pregnant in 2009 with baby #3 when my brother handed me a school paper he was very proud of. A research paper on Bipolar Disorder. As I read the list of symptoms I felt strongly that he was trying to send me a message. Was he trying to tell me that I fit the description of this paper perfectly? And that I was bipolar?
Symptoms of bipolar disorder are described below: (gleaned from the National Institute of Mental Health)
- A long period of feeling “high,” or an overly happy or outgoing mood
- Extremely irritable mood, agitation, feeling “jumpy” or “wired.”
- Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
- Being easily distracted
- Increasing goal-directed activities, such as taking on new projects
- Being restless
- Sleeping little
- Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
- Behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable, high-risk behaviors, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments.
- A long period of feeling worried or empty
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.
- Feeling tired or “slowed down”
- Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
- Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.
Initially I thought, “What do you mean I have an unrealistic belief of my abilities? I AM badass. That shit is REAL!”
At the very end of the paper, my brother drew his conclusion. Being the narcissistic person I am, I remember exactly what he said about me: “Having a sister who could very well be bipolar, I only hope that she will get the help that she needs.”
I was shocked at what I read. But in 2 seconds time it all started to make sense. His list of symptoms described me perfectly.
It felt like only yesterday that I had just lost a child. What the fuck? And now this? Real fucking funny joke you’ve played on me, life. Ha fucking ha. So I brushed it off but it was always there in the back of my mind. I was somewhat in denial and didn’t see a doctor like my brother suggested. But after I had my youngest son, I was neck-deep in some serious postpartum depression and decided to see a therapist about it. It was wreaking havoc on mine and D’s relationship and it wasn’t fair to either of us.
Talking to my therapist really helped a lot. Being able to cry to Dr. M about anything and everything was such a relief. In addition to being that shoulder, she had also lost a child. We both belonged in that secret club; the club that has no name. There’s a nonverbal understanding between all its members. Something I can’t describe, just to say that you can almost feel it, like a fog that clings to you. Sometimes I think you can see it; you can read it on each other’s faces, like we all have some sort of secret branding. And once she knew my background and where I was coming from, her opinion was that – in addition to being clinically depressed – I had post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said life shouldn’t have to be so hard. That it shouldn’t have to feel like my head is barely above water and every day was a struggle. She wanted me to see a neurologist/psychiatrist to get me on meds. And so I did. Dr. L had me on an anti-depressant at first, which only made me sleep A LOT. After a couple more visits and a few more rounds of questions, he seemed to think I had symptoms of bipolar disorder and had me try out a mood stabilizer. Then a different mood stabilizer. Then a mood stabilizer plus anti-depressant.
“What?!?” I’d say, feeling a little like something was wrong with all of this. “I thought me being in a hypomanic state was ‘normal’ and me being depressed was just being funky.”
Dr. L would shake his head. “No. Definitely not normal.”
So what does being bipolar mean? Essentially it means I’m moody, but to the extreme.
In my hypomanic state I jump from topic to topic when talking. I’m extremely optimistic and euphoric to the point I can take on giants with my bare hands. My mind races and I can’t get it to stop thinking. I can’t concentrate on anything except one thing. Sometimes that thing is another project. Sometimes it’s getting a certain amount of Honor in WoW. Sometimes it’s just a random goal I’ve decided is now vastly more important than everything else. It doesn’t really matter what it is, because I’m so intently focused on that one thing that no one can talk to me or pry me away from what I’m doing.
I act impulsively and spontaneously without thinking of the consequences. I get so fucking happy and positive. I’ve been told that I’m a joy to be around because my passion for life is contagious. I’m overly productive. I might put together a 50-item tasklist and get everything done in a few hours, or easily get distracted and keep adding to the list, or stop when I’m at task #42 because I run out of steam. I need zero sleep and zero food. It’s 4am and I’m not tired at all. Life is fucking great.
On WoW you might see me jump from toon to toon. If you’re chatting with me I fill up your chat log with stuff you can’t follow. I talk about JC then raiding then Blizzcon then something someone said on Twitter then SWTOR then mining then my lock then what I want to do later and what I want to do tomorrow. I’ll ask you questions and keep chatting while I wait for your answer. Meanwhile I’ve minimized WoW and am reading someone’s blog or shopping online.
This state of mind can last a few hours, a few days, weeks, months or even years.
Then I crash. Because it’s not humanly possible to be like that all the time. The body just can’t do it. So I’m either manic like I’ve described above, or…
I’m depressed. I can’t get out of bed. I don’t want to go outside. I find any and everything to be sad about which gets me even more depressed. I feel like my head is barely above water and I sink in slow motion. I never want to be a Debbie Downer, so I don’t like to express to others how shitty I feel. Instead I write in my journal a lot.
Most times I write about how I’m not happy in my relationship and can’t understand why D wants to be with me. I’ll list all the reasons why I’m a shitty mom, like how I could only muster Top Ramen for the kids’ dinner. I look to the past A LOT and tell myself how stupid I am. I pinch my thighs or bite the inside of my cheek to try and stop myself from remembering how big of a loser I was yesterday or when I
I have visions of my arm being slashed slowly with a razor. That’s about the extent of my suicidal thoughts. I’ve attempted to commit suicide in the past; a couple times as a teenager, and with more ‘success’ when I ended up putting myself in the hospital at 22. But I would never act on those thoughts now. I could never do that to my kids. I think of my eldest son who recently lost his sister and in a way lost his dad, too, since shortly after that his parents separated. I could never leave that boy. No fucking way in hell.
And if in my depressed state I start thinking about my daughter, it’s fucking over for me. I’m done. I’m so far beyond depressed that I can feel my body sinking into the earth. I can actually hear my heart beating and feel the blood pulsating through my body. With each beat, I sink lower and lower. I do my best to pick myself up. I remember me saying at her funeral that she wouldn’t want to look down and see her Mommy moping. Yet here I am, moping.
In game, I’ll most likely be mining. I don’t chat with anyone. If I do, I wait to be talked to and my answers are always short. I’d rather not group with anyone. “Maybe later,” I’ll respond. I might level a profession or put shit up on the Auction House. I’ll do easy achievements; old-school instances like Dire Maul. Something easy but not so mindless my brain starts to wander away from WoW and into Real Life.
What sucks about being bipolar is… I’m either one or the other. I’m very rarely in between. And the period of time I am in my hypomanic state doesn’t directly correlate to the period of time I’m depressed. If I’m hyper for 4 hours, it doesn’t mean I’ll be depressed for 4 hours. Depression always lasts way longer than the hypomania.
So now I’m on a “mood stabilizer.” I’m not really sure how it works. In order to prevent the depression, the mania has to be prevented. So this medicine prevents that somehow. How does it make me feel, you ask? Sleepy. Sometimes I feel like my brain is numb and perhaps the hypomania is being stopped when I hear this ringing in my ear. Sometimes I feel like a caged bird; an animal on leash… I don’t know. I’m that girl. You know, the one with the issues?
What’s funny is now that I know I’m bipolar, I’m realizing what I’ve concluded about myself is totally out the window. For example:
|Fact||My Reasoning||The Reality|
|I don’t finish what I start.||I get bored easily. I realize I can do something so I don’t bother to finish. It’s like once I learn that I can do it, it’s not a challenge anymore.||No, dumbass. It’s because you end up crashing in the middle and then get depressed and don’t finish because you don’t have the energy.|
|I’m a chatterbox||It’s because I’m excited to see you; it’s been a while since we talked and I need to get you caught up on what’s happening in my life.||No, dipshit. It’s because you are hypomanic and your thoughts are racing.||I’m depressed.||It’s because *insert ANY excuse here*.||No, idiot. It’s because you’re depressed.|
A few positives have come out of this:
- I don’t try to find irrational reasons to justify my depression. I’m funky because I was just hyper a few hours ago. I can be funky and wait for it to pass, instead of being critical of my relationship and blaming everything on D.
- I know I’m in a manic state and don’t act on my impulses. I consult with D before making any big decisions.
- Medication. For the most part I’m more “in the middle” now and know what it’s like to be “normal.” Instead of manic or depressed, I’m a nice even-keel.
The depression is still a struggle. Every once in a while I’ll get bursts of energy but I won’t necessarily go days or weeks in a hypomanic state. The last time I saw the doctor, his diagnosis was Bipolar II, with a big question mark over Bipolar I. The difference, from what I gathered, is that Bipolar I’s don’t think rationally and their manic states can last months. Bipolar IIs can at least think rationally and have some sense about consequences to our actions.
You may wonder why I’m sharing this with all of you. Some of you may know or suspect already, and some of you could be complete strangers who don’t care one way or the other. I’ve been pretty open about my life on this blog. Hell, I changed the direction of my writing so it would be more personal.
My reasoning for that is the same reasoning that led me to write and post this. You can get WoW news and analysis anywhere. But this is me. This is who I am. And if there’s just one person out there who reads these types of posts and finds in them a kindred spirit, then I think I’ve done what I set out to do.
I’m bipolar. It’s not simple. It’s not nice. It’s not something I can turn away from and hope it just goes away. And yes, I have my bad days. Sometimes bad weeks. Sometimes even longer. But now that I know what it is, I know how to overcome it, or at the very least cope with it and get on with my life.