Worst of Both Worlds

“Let’s see what we can fuck with next!” — Eddie Murphy as “Reggie Hammond” in 48 Hours.

I lost 4 subscribers overnight Wednesday night. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and speculate that they left due to my mentioning in my most recent post that I was bipolar. “OMG!” they thought, “She’s got that manic-depressive thing! She is crazy!” and then they fled shrieking into the night, ruing the day they ever attempted to open their minds to a weird story like the one this blog tells.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, or even traumatic for the reader, but it gives me a good justification for writing this post, so I’m going with it. Hopefully, you’ll allow for a little leeway in my poor, deluded mind. ;-)

When I described my occasional emotional instability, which manifests in my colorful spectrum of oddities as rapid cycling or mixed episodes, I left it as, “the worst of both worlds.” Given the description I gave of psychosis-level manic episodes, I wouldn’t be surprised if you wondered just what a mixed episode was. I’m here to tell you.

Worst of depression: This is pretty much a no-brainer. But if you’ve never suffered from depression, let me shed some light. Depression can range from what they call “flat mood” to feeling like you’ve fallen into the deepest, darkest pit of hell and will never claw your way out again (even if you cared enough to try). Flat mood consists of apathy, lack of interest in things that usually bring pleasure (hobbies, sex, friends), lack of appetite, sleeping a lot, and withdrawal from socialization to varying degrees. It can manifest outwardly as lashing out to push people away when the true desire is for someone to see what’s happening and hug you. Hygiene begins to suffer, cleaning house or doing chores suffer, work suffers. There can be physical symptoms ranging from indigestion to anxiety attacks to body pain and headaches. One can hole up in a private room (bedroom, whatever) for weeks on end and only leave when forced to do so, and returning at first opportunity. There is a strong need to express what is happening but an inability to articulate it, and the feelings that no one could possibly care are even stronger. Deeper depression begins to take on its own personality. I can’t begin to describe it; it differs by individual. Suicide is a very real danger.

Hypomania is a low degree of mania, which consists of feelings of euphoria, self-confidence, wittiness, charm, an impulse to spend money, a strong feeling of camaraderie with one’s friends. One believes that one is incapable of making mistakes, that one has it all under control. There is impulsiveness, impetuousness, spontaneity, joy, articulation, elation, romance. Everything is just peachy keen. Speech is forced (i.e. one feels one can, and needs to, talk and talk and talk, very enthusiastically) and thoughts race. There is a reduced need for sleep. Lack of sleep can trigger or sustain manic symptoms.

Once one moves out of hypomania into mania itself, there is irritability, agitation, inability to focus, severely racing thoughts, an inability to articulate what one is thinking or feeling, increased risk of panic, and all of the hypomanic symptoms grow more extreme. Psychotic levels of mania move into extreme paranoia, hearing voices, severe delusion or hallucination, dementia, and so on.

I have never had a psychotic episode. I have had hypomanic and manic phases. The worst one inspired me to marry a guy 8 years my junior (I was 27; he was 19) after knowing him two months. I didn’t even really like him that much. During that manic phase, which lasted about 4 months total, a lot of weird things happened. I did a lot of things that make no sense to me now. And my memories of the time are all jumbled. I can’t put things in chronological order; they';re just random in my mind.

Mixed episodes, then, at least for me, consist of depression that waxes and wanes, crying spells, apathy and a severe difficulty motivating myself to take care of my responsibilities, reduced hygiene, horrible housecleaning habits, irritability, racing thoughts (especially in bed), panic attacks (often several a day), mild paranoia at times, inability to cope with any stress whatsoever, withdrawal, cocooning in my room or my bed, sleeping a lot or not sleeping enough, and a general feeling of being miserable combined with panic in believing it can’t be fixed.

I have taken anti-psychotics, because many of them are used as mood stabilizers. I’ve tried a wide range of mood stabilizers, because most have intolerable side effects for me. These have ranged from vomiting to serious hormonal imbalance to weird trails in my vision to sores in my mouth and nose. One side effect that none has ever had is to make Meridjet go away. Either he’s one tough hallucination, or he’s not a hallucination at all. ;)

Typically, I am stable enough to function with a minimum of difficulty as long as I can keep my stress level down. This has led to me learning a lot about the power of a positive attitude, and the power of letting things go, at least for the present moment. Worrying is bad for one’s body, mind, and emotions, and the more we can do to accept that right now we are not in danger of expiring and we can only do so much this second to aid our situation (whatever it may be), the better it is going to be for our health, and the easier it is going to be for our ability to take steps when opportunities arise.

When I am unstable, usually I withdraw and people get little backlash from it. The worst of it is the shape of my house, which everyone who comes here has to experience. From what I’ve been told (at varying degrees of civility), my ex-roommate did indeed suffer from living here with me. One of the worst things about bipolar is the lack of self-awareness. It ranges from decent to deplorable, and those with decent self-awareness have areas of blindness and times of tunnel-vision like anyone else does — it just happens to do more damage when it’s a bipolar individual who’s having the issue. For the pain I cause anyone else, I can only apologize.

I try very hard to know my body so that when I take new medications, I know if it’s doing me any good or if it’s doing something that is dangerous and intolerable. I stay educated on my condition and on the drugs that I take to manage it. I know the listed side effects and am conscious of any that I feel that may not be listed. When taking a new drug, if I experience something odd for a couple of days, I’ll take a break from the drug to see if the weirdness stops, and then after a few days take it again to see if the symptom recurs. This allows me to explain to my doctor what I have found.

There is nothing I can do about anyone subscribed to this blog who finds my condition a reason to discredit my story. I hope you’ll stick around and review the evidence as it arrives (old and new, archived and fresh) before you make up your mind. All I’m asking is for suspension of judgment on a temporary basis.

I started this post early on Thursday. Thursday turned into a dramafest with a friend I thought I was patching things up with… the friend my ex-roommate moved in with. We didn’t manage to keep it civil this time, as we did in the past week. I don’t think there will be much more effort to resolve the situation. I’m not going to rant here or post any details, but I will say that 1) this post is not a response to that argument, and 2) I deeply need to look at myself and search for the things he said to me, and try to be honest with myself. I know that I need to stop trying to find some magically perfect union with a best friend, because something in my perspective of it is hurting people and causing me to fear desertion when it isn’t a threat. Both of these — the need for the perfect joined-at-the-hip friend and the fear of desertion — have infected me pretty thoroughly. I don’t want to hurt anyone else, and I don’t want to be hurt, either. With any luck, my new therapist will help.

Here endeth whatever this was.

Sheta Kaey About Sheta Kaey

I teach people to perceive, communicate, and work with spirits. Beyond that, I'm kinda normal.

Sometimes I write things. Sometimes I edit things. Sometimes, people even see them.

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