I’ll be honest. Since deciding that I wanted to create this blog I struggled to think about what my first post should be about. After reading this post on a blog by a lady called Tilly. I was inspired to write about my own experiences of Bi-Polar 2 which I think would be a great introduction to me and my experiences of having a mental illness. I’ll spare you the “How I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar” for another time.
Types of Bipolar
There are three MAIN types of Bi-Polar although I believe there are a few more written in psychiatry literature that I haven’t really looked into. I think at least one of them relates to Bi-Polar which is induced by medication and/or drugs. I don’t know enough to write about them and the three I have listed below are considered the main types.
- Bi-Polar 1
Is characterised by periods of severe mood episodes. Depression and Mania (extreme mood elevation).
- Bi-Polar 2
Is often described as a less severe version of Bi-Polar disorder due to the fact that sufferers have hypomanic (a milder form of mood elevation compared to mania in type 1) that alternates with periods of severe depression.
- Cyclothymic Disorder
Sufferers are described as having brief periods of hypomanic symptoms which alternate with brief periods of depressive symptoms that aren’t as extensive or long-lasting as those seen in fully hypomanic episodes or full depressive episodes.
I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar II around 4 years ago during my last year of university. Though I was aware at least 10 years earlier that what was going on must be more than depression and anxiety. Up until my breakdown at university, I was treated with various anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication from the age of 16. The first psychiatrist I met explained that the anti-depressants I was prescribed had probably made things worse by inducing and exacerbating the hypomanic episodes. Interesting.
My Bipolar depression
If you’ve ever experienced severe depression you will know how devastating it can be. How it drags you down to the deepest depths of hell and you know you will never escape it. Even if you do, it leaves an indelible mark on you for a long time if you’re lucky, and forever if you aren’t. That’s certainly how I feel anyway. I’m a bad person. This is never going to get better. I’d be doing the world a favour by taking myself out.
Some of the deepest depressive episodes I’ve had have led me to try and take my own life because I felt that was the only way to stop feeling. Even during less severe depressive episodes, I flirt with the thought of death constantly. It’s actually comforting to know that if things get too bad that I can just kill myself.
Just the act of getting out of bed is difficult. That’s even if I bother. So many days I’ve spent in bed only getting out to use the toilet. My personal hygiene is almost non-existent, especially if I don’t have to leave the house. Getting dressed? It’s not happening. During my less severe episodes, every little action feels like a gigantic chore. Like I have to swim through mud just to wash my face or get dressed. My outlook on life is bleak, my self-esteem takes a nosedive. I hate the way I look, I’m stupid, I haven’t done anything noteworthy with my life. I am a failure. I withdraw from my family and friends. I don’t want to infect them with whatever this is. That’s if they even like me. Are they just putting up with me? I’m a burden to them. Things that I often enjoy doing give me no fulfilment or happiness. Sometimes I don’t have the energy or mental capacity to speak. When I do it’s slow, I can’t seem to get my words out. The bright colours of the world are no longer bright. I’ll often find myself spending hours staring at the ceiling or the walls. That’s if I’m not sleeping the day away to escape my thoughts. “What is the point?” is the main question I ask myself during these episodes.
Fortunately, after years of suffering from depression. I am much better equipped to deal with them or at least reflect upon them when they are over. I try to remind myself that this won’t last forever. Sometimes I can manage to force myself out of the house especially if I’m the only one in the house and the dog needs to be walked. He gives me a purpose when I feel like giving up. Just leaving the house and being forced into a social situation with other dog owners is enough to break the episode.
Over the last year or so, though I have had long periods of depression. I would say they are mild to moderate in severity (Of course it doesn’t feel like that at the time). Is this because of the medication or because I have gained some level of acceptance that I have a mental illness and know that the feelings will pass? Or at least I hold out hope that they will.
My Bipolar hypomania
I have a strange relationship with hypomania. I LOVE IT but I know that what goes up must come down and when it comes down it REALLY comes down. And the next time is even worse than the last. The relief of coming out of depression and speeding towards hypomania is magical. Waking up and jumping out of bed, rushing to get dressed so I can go outside. So I can experience the sun on my skin, the air is fresh and the grass is greener than I remember. Everything is great. I want to share my happiness with my friends, family and the world. I laugh harder than I have ever laughed before. I very rarely wear make-up but when I’m hypomanic I absolutely must. I’m confident in every aspect of life. I even love going to work. I have the best ideas. I could definitely do that. My taste in music changes I’m forever searching for an upbeat song that has a fast beat that I can sing to, and dance to. I’ll skip hundreds of songs until I find the one and when I do it’s AMAZING.
In social situations during a hypomanic episode, you’ll often find me surrounded by people. I love talking and I love listening. People tend to be really drawn to me when I’m like this because I’m fun to be around and I make them laugh. I often go days with barely any sleep. I don’t need it. I don’t need to eat either. I can sleep when I’m dead, eating is a distraction from what I want to be doing and I have lots of things that I want to do. Sounds great right? How is this even considered a mental illness? Let me tell you… During these episodes one of my symptoms is hypersexuality.
Hypersexuality is defined as an increased need or pressure for sexual gratification. It can often be a symptom of mania, and may also include decreased inhibitions or a need for forbidden sex.
For me, I become preoccupied with the thought of having sex and I’ll pursue someone hard. Not just with my partner at the time but anyone who takes my eye. In fact, I don’t even need to feel that attracted to them. The thrill of flirting, the thrill of making them want me is my objective. I consider myself a straight female (Though I have had sexual encounters with women in the past) but it doesn’t matter. I’ll flirt and have sex with women too. I don’t want or need it to be intimate. It’s a hedonistic, animalistic desire to have sex. And if I don’t get it? It pisses me off. This again probably doesn’t sound like the end of the world, does it? But what if you’re flirting and perusing your boss? A married man or you’re in a relationship yourself? Not so funny when it can fuck up your life and other people’s.
This behaviour has led me into dangerous situations. I have been sexually assaulted numerous times and now what would be defined as rape. At the time I had no awareness that it was. For this reason amongst others, I never reported it. Victim blaming is prevalent in society. I saw it as me putting myself in a situation where it could happen, thus it was my own fault.
Reflecting on my teenage years I can now really see that hypomania was very present. After my dad died when I was 16. I stopped turning up at school I made friends with people much older than me. Many of them I’m still friends with and they really are great friends. But during this period of my life, I ended up using recreational drugs EVERY weekend, ALL weekend. Not just a bit of weed but ecstasy and cocaine whilst drinking heavily too. Sometimes I took all of those drugs on the same night. I remember the day I turned 18. After finishing work, the guy I worked with (also my best friend at the time) handed me some money to buy ecstasy for the party were planning to have. I walked into my Mum’s house filled with family there to wish me a happy birthday. I stood there and chatted to them, the whole time I had 200 ecstasy tablets in the front pocket of my hoody. I didn’t care. I didn’t care that taking one of those ecstasy tablets could have killed me. Because it wouldn’t would it? I’m indestructible. I’m having so much fun. Life is great.
If all that hasn’t persuaded you that hypomania is a bad thing… What about the racing thoughts? The irritation that consumes you and the full-blown anger that comes because of it? I’ve lost friends and I’ve upset people because something relatively minor has pissed me off and I have completely lost self-control. I can’t control what comes out of my mouth, I don’t have the restraint or the ability to filter what I say. I’ve thrown things, I’ve smashed things. I screamed, caught my breath and screamed again. I’ve promised to do impossible tasks. I’ve spent money I didn’t have because I wanted, no needed those clothes, shoes and that new laptop. I have at least 15 bottles of shampoo in my bathroom, drawers full of make-up all that I very rarely use. The result of a hypomanic episode.
During some episodes, the “fun bit” hasn’t come. Sometimes hypomania for me has had more psychotic and paranoid features such as hearing voices talking about me. My anxiety increases beyond its normal threshold to the point I have panic attacks. I can feel my heart beating so fast that it feels like it’s going to come out of my chest. I shake uncontrollably. And have lost control of my bladder. Yes, I’ve actually pissed myself fully clothed where I stand. I can actually see my thoughts swirling around above my head so fast that I can barely read them. I’ve found myself putting my hands over my head and squeezing just to get some sort of relief. Hypomania at some points has led to me trying to or wanting to kill myself. Not so fun now is it? It’s hard not to get addicted to the euphoria of hypomania. I try to remind myself that there are very real consequences to these episodes when I consider not taking my medication just to feel that euphoria again.
When it’s all over I’m left to pick up the pieces, to fix (if they are even fixable) the stupid shit I’ve done. Hypomania isn’t fun when it’s over. The depression that comes after hypomania is possibly the worst type of depression. My mind is broken and so is my body. The embarrassment of my behaviour after some of these episodes is awful. I sink lower and lower after every hypomanic episode and it scares me that one day I will really hit the bottom of rock bottom and I’ll never get back out of it. Some of the worst things that have ever happened to me are the result of a hypomanic episode. I’m lucky I’m not dead. Seriously.
Fortunately, with a combination of medication, psychiatric help and maturing as a person dealing with depression and hypomania has become easier and I can most of the time diffuse situations or at least deal with the fallout from them better than I have before. Taking diazepam for 7 days at the start of a developing hypomanic episode is a necessity for me and can often stop it in its tracks.
The biggest thing I have learnt after having Bi-Polar is that SLEEP and STRESS management is key to staying well. When one of those tips the balance, that’s when things start going wrong.
Although the original idea for this blog was meant to be a cathartic release for me. I hope that in some way I can give people a platform to express themselves and the opportunity just to “get it all out” and I hope you feel less alone when reading my posts. Please feel free to engage with me on one of my various social media accounts. Even if it’s just to say Hi or tell me your story.