*Original post date 12/30/08 by @KimShannon
For as long as I can recall, people have referred to me as "crazy".
I always thought the reference meant that I was fun, the life of the party - a real hoot. And I was. Am. But I'm also bona fide crazy... I have Bipolar 1, rapid cycling, and it's a real bitch. I exist mostly in a state of hypo-mania which, according to the American Heritage Medical Dictionary, is a mild form of mania, characterized by hyperactivity and euphoria. Let's face it - energetic and euphoric is something we'd all like to be ALL THE TIME, right? Sigh... If only it could last forever.
Sadly, "forever" is a word without meaning to those of us with Rapid Cycling BP1; our neurotransmitters perpetually misfire, causing our moods to continually shift in accordance with what our imperfect gray matter dictates. We're never in a particular mental state long enough to even say that it feels like forever. So sooner or later, the electric awesomeness of my beloved hypo-manic state will raise its chipper hand to wave bye-bye, and it becomes a tiny dot on the horizon as I am taken prisoner by its replacement mood, whatever it may be. There's no telling whether I will experience the extreme mania or debilitating depression next, but I can tell you that it's the anticipation of what's to come that gets my agitation kick-started either way. The unknown can make a person truly insane; it's the bee that that circles around your head, always a threat but never giving any clues to its intention - you just sit, helpless, waiting for it to sting.
This mood disorder is either a blessing or a curse, I'm still unsure of which. The maximum strength moods never last for more than 2 weeks at a time, which is good, but they can also change in as few as 20 minutes... that's bad. Very fucking bad. As you can imagine, anyone with properly functioning brain signals can't understand what it's like to be trapped in a cyclone of ups and downs, and that makes it difficult to empathize. We cuckoo birds desperately need unconditional support, however, so this post is intended to educate and inform the masses. SPOILER ALERT: It's fucking exhausting. You'll see.
So without further adieu, I invite you to join me on the thrill ride that is Rapid Cycling Bipolar 1 Disorder
I feel(for a while) that nothing can go wrong. I'm like an action hero; I'm SUPERMAN[ic] and nothing can stop me! This is hypo-mania, and I LOVE it!!! My spirit is unrelenting, I am quick on my feet and my mind's sharper than ever... I feel witty and brilliant and popular and loved, and I am sure that I could rule the world if offered the job. I'm on-point and fabulous, and can do no wrong...
I don't have to think about anything. Words just naturally come together perfectly and effortlessly; everything I say is just this side of genius. I'm everyone's best friend and and conversation comes easily. I naturally adjust to different situations.I fit in wherever I go. I am self-assured and assertive. I am outspoken, and people come out of their shell when I'm around them. I can take on 5 tasks at once, completing them faster and better than anyone could. I feel great!
Suddenly, that mood becomes something else entirely. It clicks up about 700 notches and almost takes on a life of its own. Now, the thoughts are coming TOO fast! I can't keep them straight... I almost think I can feel them buzzing while they whip around in my head. My ears pulse and my heart pounds. I'm on sensory overload. Every nerve in my body is awake. I gotta move & get things done, and I devise a plan to do it. I'll come up with a brilliant and WAY too complex course of action, but I am so overloaded by outside stimuli that I am thrown off course. A ringing phone could push me over the edge. Actually having to stop and answer it DEFINITELY would...
People become a distraction to me. If they speak or even move, they're interfering with my thought process, and I can't stand it. I have no patience for people and no interest in making small talk. Tick motherfucking tock - time is wasting. I try to tell them to go away, but I trip over my own words. Yesterday, I could stand on a soapbox and give an impromptu speech about any random thing, and it would have been seamless. But now I have trouble even stringing a sentence together; the words are coming faster than I can form them....
The need to MOVE is overwhelming, and if there's nowhere to go, I pace. Back and forth. Or I just stand and rock on the balls of my feet. Back and forth. Or shake my leg. Up and down. If I sit, it's only for a minute or two until I stand up again. Up and down. Back and forth. I find myself moving in and out of every room in the house, knowing there's an objective, but confused about what it is. If anybody tells me to "calm down" or "take a seat" or "relax - you're a mile a minute", I get irritated and aggressive. My roommate asks me a question, and I lose it! How DARE HE interrupt me when IT'S CLEAR that I'm in the middle of something important? I answer his question in a way that lets him know I don't have time for him. He tries to understand, and asks what's going on. Suddenly, he seems like the dumbest person in the world. His tedious questions are unbearably annoying; he's wasting my time. He's talking too slow, moving too slow. Why can't he keep up? Now I'm furious. He's interrupting my mission. I already forgot 5 times what the mission ACTUALLY IS and now he made me forget AGAIN! I feel like he's doing all this on purpose, as if he WANTS me to fail. How arrogant and selfish of him!!
In a flash, I become a predator. My prey is his spirit, I want to crush it so he'll go away and leave me to my projects. So I do. Whatever it takes - wailing, foaming at the mouth, hurling things across the room, attacking his ego. I say gut wrenching things about his character so he'll go the fuck away and leave me alone. It's clearly all his fault that I'm in such a cluttered state and he deserves whatever he gets just for pushing me so far off track. I don't sleep or eat, sometimes staying awake, unfed, for 6 or 7 days. I begin to drop things, which leads to throwing things. The things I throw break. I. AM. SPINNING.
I cannot hold my tongue and pick fights with everyone. If I get the urge to go out, there's a good chance I won't be home later. And if I do come home, I'll be so drunk someone will have to carry me. I can't stop any of it. I'm edgy and tense, on the verge of snapping at all times. I can't focus on anything, and that makes me mean. I'm convinced that my head is going to implode and then I'll never get to unlock the secrets all these rambling thoughts have been holding. I better get a pen and start writing them down...
And so it goes, until the inevitable crash occurs. Oh hi there, Depression... didn't hear you come in. Sit down, make yourself comfy; you're staying for a while, I assume? When THIS happens, I do not function at all. Not. At. All. The housework, cooking, bills, and laundry all goes untouched. My only movement is shuffling from bed to couch, couch to bathroom, back to bed again. Shuffle to the kitchen, look at the dishes that have piled up, shuffle to the corner, think about how much I want to die because of the dishes that have piled up. Shuffle back to bed and cry about the fact that I can't even do the dishes, and now they are piled up. Shuffle to the bathroom for tissue - I need it to get rid of the tears and snot that are all over my face because I've been thinking about how high the pile of dishes is. Shuffle over to the mirror, realize how DESPERATE and PATHETIC I look, collapse on the toilet seat and think about dying. Shuffle back to bed and pray for permanent sleep.
Shuffle, cry, shuffle, cry, shuffle, collapse. I don't speak, I stare at nothing and focus on everything negative that has ever happened in my life. I wonder why people love me and then remind myself that they probably don't. I convince myself I'm all alone in the world and that anyone who calls themselves my friend must have an ulterior motive. I feel hopeless, useless, and burdensome. I can't concentrate on anything anyone says. When I do summon the strength to move, it feels like I'm trudging through maple syrup and it's as though my feet are made of lead. Even though I've barely taken 15 steps, I'm exhausted to the point of near collapse. It takes every bit of power I can muster up just to raise an arm, but it's too heavy and I decide I don't want to move anyway. I think about how I was born useless - doomed to fail at everything. I tell myself that death would be welcome. Even being struck by lightning couldn't hurt as much as the pain that I feel at THIS MOMENT... I shuffle, shuffle, shuffle to the sofa. I succumb to weariness and decide I'm giving up. I stop resisting the crushing weight of my eyelids and allow them to close.
When I wake up, it's as if nothing ever happened. The clouds have cleared and all is right with the world. I can do anything! Is it extra sunny today, or am I imaginHEY YOU KNOW WHAT'D BE FUN? Wait. Lemme get some coffee. And a pen. Where did I put all the pens?
And I launch into the cycle again....
Sounds fun, right? It's a real blast.... Especially when everyone around me assumes that I can control this behavior. Well folks, I'm here to tell you that I cannot. Period. Dot. When it happens, it happens and there's no stopping it; even when you see it coming, you can't avoid it. It's like a heat seeking missile and it will find you.
There is NO CURE for bipolar disorder, only treatment. I am currently taking Lamictal, which is a mood stabilizer that seems, for me, to work on the depression wonderfully (haven't wanted to hang myself in at least 3 days) but the mania is still very prevalent and THAT'S the mood I have the real problem coping with. Of course. Anything else would make entirely too much sense.