Monday, July 24, 2006

What Is the Bipolar View Like?

It sucks. I hate rollercoasters. Real rollercoasters make me vomit; mood rollercoasters make me miserable.

I'm bipolar II, meaning that I alternate between clinical depression and hypomania when I'm sick. Hypomania consists of increased energy, decreased need for sleep, increased self-confidence, racing thoughts, distractibility, increased activity, and impulsiveness. Sounds pretty good, right? When teaching about this, I always said "Imagine the best you've ever felt". What a stupid, stupid thing to say. Hypomania can be euphoric, as my episodes always were: "It feels so good to be alive!" But it also can be dysphoric: extreme irritability, an inability to hold still, and feeling as if you're going to come out of your skin because your body is so tense and you can't be still. If I ever teach again (that's the depression talking) I'll be sure to explain that a little better.

I've been having health problems, and my psychiatrist decided to try to help me by increasing my dose of Effexor, my antidepressant. Higher doses help relieve pain, and for several days I experienced almost no pain! However, antidepressants can be dangerous for people with bipolar disorder. I started pacing and frantically starting projects, only to switch to a different project midway through. Monday Bunny Blogging showed pictures of Bumble in the now-clean closet under our stairs. That closet was a nightmare-crap piled up to the ceiling, and you couldn't get anything in or out. I moved everything, cleaned everything and got rid of stuff. I did other projects. I ran errands. My husband begged me not to overdo it, after all I have laid in bed for the last 3 months. I couldn't stop. It would be three o'clock in the morning and I'd shake if I didn't let myself move. I was so irritable I was yelling at my husband (for daring to ask me if I'd had lunch, the bastard), my books, characters on tv (well duh, they deserve it), and I was even pissed off at Bumble. He didn't come over to eat his hay like usual and I was pissed. Don't worry, I did not yell at him, and we do not punish him. Still, mad at Bumble?!

buzz buzz buzz went me, and then I CRASHED. Hard. Depression is always awful, but plunging into it from a heightened state was even more painful. Right on cue, the death thoughts appeared (I am not yet suicidal). I called my psychiatrist today, and he wanted me off that higher dose pronto. High dose effexor wiped out my pain. Hypomania wiped out my fatigue (and seemed to wipe out the mental confusion, but I'm not trusting that). Now I'll be saying goodbye to the higher dose and hypomania, but hello to pain and fatigue.

I'm very proud of myself. I've been reading blogs and I put a moratorium on commenting until I was out of this (which may be the end of the week) extreme irritability. I didn't think any of you needed me starting a flame war over something unreasonable: "Only stupid people would spell it 'grey' instead of 'gray'!"

And I promise that I'm trying to get to real posting again sometime soon. Otherwise I'm going to rename this stinking blog "The Whiney and Complainy View of the Sick One". Did I mention how much I've been on my own nerves? You wouldn't believe it if I told you.


manxome said...

I'd believe it! :)

Seems like there's as many ways to experience manias as there are people experiencing it. Just take all the possible symptoms, put them in a hat, and draw several. Whee! I've rarely had fun energetic aren't-I-the-bomb hypomanias. I specialized in you-better-belive-I'm-dysphoric-mania and mixed stuff, which is even more of a mess to figure out than manias.

Short example to counter the "Imagine the best you've ever felt" one? "Imagine hearing fingernails on a chalkboard while gripping the steering through an ice patch on the road and ants crawl all over your body and you've lost all fine motor control and, um, when you talk only every third word comes out".

Hmm, not as catchy.

So sorry about all the hypomania depression Effexor crud. Although, I totally get the "how dare you ask if I did (anything)" mentality.

Mine is "loose". You do not "loose" an item and no one is a big "looser"! Lose! Lose! Lose!!!!


Kick BP's ass, spotted e.

cameo said...

hang in there my friend. i don't know what else to say. you're not whiney or complaining - i don't see it. sometimes we are our own worst critics. let yourself vent. be pissy about lunch. you should have seen my behavior the last two weeks. we all go through cycles. yours may be on a larger scale, but the circles are normal.

so, seeing as i don't know what to say (whatever!) hang in there!

spotted elephant said...

Manxome-I'm going to copy down that description:

"Imagine hearing fingernails on a chalkboard while gripping the steering through an ice patch on the road and ants crawl all over your body and you've lost all fine motor control and, um, when you talk only every third word comes out"

and use it when teaching about hypomania! It's perfect! And you're right about the mix of symptoms. Bipolar is new and exciting-just like a ride! Friggin' rollercoasters.

Cameo-Hello, I keep thinking of you as being gone for the whole summer! Glad to "see" you. And thanks for the reminder. I *am* reacting to normal things, the intensity is just out of whack, and the physical parts are the toughest (see description above!).

asdgasdfaserwe said...


You are writing real posts, Spotted Elephant.

Laurelin said...

While I'm not Bipolar, I can really relate to what you wrote about the dysphoric-mania, and the 'extreme irritability'- this all sounds so familiar. The drop from one thing to another, the getting pissy over someone asking if you've done something... yes I can so relate.

I don't have anything useful to say, but I wish I did. Let me send you many soothing hugs and love.


hexyhex said...

I've only ever had one or two "happy" hypomanic episodes. More usually I get "angry, jealous, tense and paranoid" hypomania. Not fun at all.

Much as you may not feel it, it sounds to me like you're managing rather well. You have perspective of what is caused by your condition and what is real, and I'm sure you'll agree that that is the most important thing a mentally ill person can have. It also sounds like you have loving support from your husband and your psychiatrist (and of course Bumble!).

You're not whiny and complaining, you're updating a lot of people who care about you as to where you're at with a serious condition. I for one appreciate that, and I look forward to hearing how you're doing.


Hang in there. And try not to be too critical of yourself. You're managing a major illness. Kudos.

v said...

im glad youre writing about all this, i find it very hard to articulate my moods.

i hope you're ok.


Christina said...

I am Bipolar II with rapid cycling. I understand what you are saying (minus the meds). I always crash so hard off of a long high. Depression seems so much darker then.

Aishwarya said...

This is a 'real' post, it's honest and it's important. Especially for those of us who have friends/relatives/SOs with similar health issues.

And since I'm not very good at intelligent commenting, you may have a hug :)

Sage said...

I second the commenters who say this IS a real post. My brother once insisted I was bipolar because I sometimes have periods of high energy and get lots done, then I slow down for a while! See, people like him need to read posts like this one!

Take care, girl!!

spotted elephant said...

Pippi-Thanks for the reminder.

Laurelin-Right back at you!

Hexy-Your comment made me weepy (in a good way!). Thanks for pointing that out-I *did* recognize that I was cycling and that's huge as I never did in the past.

v-Thank you. I was worried I was over-articulating. Sigh.

Christina-I'm sorry to hear you have rapid cycling. This is my first experience with it, and it's miserable. I hope you can get relief soon.

Aishwarya-Thank you! I fixated on being whiney, and didn't consider other benefits.

Sally's Life said...

This is an important post. Those of us who merely have emotional or energy highs and lows cannot begin to perceive the places you go without any choice about it.
I am glad you posted it, and hope that doing so and getting feed-back is helpful. I know it does not touch the pain or the difficulties.

My father was bi-polar, only in those days (1950s through to 1980s) it was called manic-depression. In his case, or rather in my experience of him, it was an apt description.

Thinking of you and thankful for your blog.

witchy-woo said...

I'm just glad you posted SE. I think posting is probably a good thing and, even if you feel like you're being whiney and complainy - you're bloody not, okay? ;)

You know I love you and care deeply.

v said...

My father was bi-polar, only in those days (1950s through to 1980s) it was called manic-depression. In his case, or rather in my experience of him, it was an apt description.

i still call it manic depression, sometimes, i alternate. im not sure why that label fell out of fashion, possibly bad press?

anyway, you arent over articulating SE ;) i find it helps to hear others describe their experience - it helps me find the words for my own.

this was a brilliant post, im just sad that you have to have the experience of it to be able to write it, iyswim.

Justjuliefornow said...

Neither whiney nor complainey. And you WILL reach again. You are/will be a wonderful teacher. Soooo sorry you are going through this.

Madame DeBarge said...

Dude, you want whiny? Go read me. I get SO whiny I want to slap myself!
You always have well thought out posts, even the Bumble ones.
I really like this one, btw. I'm a big fan of honesty, and just saying what's going on. That's not whining, that's just life.

Suebob said...

Ah baby, you know I love you.

But I also like to spell it grey. It just looks prettier that way.

spotted elephant said...


Sally-Yes, the feedback helps tremendously.

Witchy-woo-You always say just what I need to hear. "You're bloody not" will be making me smile for some time. I love you!

V-Yes, the discussion helps both on an emotional level, and to get further understanding.

Julie-You should see me when I'm really whiney! Or, not. :)

Madame-Bumble demands only the best posts. If I don't think about it, he gets mad. And I get the bunny butt.

Suebob-I spell it both ways! So irritation over one spelling really would be asinine.

Justjuliefornow said...

Just re-read. Meant to say "teach," but reach works well, too.

alyx said...

I have an Uncle who's got bipolar. I don't know much about it because no-one in our family talks about it (stigma thing I guess), but the symptoms he displays are kinda like what you described.

Sending cuddles and warm vibes to gorgeous you and gorgeous Bumble :0)


spotted elephant said...

Julie-I thought that's what you meant. ;)

Alyx-No one (else) in my family will talk about it either. In our case it's very definitely stigma and shame. In my family, to describe someone with a mental disorder, you must use a tone of voice that's both horrified and disgusted, and explain that the person "isn't right in the head".

Etoile said...

I'm glad it's not just me. I've only been in treatment for bipolar for a year, it's been hard to figure out what's me, what's the bipolar talking, and what's the medication; have you ever noticed an anti-D making you pick at yourself?

I like it when I can clean though. Normally I am very messy and cleaning is something I wish was a normal habit. ^_^;

spotted elephant said...

Etoile-I haven't started picking, but since antidepressants can trigger mania and/or hypomania, it makes sense that that would happen. If you're experiencing much more tension and anxiety, it makes sense that that would happen.

You're definitely not alone in this. :)

Pippa said...

You are an absolute sweetheart! Like Pippi (stealer) said, this IS a real post, all of your stuff is. And I recognise everything you mention. I'm on a high dose of Seroxat (paxil I think in US?Canada)and that pretty much numbs me but I get so acclimatised to it so quickly that it can all go tits up very easily. hey ho! I'm on the ups at the moment... we'll see how long it lasts. Anyway, love and support to you, you know how much you are cared for. xxxxxxx

spotted elephant said...

Pippa-Thank you for your constant support, it means a lot to me. I'm glad you're on the upside right now.

I just recently read that the tendency to stop responding to an antidepressant is one of the signs of bipolar ii. If only the doctors were up on things.

hexyhex said...

In my family, people happily talk about the "nervous breakdown" my mother had. Apparantly that's more socially acceptable than bi polar disorder and post natal depression.

As for me... they just don't talk about it. I didn't even know we had a family history of schizophrenia until I was already in the hospital. Boy, did that piss me off. I really would have liked the opportunity to prepare and recognise the symptoms earlier, but noooo... keeping up the family stigma is way more important.

spotted elephant said...

Oh, Hexy. That family silence is so painful, but how do they not realize how damaging it is?

With your family, they could have spared you some pain. Like you said, you could have been on the alert for symptoms, or at the very least, maybe you could have gotten help *sooner* so you'd suffer less!

My mother informed me (whispering, and with eyes down) that my dad had been hospitalized for 2 weeks with a nervous breakdown (whatever the hell that actually is). She wasn't warning me to be helpful-exploring the family history, it was offered as a dire warning of what could happen to me if I didn't get my act together. My brother and sister don't know of this "shameful" event since they have their act together. :/

hexyhex said...

*sigh* It's a horrible story, but all too common.

I've done a lot of work educating my family on the realities of mental illness, and I've made some progress with my siblings. My parents try, but that stigma is just so strong in their generations... so much more so that with ours, as horrifying a thought as that is.

Changeseeker said...

What a wonderful, straight down the middle, unapologetic, and dazzlingly written post! I'm so grateful I came over here and found this...and you. You are teaching now whether or not you can see your students. Thank you.

spotted elephant said...

Changeseeker-Thank you so much! Those are very kind words. I learn so much from other bloggers, it's nice to think of people learning from me.

Z said...

Ohhhhh S.E. I can relate a lot to your post.

For what it's worth, I don't think you have gotten on anybody's nerves, and I really commend you on your efforts not to 'lash out' at people etc online and offline. I really know how difficult that can be.

The meds often just add to the whole rollercoaster situation, and I hope that you can find a good combination soon.

I am sad to hear how hard it has been for you.....

I just really really hope things get better soon.

I'm thinking of you and wishing you all the best!!!!

Take good care,


Lucy said...

Wow. Thank you for describing so accurately what the experience is like. I have some cycling but somehow we skipped the full diagnosis. You are generous and articulate to share it. Isn't it easy to imagine our own stories as somehow fake, or not real writing? I hope the pain is not too bad.