My Bipolar Struggle
My bipolar disorder has affected my life in many ways. The severe highs and lows made it difficult to keep a proper sleep schedule, and keep up with daily routines both in my personal life and at work. Even simple things like watching movies and having conversations were difficult during my severe manic phases or depressive episodes when my ability to focus was impaired.
Often, if a manic episode lasted long enough, I would experience symptoms of psychosis. During these psychotic episodes I would hear voices, or “sense” that my thoughts were not my own. I believed these thoughts and “voices” would lead me down “The right path to my destiny."
I would often believe that there were “alternate realities” that I that I could visit mentally , and that during my “visits” to these “places” my actions or conversations could effect the physical reality that we live in.
During the manic phases of my bipolar disorder, I would also believe that I was on a mission from God to save the world… but the mission seemed to be forever changing, and confusing.
I also believed that people from those “alternate realities” would speak to me in code through my friends, family, and even complete strangers.
I would often spend a lot of time “translating” this “code language” to figure out what I should be doing to “complete my mission”, or figure out their "secret message".
I also believed that there were people from this reality conspiring against me to hurt me, or make me look like a fool.
Often in my desperation to either pretend that nothing unusual was going on in my mind, or … the opposite… trying to explain my thoughts and fears so that the people that I cared for would understand , or maybe even help, I would drive people away.
Many times these people would quit talking to me without explanation, or they would deliberately make me angry, so that I would quit talking to them. This would often trigger another episode of psychosis, and serve as “proof” in my opinion that they did really hate me, and were conspiring to hurt me, or make me look foolish.
During an extreme manic phase, I had been known to have trouble sleeping for days. My anxiety disorder symptoms were usually amplified during these phases, and it was a constant cycle of stress leading to more stress.
During these phases of my bipolar disorder I would spend all night pacing back and forth around the house worrying and trying to prepare myself for a conversation or event that might or might not even happen, or rehashing traumatic memories from my past or recent events that had gone wrong, or that I thought could have gone better.
I would replay these things as though they were still happening, taking myself through the same emotions I felt during those events. I would through it again physically in the sense that I would cry, hyperventilate or shake in response to whatever the emotion was as though it were happening all over again. Then after doing that for awhile (the amount of time varied from hours to years depending on the event I was rehashing) I would try to rewrite what happened in my mind, as a method of trying to "fix it" so I could cope and move on.
However, there were many things that I did not know how to "fix" or I would have the realization that no matter how many different ways I solved the problem in my fantasy, the event still happened the way it did in reality, and there was nothing I could do.
That realization would often lead to an episode of depression. Where I would sit and not do much of anything except maybe cry, feeling hopeless for most of my waking hours... which happened to be few and far between because I would use my depression phases to catch up on sleep that I would lose during my manic phases and "escape" from life.
This would embarrass me, and I would constantly worry that people would think I was lazy, but most of the time during a depressive phase, I was literally unable to stay awake during the day no matter how much I feared judgment from other people.
This problem was the one thing I would refuse to discuss with others. I would share my inability to sleep during manic phases, but I tried to pretend that my problem with sleeping excessively during depression didn’t exist.
The depression phases of my bipolar disorder were usually long lasting and debilitating. I would also pace during phases of depression. I would also binge eat or use marijuana excessively (or both) while crying and feeling extremely guilty for doing so.
My psychosis would often change face during a depressive phase of my bipolar disorder, and instead of believing that I was on a mission from God, I would believe I was being punished by him. I felt I had done something terrible to someone, and I was trapped in my own “personal hell”. But I never knew for sure exactly what I had done or to whom. I always had a faint idea, but I was stuck not knowing what had really happened verses what I had imagined during one of my pacing session fantasies.
Most of the time I would eventually figure out that it was indeed fantasy, and I hadn't really done anything to anyone. But that never really did much to console me, and I would just keep searching for the "real reason I was being punished".
As you can imagine, daily living while going through these emotional extremes was almost impossible.
I would go for weeks without taking very good care of myself, during both my manic and depressive phases.
I always lost track of time… sometimes I would pace for eight hours or more at a time , or just sit there … without even noticing how much time had actually passed.
I would be unable to focus on anything or anyone no matter how important it was to me. This would always lead to more feelings of guilt, because I was aware that I was wasting my life away, but I felt powerless to do anything about it.
I am beginning to get a handle on it. My bipolar episodes are fewer and farther between, and my episodes of psychosis are much less severe, and rarely escalate to the point of an anxiety attack.
I still struggle with the symptoms of my bipolar disorder and psychosis when I am under a great deal of stress, or two or more triggers of my PTSD happen to be present. But , I have not had any SEVERE anxiety attacks for over a year. I am much more able to determine fantasy from reality, and I now see the psychosis for what it is. I have learned to ask people that would know what is really going on if I have a thought or memory that doesn't make sense, or if I feel like people are conspiring.
That is not always an easy thing to do, and it embarrasses me. But I recognize that not keeping things bottled up while secretly mistrusting everyone is important to my recovery. I am fortunate to have people in my life that know about my bipolar disorder, somewhat understand what I am going through and are willing to answer my questions without getting offended or annoyed. That means more to me than any of them could ever realize.