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Welcome To My Wild Mind - Bipolar Disorder

Updated on October 17, 2014

My Life With Bipolar Disorder

I'm having such a fantastic day! I'm home alone and the sun is shining through my open windows. I'm working hard on my most recent avocation - soap-making. My kitchen counters are covered in soap molds just waiting to hold the next batch I will pour. My kitchen table is full of various books and printouts, all with different recipes. My dining room table is covered with finished product - waiting to be wrapped and packaged.

My day speeds by, interrupted once by the mail carrier delivering lots of packages full of supplies and catalogs. Lots and lots of packages. Then, later, the UPS delivery comes, bringing even more packages - supplies, books, and all manner of related items. More packages. What have I ordered? Why don't I remember buying all these things?

A quick look around my living room reveals more boxes - many not even opened - randomly stacked around the room with narrow paths between them, just wide enough to walk through. Some piles look as if they'll fall over any minute. Against one wall is a trio of restaurant-sized baker's racks, stuffed with more molds and soap bases and colorings and fragrance bottles. And again - more mystery boxes.

Have I bitten off more than I can chew with all this craft stuff? Definitely. You see, I am bipolar and I am deep in the midst of a major manic episode.

(Graphic Source: FotothekBot)

Bipolar Disorder Divider
Bipolar Disorder Divider

What is Bipolar Disorder?

The Basic Facts

Bipolar disorder - alternately known as "manic-depression" - is a disorder of the brain. The disorder actually manifests as a group of mood disorders, usually with the presence of one or more "episodes" of mania - or abnormally high energy levels and mood. These episodes may or may not include one or more depressive episodes.

The highs of this disorder are known as mania or hypomania (a milder elevation). These highs are generally punctuated with depressive moods - or lows. There are even people who have "mixed" episodes, experiencing both mania and depression at the same time. And last, but certainly not least, there are the "normal" moods. It is in this "normal" state that people with bipolar disorder strive to spend most of their time!

Bipolar disorder is often difficult to diagnose because the symptoms may appear to be separate problems, not parts of one larger problem. In my case, I was originally diagnosed with panic and anxiety disorder. Only later, after suffering through the manic episode noted in the introduction, was I diagnosed as being bipolar.

Bipolar disorder is a disease, much like diabetes or heart disease, that I will need to deal with throughout my life. It cannot be cured, but can be managed. If not treated effectively, the disorder could easily destroy my life. It could cause me to damage my relationships with friends and family. It has affected my ability to hold and perform a job. And, worst of all, many people with bipolar disorder commit suicide in order to escape the psychological pain they experience.

The good news is, however, that bipolar disorder can be successfully treated and those afflicted can lead happy and successful lives. I feel fortunate to be in this category for the moment, but know that I must constantly monitor and be aware of my illness in order to stay happy and healthy.

Learn More About Bipolar Disorder - Knowledge is Power

There Are Ups

This is Mania

The main characteristic of bipolar disorder is of course Mania. Mania is the term that describes an elevated mood - a mood much more than just the "normal" high you might feel on a good day or after engaging in exercise or some activity you really enjoy.

While in a manic episode, you experience incredible bursts of energy and usually have a greatly decreased need for sleep. Some people, in fact, can go for days without sleeping! Additionally, a person in the grips of mania will often become much more talkative - sometimes talking almost non-stop, experience racing thoughts, and have a decreased attention span, becoming easily distracted. In mania, your judgment may be impaired, and you may find yourself indulging in spending sprees or engaging in other behaviors that are abnormal for you, such as abuse of drugs and/or alcohol. Some people experiencing many can begin to feel out of control or totally unstoppable - feeling that they've been "chosen" or are on a "special mission" of some sort.

During the manic phase I outlined in the introduction, I experienced many of these symptoms. Somehow I became interested in soap-making - something I knew nothing about. I started with internet research, then I went to a hobby store and bought a beginners kit. Then, my world started to spin out of control. My entire life became about making soap, and later rather grandiose ideas of selling the soaps I made. Within a very short period of time I was fully immersed in this activity and my actual job was starting to annoy me - it was taking me away from the soap.

I got into a pattern of going to work each day, doing the bare minimum required for me to keep my job, and spending the rest of the time on the internet reading about making soap. Then, I began to buy things over the internet - ingredients for soap, packaging materials, shrink wrap machines, soap molds, books about soap, you name it and I bought it.

I did so much online shopping that I memorized my credit card number, expiration date and security code. I could shop at the speed of light. I received a feeling of excitement and pleasure every time I bought something. And then, I would promptly forget what I bought and go on to buy more. That is why I would be so surprised when packages came to my house - I didn't remember buying all these things! Soon, very soon, all I was doing was sleeping and making soap, and I was sleeping less and less.

Then, during an appointment with the psychiatrist I was seeing about my panic/anxiety disorder, I brought up the soap-making. After questioning me in more detail, the doctor realized that I was in the grip of a full blown manic episode. It seems that a new medication I had been taking had the effect of bringing on mania in a person with bipolar disorder. I was bipolar.

To be diagnosed with mania, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), indicates that a person must experience this state mania and other symptoms for at least ae week. "Other" symptoms may include increased creativity, especially poor judgment and a higher than usual state of irritability. The mania may feel good to the person who experiences it. Also, the individual may not be able to recall the events that took place while they were experiencing mania.

After being prescribed a mood stabilizing medication, I came down from the manic high. It was both a shock and relief. Shock to see, for the first time, just how out-of-control I'd been. Relief to finally be "at rest" in my mind. Then, my husband and I set about picking up the pieces of our lives - with a house jam-packed with boxes and bottles and soap. With thousands and thousands of dollars in credit card debt. We had to rent a storage space just to get all the materials out of the house so that we could walk around. Years later we're still selling off inventory.

There Are Downs

This is Depression

Following the mania comes the depression. The symptoms of this phase of bipolar disorder may include:

- overwhelming feelings of sadness

- anger

- isolation

- anxiety

- guilt

- hopelessness

- disturbances in sleep and appetite

- overwhelming fatigue

- loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities

- problems with concentration

- apathy

- loneliness

- indifference

- shyness or social anxiety

- irritability

- chronic pain

- lack of motivation

- thoughts of suicide

About six months after my manic episode, I began to feel depressed. Within a short period of time I found myself in a very deep depressive state. I was so very tired, but either could not sleep or I slept all the time but did not feel refreshed afterward. I had all the symptoms noted in the paragraph above. I began to contemplate suicide. Every day I would come up with a new or better way to kill myself, thereby putting an end to the pain I felt.

Fortunately, my husband got me to my doctor and she was able to prescribe an anti-depressant that, after a few anxious days, put me on the path to recovery. . This was, however, a very tricky time. How much medication could I take, and what type, to keep me out of depression but not push me into mania? After months of trial and error we arrived at a combination that seemed to do the trick. For the time being, anyway.

I learned that this is the tricky line those of us with bipolar disorder must walk. How to feel good without feeling too good. How to feel bad without feeling too bad. Over the years I have been on many medications at many doses. As my body and my circumstances change, certain medications or dosages no longer work. My husband and I must be constantly vigilant to any changes which might signal a spiral downward or a leap into mania. It is not always easy, but it's do-able.

More About BPD with Dr. Kaye Jamison - A Fellow Suffere of BIpolar Disorder

Do You Know Anyone With Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder Poll
Bipolar Disorder Poll

Do You Know Anyone with Bipolar Disorder?

See results

People You May Know With BPD - BPD = BiPolar Disorder

Questions About Biolar Disorder? Comments? - Let's Talk About Bipolar Disorder!

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    • Tom Maybrier profile image

      Tom Maybrier 

      5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your story - you speak for more people than you might realize.

    • profile image

      MaryMitchell 

      5 years ago

      My mother was a manic depressive (as it was then called) so I'm very familiar with the cycle - it certainly colored my childhood!

    • Addy Bell profile image

      Addy Bell 

      7 years ago

      As someone who also lives with mental illness, I feel grateful every time I read a story like this. Only be sharing our personal stories can we break the stigma that comes with having these conditions. *blessed*!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      Congratulations on being featured by the SquidTeam's Best of Standout RocketMoms

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your story- I don't have an official diagnosis of bipolar, but it seems my energy levels are either really high or really low; I've had to structure my life to suit. I've called this way of being in the world my 'bipolar personality' -:).

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      Sheilamarie 

      7 years ago from British Columbia

      You've done a great job educating people about this disease. Some people in my extended family have this condition, and so I have seen first hand the pain and destruction that it can cause in people's lives. I will keep you in my prayers as you fight the good fight. You have helped others in putting together this lens.

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 

      7 years ago

      Excellent information and well written lens. Blessed by a squid angel.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      I'd wondered about this, as I have a relative who has it. I'm not around enough to see the pattern though.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 

      7 years ago from So Cal

      Favored this lens so anytime you update it, I will know. My sister-in-law is untreated and we all know how her behavior changes. You have really made it clear that this is what is affecting her. Angel blessed. Thanks

    • dwnovacek profile imageAUTHOR

      dwnovacek 

      7 years ago

      @shauna1934: It can be hard to diagnose sometimes. Mine wasn't diagnosed until I was about 40, but looking back on my life I can now easily see the different cycles I went through. I was also diagnosed with postpartum depression, which muddied the waters. You're a fighter though, and I know you can handle whatever comes your way!

    • profile image

      GiftsBonanza 

      7 years ago

      A warm and courageous story - thank you for sharing this with all of us

    • rlivermore profile image

      rlivermore 

      7 years ago

      I appreciated reading your lens; I have a bipolar brother.

    • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

      Lynne Schroeder 

      7 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

      Congratulations for having the courage to tell your story

    • shauna1934 profile image

      shauna1934 

      7 years ago

      Great lens!! Also have some manic / depressive bipolar episodes since my brain tumor. Have been diagnosed as bipolar, but not sure if I actually am. Have had about 5 different diagnosis in the last 4 years. Maybe time will tell if it was just one psychosis or I am bipolar.

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 

      7 years ago

      You are such a strong person. I'm very proud of you. Keep up the good work.

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