When Mania Gets in the Way

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Last week (June 10th-16th) was a tough one. I was picking up my nieces at an early time about an hour away at the airport, and I had to drive my best friend up to pick them up.

I tried my best to get all my school work done before the week started, and then proceeded to stay up for about 32 hours straight so I could sleep Tuesday afternoon, and wake Wednesday at around 2 am morning refreshed and ready to travel.

Part of the issue is that I generally get to bed between 12 am and 2 am, so it was impossible to try and sleep without being exhausted. If I sleep at 2am and had to wake at 2 am therein lies a significant problem. I thought the plan made sense. Sleep 12 hours and wake up better rested and then Thursday was a later pick up around 10 am so I can sleep at my reasonable time. The problem? I never anticipate that staying up for that many hours is inviting mania into my life. Mania is precisely what happened, and it was not pretty.

First off, it was a crazy week. Full-time graduate student, working on my next fantasy fiction novel writing 5,000 words a day and finishing the second edits of my book that is in the publishing phase so that I can reach the final edits. All these things got done at the expense of my mental health and my work for the week. I bombed both assignments, something I have never done as an undergraduate (I graduated with 3.92-grade average) or in the three-plus courses of my graduate studies.

I did what I always do, overextended. It is possible that I was already manic. It tends to happen more during the summer months that the winter months. But, no matter how I slice it, mania and depression took me over, and I let it get to me without knowing. It took this week, and learning of the failure of the last week, to hit rock bottom. I considered quiting this semester. I looked into alternatives, and I think I found some solutions which will allow me to stay in school. It would be all bad to quit this semester.

I got back to work the last two day finishing my paper, and I am hoping that things will get better from here with my editing, which was the major issue last week. Mania tends to sneak up on me, and when it gets too much, I crash. I am a fighter, and I will continue to do what I do best–all that I can to be the best mental health me.

Stay strong in the fight,

Always Keep Fighting

James

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Rapid Cycling Mixed Episode

In This Mental Illness Life, Things Change Fast

For the last two days, I had a rare feat even for someone that is dealing with Bipolar One–a rapid cycling mixed episode.

I think it has only happened to me about ten times in my mental illness life, but it is the worst feeling in the world. For those that don’t know too much about a mixed episode in Bipolar One, it is where you experience both mania and depression at once. What makes it rare for me is that I don’t tend to know that it is happening to me in the moment. It is usually one of two ways–depression with manic symptoms or mania with depressive symptoms. For me over the last two days have been mania with depressive symptoms.

I could tell I was manic. The need for sleep the past two nights have been zero. My mind and thoughts were all over the place. I could not concentrate and I had an unlimited amount of energy. I was so irritable, and I wanted so bad two drink whiskey and smoke cigarettes (both of which I have not done in years.

When I am just manic, which often happens when I am coming off a depression cycle like the one I had, I deal just fine. I could feel right away that this was different. At the same, I was feeling extremely hopeless. I didn’t want to keep going. Phrases like “why should I even try,” began to take shape in my mind. At times I was a ball of mess. I was anxious, and I let my irritations cloud my judgment

I wanted to scrap my entire memoir and quit thinking that writing is something that is the best thing in my life. I was the worst parts of myself. I was far from the guy who’s philosphy is “Always Keep Fighting.”

I was self-destructive. I slipped, and I felt so bad about it. For the first time in so many years, I wanted to give up. I sat in the dark for hours lost in the darkest places in my mind. A place I have not lived for a long time. I wanted to not be a part of this life. I have not written a sentence like that one in the present, it was always talking about the past.

I could not believe I could go so low. I felt alone. Lost. As if I was back in the worst years of my life. I kept cycling between mania and depression. At times it was mixed. I felt all of it at once. I wanted it to just end. How could someone so strong fall so quickly?

I finally slept. I took a mental health day, and it helped. By the end of the day, I was so worn out that slept more. I reflected on what the hell was going on in my life. Could I have done something different?

That is where I am today. Picking up the pieces and wondering what is next and what are the causes. It is isolation. The lack of connecting with others? I was so excited that we at The Bipolar Writer Collaborative blog had finally reached the business level. I was so happy to start this week. I can only hopefully move on.

I was able to start something I hope will be amazing for my writing career–a Patreon account. If you have a moment, please check it out. I will write a blog post later today with the details.

https://www.patreon.com/JamesEdgarSkye

Always Keep Fighting

James

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How Having Bipolar Disorder is Like Running a Marathon

I wrote this about a year and a half ago. I hope it helps you better understand what it’s like to live with bipolar 1 disorder with ultradian rapid cycling and mixed episodes.

When a runner runs a 100-yard dash, they sprint as fast they can to the end of their race, hoping to break through the red tape at the finish line, signaling to themselves and everyone else that they were the fastest and won the race. After the sprinters cross the finish line, many collapse to the ground in a heap from the thrill of victory, exhaustion, or both.

The runners run at their fastest and top speed for 30 seconds or more until the depletion stores in their muscles, bodies and mind are gone. They have nothing left. They crash for a period and need to rest until their bodies can be restored to the natural state they were at before their race.

The Boston Marathon is a 26.2 mile endurance test. Most bodies are not accustomed to running for over two hours in a race like that. A marathon usually puts your body through the wringer, draining your body of almost everything — it can even compromise your immune system. During the race, sometimes things can cause a runner to have psychological symptoms like confusion or disorientation. After the race, the runners may experience muscle soreness for over a week. A marathon affects your body and your mind. The runners need to recover and repair with proper nutrition and lots of rest and sleep.

This is what can happen inside and within the body of a person who struggles with bipolar disorder when the brain is cycling between the two extreme mood poles of mania and depression. My bipolar cycles from hypomania to depression, with varying degrees and durations of both. Sometimes my hypomanic episodes will last a long time, and my brain and mood continue to fly and soar higher and faster until I crash into a severe depression.

When I am hypomanic, my brain moves very quickly, sprinting from one thought, idea or activity to the next. I require less sleep, and sometimes I can’t sleep at all. My happiness increases, sometimes reaching euphoria. My creativity increases and I excel and accomplish many things beyond what an “average” person can do. I seem to achieve everything at my ultimate ability level, being the best me I can be. My creative juices flow beyond most. I am the most likable me, and I feel like I am a good person during a hypomanic episode.

During my hypomania, life isn’t different, but my brain is. Everything is better and brighter and more beautiful and easier. Life, everyone and everything in life, me included, are exquisitely and fabulously beautiful. But then the sprint and marathon race inside my brain finishes. My brain becomes completely exhausted — depleted of everything it had.

My brain was on fire. It did too much. It sprinted and moved too fast for too long until it used up all the reserves and had nothing left. It exceeded its limits and what it should and could do. My brain needed to rest, so it stopped working. My brain stopped. It quit functioning at a normal capacity, causing me to feel like I have died — unable to function and perform my life.

While my brain is resting from my hypomanic sprint and marathon, the rest of me feels dead. Like the sprinter and marathon runner, my brain needs to rest. It stops as if it is taking a nap.

I must listen to my brain because I can’t do anything else. My brain causes my mind and body to stop, unable to function any longer. I must recover from my hypomanic race, so I crash and collapse at the finish line of my race — and depression sets in.

Depression is like a rest after the race, except it doesn’t feel like a nice, relaxing, peaceful rest. When my brain crashes, the severe depression hits with a knockout force. My brain stops working, causing my mind and body to feel sick and void of life. I feel like I have died and sometimes I have suicidal thoughts.

The visceral pain of despair, emptiness, inner death of nothingness, void of feelings, darkness and emptiness from depression has set in. I have nothing left. I may have won the hypomanic race/marathon, but now I need to rest my brain and body and recover. The race is over and I am done. I have collapsed at the finish line of my life.

I am finally recovering from the severe depression I have been in after my high-flying hypomanic mood crashed. Now that I feel a bit better, it seems to make more sense to me. My brain crashed after the race. My brain collapsed at the finish line. I broke through the red tape at the finish line of my hypomanic race.

I must do all I can to survive the feeling of my brains collapse from exhaustion caused by sprinting too fast and too long. I need to rest and take better care of myself. Actually, making sure I take care of myself and getting enough rest and sleep is sometimes the best medicine for me. Last night, after difficulties sleeping, I finally slept. I even took a nice nap today. I believe being able to finally sleep and rest has helped me feel better after my hypomanic sprint-like marathon.

~Written by Susan Walz

Copyright © 2018 Susan | myloudbipolarwhispers.com | All Rights Reserved

White Fox’s Interview Feature

How do you know that you actually have mental illness? It is a question that many of us in the mental health community seek to answer. It is one that we often question. More often than not, it is those of us new to a diagnosis. Another difficult question to answer is this. Was there was ever a time before when your diagnosis where you had symptoms that you can look back at? 

It is these questions that White Fox, a young woman from Latvia, Northern, Europe, seeks to answer on a daily basis.

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“I guess, I never had a time before my mental illness. I am still questioning if it is the illness I am diagnosed with is real. I can’t draw the line when it all started,” White Fox laments.

What White Fox can remember was when her mental state first began to worsen. It was around the age of twenty-one when she first moved to live in another country. It was the first time that White Fox faced what the term “Polar Nights” meant.

“It was a combination of feeling homesick, depressed, and lonely.” She remembers. “I started to have mixed episodes. When I returned home, there was a period of feeling okay.”

It wasn’t long before these feelings came back in her life, and White fox began to self-harm. It was time for her to seek professional help. For a long period, her diagnosis was unipolar depression. After a hospitalization for a mixed episode, she finally got the right diagnosis from her doctors. White Fox’s official diagnosis is Bipolar One with mixed episodes. It was the first time that White Fox believes she got the right treatment.

When dealing with a mental illness within the daily struggles of everyday life she looks at it in this way.

“I don’t know what its like to not have one. The diagnosis makes it easier for other people to know what is going on with me. How to act when I am at my worst. I have always been myself. I feel like its only the outside world that is trying to convince me I am not right. I am ill because we can never be sure what is right”

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White Fox asked an interesting question in her interview. How do we know that the majority is right and normal? She looks at living with a diagnosis as another part of life. If we lived in a world with no eyes, “a human being that could see would be the disabled and not normal. For me, being Bipolar is my normal state of mind,” according to White Fox.

The philosophy that White Fox uses in her own life is simple and effective. In this moment she knows no other way to exist. She has never been another person. In the end, White Fox is true to who she is and not to her diagnosis.

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The daily struggles of being Bipolar doesn’t bother White Fox. She chooses to keep on living. She would rather do things in her life, and moving on. Her reasons? If she let being Bipolar run her life, White Fox would always find herself in a place she doesn’t like.

“I would be standing in a puddle feeling bad about being there. It would be as if there is no other way out of it than making a step or jump out. I would stay numb, there would be no chance to improve my situation.”

The area that being Bipolar affects White Fox’s life is in her personal relationships. She admits that when she is down she can be very cruel with her words. It affects those around her. To her people get tired of her drama.

In her life, it is the little things that make life worth living that oppose the negatives of a diagnosis. White Fox chooses to focus on the happiness of her daughter and the people she cares most about in this world.

“Life is short. I think how much I have to manage my daughter, give her everything, and make changes in the world. So that, when I die, I would have left a footprint, and my life would not be in vain.”

White Fox considers her blog as not a mental health blog exactly. It is more an LGBTQ blog that focuses on her own daily struggles and thoughts. White fox likes to read the blogs of others so that she feels less alone when she is seeking comfort in her own life. When her mind goes to the bad places that depression takes a person, and when she feels like she has to self-harm, she can read the stories of others to bring herself back to center.

At times its hard for White Fox to think logically, something we can all relate to in our own lives. White Fox has high expectations of herself. In her need for nothing less than excellence, it often leads to self-judging. This can lead to negative thoughts. These feelings often make her feel like a failure.

“I know that suicide doesn’t end suffering,” she explains. “It passes it to someone else. But at these moments, even trying my best, I can’t always find the right frame of mind. So, sometimes looking ar the writings of others with a similar state of mind can help my mind move back to logical thinking.”

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There is something each of us would like to share with the mental health community. White Fox reminds people to not focus so much on their illness, and to not let it become a label in their life.

“I noticed that people tend to concentrate on their illness so often that they forget about life. They start to limit themselves or use their illness as an excuse.”

White Fox wants the mental illness community to know that sometimes you need to take a break. It is important in her mind to go and do other things outside your diagnosis. It can’t be the most important thing in your life.

Writing the story of White Fox journey was a great pleasure. She allows me to show my readers a different side of Bipolar Disorder. How the right state of mind can be helpful in your mental health. It is important that we understand every story and see the wisdom of what each of us bring to the table. White Fox offers real wisdom to those that need it.

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There is one last thing that White Fox wanted to add to this piece, and it is better in her own words:

“I would like to touch a little bit to the topic called “postpartum depression” because I have had it as well. I know that young mother that is being judged terribly. And they are not lazy, spoiled and thinking only about themselves. They are actually doing their best and trying to be the best they can! It is so wrong that this judging starts from the hospital with this all breastfeeding hype. If something happens and this girl and she can not breastfeed because of having a history of sexual abuse in past. Or the milk is not there no matter how hard she tries, all she hears is how bad mother she is and how egotistical. How formula harms the health of newborn etc. Without even paying attention to the psychological theories that say that in the first year of life the most important thing for the baby is to feel comfortable, in harmony and safe. And when the mother is going through depression, she can not give it to him or her. And this is more important than nutrients and immunity that breastfeeding gives. Breastfeeding is good, but it shouldn’t be forced.”

“And this constant judging continues home, at the general practitioner, from friends, relatives etc.”

You can find White Fox on her blog, https://madhatterer.wordpress.com

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Interviewee: White Fox

Author: James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit: Some pictures from White Fox’s blog site. The rest from Unsplash.com

unsplash-logoJonatan Pie

unsplash-logoNikita Kachanovsky

unsplash-logoCaleb Frith

unsplash-logoJerry Kiesewetter

unsplash-logoHanny Naibaho