Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just Another Manic Monday!

Well, I've already written about being depressed, so why not write about being manic?

I have been fortunate to have been relatively stable for the last 3 years or so with only a few minor mood episodes. And definitely not anything lasting for more than a couple of days each time. My past experience has been that episodes of depression or mania last for weeks at a time. I've learned something new. Well, new to me. A manic episode can start and snowball in a matter of 4 days! That was my experience a week ago and it was beyond out of control. The "fun" part lasted two days, I think. Then it progressed to anger, impulsive behavior, and then some, in a matter of hours. I had a brief manic episode back in May but got it under control with the help of my therapist and psychiatrist before it got to the point where I couldn't stop the ball from rolling. But not this time. Last Monday, in a 24 hour period, I got my nose pierced, got my tongue pierced, added a little navy blue coloring to my hair (actually, it doesn't look too bad!), had 14 debit transactions totalling approximately $1000.00, used up a whole tank of gas without leaving town, literally threw away half of my possessions (this was not in a suicidal frame of mind) so that I would have less to clean and organize in my apartment, convincing myself that I was just going to live "simply" from now on. I even pawned some jewelry and electronics for next to nothing for some fast cash. That about covers it, as best as I can remember, or care to admit to, anyways.

After much resistance, I agreed to go to the hospital to get re-established on my medication regime. I was angry. I have not had a psychiatric hospitalization in three years now. For me, that is a record. I know the "nut houses" all too well. Also, this episode was not the result of deciding to say "screw it" with my meds and be my own doctor as has been true of me in the past. After a few restless nights and sleep disturbances that had started weeks ago, I lost track of when I had taken my medications and out of a fear of accidentally taking too much and overdosing, I panicked. By early Tuesday morning, I was frantic and decided that maybe it would be best to get rid of my medications - all of them - even non-psych meds. I have overdosed in the past and although I wasn't suicidal in the least, I was worried that people wouldn't believe me so (and my apologies to the environment, water supply, and raccoons) I threw everything away. Within that 4 day span, I could not recall when my last doses of anything was and I was already going through significant physical withdrawal. I had uncontrollable muscle spasms. I had not slept at all for five days or eaten anything for at least three full days. I was lightheaded. My vision was blurry. My hands were shaking uncontrollably. One minute I was melting, the next I was freezing. I could not physically sit still. My speech was pressured and loud. My thoughts were racing and seemed to me to be like a word-association salad of some sorts. And I was scared and confused.

I am now trying to put the pieces back together. My apartment is a disaster. I still do not know what all I threw away or donated to charities in a flurry of activity. The amount of destruction that took place in just a few short days has left me angry and frustrated with myself. This wasn't supposed to happen anymore. But it did. And it may again some day. I can't worry about that. I do not know what tomorrow or the next day will bring. I have friends who also have bipolar disorder who have been stable for more than ten years. They still tell me that they do not know what the next day holds in store for them either. The course the illness takes is different for each person with this diagnosis. It is not very predictable and there are no guarantees. Now, one week later, my sleeping is getting back on track. My thoughts are coherent and cohesive. I can sit still. I am grateful to be coming out of this "mess" now. Although I did some out of control things, it is nothing that can't be straightened out with time. I stayed sober through this. That in itself is a miracle. I did not hurt anyone else or myself. That is a miracle. I have many friends who were there for me, saw the worst of it, went above and beyond to help me get to the hospital, take care of my cats....and loved me through it all. They reassured me that everything was going to be okay and they did not leave me to struggle on my own. They answered the phone each time I called, they listened, they cared. I so desperately needed that.

This isn't something I have ever shared much about. I have spent so much time trying to "think" my way out of having bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, more than 8 college and graduate school courses in psychology did not make me immune to this disorder. I still struggle to see this as a "legitimate" problem, because I'm smart. And I'm smart. And I'm smart dammit! Well, smart or not, I need to acknowledge that this is a significant part of my life story. There is still so much stigma attached to having a mental illness. How can I expect that to change if I continue to walk around, ashamed to admit that I do have a mental illness? I am finally realizing that it is only a part of who I am. It will not define me unless I let it. So, now you know, perhaps more than you wanted to. God bless you if you are still reading this. My reasons for sharing are a bit selfish. It is therapeutic for me and it is an act of acknowledging what I am working so hard to adapt to. Today, it doesn't have to kill me. I don't have to "fix" myself, for that implies that I am broken. My attitude has switched from curing to coping and living my life fully. That is perhaps the greatest miracle of all!

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