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Happy World Bipolar Day

Bipolar is a mood disorder characterised by periods of intense mood episodes.

Generally Bipolar mood swings last several months at a time, and rapid cycling Bipolar is characterised as someone who has 4 or more mood swings in one year. The idea that people with bipolar are constantly up and down, with moods changing many times a day, is generally untrue and more associated with other conditions, eg Borderline Personality Disorder.

The mood episodes caused by bipolar disorder are not ‘just’ feeling happy and sad, although that is a common mistake.

People with bipolar 2 have episodes of major depression and hypomania. People with Bipolar 1 have episodes of major depression, hypomania and mania.

Some people only experience mood episodes when they have experienced a ‘trigger’, whereas other people can recognise triggers that cause episodes, but are also hit out the blue. Common triggers for mood episodes are:

  • Late nights (eg. going out to a party)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Bright lights (eg shopping centres) or busy city centres
  • Chaotic life events, from losing a loved one to Christmas
  • Physical illness

What do these feel like, if they aren’t just being happy / sad?

Major Depression

This is far, far more than feeling sad. It’s having no energy to do anything, and spending days in bed because you can’t force yourself to get up, eat or shower. It’s feeling entirely hopeless, thinking there is nothing to live for, and everybody would be better off if you were dead.

It’s crying for hours every day, or feeling too empty and disconnected to cry, and so you just lie and stare up at the ceiling, wondering if you’re already dead. 

It’s planning how you would kill yourself, to the very last detail. It’s trying to kill yourself.

Hypomania

Hypomania is feeling a rush of energy, confidence, creativity and power. It’s thinking you are the best at everything, and that everything you think or say is amazing. It’s not sleeping for nights on end. It’s getting frustrated when people don’t agree with your outlandish ideas.

Some people experience a feeling of elation with hypomania, whilst others feel incredibly irritated. Hypomania often includes visible changes, such as talking super fast, darting from one subject to another, and being unable to sit still.

Mania

Mania is the same as hypomania, but cranked up. People can usually continue a ‘normal’ routine with hypomania (eg. going shopping, to school, work etc), albeit with difficulty, but mania will smash that routine to pieces.

When I am manic, my sleep is reduced to practically nothing. I will sleep 3-4 hours a night, for weeks on end. My appetite will be non-existent, I can’t concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds at a time, and I’ll think all my ideas are genius. I’ll go on huge spending sprees (or would if my partner didn’t take control of spends!!), and instead of buying things I want / need, I’ll buy things that are most expensive. Before we knew how to deal with manic episodes, I would often leave us virtually penniless. I try get jobs, create my own business, sign up to university. Before I experienced psychosis outside of a mood episode, manic episodes were also when I would hallucinate.

Bipolar disorder is a very individualistic illness, it can vary so much from person to person.

Some people with bipolar experience a mood swing every few years, and are able to lead fairly ‘normal’ lives. Others swing from one episode to another, and are ravaged by the illness.

Treatment generally relies on medication, at least in the UK, although a two-pronged attack of medication and behavioural therapies works best. Medications range from mood stabilisers (including anti-epileptic drugs) to anti-psychotics and anti-depressants. There is controversy on whether or not ADs actually help those with bipolar.

Different medications work for different people, and all carry a range of potential side effects. For some people with treatment resistant bipolar disorder, they will try a vast number of medications with barely any improvement in their illness.

Bipolar disorder is an incredibly hard illness to live with, and today is dedicated to spreading awareness and smashing stigma.

Please excuse if this post is crappily written, I’m living off very minimal sleep for the past week, am full of cold and have had a rough day for seizures.

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Blinded by depression

I’ve been sapped into a huge depressive black hole.

The depression has consumed me for the past few weeks, and it shows no sign of abating. There are a few little chunks over in this post on my other blog, if anybody is interested.

A lot of Spoonies have been sharing these to try end stigma and fight the shame. Here is mine.

I’m sharing some colouring from the past year. No words needed.

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Something to remember

I saw this today and found it immensely helpful, so reposting.

You are not ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ if you:

  • Have low to no empathy
  • Have hyper empathy
  • Have a personality disorder
  • Have more than one person in your mind
  • Have scary / violent thoughts
  • Can’t take a shower or brush your teeth very often
  • Don’t have the energy to interact with people everyday
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manic

I. CAN’T. SIT. STILL.

This has come out the blue I ahven’t been manic in so damn long and yep the last few months have been really stressful and this week has been really really stressful, but really, I haven’t been manic 8in so long so what the hell?!

This week one of our dogs was killed which was awful obviously. Yesterday I took my assistanc dog in training to a puppy obedience class, our first time, went with my partner of course…first time I’ve been actually outr in public in nmonths and months, and I guess that combined with grievbeing = manic me.

My partner’s podcasting and there has never been anything as hard as trying to hold rthis energy in

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Depression, replaced with what?

That awful, all-encompassing depression has gone.

I don’t know what it’s left me with. I can’t tell if I’m manic until I’m really manic, flying high, and my partner’s kinda the same. If I’m hypomanic right now, it’s weak, I can’t tell 😛

I’m hella irritable, I have a decent amount of energy and motivation, and when I’m not flying off the walls in a rage things are going okay. Psychosis still a major issue, but it always is and I don’t count that as an indicator of mood.

I’ve got more things done with my pets today than I did in five days of depression. It’s crazy quite how much your energy levels and capabilities change with your moods. That’s something I wish more people understood.

I wish I could swallow or erase the irritability. It’s SO HARD (read:impossible) to contain it, and it ruins everything around me. I feel so damn sorry for my partner >__<

I get scared whenever I feel like this, I feel like I’m totally ruining our relationship and he’ll stop loving me.

You could argue this is ridiculous, he understands it’s an illness, he’s stuck by me through harder times yadda yadda yadda…that’s true, but it doesn’t mean my symptoms don’t wear him down over time. A bit of irritability might not seem a big deal, but it shows itself as hatred and lashing out verbally, and that’s awful.

On top of that he never gets any respite. I never have okay days, so he never gets any relief. I hate myself for what I put him through.

It’s tough, but we adore each other…that has to count for something.

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Unwell in every way

Uuuuugh.

Alongside bipolar fun, I’ve been feeling crappy physically too recently.

I’ve had a lot of migraines and a lot of neck and back ache (which usually happens daily in a depressive episode but I haven’t been depressed recently!), and then today was the icing on the cake.

I’m sleeping more atm (12 hours up from 8-9 hours). At the beginning of this week I had a two day migraine, which left me in so much pain I couldn’t do anything.

Ever since that I’ve had ear ache in my left ear and just felt really tired. Then today I woke up with a really sore neck which leeched into a headache.

Since early morning I’ve had a really bad allergic reaction ALL DAY to something in the house…I should add I don’t really have any allergies, I’ve tested allergic to tree pollen but nothing else. We don’t have any trees in our house haha and nothing’s changed over the past few weeks, yet today my body is claiming I am allergic to everything in the house. Outside I’m better, little snuffly-sneezy but nothing like inside.

This seems to happen with me, every other month or so I have a day or two where allergies cripple me and I don’t know why.

So all day today I’ve been sneezing, big painful sneezes with a tickley throat, nose and itchy eyes. The sneezes result in a bloody nose and a very sore throat. 24/7 irritation is awful and I feel sorry for people who have allergies this bad daily!!

I feel absolutely exhausted. Totally drained. My head is all muggy like when you have a cold and I still have ear ache. I ended up sleeping until early afternoon so I’ve only been up 8 hours and I’m knackered and definitely ready for bed.

*sneeze*

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Psychosis, dogs and meds

I don’t know how I’m doing at the moment.

I’m still much more stable than I was before Citalopram, and am probably still closer to stable then I have been in about four years.

But things aren’t as good as they were, and I’m struggling.

The fact I’m struggling makes me scared, because I’m terrified Citalopram will stop working again and I’ll be thrown back into a life of terror and extreme, constant mood swings.

I’ve had a few days where I’ve struggled very much with depression, and tearfulness, and hopelessness. It doesn’t seem to be a constant though, just a day or two, and the constant is a more ‘meh’ mood…irritable, exhausted, miserable, and pain.

My neck pain, headaches and migraines have been really bad for a week or so now 😦

I’ve been having more visual hallucinations than had become usual and my paranoia is back. My anxiety still isn’t really visible, but I’m scared with my psychosis kicking up a notch it’s gonna come flooding back.

I am still able to enjoy things though, and I can get out the house still. I couldn’t cope with going somewhere busy, such as a supermarket, but I can enjoy brief walks around the neighbourhood – I can even walk our little foster dog on my own!

Because of our foster dog we can’t leave the house for very long at the moment – we’re building it up very slowly, today we’ll be leaving her for twenty minutes!

Anyway, that means we can’t make it to the GP appt which was supposed to be within the next week…before my mood went weird I was very confident about going to this appt and actually planning what I wanted to say, but now I’m relieved to have a reason we can’t go and when I think of an appt my heart hammers.

My partner phoned the surgery last Friday to ask for a phone appt, as my GP said we could do things that way. He’d talk to my partner about how I was doing and type up a repeat prescription, and the physical appt can be left another few weeks.

The surgery didn’t have any phone appts available though, there’s a week wait :/

I think we should have enough meds to last.

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Up or down?

Aaagh I don’t understand >__<

I was only in a depressive episode for a few weeks (I think it was less than two weeks). Before that I’d been manic for weeks. Now I seem to be going manic again, wtf?

Used to be my mood patterns were clear – up, down, stable, down, up, down, stable. Repeat.

Symptoms were easy to read and easy to recognise. Depressive episodes usually lasted around 2-6 months, manic episodes were shorter, usually around 1-2 months.

Then, about 18 months ago, my Bipolar evolved.

Now it’s unpredictable; oftentimes we think I’m in a mixed episode because my symptoms are so confusing, I have psychotic symptoms 24/7, every day, and I haven’t had a stable episode in over 2 years now.

A few days back I was struggling with everything. I was sleeping a lot, had no energy, was constantly exhausted, and extremely depressed…I cried a lot, I lost my temper, and I even took an impulsive overdose.

The night before last I slept 11 hours and was exhausted; last night I slept 4.5 hours and have been on the go all day.

I have energy, I am enjoying some activities. I have so much energy.

Psychosis has been up. For the first time in a while I’ve had the swimmy nothing-is-real head again…it’s hard to explain, I just lose touch with reality and am sure nothing is real, it’s all pretend…I can’t explain it well. Nothing feels right – when I touch things, it doesn’t feel real. When I talk, it’s not me. It’s just not real, I can tell the world isn’t real, and I’m part of some sort of experience.

As soon as I notice this is happening I get really freaked out and panicky. My partner is wonderful at trying to calm me down and ground me, but it happened without him yesterday and that was a whole new level of scary.

So…maybe I’m going manic. Maybe the depression will return in a few hours.

I don’t know, it’s out of my control.

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And depression follows mania

Gog here.

The worst thing about Anon having bipolar is that every single time she feels something, we both zero in on it and are terrified it means the opposite episode is approaching.

Now let me make something clear, this IS NOT like when Anon’s parents immediately ask “are you manic?” whenever she cuts her hair or buys something, oh no.

We worry when we notice such a symptom / emotion, as nine times out of ten, we are right.

Because Anon is never stable, this means she bounces immediately from one episode to a next…depressed,manic,depressed, hypomanic,depressed,manic,depressed, hypomanic,depressed…etc etc…

These episodes last anywhere from 2 weeks to 6+ months, the average is probably 1 month for a manic episode and 1-3 month for a depressive. She goes straight from being manic to depressed, straight from being depressed to manic, it is NEVER ENDING.

Can you imagine? I live with her and I can’t imagine how difficult, how scary, that must be.

Anyway, today Anon had a moment where her thoughts and feelings were low. She zeroed in on it, I zeroed in on it, and we were both scared.

I reassured her. We will cope with whatever happens, it might not be a low episode, you might just be tired because you haven’t been sleeping etc etc…

But as the day’s progressed, that depressive episode is certainly incoming.

Both episodes are devastating, in different ways. Manic episodes mean no sleep, lots of activity, wild ideas, anger, and trying to talk Anon out of spending £1000’s, moving house etc.

Depressive episodes mean sleeping 16 hours a day, struggling to find the energy to brush her teeth, crying, lashing out, and the almost inevitable suicidal feelings.

Neither of these mood episodes are easy, but we have to live with them, because we don’t get anything else.

I really wish people could understand quite how devastating an illness bipolar can be

That is why we started this blog – it’s all well and good people can have high functioning bipolar and live successful lives, but it is not fair to think everyone with bipolar can live like that.

As ever it would be nice if we had medical support now, and Anon had medication to help stabilise her or medication could be added to try prevent this low episode…but thanks to the good ol’ NHS this isn’t a possibility.

We’ll keep living, we’ll keep loving each other. We can get through this together.