It’s nighttime. I’m just getting done working, and my partner asks me if there’s anything I want to do. I immediately go into executive dysfunction (can’t do anything, brain stuff) and then…I get mad about it. For no reason. I was FINE before, and now I’m really angry, and there really isn’t any reason for it. I call it “manic rage.”
This is an example of Bipolar (I have type 2, specifically). A typical day can be derailed by one word, one sentence, one action, something that happened in the past, or something you want to happen.
I’m going to take the time to differentiate between types 1 and 2 quickly. Type one is more “manic,” and in a manic state you feel like you can do ANYTHING, so you, for example, gamble your money away, have a lot of sex, buy a ton of things you don’t need, etc. You’re on top of the world and nobody’s going to push you off. Type 2 deals more with the lows, though they get something called “hypomania” as well, which is when, in my experience, you. Feel. GOOD. Really good. SUPER good. You’re going to clean the whole house AND do laundry AND bake cookies AND make dinner… and then you crash and are unable to do any of those things.
And the lows? We’re talking suicidal lows here. So low you want to rip your skin off, scratch at yourself, hurt yourself because you’re worthless, nobody likes you, you’re just a waste of space. I had a lot of this in college before I was diagnosed. Every night would be a struggle not to hurt myself. I would lay in bed in tears until I finally slept, and even then I would get up several times and then sleep too much the next day, missing my classes. Then I would feel even more like a failure, and the cycle continued. It was a vicious circle.
And the manic rage… is bad. So bad that sometimes you want to punch someone at a wedding (true story). So terrible that you confront literally anyone about anything because then you have a reason to fight, and boy, do you want to fight. You do it well, too. You know all the buttons to push, you know all the tricks of the trade, you know just how to get somebody angry enough to fight, physically or verbally.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar type 2 when I was 25. That seems late, doesn’t it? I didn’t know you could be diagnosed with anything at that age when it came to mental health. Turns out there’s a thing called “comorbidity” and OCD (another of my lovely brain things) is EXTREMELY comorbid with Bipolar, type 2 especially. So I was diagnosed with “late-onset Bipolar type 2.” And while I was happy to be getting it fixed, I was NOT happy to get another diagnosis. Oh, let’s add more pills to the ones you’re already taking! Wait, that’s not working? More pills! Wait, you’re still having mood swings? Let’s throw more pills at the wall and see what sticks! (This doctor was supposed to be the best in my state at dealing with bipolar until he retired.)
Needless to say, I was miserable for a good few years, and not myself at all. I would lay in bed all day, making up excuses for my mother (I lived at home at the time) as to why I was in there. Usually, I just got mad (mood swing!) and that in itself was a reason for me to slam the door and have peace. My room was my solace and safe space. I rarely hung out in the living room because my room was more comfortable to me and also, to me, safer. At this time I was beginning to try dating again. Dating sites. Wow. How terrible are they? I picked a free one and went with it, and since I had a car I could drive wherever. The one major problem was that I lived in a small town about 30 minutes away from the nearest small city, and that was a detractor. I was extremely upfront about my mental disorders, even listing them in my profile, kind of as a “this is what you’re getting into” sort of schtick. I should not have been dating then, not that it amounted to much except someone ghosting me and a broken heart.
I also played dungeons and dragons (D&D) (yeah, I’m that nerd) with a group of friends from college. Well, guess what? The sicker I got, the more I was unable to make games. I started up in Amtgard (a LARP (Live Action Role Play) boffer sport. “Amtgard,” it turned out, means “middle land,” according to a friend of mine who lives in Norway, so we have Midgard (earth), Amtgard (the middle land), and Asgard (where the Norse gods live, and where you go when you die according to that mythology. But enough about that. I was able to play in Amtgard for quite a while, making a few big events, but here’s the problem: I was a cute single girl that joined a sport that mostly guys went to, so I got hit on. A lot. It got so bad I took a year-long break from it, trying to get my mood swings under control so when I went out there wasn’t a chance of me swinging hypomanic or worse, low, or the worst, manic rage.
The D&D group didn’t last. Why? My friends ended up not understanding my problems, and when I tried to reintroduce myself to the group, they told me I would need to run a “trial period” to see if I “fit in” with the new people. This did not make me happy, but I think I tried it once. It didn’t last. Every time I checked on the group after that, there was a “trial period” involved, so clearly, the people running the game didn’t know how badly I was suffering. I just needed friends, so I had someone to talk to about the highs and lows, and that came in the form of Amtgard. I found friends fast there. People took me in, told me how the game worked and invited me to dinner after the fact. It was a breath of fresh air from what I was used to. But then the guys started pursuing me (two in particular). It got so bad that I didn’t want to show my face in front of them, or we would straight up ignore each other. I rejoined after a while and everything was okay again, for a time.
After “a time,” I started going out to karaoke at a bar about a half-hour away (I didn’t drink, I just sang). I met a man there that I ended up going on a couple of dates with. I was very upfront about my disorders, and he seemed fine with them, and here we are three and a half years later, happy and healthy.
Look at me, going off-topic again! All of this ties in, I promise. Because every step of the way, it was there, lurking in the background, and if one single thing was said or one single thing was done to make me upset, I would lash out. I would put the blame for whatever it was on the person who did it, and I was like this for a long time. My mom blames the newly placed IUD I got. It did have effects, yes, but eventually they went away. Regardless, I was a mess, lashing out or really happy or suicidally sad or somewhere in between. They were all equally awful. Eventually, I was taking so much medication that when my new psychiatrist looked at my chart, she was absolutely shocked.
I hospitalized myself after a time, and my partner saw it coming. I was wild. It’s hard to explain, but I was everywhere. Ups, downs, lashing out, withdrawing, breaking down. I ended up coming off of a very addictive drug and felt all the side effects of that, including the shaking and the jitters and the sheer desperation of “can we just get this over with, please?” I finally ended up with new doctors, and, as my therapist said, I “was a hot mess.” Between the panic attacks and the ups/downs/lashing out/withdrawing/breaking down, I seemed hopeless, but then my psychiatrist worked some weird voodoo magic and changed my medications around, and here I am today… still fighting it.
It doesn’t just go away. I have to tell people my specific triggers so that I don’t get angry or sad out of nowhere. I still have problems with people helping me with things. I have problems asking people to do things with me. I will never not have this disorder. But there’s a lot that can be done about it. Medication isn’t for everyone, but it was a godsend for me. That, combined with therapy, is supposed to be the most effective way to treat any sort of mental disorder or trauma, or at least that’s what I have heard.
There are other symptoms. There’s one in particular that I didn’t know about until I was diagnosed — I have no volume control. I cannot tell when I’m being loud or quiet, which leads to awkward moments occasionally. I literally cannot help it.
Another fun fact — I’m technically allergic to one of the medications I’m on! It causes something called an oculogyric crisis, which, Wikipedia tells me, is a “dystonic reaction to certain drugs or medical conditions characterized by a prolonged involuntary deviation of the eyes. But that’s not all! I also had protrusion of the tongue, a racing heart, occasional drooling, and my thinking was NOT straight. Oh, and Wikipedia informed me that this could be triggered by stress as well, and that… makes sense. This happened in the hospital and I literally could not speak to tell them I needed Benadryl to stop it (for some reason this works, I’m not sure how). (Other medications have done this to me in the past, and none of them have it as a symptom. Depakote caused it, as well as Lamictal. There is no basis that I know of for either of these drugs causing this crisis event. I’m on another medication to temper it.
Despite the medication crises, it’s worth a shot. I’m honestly a special case, and I cannot stress to you enough how different things work for different bodies. Depakote might actually be for you! Or Lithium! Who knows! (Just make sure you get a diagnosis and prescription and not off the street.)
Also, I CANNOT stress this enough- go to therapy. It does WONDERS for your self-esteem and validation. Even if you’re perfectly fine, go see a counselor. There’s stuff you need to get off your chest, I’m sure, and these people are paid to listen to your problems. It’s not a job I would want, but some people find the human brain fascinating, and this is a way of studying it.
If you think you have this disorder, SEEK OUT HELP. Even if you think you only have part of this disorder, SEEK OUT HELP. If you or anyone you know may be experiencing a crisis text HOME to 741741. Your brain and your life will thank you.
*The above is the author’s experience. She is not a doctor. If you think you may have this or any other disease, please see a medical specialist.