Wednesday, March 29, 2017

When your brain has it's own menses cycle...

People know about depression. That one is easy. You're sad, you're constantly down, you sleep a LOT. More often than not, depression leads to a lack of enthusiasm, lack of appetite in every aspect of the word, and a lack of care or empathy. Life sucks, and it will always suck when you're depressed. And that's okay. No matter if you have chronic depression, Bipolar disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or just going through a small bought triggered by an action or event, life will, in fact, turn around. Not being okay is okay. And people are beginning to understand that.

But what happens when you're too okay?

I was originally diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. That diagnosis has since been changed. I have now been diagnoses with Bipolar II disorder (among other things). I do not speak for all people with Bipolar disorder, but I can tell you my experience. I get asked about it a lot. People tend to understand my depression, and what it looks like, but don't understand that that's not all I go through. When people think of Bipolar Disorder, they think of a lot of really insane circumstances, possibly even some characters from shows and movies, that wind up hospitalized, or ostracized because they are unable to function. They think of adrenaline highs, drug junkies, and extreme needs to be crazier and crazier.

Bipolar disorder has an almost cyclical pattern. I get depression, and that's easy for people to see. I tend to get more down on myself than usual. I see the worst in everything. I sleep a lot, and I mean a LOT. Last time I hit a super awful depressive swing, I came home from work, took a 6 hour nap, woke up for long enough to grind some coffee beans, put them in the coffee pot, hit the start button, and proceeded to fall asleep before the 6 cups had finished brewing, and slept another 8 hours before getting up for work, exhausted, and starting that same process over 9 hours later after coming home again where I proceeded to go be unable to stay awake. I cry a lot. Over everything. Every small critique is a major insult to my person, and any change in my plans is a complete overhaul of my life. Smiles are infrequent and usually forced. Life is overall really difficult. I've sometimes contemplated suicide.

But there's another extreme associated with Bipolar disorder that people don't tend to talk about: Mania.

My manias are getting worse, and while my consequence is usually productivity, and that tends to be all people see - me getting large to-do lists accomplished - it is extremely dangerous and not as fun as it sounds. So here's what Mania has been like from my perspective...

Imagine waking up, the sky is the bluest shade of blue, and is the most beautiful sky you have ever seen. It's a little chilly, but 50 beats 20, so you'll take it! Your to-do list is expansive, but doable and you are excited to accomplish everything on it, nothing can stop you, you are a strong independent woman, and you can do anything you set your mind to! The coffee you ordered is the best coffee you have ever had, and you feel amazing. You're attentive in class, taking notes, nearly writing down every word that comes out of your lecturer's mouth,  you're absorbing every word, putting pictures together in your mind. School isn't so hard! You'll get to graduation in no time! You smile at everyone, and laugh at every dumb joke your next professor makes. Someone cuts you off on your way home from school, you flare, and get super upset, but seconds later you drop it, life is back to happy-go-lucky. You decide to run some of the errands you've been putting off. To target you go! How amazing is Target though? You walk up and down every aisle, with a new attitude and style idea with every article of clothing, and home decor piece. All the food sounds amazing, and storage boxes? OF COURSE YOU NEED MORE STORAGE BOXES. While you don't know what you're gonna put in them, you'll think of something. Need more coffee? DUH, we don't have THAT blend/brand/roast, and you know what, we've been talking about a pourover, and why look at that! THEY'RE ON SALE! It's your lucky day! Phew, shopping is hard, so you come home, loot in hand, and get to work. Maybe you'll order some pizza, food is a necessity, and money is no big deal (even if it is). That idea is forgotten as you walk in the door and walk the dogs, back inside you buckle down. First stop, the kitchen, duh, all that happiness needs fuel, and you just bought some good coffee you need to try out!  You make yourself some food, just something simple, quick, you need you get back to work, toss it in the microwave, decide you need to clean out the fridge, then you remember you were supposed to use those bananas on the counter AND in the fridge. You whip up some chocolate peanut butter banana "ice cream," and a loaf of banana bread, and work on your homework while the loaf is baking. You decide it's time to play outside, and start up a few seeds in your new seed starter kit - courtesy of target - and some cool new seed kits, and finally make those succulent tear drop hanging terrariums you've been letting collect dust, and take some cuttings off of your current succulents to make MORE succulents. Then you remember you were going to research succulents and cacti, and planting methods for your new bigger tank terrariums. You get stuck on Etsy, Amazon, Pinterest, Google, and suddenly you're not even looking at succulents anymore, you're redesigning the living room, in a house out west you haven't even bought yet. You notice you've gotten SO MUCH DONE in just a couple hours of being at home, and feel pretty proud. Time to sit down, eat the food you forgot was in the microwave, and watch a couple episodes of whatever show you're binge re-watching this semester. But Bones will have to play in the background, you just have too much to do, and you decide to write a paper (literally one handed) while you eat, you can't just sit and watch this show, you won't be doing enough. Your body literally tenses up, and locks up, your jaw is tight, your shoulders are tight, and you realize. You haven't stopped moving all day. You've updated your FB about 15 times, and posted at least a half dozen photos or groups of photos to IG. 

Did that sound crazy? How many paragraph long sentences can I make before I allow you to take a breath? That was my day today, at least, a rough approximation of my day. I'm posting this on a manic high, because it will be the only time I will have the courage to post it. I can not post it during any other period of my fluctuations, because it's only now that I want to tell the world being Bipolar is not a disability. By the end of the day, I'm exhausted, and will slow down, it will look to an outsider like coming off of a caffeine high, and based on my caffeine intake today (for taste of beverage not for the caffeine), that's probably exaggerating some of my symptoms, but tomorrow the cycle will start over, and I will probably have had little sleep for it. 3-5 hours a night is about how much I get during a manic episode. 

But how do you tell your friends, a shrink, your family, that you're just TOO happy? life is TOO beautiful? 

I do this every once in a while. I'll spend a few days on the cloud nine, skyrocketing to the moon. I feel proud of myself for everything. I can do no wrong in my own eyes, and will get over every hurdle life has to offer. I will not be stopped, everything is the most beautiful version of itself. Which might sound like a good thing. Except you'll be completely unable to focus, you'll try to do 8 things at once and accomplish little. You will go days without eating, and sleep deprivation will catch up to you eventually. Then, in about 5 days, you'll hate life,the world and have no motivation for anything. Sleep will be the only activity worth participating in, and you'll always feel exhausted. Your Caffeine intake will go up so high, you'll overdose, and actually make your depression worse. 5 days later, cloud nine will be your new home, and the cycle will continue.

During all of this, especially my peak manic days, I still hallucinate. I'm still hearing voices at all times that I've learned to tune out. It's like my body has to have something to do and focus on at all times, so I wind up creating things to see, talk to, and interact with. I sleep with TV shows running, I know I shouldn't, but if I don't, the silence is literally deafening, and I'll have nightmares, or will self harm in my sleep. I sleep walk more on the days I don't have some kind of noise going at night. Sleeping with another person in bed, can sometimes help, but not always. 

I've never been on medication. Not for long anyways. I hated the idea of having a pill or set of pills to take every day that "fixed" me. I didn't want to be some doctor's chemistry experiment, while I try desperately to get a hold on myself. But this past year, my episodes are longer lasting, and worse. They impact my life far more than ever before, and I'm scarring myself. It's time to make that long dreaded call. To go to offices I hate, and get myself on medications. Not to fix something that is broken, but to help the fact that, while I'm okay not being okay, there is a better way to live in inevitable periods of "not okay."

Depression is easy. Constant crying is easy. People understand upset. People don't understand when you're so happy you scare your significant other. When you can't NOT spend your last few dollars one things that are absolutely unnecessary. This is my mania, it is not how all mania manifests itself, but it is mine. 

I make these posts - as crazy and all over the place as they are - to help. I don't write this as pity, or to make friends feel sorry for me. I want you to understand when I say "I'm running on a manic high, I can't go out today, it won't be safe." or "I'm sorry I'm so irritable, I'm in a transition and my body can't make up it's mind," I'm not making up excuses.  I'm trying to explain to you what is happening, and to not stop inviting me to things, tomorrow may be a completely different day. I want friends to understand their own symptoms. I want friends of friends to know that it is ABSOLUTELY okay to have these disorders, you are not crazy, you are not broken, you do not deserve to be cast aside.
The more I talk about these things, the more others may have the courage to speak up, and maybe someday, we won't have to hide from society, pretending everything is 100% okay at all times. Maybe someday, the social stigma will vanish, and disorders, disabilities, medications, all of it will be as common as it needs to be. Access will be easier, and more affordable. Maybe we will treat mental disorders and illnesses with the same regard we treat broken bones, colds, and other physical ailments, temporary or chronic.