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Roatcap Fire Smoke

Well, after all that whining I did a while back about how there is no support system for people living with bipolar illness in my area, a wonderful thing did happen. A new therapist came to town, and decided that starting a bipolar support-or therapy- group would be a good idea. And boy, was I happy. I’ve been to every single one so far, because it is so wonderful to sit and talk with others who know exactly what it is like to live with bipolar disorder, things that people without it simply cannot understand, no matter how willing they are to let you try to explain it to them.

I thought I was alone. I thought no one could possibly understand how it is to feel trapped by this illness, powerless (at times) to control thoughts or behavior or decisions. . .we’ve been exploring what it means to be manic, depressed, psychotic and found that we can all relate to the ways in which bipolar illness has affected one another’s lives. We may not share the identical circumstances, or have had the same experiences, but yet we can all relate. We can all understand what the other person was going through at the time. It is impossible to express how refreshing that is.

It has also been a wonderful time of learning. There are so many things to know about bipolar illness, and no one knows it all, not even veteran sufferers like yours truly, who has had the diagnosis for decades and been on every medication known to science. . .there is always something new to learn.

For example, I had a psychiatrist who, for many years found my happiness to be signs of hypomania and therefore took me down with more mood stabilizers. This went on for so long that I began to long for “hypomania” just so I could function like a “normal” person, do things, finish them, make plans, be happy.

Over the years, I began to think of mania as a positive state. Okay, maybe not a safe one, but a positive one. Famous actors, writers, other accomplishers of great things operated in this state. Great periods of creativity and grandiosity. These seemed terribly desirable to me. I longed to be manic, despite the dangers.

And I stayed just on the up end of depressed for, it seemed, forever. I came to group thinking, I must not be Bipolar I anymore. I must be Bipolar II, because my disease doesn’t swing toward mania at all. No mania, just deep depression. Periods where I experienced irrational rage or horrible sobbing misery I called “Mixed Manic” states, not sure what that clinically meant either, but applying it to myself.

So when we in group went around and said what mania was, I was enlightened.

Mania is not necessarily positive at all! Good and bad news for me, I guess.

The handout says: 1. Profuse and rapidly changing ideas, exaggerated sexuality, impulsivity, gaiety, or irritability, and decreased sleep.

2. Violent abnormal behavior.

3. An irrational but irresistible motive for a belief or action (been there!)

and at least a week of psychotic behavior.

Characteristics of mania as complied by our group included:

  • Anger
  • impulsivity
  • poor judgment
  • No self-control
  • Racing thoughts
  • Paranoia and delusions
  • Inflated ego, sense of self, or abilities
  • Hallucinations
  • decreased need for sleep
  • talking more
  • unforgiving, can’t let go of things

Wow.  Mania comes in many flavors, and even more than these. . .and some of these symptoms also overlap with depression. I am sure that if you are bipolar and reading this you can think of more characteristics of mania.

I have lived with many of these things for most of my life. Not positive at all. On the mood chart I would mark times of fear, paranoia, anger, impulsivity as “very depressed” when actually I was manic. So I do experience mania, a lot. It’s just not the good kind. I wish I knew how to get ahold of the good kind, heheh.

When I am manic, I tend to talk more, laugh more, become more social, become more consumed with paranoia and negativity, make plans I can’t keep, set unattainable goals for myself, think I have better ideas than I actually do, believe my writing is better than it actually is, and am absolutely sure I am right about everything. I am also absolutely sure I am wrong about everything, and everything is my fault. I get highly emotional, and anger has become a problematic emotion for me. So has anxiety. I become extremely anxious and full of doom. So when I think of mania now, I see that it encompasses a greater part of my life than I ever thought before.

These symptoms affect the people around me as much or more than my depression symptoms do. My husband wants me to come up with a “safe word” or an “off button” that can be pushed when he sees my symptoms getting out of control. Unfortunately when he sees that, I’ve already noticed it too, and have sadly realized (with that bit of rationality that sits in the corner watching myself in horror) that there is no “off button.”

Usually I can break myself out of it, but not before I’ve said or done at least one regrettable thing.  (such as post last night’s entry on this blog!)

The best cure for a manic episode that I have found (and I am talking about the kind I have) is to get off by myself as fast as possible, drink a bottle of water laced with homeopathic aconite, slather myself in calming essential oils, and/or write in my journal until all those feelings are down on paper. If I find myself on the cusp of an epic, grandiose gesture, I picture the cliff I am about to step off of and flash forward to what it will feel like, for me or for my family, when I land. That usually does it for me.

Well, I don’t know what else to say, and I’m getting a migraine here, so quitting now. If anyone reading this has any more insights on mania, I would love to hear them. Good night! 🙂

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. I learned more about the different distinctions of mania through this website – written by Jim Phelps

    http://www.psycheducation.org/depression/02_diagnosis.html

    i know this website covers more about bipolar II but this page does talk about the mood spectrum and where a person might land on it and their respective symptoms.

    interestingly enough, in the middle of the page is says that migraines are more associated with bipolar II not bipolar I.

    I found his website (http://www.psycheducation.org/) to be very helpful to me in distinguishing what was going on with me. Apparently there is a strong link between thyroid conditions and bipolar symptoms – thyroid disorders can mimic bipolar II symptoms. You can also have both a thyroid disorder AND bipolar, but if you do and you try to treat the bipolar without treating the thyroid condition, you might be setting yourself up to fail.

    i have hashimoto’s thyroiditis and partly through there, and partly through another book I found the link between thyroid disorders and bipolar II. it sucks. but right now, i’m ‘stable’ – but i don’t know why, other than i started taking a high quality fish oil and that’s supposed to help with both thyroid disorders and some bipolar II symptoms. i also cut iodized salt out of my diet as much as possible.

    Even though his site is mainly about bipolar II, you can get a lot of information to help you understand what’s going on.

    Stephen Fry, a British comedian and a bipolar I sufferer, made a documentary you might be interested in watching – called The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive.

    you can also get to part two after watching that.

    I don’t know if you read up anything by Kay Redfield Jamison, but she’s done a lot of research into bipolar I. She’s also bipolar I herself.

    best wishes,

    casey

    Like

    • Thank you, that looks very interesting. I will check into it. I am aware of the similarity of thyroid disorder to Bipolar 1, and when I had my blood tested I was VERY disappointed to find my thyroid tests normal, I can tell you that!

      Like

      • Just so you know, my thyroid levels tested within the range of normal on the scale the U.S. health system uses. Yet, lo and behold, I had swelling in my neck and a nodule my primary care doc orginally diagnosed as “possibly” nodule which might possibly be cancer! I went to an endocrinologist who had much more experience with properly diagnosing hashimoto’s through ultrasound.

        Hashimoto’s is an IMMUNE disorder, therefore, you need an antibody test or an ultrasound, not regular TSH, T3, T4 tesing.

        You’re welcome.

        Like

      • thank you, I thought those doctors let it go too easily! I hope you are feeling well now.

        Like


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