You deny the disease

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As my mania ramps up, I am left with very few outlets to get out all of this manic energy. Normally I would go work out, but with my bum foot and knee, it’s a workout within itself to get my ass on crutches or even use the bathroom. I am stuck in my queen sized bed with my leg elevated and I rotate ice packs every 4 hours along with countless amounts of drugs I am putting into my body.

You could almost say that bipolar cycling is like a woman having an irregular period. You know it’s gonna happen, it comes around the same time every month, you know of the peaks and valleys of how to handle it; yet without fail, every time I become manic, I panic.

I have been aware of my bipolar disorder for about five years now and have been symptomatic for that long. Yet I am still unsure how to cope with the mania. I think depression is by far easier to deal with because a) I have been depressed for nearly 9 years and b) I’ve found ways to cope with depression and c) there is a lot more research and helpful information out there for those who suffer from this broad mental illness. Since bipolar disorder is still more rare than depression, there is a heavier stigma when it comes to the disorder, which makes it harder to reach out to get the tools you need to succeed.

I have bipolar 2 disorder which usually signifies that my bipolar is less severe than some people’s and that depression plays a huge role in that. Since I have spent the most of five years in therapy trying to cope with depression, it didn’t leave a lot of room to learn about coping strategies for mania, even though the mania appears mild to some.

To me, depression is pretty clear cut logically and practically. Your brain has chemical imbalances and lacks a chemical your brain cannot make enough of or any at all. Without that chemical, your body cannot make itself happy which is why you seem either sadder than normal or are sad for longer periods of time. To correct this matter, you go on an anti-depressant which replaces or adds to the chemical in your brain that makes you happier. It’s not a cure all because it’s synthetic, not naturally made. Granted, one cannot be happy all the time, but it should help at least normalize the swings and bouts of depression and over time, they reduce in severity.

However, when you have bipolar disorder, you have the pleasure of including all of those steps of having depression in with the manic episodes. I am honestly unsure of the chemical happenings when a person goes from depressed to manic or vice versa or what parts of the brain are affected by mania. They aren’t true opposites of each other. I know there is a common misunderstanding that manic episodes make you happier, or even euphoric, but with all of that, comes a lot of anger, agitation, and high energy. It’s essentially like an angry filled, adrenaline rush where you are so blind with anger and irritation that you are blind to your actions. A lot of bipolar people are more susceptible to getting into physical altercations because they may not be aware a fight is or has happened due to blind rage. A physical force has to become in-between you and an outside force to get you out of your own head.

Now let me clarify: not everyone is violent and some bipolar folks will never be violent in their lives; I have never been violent despite some of the blind rages that I have been in. But bipolar manic episodes aren’t all sunshine and butterflies and euphoric never-ending happiness, that’s a common misconception of the disorder.

So two thirds of the time, you have high energy and are agitated and antsy, whereas the other third of the time, you are upbeat and doing a good job at work or school, you’re in your creative prime, and seem generally happier overall. This is happening every moment of the day from a bare minimum of four days to even four weeks. As for me, my manic episodes last 2-3 weeks depending on how long I was depressed for.

Usually those who have bipolar two disorder experience 90% depression, and 10% mania or hypo mania. But how that time is distributed is different for everyone. You can spend 6 months in a depression and then a month with mania. Or what I do is usually every 4-6 weeks I will switch between manic and depressed.

I personally am at the very beginning of a manic upswing and with that, I want to be social, talk to people, go out to eat, go to the bar, go on dates, etc. But here I am, stuck inside writing to my blog because I just had major surgery. It is a week night so it’s not like I could invite anyone over at the moment and even if someone did come over, it’s not like we could do much with my bum leg.

I think this is the first time in five years that I have actually not participated in my manic ideations. If it were any old week and I was healthier, I would do a shopping spree or go to the casino. Today I spent a lot of time online window shopping, which is fine and dandy since I didn’t get the satisfaction of actually purchasing something. But that still leaves me agitated and antsy to even just cook for myself or have some tea.

I think when someone is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, there is the five stages of grief that must be gone through: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance. I think I struggle a lot with denial, because I try to pretend like my brain operates like everyone else’s, I try to be happy-go-lucky even when I am on the brink of suicide. Usually the suicidal ideation wins and I get a lot of weird looks for uncontrollably crying in the middle of a Starbucks on a Wednesday…

What I find more intriguing is that I think more humans who don’t have the disorder, but know someone who does must go through this grieving process as well. The step that I see most people get stuck with and don’t try to change is denial. It’s almost like if they pretend bipolar doesn’t exist, the problem will just go away. News flash, it doesn’t just go away.

When I was first diagnosed, my dad just started throwing money at me and buying me things I wanted in order to make me feel better emotionally. Granted, he had at this point 18 years of poor parenting to make up for since he was an absentee father as I dealt with my schizophrenic mother. But even to this day, we don’t talk about my bipolar directly. He usually addresses my poor financial choices in the name of bipolar by saying that was stupid and irresponsible. When I have had enough of that conversation, he asks me if I’m going to go plunk myself because he would be sad if I did that.

I don’t think my dad has researched bipolar at all and as for my mom, she gets some of it because she goes through some of the same motions with her schizophrenia. But the thought of bipolar scares her. I don’t think she denies I have bipolar, but most times I have to put on a smiling face in order to not freak her out or set off her own mental illness. Nothing hurts worse than pretending to be okay when you really aren’t, especially in front of your loved ones.

Point of this is that I need some coping mechanisms that I can do from the comfort of my own bed because that’s where I’ll be for a while. Denying the issue is only going to make repercussions that much worse. Blogging helps to an extent, but I am one to get bored easily so it’s not something I can do all day everyday.

As always, any advice is appreciated during this time and if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here for you.

Much love,

Dani

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