Where do I end and my bipolar disorder begin?

Being bipolar means I am a mixture of several different things at once.  But doesn’t being a person without a mental illness mean the same thing?  Where do we begin to know which aspects of ourselves are who we are or what aspects are the mental illness taking over?  Where do I end and my bipolar disorder begin?  Or my other diagnoses begin?  Maybe there is a fine line between them.

Some things are obvious.  I know anxiety is a part of my mental illness.  I understand that once I feel the familiar squeeze of my heart, the butterflies fluttering, all trying to escape the cocoon at the same time, while my heart is skipping a beat and a weight is squarely on my chest.  Even though in the moment I feel so bad, I know this is part of my mental illness and I know it will pass.  Even if in the moment I feel so terrible.

I understand that when I go days and weeks with only sleeping 1-3 hours each night, that this is also a part of my mental illness.  I also know that this lack of sleep will cause more problems for me and will change me for a while, but eventually with the help of prescribed medications I will get some sleep, maybe not what someone would call normal.  But normal for me, for my circumstances.  It always comes full circle with my illness, from no sleep, to normal sleep (normal for me) to sleeping too much and back around to no sleep, or very little sleep (maybe not in that order).

When the mania hits, it is surprisingly not always obvious in the beginning.  Because I feel so good that I finally think I am doing wonderful. The cloud is finally lifted and I am no longer in that deep dark pit, struggling to breathe.  Sometimes the mania comes after a nice long bout of stable balanced mood.  I still do not realize I am beginning a manic episode right away.  Usually, it will depend on the spiral up.  How fast it is, how hard or bad it is.  Or if either of my friends or family actually tell me that I am becoming manic or “getting sick/not well”.

The beginning of mania/hypomania feels good.  Maybe some of you are shaking your heads ‘no’.  But for me, yes.  I love the beginning of mania.  I am much more active, I have projects that I am researching or completing, I am writing more and more.  I am cleaning and cannot sit still.  And I am losing weight.  I feel so great.

But that soon spirals out of control.  Talking so much and so fast that people are asking me to repeat myself because they no longer understand what I am saying. Jumping from topic to topic, such randomness in my speech.  Not able to sit still at all, even when lying in bed I am shaking my leg or tossing and turning, which frustrates my husband.

Paranoia over things that are just ridiculous when I am stable.  Shakiness.  Sleeping less and less until I am sleeping an hour or less a night, but I do not feel tired, and I feel like I do not need to sleep.  After all if I am sleeping, I cannot write, or clean, or do things.  Not to mention that my body feels like it actually does not need the sleep, I am not tired, I am actually wired.

But the control that I think I am exercising is not me controlling the mania, but instead the mania controlling me.  I do what it tells me to do.  I know this now, as I sit here writing.  But in the beginning I feel in control.  I feel like I am controlling the mania, that I am doing what I want to do, when I want to do it.  I feel like I am in such a fantastic place when the mania begins.  I feel like my heart, soul, mind are beginning to spread wings and fly.

But then, the mania controls me.  It begins to dictate what I do, when I do it.  It makes sleeping near impossible.  It makes my speech hard to understand, it makes my mind jump all over the place.  It dictates everything that I do.  It pushes me further and further to the edge, further and further from the balance line that I once walked.   And I can almost hear the mania laughing at me, watching me spiral more and more out of control, becoming dangerously close to being hospitalized again.

The depression, for me, is the absolute worst.  I hate how I feel.  I literally feel like I am drowning and all I want to do is crawl under some rock and not have to do or deal with anything.  I feel tired, I feel heavy and I hate myself.  I begin having thoughts of self injury, and I mentally degrade myself.  I find it hard to get out of my own way to do anything.  It begins getting worst and worst.  With the depression, after 3-4 days I know its depression for sure, it is much more obvious to me than the mania is in the beginning.

I know this is because the depression makes me feel so bad and because the mania feels so good in the beginning days, even weeks.

But I am not sure I even answered my own question, “Where do I end and my bipolar disorder begin?”.  Because you know what, it honestly does not matter to me.

It is all a part of who I am, a giant part.  And that is okay.

Not all bad days are depression.  Not all fantastic days are mania.  Sometimes it’s just a bad day, and the next day will be fine.  Sometimes a fantastic day, is just that…..fantastic.

17 thoughts on “Where do I end and my bipolar disorder begin?

  1. Such a good question – where does normality end and illness begin? I don’t think we can draw a line. All experiences are part of a huge spectrum and it’s all relevant to who we are and part of our humanity. But I’m grateful to you for addressing such a tough question. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. I agree, I believe it doesn’t actually matter, at least not to me. I always liken Bipolar Disorder to a spectrum, no two of us are exactly the same or have the same severity.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I wrote something similar on my blog today that kind of addresses this topic. When I was young, I labeled all my emotions through the lens of mental illness. I have way more experience and insight now, and for that I am thankful. I think I get far better care now that I don’t attach a label to every feeling and thought that I have. Your question is a good one though.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I would like to add to this by saying that I’ve learned that mental illness often contains feelings or thoughts that a non mentally ill person has. The difference is the severity. How often they come, long they last, and how uncontrollable they are. I often found no sympathy from others who would tell me that what I was thinking and feeling was the same as everyone. While everyone does experience anxiety and depression and ups and downs clearly not everyone is bipolar.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very valid points. That is exactly it. People use the word bipolar as a descriptive word, to describe normal ups and normal downs. But being bipolar is way different than the normal experiences of anxiety, depression etc.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s been my experience and it’s taken lots of hindsight to see clearly. I’m sure it doesn’t apply to everyone who has mental illness, like the spectrum that’s been said, but it definitely applies to some of us. For us that it does apply to, may we remember that our friends and family may be generalizing us.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. To define where the bipolar part of you begins would require defining normal and as every Psych 101 student knows, there is no normal. 🙂
    + or – 2 SD from the mean maybe? That might be an acceptable definition in a stats classroom. In our minds, however, it sounds and seems as dry and inadequate as it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I thoroughly agree with you on this. Exactly how I feel. Right now I am actually stabilized and that is surprising for me. By the way I nominated you for an award. Accept it or not, your choice and no questions to answer.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I am kind of surprised at how long I have been stabilized. It hasn’t happened but once in my life and only lasted for a few weeks so I am kind of afraid of the other shoe dropping.


  6. I’m a rapid cycler. I had a depressive episode this morning and trouble getting out of bed. My mania has fed into exercise bulimia and chronic painful injuries. What I have left is my writing. Now I’m flying. I take my meds on the fricking dot to make sure I don’t slip away. because what goes up must come down. and that’s the part I hate.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s