I haven’t written on here for a while because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about everything that’s happened since the turn of the year. Thinking, talking, researching and now implementing everything that has come up. Whilst I’m delighted and proud of the progress I’ve been making and the steps I’ve taken, something hasn’t quite sat right and it has been gnawing away at me, this feeling that on some level I was holding back, still in some way hiding, not being 100% truthful. I know the reasons and I understand the emotions: fear, shame, guilt, paranoia, even my own prejudices.
99% of what I’ve written recently in regards to what I’ve been doing and how I’ve been facing things is true. That 1% difference represents things purposely left out, or else included but phrased in a certain way or glossed over. In fact maybe I’ll change that to 95% and, whilst I’m discussing this stuff, I’m reminded about the TV show House and his mantra that ‘everybody lies’. I’m also reminded about the big moment in I Heart Huckabees (awful video quality in that link) when the question ‘how am I not myself?’ is asked.
I see clearly that sometimes I am an unreliable narrator, full of self-deception and half-truths. All I can say in mitigation is that I am going to continue to strive to improve my quality of life but by doing that I have to keep pushing myself to confront things and unfortunately we humans seem to be quite well conditioned to want to keep things as they are, no matter how dysfunctional the status quo is, hence the self-deception and other road blocks we put up to hinder self-analysis and slow ourselves down. We are complicated and infuriating creatures, us people.
The one thing I can say with certainty is that I’m learning a lot about myself as I continue to try and answer the ‘how am I not myself’ question truthfully, as well as not allowing myself to become comfortable with mediocre answers, solutions and convenient lies, but rather to push for real truth and progress.
All roads lead to Bipolar
Deep down I’ve recognised that depression is but one part of the equation that adds up to my mental illness. I mentioned my own prejudices earlier and I think that is the main reason for my reticence for truly acknowledging the whole truth. I can’t point to any specific media or societal representation as to where my feelings come from, but somewhere within me, even now, lies this deep rooted sense that people with bipolar really are mentally ill, you know, like, really crazy, or always on the verge of it. Maybe it’s the old term manic depressive. Maybe it’s the diagnostic terms that go with it like hypomania and mania. Maybe, and this is the most likely answer, it’s the fact that when I see what the symptoms and manifestations are of such terms, I recognise myself in them and its at that point that I experience those other emotions I mentioned earlier.
In my mind I rationalised that I could cope with coming out as being depressed. I could handle people knowing that. It’s far easier to explain that to friends then the other side of the coin and how sometimes I feel like I’m some kind of chosen one and that all of you are beneath me (more of that a bit later). But like I said the truth gnawed away at me and in the end I guess I’m seeing sense. Actually, guessing won’t be necessary, I am seeing sense.
As a quick aside, bipolar is very commonly misdiagnosed as depression because people generally seek help in the depressive phase. That and I bet people are kinda reticent, like I was, to talk about the other parts. Still, no more time for that, I’ve got doctor and counselling appointments coming up and a life to get back on track. A life that doesn’t seem to make much sense at the moment but one step at a time.
Let’s talk symptoms
Below are a list of symptoms for mania and hypomania, the first set of which I took from the Mind website.
The symptoms of hypomania and mania include:
- feelings of extreme and intense happiness – feeling excessively ‘high’
- increased irritability and aggression
- increased confidence and self-esteem
- a reduced need for sleep
- increased talkativeness and talking very fast
- feeling full of ideas and racing thoughts
- having a lot of energy
- an exaggerated sense of your own importance
- restlessness and difficulty relaxing
- a lack of concentration and being easily distracted
- increased social activity
- risky behaviour, such as going on a spending spree
- increased sexual desire and decreased inhibitions
- poor judgement
- heightened senses – sight, smell or other senses being sharper than usual.
Whilst this is a good, comprehensive list, it’s just that, a list. As I researched other bi-polar sources to get more of a grip and understanding, I found some that give a little more detail in their descriptions and before I give my own experiences I want to share some of the symptom descriptions from these other sources, such as this list taken from Patient.co.uk, with one in particular in bold that I will go into below.
This consists of elevated mood, physical and mental over-activity and self-important ideas.
- Patients usually appear cheerful and euphoric but may be irritable, which can quickly turn into anger.
- Insight is often impaired – but again this may change with the patient’s mood.
- Speech is rapid and copious (‘pressure of speech’); and may rapidly flit from one subject to another (‘flight of ideas’). There may be ‘clang associations’ – connections between words dictated by chance similarities in word sounds rather than their meanings (eg rhyming or punning).
- Mood may even vary during the day and sleep is often reduced whilst appetite may be increased.
- Sexual desires may be increased and uninhibited, and contraception may be neglected.
- There is increased activity including excessive involvement in pleasurable activities without thought for consequences (eg a spending spree resulting in excessive debts). Patients can become physically exhausted.
- The self-important ideas may take the form of grandiose delusions and other delusions(such as persecution) may occur, as may hallucinations(eg voices).
When I am in a state of hypomania (I don’t believe I have full blown mania, not in the sense that I would need hospitalisation), the point above in bold definitely rings true. I wrote a poem recently, which was written during one of these phases. In fact I’ve come to now realise the correlation between me writing poetry and what is going on in my head at the time.
Going back to my poetry portfolio at uni, the notes I got back from my lecturer were that there were poems that were very good and worthy of top marks, and others that ranged from good to not so good. The ones that were worthy of top marks? Yep, the ones I wrote when I was in the middle of a phase. It’s weird, but I remember feeling annoyed at the time because I hated the connection between my best work and this weird thing I go through from time to time that, whilst I think I indulged in it when I was younger, I now find exhausting.
Right, I’m going to break this down into two parts to stop it being incredibly long. The second part will be posted soon.