I will start off with words I found very popular on Bell Let’s Talk Day – It’s okay to not be okay. I can say that the last few weeks have been a steadfast reminder of just that. So much so that I even had to verbally say the words “I am not okay right now” to some close friends.
For those who have not read any of my previous blogs, I will quickly reiterate my diagnosis. I was diagnosed in late 2014 with Bipolar Disorder 1 with Alcohol Abuse in remission and Substance Abuse in full remission.
So, with that said I am going to go into a bit of detail of my last few weeks in hopes that someone will possibly be able to relate, or someone will be able to gain some understanding or knowledge that can assist others to be able to say “I am not okay”.
Within the past little while I have been rapid cycling which is when there are distinct episodes of depression and mania within a shorter than usual time frame. These are the symptoms of my life with Bipolar regularly, but with the rapid cycling I have experienced all of the following within a 3 – 4 week time frame, some of which happened all in one week:
- I sleep a lot, at times pretty much all day or occasionally I suffer with insomnia
- I am constantly exhausted regardless of how much sleep I get. Due to the exhaustion, it becomes practically impossible to do ANY task
- My personal hygiene is gone. For days at a time I will not shower/change my clothes (wearing the same clothes when sleeping and awake)/brush my hair/brush my teeth etc.
- I stop taking care of my apartment, stop grocery shopping, stop cooking, stop doing dishes, stop doing laundry and everything else
- I go days without eating
- I stop all communication with the outside world. I will not respond to calls, texts and/or messages. I literally can’t as I cease to care and I do not have the energy it takes to do so
- I am filled with self-loathing & worthlessness, feel as though I am a burden to everyone including society, I feel as though I am a waste of air, that I am stupid and ugly, I feel as though I am the worst mother/friend ever and don’t understand how they can be around me, I feel unlovable/unlikable and I hate the person I see when I look in the mirror
- I go to bed at night praying I just won’t wake up
- I absolutely love the world and most people in it
- I love myself and think I am 200% amazing, smart, and beautiful in an extreme/unhealthy way.
- I feel superior to other people
- I am full of a high-level-there-is-no-stopping-it kind of energy
- I talk to everyone even if I have not talked to them in years.
- I no longer need sleep.
- I do not eat because that would take up valuable time.
- I spend money. Too much money. Regardless of what financial responsibilities I have that does not factor in my mind when the money is being spent. I am on a fixed income at this time (ODSP) and this month spent ¾ of my cheque in two days.
- In the past, during manic episodes, I would drink insane amounts, I would party, I would do drugs, and I would put myself in unsafe situations as promiscuity also was part of these episodes
- Also, in the past there have been times where I literally felt unstoppable in a Superman kind of way
- Sped up psycho-motor activity
- I do housework chores at high speed. Dishes, folding laundry, cleaning (my son noticed me doing the dishes and asked why I was doing them so fast)
- I walk fast. Sometimes I catch myself doing it and try to make it not noticeable to others. Sometimes it is probably quite obvious.
- I talk fast. So fast that sometimes I have to repeat what I have said so people can catch it.
- I have also experienced psycho-motor impairment a couple times in the past. The scariest example of this for me is I was walking down the stairs and had to stop because it was like I could not remember how to and my legs just couldn’t
Racing thoughts – Racing thoughts are like having a Nascar track in your head and every car represents a different thought. Or like taking a bunch of bouncy balls (each one representing a thought)
and throwing them into an empty room.
Anger – I feel my anger is more of a rage. It comes quickly and I can feel it coming but cannot stop it. I am now learning to keep it safe and not let it direct itself to innocent bystanders, but it is a scary thing. It too seems to come during a mania stage. It is like a hair trigger and comes out like a grenade. I am not proud of things I have done in these moments. Most of it is verbal knives being thrown in all directions and upon rare occasion it has been physical but not in a very long time.
Forgetfulness and concentration – There are no words for me to describe this. It is not your typical “I forgot to…” moments. It is me having to set reminders/timers for everything. Taking my meds, cleaning the litter box, waking up one of my sons at the time they get up every morning, reminders to call people, reminders for pretty much everything. As for concentration, I pretty much do not have any most of the time. Writing this blog today took everything I have but I was determined.
After all these moods and symptoms run my life for the time they are around, I crash and burn hard. Then I recover somewhat and go into what I call my middle ground and that is where I am completely numb and feel no mood at all. And then, at some point (sometimes sooner than others), all these episodes repeat.
There are other symptoms I did not expand on like my numbness where emotions are concerned (I would say 90% of the time I do not really have any emotions at all), how in relationships I can go from caring so much and thinking the world of someone and then in a millisecond switch to not caring the slightest. But, there you have it. A step inside my life with Bipolar 1. Now I just hope that one reader takes away something from this that can be used for the good because then it will have made it worth opening up, yet again and showing it is okay to not be okay.
About Karen M. Thompson
Michelle is a 2014 graduate of the Child and Youth Care Program at Loyalist College. During her time in the program she got to take many courses on Mental Health/Mental Illnesses. While she was learning academically, she was also learning quite a lot about herself as well. It was during this time when her mental health struggles became noticeable to herself and those around her. She had struggled from her mid-teens to her late 30's never quite knowing what was the root cause. In August of 2015 she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1. Michelle has now found a passion for telling her life story and struggles to educate students in hopes that by doing so they will have the knowledge and power to help put a stop to the stigma that affects so many with mental health issues.