What Bipolar Disorder Feels Like
Ah, those of us with those sleepless nights… If you have
bipolar I as I do, or even bipolar II, you wear many faces. You are either the
life of the party and feel that life is wonderful and so much fun, only to wake
up the next day so depressed you think you won't make it until the next day.
Then within a few hours or 6 months, you are screaming at the top of your voice,
feeling extremely out of control, extremely irritable and you want to smash
everybody and everything around you.
Someone once asked me what it was like to have the bipolar disorder. I said it
depended upon which mood I was in. To me, being hypomanic has to be better than
any drug anyone could ever market. Those are the times I stay up all night and
work on my websites. I swear I have never had so much fun. I always get scolded
the next day for staying up and I always reply "…but I was having so much
My brain is not only creative but it is working in overdrive. Ideas are coming
and they are coming so fast that I get frustrated because I cannot keep up with
them. I swear this is when I do my best work on my websites. I feel so brilliant
during those times.
In fact hypomania is one of the reasons that many people with BP do not take
their medications. They simply do not want to give up that "high." To
me, that is really juggling with your life. I cannot speak for any one else's
depressions, but mine are full of suicidal ideation. They are absolutely
Full-blown mania is from hell. In fact I think it is worse on those around me. I
call this kind of mania the "bad mania." Far from being fun, it is
absolutely miserable and when I have been full blown manic I have scared many
people as I can be way out of control. I have been violent in terms of throwing
objects, kicking doors down, breaking windows and once being arrested for
driving into a car (on purpose).
In fact my husband says I channel my anti-social grandfather. I even have his
smirk down pat. For those of you who aren't familiar with anti-social
personality disorder, it is what prisons and jails are full of. It is "the
criminal mind." There is no sense of guilt or remorse. They don't conform
to lawful behavior, are deceitful, impulsive, and irresponsible and many times
are involved in physical violence. I don't have that disorder but while manic I
can do a good impersonation except for the violence on people, "just"
Many of us who have experienced this kind of mania have different stories to
tell. Some have actually physically hurt others, some have hurt objects, scared
others, etc. What it felt like to me the next day was as if I "went on a
drunk" and I was embarrassed and ashamed.
The truth is, we didn't "go on a drunk." We didn't ask for this, we
didn't cause it and again, we didn't deserve this and neither did our family for
that matter. I believe we do have some control over our behavior but to
completely stop the behavior, no, I don't think we do. This is a biological
"happening" and it is important for us to remember that.
What I have done while not in mania, is to try to plan for those times if they
appear again. I recognize within myself what I will be experiencing inside. I
remember that I will feel like breaking things, that I will feel like yelling at
someone, that I will feel like swearing, etc. So, I have examined some safer
activities to become involved in to "let out this steam." Sometimes I
have kicked padded furniture that I know I can't hurt. Sometimes I have gone
outside and literally walked in circles, yelling obscenities in my head. Swear
words are very powerful. If you need to let off some steam and you don't want to
offend anyone, say them in your head. Or, if no one is home, sit on the floor,
legs crossed and lets those swear words come out. You will feel the power of
these words as you say them. Please consider your family if they are around.
If you live in an apartment and you are worried the neighbors will hear you, get
a towel and yell into that towel.
Get stacks of newspaper and shred them over a garbage can.
Turn the lights very low and keep the noises low. Practice some slow deep
breathing if you can.
Do not drive a vehicle at this time if you are this manic. If you need to get to
a crisis clinic or to a Dr's office, do your best to get transportation. Tell
your crisis person or Dr. that you don't think you should be driving and what do
If you feel that might seriously hurt someone physically or yourself, call 911
For any families of someone who is experiencing full blown mania, do your best
to get help to this person. I just asked my husband what he advised for families
to do. He said, "When you are like that, I can't get through to you. I
can't do anything. If I called the police, you would probably tell them where to
Family member, if you at any time feel that you are at risk of being hurt, I
suggest that you leave the premises immediately and call 911 for your loved one
and yourself. Tell them that your loved one is manic and out of control.
You must remember that you are not betraying your bipolar loved one. When
someone experiences mania to this extreme level, they have lost the ability to
care for themselves and they need help no matter what they are telling you at
the time. They have lost the ability to make good decisions for themselves.
This is not something I got out of a book. This is based upon my own experience.
It is very easy for those of us with the bipolar disorder to say to ourselves
now that we are treated medically that we will never again experience mania or
depression again and so we get very comfortable. In my case, this has not been
I was completely free from mania and depression for some time and from nowhere,
hypomania returned. My Wellbutrin was doubled and within a few days I became
full blown manic. The Wellbutrin was lowered and so did my horrible mania.
This is also a reminder to those of us who have been treated for a long time to
be fooled into thinking we no longer need our meds. Remember that every time we
go off our medications we take a gamble with our lives. The bipolar disorder
carries a high suicide rate.
Though we can be in "remission" for many years, this disorder at some
time or another will tap you on the shoulder and remind you that it is there.
Mania or depression will break through your medication, no matter how well you
are being treated. You will need to go in to your prescriber and have your
medication adjusted to handle this new "break through."
The wonderful thought to hold onto is that as time goes by, more and more is
known about the bipolar disorder and that includes better treatment. I think
that in 10 years, we are going to be absolutely amazed.
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Copyright © Patty Fleener, M.S.W. All