‘How Did I Get Here?’—Confronting Bipolar Disorder Confusion

‘How Did I Get Here?’—Confronting Bipolar Disorder Confusion

When bipolar confusion leads us into unknown landscapes, it is essential that we ask for help—before we get lost in our own minds.

“Only Carin could get lost in the high desert of Smith Rock,” said my friend, Dave, as he shook his head and laughed. “How in the world did you do it?”

“I don’t know,” I responded, head down.

It was 24 hours since I had started hiking the day before, and more than 22 miles from our climbing camp in central Oregon. And I had no idea how I had gotten there. After a week of rock climbing the hardest routes I could find, of baking in the sun, of sleeping little, and of being the female star of our eight-person climbing group, I wanted a break, and so I headed out at 4 a.m., through a rock formation called Asterisk Pass.

The Crooked River flowed downstream to my left, the spires of Smith Rock to my right. Landmarks surrounded me, but somehow I still got lost.

I knew I had gone too far, but I just kept on walking, making one poor decision after another. And when I arrived at a little farmhouse at 2 a.m. the next morning, tearful and scared, an elderly woman called my friends and they ended their search for me by driving to pick me up. My only memories of my trek were of cow skulls, sinister faces that had formed in the cliffs beside me, and a fast river that I thought of swimming across.

Read more of my article at https://www.bphope.com/blog/how-did-i-get-here-confronting-bipolar-disorder-confusion/.

 

Bipolar Disorder and Paranoia: Understanding the ‘Horror Stories’ We Create

Bipolar Disorder and Paranoia: Understanding the ‘Horror Stories’ We Create
With bipolar paranoia, it is easy to create our very own horror stories. But when we want to shut our eyes, we need to look.

We are all storytellers. We forge stories in our imaginations. And it is in fear that we create our most elaborate tales.

When it is dark in grizzly country, and I hear a noise outside my tent, it is easy to imagine a bear prowling its perimeter. In my mind, I make a story based on the clues I have before me: a rustling sound in the grass, the crack of a breaking twig, the knowledge that I have left a tube of toothpaste in my backpack, the image of the cooler stocked with food far too close to the tent. As I lie on my back, vigilant, with my ears tuned to pick up any noise, the story of the bear becomes real until I am consumed by fear.

The truth is that the sounds are probably from the wind, or even a small animal moving through the area. Of course, it is plausible that there is a bear outside my tent. But it is unlikely. Like so many nights before, when I am finally brave enough to look outside the tent’s door, there is nothing there.

For some reason, individuals who experience bipolar paranoia are often quite skilled at concocting stories of fear. At some point along the spectrum of mania, depression, and mixed episodes, paranoia creeps in. In my life, it can happen at all points of that spectrum, but it is most common when I am already anxious and agitated and in the midst of a mixed episode. Because something is wrong in the chemical functioning of my brain, I have to find a way to make sense of the pain and anxiety in my body—and so I match that internal tumult with the scariest story I can create. I do not feel good, so something must be wrong in my life.

Read more of my article at https://www.bphope.com/blog/bipolar-disorder-and-paranoia-understanding-the-horror-stories-we-create/.

 

Bipolar and PMDD

I’ve been reading a lot about PMDD a lot lately. It stands for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (sorry to all the guys reading this). Every month, when I get PMS, my bipolar gets out of hand. I begin to worry, to cycle, to feel terribly insecure, to get this fluttery feeling of anxiety in stomach, but most of all, I become suspicious and even a little paranoid. I know it’s the bipolar making me feel that way, but I still can’t help it. I hate the feelings of suspicion most of all. I begin to think that my husband is tricking me. I begin to think that my colleagues hate me. I worry about everything– money, love, my marriage, my work. I often also have trouble sleeping through the night, or I have nightmares, or I wake up in the middle of a cycle.

I have trouble going to work. I hate being alone. I am constantly scared.

But then I seem to have three weeks of euthymia (at least lately). My husband, my therapist, my mom, my doctor, they all remind me that it’s temporary and will go away after a few days. But I hate it.

But, spring is coming and I need to be prepared. I start a new job next week and I really want to make a great impression. I am hoping it is less stressful and that my much-shortened commute will decrease my stress, although I am taking a major pay  cut.

Withdrawals

Over the last year-and-a-half, I have slowly been tapering off of my medication cocktail. I had gotten up to maybe eight bipolar medications and now I’m down to about half that many. This process has worn me out, damaged my self-esteem, and almost wrecked me. I feel sorry sometimes for my husband, who comforted and loved his newlywed wife through the ups and downs and crazies of coming off the likes of Latuda and lithium.

It’s so easy to start a medication. The doctor just prescribes it, without thinking that you may have to get off it one day. As a result, I’m still on clonazepam, a benzodiapine, and, yes, I’m totally addicted.

Even though I’m getting older, I want to have a baby. It’s my only real regret in life– that I never had my own children. My young nieces have babies, and I am secretly envious– I am twice their age, and I’ve never given birth. I would be a very high-risk pregnancy, and I am worried about how my mental illness will react to not being on any medicine, but I am willing to try. The clock ticks away, but right now I am weaning off two more. I worry about weaning off of them and what it might do to me, but I am doing well so far.

My husband is wonderful. He takes care of me when I am ill. I try to make it up to him– although he says I don’t need to– by feeding him and providing for him in any way that I can. He puts up with the paranoia, my overwhelming fears, and the obsessive thoughts. He protects me when I have suicidal thoughts. He does have a limit though. He gets stressed out and short-tempered after a few weeks of cycling. I’ve learned that it takes about three weeks of withdrawal before it starts to affect him too. Even though it is sometimes hard, he loves me completely.

 

 

Still, 18 Years Later, Searching for a Diagnosis

I was diagnosed when I was 21 years old with bipolar, type 1. I had experienced the extremes of mania and depression and because of my short exposure to abnormal psychology in Psych 101 at Georgetown University, I already had a feeling what the doctor would say when she said, with self-assurance, “you are bipolar, type I.” In the months before my diagnosis, I had spent hundreds of dollars on gourmet cookies to distribute among my friends, another several hundred dollars on flower bouquets to give out, and hours of speeding north on the highways north of my house in Anchorage, Alaska.

The manias, or hypomanias, would crash into severe episodes of depression, when I would cut myself on my arms, or even put a gun in my mouth, crying and desperate, until I would collapse on the clothes in my closet, worn out and exhausted.

But now, I haven’t had a manic or hypomanic episode in almost three years. My current doctor now thinks I am bipolar, type 2. I have these agitated depressive episodes where I feel panicked and convinced that I am a horrible person. The “episodes” last about an hour or two and they are almost always triggered by my fear that I will harm my relationship with my husband, or that is something is wrong in that arena.

Are you diagnosed bipolar but have these strange agitated depressive episodes? It feels like my mind is racing but I do not have pressured speech or all the features of a mixed episode. My doctor seems to think I primarily have anxiety. But I know that I have been bipolar my whole life.

What does bipolar feel like for you? Mine is ultra, ultra-rapid, over the course of a few hours or day or two, but not like the “traditional” bipolar of up and down over months.

 

 

 

Fear and Avoidance

Of course. Anxiety is about fear. Fear that has no real cause. Fear of imaginary things– the what-ifs, the future possibilities, the bear that doesn’t exist but somehow stimulates that place in your brain that tells you to run or fight. I run and I fight. I’m not sure which is better, but sometimes I think I can’t live without doing both– all the time.

This blog is framed on complete and utter honesty. My skin will be transparent. You can see my heart pumping (too fast, the doctors say), my blood pressure in my veins (too high, they also say), my stomach full of the much-cliched butterflies, my feet cold and prickly. You can see it all.

My greatest fear is not death. It is not bankruptcy or becoming homeless. It is not even commitment to a psychiatric hospital. It is that I will lose my husband to bipolar. I love him more than anything, and because of this, I fear. My ex-husband told me he was leaving because of the bipolar (although that turned out not to be entirely true– he was a 40-year old man sleeping with a 19-year old girl). But those words wounded me, to the core.

I lost my first big love to bipolar when I was 25. His name was Dan. He dropped me off at a hospital when I was delusional and moved all my stuff out of his house.

I lost my first husband to something. I don’t know what it was. I still don’t.

Thus, my fear.

My husband loves me completely. He comforts me when I am cycling through a mixed episode or a panic attack. He takes care of me. He makes me cuddle with him when I can’t sit still, my hands gripping my head, tears leaking out. He settles the racing thoughts.

But the fear returns when I am away from him. When I see him again, I read his every move to see if he can’t take it any more. He sometimes realizes this. He sometimes doesn’t.

He wants to have a baby with me. We have gone through the withdrawal of several psychiatric medications, so that I can become healthier and closer to having a baby. I no longer take Latuda, or lithium. I still take the others, but we will work on that. Right now, I just need to be stable.

He thinks I’m wonderful. He thinks I’m beautiful and smart. He thinks I will publish my book. He thinks I am a great stepmom. I wish that I could really know those things about me, but the bipolar and anxiety tears them down.