‘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/.

 

Agitated Despair: Mixed Episodes and Bipolar Disorder

Agitated Despair: Mixed Episodes and Bipolar Disorder

A bipolar mixed episode is a uniquely confusing experience and can result in a state of extreme agitation and despair, but you can prevent this by recognizing early signs of a coming episode.

I sat at dusk, my arms around my knees, at the junction of a turbulent and muddy river and the slow, dark water of an ocean inlet. As I sat at the convergence of two vastly different and yet similar things, my mind, too, found itself at its own convergence. Somehow, two moods-vastly different and yet somehow similar-had merged into something terrifying, feverish, and inexplicably sad.

Hours earlier, when I was overflowing with love and grandiose dreams, I spent several hundred dollars on gourmet cookies and bouquets of roses and lilies to hand out to friends. Later, as day turned into evening, mania and depression blended together into the unique and startling pain of a bipolar mixed episode….

Read more at https://www.bphope.com/blog/agitated-despair-mixed-episodes-and-bipolar-disorder/

Bipolar Mania, Hypomania and the Desire to Escape

Bipolar Mania, Hypomania and the Desire to Escape
Knowing the early signs of mania, such as a desire to escape, can help to avoid it spiraling into planning elaborate getaways.The hallmark symptom of my coming mania is an overwhelming urge to escape.

For me, the lure of mania has often brought with it the lure of escape. At the beginning, when my mind first starts to quicken with the electric thrill of hypomania, I do not talk of escape. But, as my energy intensifies and a segment of my mind separates itself from the structure, logic, and rules of everyday existence, my plans for escape begin. As I lose the rhythm that usually governs a human life, sleep becomes unimportant, eating becomes unnecessary, and—my ultimate warning sign of an upcoming mania—the idea of escape takes over.

When I was first struggling with my bipolar diagnosis, the manic desire to escape often meant that I would try to go to France. I wanted to rock-climb the giant boulders of Fontainebleau. I wanted touch the gilded walls of Versailles. I wanted to sit under the Eiffel Tower in the moonlight. But, for many years now, escaping from reality usually means that I will try to find a way to run away into the wilderness.

Read more on bphope.com: https://www.bphope.com/blog/mania-hypomania-and-the-bipolar-desire-to-escape/

Setting the Rules for Your ‘Bipolar Calendar’ as the Seasons Change

Setting the Rules for Your ‘Bipolar Calendar’ as the Seasons Change

Every year, the returning sunlight marks the coming of my most dangerous season, and so begins my preparation for another bipolar spring.

I have my very own bipolar calendar. And it is nearly always the same. Every spring, like clockwork, the sun returns to southern Alaska with an unnecessary force, and with it comes the manic eruptions that signal the end of the comforting darkness of winter.

Read more at https://www.bphope.com/blog/learning-to-set-the-rules-for-your-bipolar-calendar-as-the-seasons-change/

 

The River I Flee to When My Mind Tries to Kill Me

The River I Flee to When My Mind Tries to Kill Me

During my depressive bipolar cycles, a river is what remains in my mind. Always. The sea, now that you can forget — the way the wind ruffles the surface or falls calm like a lake — but a river is what remains after my memory of it has seemingly passed, even after my imagination stops adorning it with riffles and dark wet holes and oxbow lakes. It lingers.

I am an Alaskan woman in love with a river. I love the muskeg along the banks of that river, the crooked black spruce that struggle for the sky but always fail, their bark wet with the effort, their limbs broken from the start by their own soggy roots. In Alaska, muskeg means a river is nearby. In the case of my very own river, the Delta Clearwater, it means it is flowing, slow and cold and spring-fed, somewhere beneath the tundra at my feet, and somewhere beneath where my grandparents built my family’s rickety old cabin….

A previous blog post of mine has been published on The Mighty. You can read more of it here: https://themighty.com/2018/01/suicidal-delta-clearwater-river-helps-me/

The Bipolar Trickster: Smiling in the Face of It

The Bipolar Trickster: Smiling in the Face of It

Do you ever trick people into thinking you are OK?

Individuals with bipolar disorder quickly learn how to become tricksters—because the truth is simply not polite.

I leaned to the left in the photograph, laughing as I held a puppy on the bow of a green riverboat. I was smiling my slightly crooked smile, and in the background—in a dark sky above black spruce trees—were two bright arcs of a double rainbow. A puppy, a smile, a rainbow—all three were the unmistakable symbols of pure and perfect happiness.

Little did the photographer, or anyone else, know that it was all a trick. Despite the props in that photograph, despite being surrounded by joy and backlit by rainbows, the sky was still dark.

Read the rest of my article at https://www.bphope.com/blog/the-bipolar-trickster-smiling-in-the-face-of-it/.