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.

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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.