About five years ago, I was diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) and Depression. I left my nursing job to go ‘get well.’ I was being treated with Estrogen and Progesterone for the POF, and with Celexa then Cipralex for the depression. Over the course of about 10 months, I started to improve. Then I got even better. Then I got really good…too good…out of control good. I had flipped into a floridly psychotic mania, needed hospitalization, and was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder Type 1.
The journey from being able to manage to mania took about two weeks, slowly building, becoming more and more unhinged. I became a deity and felt I could bring back the dead, control the weather, and I could usher in the second coming by singing hymns. My religious fervor was intense. When I told my husband, I could raise the dead, I went about it very scientifically. I said I was conducting an experiment and placed a dried seahorse into a jar of water then set it in the sun. This is all I believed I needed to do to revive the seahorse. My husband humored me at the time, knowing this belief was coming from an actual experience I’d had as a child where I found a dried frog, placed it in the water out in the sun, and the next day it was alive. I now understand that this can happen with amphibians, but it’s not a universal law.
When I was manic I believed it was. While my husband knew about the seahorse, he didn’t know about the 3 other jars I’d hidden on the other side of the house. One had a dead bird in it. I know, gross. I see that…now.
But then it made perfect sense. I wrote a Facebook post calling for the flooding of all graveyards so the dead could rise. I professed that we all would know how to deal with the resultant zombies from all the zombie movies out there. The one’s where you train and teach the zombies. Clearly, my thinking had been compromised.
I developed a keen interest in numerology, and name meanings, setting out to find the meaning of the names of everyone close to me. Symbolism was poignant to me and I was drawing connections from everywhere, especially where none existed. I suddenly understood concepts which had been vague to me before, like relational truth, and I was talking a mile a minute about both nothing, and everything. I had boundless energy and didn’t need to sleep. If I did lie down, I would have lucid dreams. I started to power walk barefoot on gravel at 6am. I had a hysterical pregnancy. I was 100% sure I was pregnant with not one, but many babies. When I was in the hospital, I was having morning sickness every day. The other patients were in on it with me, touching my belly, wondering if it would be a boy or a girl. Sometimes we supported one another’s delusions without even knowing it.
I was suddenly able to play the piano again, remembering pieces I hadn’t played for years, and playing songs by ear at the request of the other patients which I’d never played before. The psychiatric ward was filled with songs.
I believed my niece was the Messiah and must be protected at all cost as she would be saving the world shortly. I thought my brother and his partner had won a Taylor Swift contest where she comes to your house to pick you up and takes you to the airport. You and your family then board one of Richard Branson’s planes and are whisked off to Atlantis! Imagine my niece’s disappointment when she found out Taylor Swift wasn’t actually coming.
I thought my initials stood for Moving Mountains, and that I was destined to form the Moving Mountains Foundation for Healing and Change. I think I might have been on to something. Here’s what I wrote:
“It’s just that you’ve got to remember that some mountains are exceptionally large and BTW THEY’RE MOUNTAINS!!! Even a small one would take some work to move! But they can be moved. And sometimes there is a miraculous moving, a convergence of circumstances, an impressive correlation, or an outright unexplainable phenomenon. But mostly those mountains are heavy and may take some serious concerted efforts, repeated efforts, and lengthy consistency of efforts and then the mountain may shift, and budge, and loosen, and eventually move enough to see past. Often the glimpse of what is beyond that mountain can inspire further movement.”
I believed Facebook was created to find ME! I messaged Mark Zuckerburg to tell him that they’d found me! He never wrote back.
Above all, during this mania, I was in a state of euphoric bliss and loved everyone and everything more than I ever believed possible. This love for all was also quite sexual and I began to believe many male friends of mine were coming to perform a sexual healing ceremony with me. To me, this seemed like the most beautiful gift.
When I was in the hospital, fueled by the hypersexual and delusional state of mind I was in, I had a sexual encounter with an elderly fellow who I’d just met. It shouldn’t have happened because I was in the hospital and should have been under supervision. But it did. And though I do wish it didn’t, I don’t beat myself up over this on any level. I understand that I was in an altered state, and was not myself. This is scary and comforting at the same time. There’s more like I spent a lot of money too, but I have to leave room for depression.
Because after the high comes the low. In the hospital, I was put on Valproate and I slowly started to come down. Mania subsided, hypomania lingered pleasantly for a while, then a slow descend into a deep dark pit. It is this pit that I have been battling for the past four years. I’ve only had the one mania that I know of, but depression to varying degrees is where I spend most of my time. Currently, I’m said to be in partial remission. Translation: you’re a little less depressed than you were before. Over the years, I’ve tried many medications, but none have seemed to really lift the depression. Now I’m on Abilify, Welbutrin, and Lithium. Is this the magic combo for me? I don’t know for sure yet, but I don’t think so. If it’s not I’ll keep looking, I’ll try again, I’ll try something else. Why? A friend of mine recently said to me ‘Don’t give up on achieving wholeness,’ and I won’t. But it is hard work. I read recently that Bipolar depression is twice as hard to treat as Unipolar depression. In my experience, I’ve found this to be true.
The contrast between being in the bliss of mania, and being in the depths of depressive despair is beyond stark. A few weeks before I was the most confident, self-assured individual alive, now I was filled with self-doubt, self-loathing, guilt, worry, and anxiety. In some ways, it makes the loss feel greater, the grief feels deeper. Because, it’s not just that you’re in a depression, it’s that you’ve also just lost nirvana. There is a period of mourning. After a long time, it subsides but can reoccur like some kind of specter following mania nostalgia. I don’t like talking about depression, it’s depressing. Mania is more interesting. I miss it in ways, but I never want to completely lose my marbles like that again! If it happens, it happens, but I’d rather not. So I’m med compliant in hopes that it helps me maintain enough stability to stay (relatively) sane.
I’ve been on disability for 5 years but am working toward going back to school right now. I’m bored a lot of the time and struggle with the lack of motivation or desire to do anything. But, hey, I’m here, writing this, and I have to say it has been a pretty good day.
I’m not the best at self-care, but I’m a work in progress. I do like to walk. Walking is medicine. The Sunshine is medicine too. I feel much worse in the winters. I’ve tried to use a sun lamp but it gave me insomnia. Insomnia is a problem as it is, whether I’m depressed or manic… insomnia is there. I do go through periods of sleeping through the night, those are wonderful! But often I lie in bed staring at the ceiling contemplating the point of living, amongst other things. But I’m smiling more lately, and I’m even laughing once in a while!
I’m not healed, but I’m living life. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying. I’m me, and that’s enough.
NOTE: When I started to become manic, I flew under my husband’s radar until I was completely psychotic. I had previously been depressed for so long that he was so happy to see me finally happy. He was just enjoying it. He didn’t realize I was going off the deep end until friends started to call and express concern about things I had been posting on Facebook. I’m grateful for their calls. It’s hard to see when change is gradual, but be aware of personality changes in loved ones. Mania starts subtly. If you have or know someone with Bipolar Disorder, educate yourself and talk about it. Understanding is born of education and communication.
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