I doubt completely my ability to do anything well. It seems as though my mind has slowed down and burned out to the point of being virtually useless….[I am] haunt[ed]…with the total, the desperate hopelessness of it all… Others say, “It’s only temporary, it will pass, you will get over it,” but, of course, they haven’t any idea how I feel, although they are certain they do. If I can’t feel, move, think, or care, then what on earth is the point?
At first when I’m high, it’s tremendous…ideas are fast…like shooting stars you follow until brighter ones appear…all shyness disappears, the right words and gestures are suddenly there…uninteresting people, things, become intensely interesting. Sensuality is pervasive, the desire to seduce and be seduced is irresistible. Your marrow is infused with unbelievable feelings of ease, power, well-being, omnipotence, euphoria…you can do anything…but somewhere this changes.
The fast ideas become too fast and there are far too many…overwhelming confusion replaces clarity…you stop keeping up with it – memory goes. Infectious humour ceases to amuse. Your friends become frightened…everything now is against the grain…you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and trapped.
By recognising these various mood states early and obtaining effective treatment, the harmful consequences of Bipolar Disorder, which include destruction of personal relationships, loss of employment, and suicide can be avoided.
If only I could stay ‘up’
I was Queen of the World. I would drive to work each morning as if on ‘speed’, zooming along Basset Street, believing I could do anything, be anything. In my most extreme euphoria, I actually believed that no-one on earth could be as happy as me. I was simply bursting with happiness. Tears streamed from my eyes as I began each day. And I could hardly sleep at night as the joy for life, beating in on me, kept me from switching off.
During this period I survived on three or four hours of sleep every night. However, in the daytime this lack of sleep never showed in my appearance or presentation. My energy levels were up and people commented: ‘You look so well’ or ‘What are you on?’
I wasn’t ‘on’ anything and I had no idea what was happening to me. I only knew I was happy. I don’t understand what triggered my bipolar but my sense of satisfaction did skyrocket into RIDICULOUS HAPPINESS, and I never saw it coming. I just took off. For two years.
My brand of disorder seems to be an elevation of feelings rather than actions. I’m Leo (nora) di Caprio on the bow of the ship but (fortunately) I’m not going to jump or fly. My euphoria does not translate into mad exploits. I feel invincible but I don’t gamble my savings away, or stay up all night painting the house, or fly to Rio on an impulse. I’m just madly happy, soaring, cart-wheeling. The only management strategy I had to employ was to get sufficient sleep to restore my body.I was in my forties after all and was at risk of burning out physically.
Then came the FALL. From this great height, I came crashing down. I was no longer Leo. I was Alice, falling helplessly down a bottomless well. When I crashed, I really crashed. At first I became irritable and erratic in my moods – overreacting to small things. Tense and overwrought. But this period didn’t last long. Very soon I had sunk to the bottom of the well. There was a bottom and it wasn’t very pleasant there. This depression, in contrast to the euphoria of several years, was almost unbearable.
Many people have described their depression and I don’t need to add to their words here. In my misery I yearned for the euphoria . I longed to experience that elation again – and indeed still do. Sometimes I feel the source of my sadness is having known that elation and possibly never experiencing it again. And if I can’t experience that elation again, then at least I want to know that sense of ease again when I was ‘placid, even Kate’.*
I crashed downwards from my first, unrecognised ‘high’ to land hard in the unwelcoming lap of depression . ‘I’ve got you now,’ it said with venom, dragging me exhausted and fragile back to my GP. I felt hopeless. A referral to a psychiatrist resulted and so began a series of tests including a CT scan to check that the cause of my behaviour was not related to brain damage . Thankfully it wasn’t, but I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder soon after . This period was lonely and filled with uncertainty about all that was happening to me. I told a few family members about my experience but I didn’t feel it was something I could share more widely…*