Bi-polarized Perceptions Part 3: Rapid Cycling

A follow up to part 2¬†of “Bi-polarized Perceptions.” I remember especially right before my first break, after a manic episode had been revving up for 5 months and I was running on 2 hours a sleep per night for months, I experienced rapid changes in my perceptions of things. For 15 seconds, I felt like I was on top of the world, ready to change it, and then for 15 seconds all I could think about was cutting myself or worse, just to get rid of this unbearable pain.

My moods flipped back and forth rapidly: 2, 3, 4 times per minute: really manic, really depressed, really manic, really depressed. I forced myself to keep going. Often, talking to people such as the chaplain in my school helped me out and set my mood back up for a little while, before it crashed again. Still, it was some relief.

Along with my moods about things in general, specific things were stolen away with my mood shifts wherever they went. I’d love my mom, hate my mom, really love my mom, really hate my mom. I’d sense demons were there to overpower me, angels come and relieve me of my battle, then the demons would come back after the angels left, and so on.

I could make it through this calculus class, there’s no way I can do this class right now, I’ll finish my homework in about 5 minutes for calculus, I don’t understand anything that’s going on right now. Colors would become incredibly vibrant, then fade into almost gray tones; food became an amazing, delectable treat, then a cupcake tasted like cardboard after I chewed on it for a bit, and my mood plummeted again.

This phenomenon is called “rapid cycling” bipolar, and it’s a nightmare. I lost my reference points pretty quickly when I experienced it. Soon afterwards, around Christmas 2003, a family Christmas vacation made me snap when I couldn’t sleep for about 4 days straight. Mind you, I was not on medication nor was I diagnosed at the time.

Future parts may follow to “Bi-polarized Perceptions.”

Knowing my Bipolar

A big part of recovery was getting to know my bipolar.

Part of it is learning about bipolar in general, part of it learning about my specific diagnosis (Bipolar I). The more I educate myself, the better I am equipped for doing other important things in my treatment and recovery process. A cheap way to find resources is at your public library for the cost of a library card. Also, therapists often have books to recommend, or even handouts to give. Be careful about the internet, as always.

So, why get to know my bipolar diagnosis and what it is? Without it, I’m lacking the reference point I need to know what bipolar is and what normal is. One necessary skill that require a knowledge of bipolar is monitoring my moods so I can anticipate a mood swing. Then, I can do something early before it happens.

Since I have bipolar, I must always keep my mind in check. I need to monitor it. When I have friends or family who are also educated about bipolar, it helps them help me as well. Noticing unusual thoughts, decisions, and behaviors is a sign things aren’t normal. I value their insights and that helps me manage my bipolar.

Eventually, monitoring my moods has become second nature to me. There’s a certain euphoric, wired feeling that can emerge, and when it does, I immediately suspect mania approaching. At that point, I have a plan of action, one of which is to make sure I take a sleep aid and get plenty of sleep.

When I’m aware I’m starting to get manic, I can do something about it. Knowing what to do comes with time and experience, trial and error. I always call my doctor if after two to three days it doesn’t go away, or if it starts getting worse. Knowing when to call your doctor is an important discernment (good taste and judgment) to have.

An excellent tool for monitoring whether or not your manic or depressed, or both, is the Goldberg Depression Scale (And Mania Scale).

The Goldberg Depression Scale can be found online:

http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=973&cn=5

The Mania Scale here:

http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=975&cn=4

Each one has a set of questions with answers that add a certain number of points to your score. Just read the question and go with your gut answer if you can – try not to think about it too much.

I took those tests every week or two for a while after I was diagnosed to monitor what my mood was, and wrote down my emotions, thoughts, and feelings were. Over time, looking back on all those entries, I could start to connect the dots and create a list of my symptoms of my moods. I could also figure out what external things might cause shifts. I learned my chemistry shifts cannot be controlled, and they happen sometimes and trigger a mood swing.

I do say, though, the medications made this process extremely hard, as it made my thinking very sluggish, dark, cloudy, and sticky!

My biggest trigger for mania is irresponsible sleep cycles. Even if I get enough sleep, if I don’t do it on a consistent time, it can really mess me up badly. I always have to work towards good sleep.

All this being said, bipolar is an irreducibly complex problem that takes a long time to manage. Meds, relationships around you, living situations, job, school, eating well, exercise, friendships made and lost, or trying to start something new, finding a good doctor, a good therapist, knowing who I am and what my bipolar is, and even more impossible: learning how me and my bipolar interact, learning to separate them and make bipolar be a small piece of who I am…. IT’S BEEN A CONFUSING JOURNEY!

But I’m in the light for the most part.

If you’re bipolar, or especially just diagnosed recently, my heart goes out to you.

I always welcome comments and suggestions, especially requests, so please drop me a line any time.