The title of this post is my favorite “tagline” for when I make mistakes or do something which my mental illness has had a strong influence in. I say it in a variety of voices, and hear it in my head in a high-pitched, childlike tone similar to the character Columbine’s voice (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show). I can’t quite reach that tone of voice or inflection all the time, though I’ve known it to make me laugh—sometimes bitterly, sometimes with true amusement, and occasionally with a kind of grimness reflective of my determination to make it through the “ride” which Bipolar Disorder is.
I’ve probably been mildly bipolar most of my life, possibly even beginning in childhood. In my adolescence, I experienced periods of debilitating depression which, were it not for my mother, would have induced me to hole up in my room and hide from the world whenever possible. The one thing I will be eternally grateful for my mother for is forcing me to join a local Star Trek club when I was about fifteen or sixteen. It was one of the few things which gave me enough hope to endure a period of my life which I largely viewed from the bottom of a pit.
For me, the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder have always been the most traumatic. Not being a very social person to begin with only exacerbates this condition. Unmedicated Bipolar Disorder, for me, is so far from even the jokey reference to fun in my “tagline” that I’m driven into a state where I simply do not function beyond eating and using the toilet. I don’t bathe, I don’t get dressed, I don’t read, or watch movies, or get on the computer, or write. I lay in bed with the covers over my head, make periodic forays to the bathroom for the toilet, and eat a little once or twice a day. I do not function.
I have brief (extremely so) periods of hypomania when I’m unmedicated. Not quite as severe as true full-blown mania, they nevertheless have me venturing from bed. I get out, do things, participate in activities, hang out with what friends I may have. These don’t last. Invariably, I slide back into nonfunctionality and return to bed.
And I’m Mixed-State, which makes things more interesting. Unmedicated, my long periods of depression are periodically pierced by the manic symptoms of overspending, overextending myself (with favors or promised activities—which never actually ever get done), or unobtainable goals. If I’m forced to socialize at all during such a depressive phase, the “mix” of the hypomania makes me babble uncontrollably, and usually with extreme cheer and a bubbly personality which grates on others’ nerves. If I get to spend most of my time in bed, my mixed state treats me to my own personal auditory hallucinations of people murmuring unintelligibly.
In some ways, the Medicated Ashe is a vastly different person. In other ways, Medicated Ashe is just the same as Unmedicated Ashe.
I’ve been stable—on some sort of medication for Bipolar Disorder—since about 2006-2007. I’m not exactly sure, but I think that’s about right. Things from the period when I was properly diagnosed—and before—are kind of a smear at this point. I suspect it’s a side effect of bipolar disorder. I have some extremely clear memories of my life before my slide into insanity, but most of my mental illness up until I got stabilized is a jumbled blur. I remember things out of order, or not at all, or partially—and never with any kind of attachment to a season, much less time or date. The clearest memory from my mental illness is when I went for my initial evaluation with the VA. It was winter. I got off the commuter light rail, crossed to the correct sidewalk, thought I’d never find my way to the hospital with the directions I had with me, and screamed and whapped the nearest light pole with my cane, which I was at the time using ’cause my knees were extremely faulty. I still have that cane; it’s got this nice, gentle bend in it from when I abused the light pole, which survives to this day with no discernible damage to its shape or paint job.
But Medicated, I get out of bed every day, even when I don’t feel like it. I get dressed—a requirement, because if I hang about, even at home, in sweats or other clothing I’ve mentally relegated to the designation of “sleepwear,” I don’t do anything except lay around my apartment in a down mood with a head which won’t connect thoughts; dressing is an incredible mental/emotional boost for me, so I usually wear jeans and a tee, complete with shoes, unless I’m so sick and cold I’m bundled in bed dosed with the strongest OTC cold medication I can find anyway. Medicated, I write, and I get lots of fun ideas for my stories. I clean house. I keep up with hygiene. I read and look forward to going out with friends and hang out online with my e-friends who are scattered all over the world.
And then there are the “Fun” moments, usually driven by the hypomania. It’s even more “Fun” when I’m interacting on the same level with another bipolar person.
For instance, there was the time an online friend and I were discussing our living situations and how we wished we could improve them. Within three hours, we’d found apartments in my city where we could move as roommates, determined how much it would cost for my friend to drive cross-country with their furniture, and were making relatively firm plans to go with this plan. We were on this quest for a few days, emailing various landlords with requests for info regarding the places we were considering moving to (one, I remember, was a house with the fridge in the living room). I forget the mechanism which gave us the much-needed reality check, but we abruptly abandoned these plans with much resignation to our current living situations.
This is the kind of thing I mean when I say I go “bipolar” about something. And what I mean when I jokily say “Bipolar Disorder Is Fun!”
And I don’t need to be interacting with another bipolar person when I have a bipolar “moment” like this. One of Bipolar Disorder’s manic symptoms is overspending—I mentioned this before. It is incredibly easy for me to convince myself I need something so well I buy it right then. The bipolar friend I mentioned previously, and one who lives local to me part of the year both say they have this symptom. And it can become quite pronounced. I once had a general-use credit card with a limit upwards of several hundred dollars. I maxed that sucker out over a period of two or three months, convinced I had to have each and every item I used that card to purchase . . . and I have almost nothing to show for it. It takes a lot of effort for me to control my spending, and involves me making a budget each month, sending a savings fund to an account I can’t access easily or receive money from quickly, and, occasionally, overspending my “local” funds to the point of scraping by on my “backup food” of canned and frozen goods.
And this is the controlled version of Bipolar Disorder. When I’m unmedicated, I don’t keep a savings account. I don’t even do monthly budgets. I have barely enough for end-of-the-month bills, and certainly not enough money for fresh groceries most of the month, because my budget for those drops to about $25.00 a week—if I’m lucky. If I’m not? I hit food banks, which is a laborious process to undergo from where I now live, which is anywhere from one to three miles away from where most of the local ones are.
And, the most “Fun” aspect of Bipolar Disorder is, for me, the writing swings. I’m in a manic writing swing right now, winging a (ugh) gay romance I’d rather not be working on at all. I’d far rather be writing on my Chraesti or Hatuni stories. My subconscious is throwing gay romance scenes at me instead, and I can’t even make thoughts connect from the plot cards for my Chraesti and Hatuni stories. It just won’t happen. But I relax a little, and I have lots of ideas for my gay romances. I’m reluctantly going along with it with hope I’ll segue to what I’d rather be writing or, if not that, at least another writing downswing. Yes, I’d take another downswing in favor of the gay romance writing. Any day.
So, that’s my little snapshot of my Mixed-State Bipolar Disorder. It doesn’t seem very severe to me, but I imagine another bipolar person reading this will finish it and think mine’s worse than theirs. (I personally think my two mentioned bipolar friends’ conditions are worse than mine, but can’t go into much detail about theirs aside from saying, when looking at theirs from what they’ve told me—neither Mixed-State like I am—I’m rather glad I have Mixed-State Bipolar Disorder.)