I wrote this yesterday in a high hypomanic state. I left it for a day to see if it would still make sense when my mood wasn’t so elevated. With a lot of spelling and grammar corrections, it seems to be pretty good to me.
Most people who use the word bipolar as a slur are trying to say that someone’s moods are switching too fast. But, using is that way is a slur. It might be a way of describing that someone can’t make up their mind. It may suggest that a person acts one way in a certain situation and another way in a different situation. Or it may suggest that a person seems happy one moment and not so much the next moment. But, bipolar is a very real, very serious mental health diagnosis that causes constant suffering for most of the afflicted.
Since my diagnosis, I have noticed this slur more often. It’s probably the same thing that pregnant women go through when suddenly it seems like every woman they see is pregnant. I see this on Facebook, I hear it in conversation. Last year, I heard a NASCAR driver refer to another driver as bipolar because the first driver was angry with the second driver. The weather is NOT bipolar. It does what it does because of the jet stream and other factors.
There are a lot of different ways people experience bipolar. But, I’m only going to deal with depression and hypomania right now, because that’s what I’m experiencing.
Today I’m in a high hypomanic state, so I have a lot of energy. However, that energy is unfocused, and as much as I try to bend it to my will, I always fail. My brain is running so fast that I can’t even keep up. I can say that there is a rapidly running list of all the things that I wish to accomplish, various song snippets and oddly enough single words punctuate the din. Today, that word is Mog. It’s from a book that I’m reading, or trying to anyway. So, my list runs through my brain, song snippets punch their way through and every so often I hear “Mog”. It’s a very odd sensation to have all of this going through my brain all at the same time. It’s like a tornado. I hear the roar of all the thoughts swirling around constantly, never stopping. Occasionally one of the song snippets, or words or things I want to do pop out of the noise, only to be immediately sucked back in. I can’t grab onto anything for more the a millisecond and it’s gone again.
But that’s today.
But I want to talk about the slur. Ultradian cycling is where I believe that the slur “bipolar” comes from. Ultradian cycling, or ultra-ultra rapid cycling is when the hypomanic state I described above switches back and forth with depression up to several times in one day. I have experienced this state for 3 days in a row this week. At one point, I was actually experiencing hypomania and depression at the same time. So I had a lot of energy, but my mood was very low and I didn’t want to do anything. But the hypomania tried to override the depression with its energy and need to move move move. That is a hard way to spend the day.
Experiencing ultradian cycling, well, there’s no way that I could describe it that makes any sense. The level of noise in my head doesn’t stop. But, one minute I can barely get off the couch no matter how much I want to, and 15 minutes later I’m agitated, and energized, but unfocused and useless. This type of existence is so difficult. Imagine having your brain never be quiet. Imagine having more energy then you have on a regular day, but being unable to focus it. If someone has the misfortune to start to talk to you, they will find a never-ending stream of things that you feel you must talk about right now. But, you don’t make a lot of sense, because you’re too unfocused and you bounce from subject to subject. Tasks are left half done because the level of concentration needed to finish one thing before moving on to the next just isn’t there. And then, mid-task, the energy just dissipates. Your body becomes sore for no reason that you can figure. But, it’s the depression. The depression makes your body hurt, although it does nothing for the raging tornado of thoughts in your head. But, now, you must sit. You can’t talk to anyone without great effort, because with depression, and hypomania, come anxiety. The sound of other voices grate on your nerves. The realization that you are getting nothing done grates on your nerves. Then the guilt starts to creep in. You’re being useless, but you just can’t move. Or if you can move, it takes every last bit of energy you have to do so. You plaster a smile on your face, because you should. You don’t want your family to worry. You try to engage in conversation if you absolutely have to, but you don’t want to. It takes so much energy to hold a conversation. Never in your life you would have felt that a conversation would take so much energy. But, it doesn’t matter, because you’re bouncing back to hypomania now and the energy starts to flow.
Living like this is hard. Living like this is harder than I ever could have imagined. I never in my wildest dreams thought that it could take so much energy to just exist. To just have a nice conversation. To go to a fair with my family. To go grocery shopping. To pick up my prescriptions. None of these things are hard for a normal person, but depression makes them almost impossible.
I’m prone to these ultradian cycles. It happens a couple of times a year at least.
This is a short bit of what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder and especially ultradian cycling. I ask only that before you allow the words “S(he)’s so bipolar, that you consider what it’s actually like to live with bipolar. You are not hurting the person you are calling bipolar, but you are hurting the people like me who struggle every single day just to make it through.