I’ve debated whether or not to write more about topic since my previous post. I’ve written fairly extensively about previous depression and that, along with finding ways to avoid having to write content related to the site, this seemed an easy way. I want to talk about my bipolar recovery process.
Note: I want to make it very clear that everything I’m going to talk about is meant to be descriptive NOT prescriptive. This is simply a look at some of what happened to me, what’s happening now, etc. So don’t read anything I’m writing as a recommendation for self-treatment or anything like that. This is only about me.
The Hypomanic Episode
The one topic I’m actually not going to detail is the original hypomanic episode, primarily because some of the aftermath from it is still ongoing and I do not feel the need to talk details. It’s also just not that relevant. Just accept that, lasting from about May of last year until roughly the middle of November, I lost control completely.
I got involved in some crazy things, did some very stupid things, wasted an appalling amount of money (generating quite a bit of debt), ran on little to no sleep and lashed out at pretty much everyone around me including people very close to me. In short, it was a classic hypomanic episode (true mania often includes hallucinations and folks getting institutionalized).
And it all came crashing down in about the third week of November. I went from hypomania to crushing depression basically overnight. Apparently there is some theory that the hypomanic brain sort of crashes out, whatever is going on just runs the well dry and then you crash.
So while the ramp up to hypomania is often fairly gradual (making it difficult to see it), the crash into depression usually isn’t for me. One day you’re flying, the next day you can’t get out of bed.
Phase I of My Personal Depression
And when I say crash, I’m not joking. I went from being out of mind, getting little sleep, productive, energetic, thinking that NOTHING could go wrong to what I call Phase I of my cycle. It’s crushing depression marked by a desire to sleep pretty much all the time.
Thankfully, I’ve never personally been suicidal although I’ve experienced what I “call passive suicide”. You don’t want to die but you don’t particularly care if you live if that makes sense.
So I’d sleep my normal hours, wake up to deal with the dogs at 8am and go right back to bed at 9am until noon or worse. Sleep is all you want to do, presumably the exhaustion of the previous months, including too little sleep and too much activity just catch up with you for some physiological reason (hand wave: neurochemical depletion/adaptation, sleep debt, etc.)
All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and hide. This was not facilitated by there being an enormous aftermath of what had happened that I didn’t want to deal with. And I’d have minor anxiety/panic attacks every time my phone rang, or my text warble hit. I couldn’t deal with any of it; I’d avoid the phone, emails, texts. I just wanted to hide.
Part of this, of course, was dealing with what my future counselor/therapist would refer to as GSR. Guilt, shame, regret. Over what had happened, a combination for me of asking myself how I let it happen combined with beating myself up over it. Guilt, shame, regret. Oh yeah. In spades.
I did have stuff I needed to deal with and it took every ounce of energy I had to accomplish any of it (much of it was giving me further anxiety problems for reasons related to the details I won’t provide). I’ve described this as walking through molasses and that’s the best way I have to describe it. It’s even more than that, you just can’t face anything.
Mind you, you end up beating yourself up even more for your complete inability to face anything so you enter this horrible cycle of avoiding all of your responsibilities and then feeling even worse for having done so.
My eating at this time was still off the rails, just horrible. When I ramp up into hypomania I usually quit caring about my eating habits. So it’s a lot of junk (the circumstances of what was going on did not help).
And that continued; for some people, crushing depression is marked by not eating (because they don’t have the energy) but others go off the rails with food (usually carb intake). I’m in the latter group, when I did eat it was self-medicating with carbs (I can eat 6 bagels and more in a sitting and not blink suggesting that my future is in IFOCE) and crap. I hadn’t trained in months and my normally good supplement schedule (fish oils, Vitamin D, a handful of other basics) was completely gone.
This probably lasted a solid 2-3 weeks before I started to come at least a little bit out of it and started to enter my personal Phase II.
Phase II of My Personal Depression
For me, I will eventually crawl out of Phase I crushing depression and enter my own Phase II. Here you can sort of function although it takes a lot of effort. I still had a lot of things going on with the aftermath of the previous phase but I was at least getting to where I could face *some* of them at least some of the time. It wasn’t easy but you can do a little bit.
At this point my sleep patterns had switched but almost in a worse way. Now instead of wanting to sleep 16 hours/day, I was sleeping horribly. My nighttime sleep seemed to be interrupted by an urge to pee every few minutes so it was not very restful. Even during the day when I would try to take a nap, I’d rarely sleep.
I was exhausted but not tired enough to really sleep. Yes, I tried melatonin and magnesium and Benadryl but nothing was working. Theanine has never done anything for me and I’m not enough of a drug taker to go down the route of stronger stuff like Ambien.
I still wasn’t training, I think I got to the gym once at this point and my eating was still off the rails. Another contribution to my overall horrid feeling about myself (given my history of training, etc.) Still a lot of guilt, shame regret, wondering how I was going to fix this, my financial situation, my future. Fun times.
I was entering that phase again (which I have previously talked about) of thinking that I was no good at my field, that it had left me behind, that I was done and needed to go look for a new career. Which at 44 with seemingly few life skills other than being a jackass on the Internet, seemed impossible. Coupled with the financial situation I had put myself in, I felt pretty damn overwhelmed.
Home Again, Home Again
Now, I had reached out to my family right before everything imploded and my mother wanted me to come home earlier than usual in December since I at least had familial support back in Nashville.
I could get stable, get diagnosed/medicated/into therapy, etc. Not bad advice since, left to my own devices in Austin, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I have a pretty solitary life in Austin, my few friends are insanely busy and it leaves me without a lot of accountability.
Mind you I didn’t really want to be back home, Nashville carries some weird baggage for me since I grew up there and the idea of being home for a month or longer was overwhelming. Usually my limits are about 4 days before I need to get back to Austin and my normal life pattern (such as it is).
But it kind of had to be done this time. I’d wrap up a few things in Austin (taking everything I might need to continue dealing with aftermath stuff), put in some mail forwards and it was me and the dogs on a 14 hour drive back home.
My mom had found The Nashville Center for Hope and Healing (which more or less specializes in bipolar) through the Depression and Bipolar Alliance support group meeting and, having seen the runaround some have gotten, I’m not sure I could have gotten luckier. They were able to get me in quickly (some mental health professionals have months long waiting lists) and just turned out to be amazing.
Why Didn’t I Do This Sooner?
A question folks may be wondering is why I didn’t deal with this issue sooner. And there a a few reasons. One of them is that hypomania is, frankly, AWESOME. It’s so much fun. It’s why a lot of folks with Bipolar II (remember, the light version) don’t seek treatment (Bipolar I often end up institutionalized which changes things). You don’t want to lose what is kind of the absolutely best ride of your life.
But the bigger reason is something I refer to as the umbrella (or windshield wiper) problem. Which I use to refer to the following situation: you usually only think about buying an umbrella (or new wipers) when it’s raining out and you don’t have them. But when it’s sunny, you don’t ever think about buying them (Why do I need an umbrella?). So you end up never buying them.
When I’m hypomanic I don’t want treatment, it’s awesome. I would note that this time wasn’t quite as awesome. it was basically stressful and anxiety producing and I never really had that much fun. Add to that that the aftermath of previous episodes had never been quite as catastrophic as what happened in 2014. Anyhow, hypomania is usually pretty awesome, why would you seek treatment?
But when you’re depressed, you kind of think that you should deal with it but, honestly, you rarely have the energy. By the time you come out of the depression into some normalcy, you feel fine so why go to treatment? And then you’re on your way to hypomania again. Which is pretty awesome.
And the end result is that you never actually deal with the issue. The only time you think about fixing it is a time when you can barely function and when you get out of that phase you feel fine or better and see no reason to address it.
But this was a situation where, having seen the aftermath, I was absolutely determined to never let it happen again. Depression or not, I was getting treatment and dealing with this one way or another.
And that’s where I’ll pick up next week. The start and continuation of my treatment.
As usual, no comments on this piece. I don’t need the trolling.