- It rained on the flea market
but not down in the canyons
- Your graph paper is a scarf
- You keeping grabbing my hand
and helping me across the rocks
- Little by little we are crossing
When there’s smoke on the horizon,
billowing behind the naked trees,
what do you pray for and how?
What are the words you use?
It was so strange: Last night my
answer came before my prayer.
I felt it like a gust of wind and it
dusted me three shades lighter.
I see everyone in cyan like
the eastern hemlock conifers
that never lose their needles.
I peer through the branches
like I have the right to see
what’s on the other side,
like I am owed the texture
and details of the bark.
I know almost nothing
and I wish I was content.
The good things feel bad and
I’m too tired to know better.
A digital piece I created with my index finger using Apple iPhone’s state of the art notepad drawing tool.
Hello. It is Mood Disorder Girl and I’m here to tell you about mood disorders. Well, one of them, Bipolar Personality Disorder (BP-II), and our good buddy, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). We are all best friends forever. We go shopping together amongst other pal things. For instance, we have slumber parties all the time where we don’t sleep and convince each other to do pretty weird things.
Here is a metaphor for the relationship between me, BP-II, and OCD. Imagine your standard high school comedy film. I am the main character, Bipolar is the popular bully, and OCD is the spineless minion bystander who wants to help but is really just doing a horrendous job. They’re both awful friends, but you hang with them anyway to be cool and dramatic.
Bipolar–also known as manic depression–is a mood disorder in which you cycle back and forth between depression and mania. The diagnoses are broken down into Bipolar I and Bipolar II. The only difference between the two is that in II, which is what I have, you experience hypomania. Basically, quite a few notches down from full blown mania. Every manic symptom is less extreme. The depression can be, and often is, just as severe.
I think we, as a culture, are pretty well versed in depression. Sadness, lack of motivation, loss of interest in everything, hopelessness, intrusive thoughts (hi OCD), sometimes suicidal thoughts, etc. We know the drill, and most of us have experienced this at some point in our lives. When I’m depressed my symptoms can range from not wanting to do my laundry to being aight with getting hit by a truck, depending on the severity of the cycle. That’s crass, I know, but it’s reality for a lot of people and we should talk about it… maybe with a little dark humor?
I have spent a good chunk of my life in varying depths of depression. I’m honestly really skilled at it now. I know when it’s coming, I know when it’s here, and I know when it’s on its way out. I know the protocol for each of these phases. That being said, the nature of the disease makes helping myself nearly impossible sometimes. It’s not a party, let me tell you. And if it was, it would be the worst party ever.
And then there’s hypomania. THIS party you actually probably want to attend, at least at first glance.
If I were to sum up and boil down a conversation with hypomania it would look something like this.
Me: “Life is magical and the universe is perfectly aligned for our greatest good! I have a crush on everyone in the world! Let’s go dancing! I just bought a laptop!”
Hypomania: “YES. It’s 2AM. We should write two songs and then rearrange the book shelf!!”
When I’m hypomanic I am inspired by everything. Life is my muse. I don’t sleep because I have so many ideas I need to execute, and every idea feels brilliant. I talk about my epiphanies and discoveries, very fast and very loud, to anyone who will listen. I am very creative, writing music, poetry, or exploring a new artist outlet (like blogging lol). I exercise constantly. I’m productive. I’m romantic and flirty and extremely confident. I want to go out on the weekends because I just want to be around people and talk and laugh and dance.
Truthfully, this aspect of hypomania is amazing. Life is sparkling and vivid, and I feel electric. This is why bipolar people are so often misdiagnosed as straight up Depressive. Nobody goes to their therapist and says, “I am the happiest I’ve ever been. Please make it stop.”
Here’s the issue with that. A) Hypomania also comes with not so excellent symptoms like rapidly racing thoughts (hi OCD), spending way too much money, irritability, anger outbursts, extreme sensitivity to touch and sound, and the inevitable peak of feeling totally out of control which leads us to… B) The inevitable, guaranteed cycle back into depression.
A bipolar brain is a brain that is way too excited and active. This is why OCD comes into play so effortlessly. My psychiatrist told me she’s never known a Bipolar patient who didn’t also have OCD (and my psychologist was jealous that she thought of that first).
Obsessive compulsive thoughts are my only constant. In my depressive cycles my mind fixates on anything even remotely troubling and goes, “this is the most important thing in the whole world forever and always and I know it’s stupid but I am absolutely devastated by this and I’m going to keep thinking or talking about it for eternity.” Sometimes that carries over into my hypomanic cycles, but more often I’ll run over past social scenarios in my head over and over again to make sure I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, to try to figure out if people were annoyed with me, and to beat myself up for screwing up some script I had meticulously planned in my head. The obsession is any sort of emotional trigger. The compulsion is the incessant, ceaseless thinking or talking until I hear something specific that gives me a sense of relief. It’s… terrible. It’s really the worst.
The constant ups and downs are absolutely exhausting. They can be tempting, but stabilizing feels so much better. Stability is the nerdy fat friend you ditch at the beginning of the high school comedy for the cool, but really mean friends. Eventually you have a heartfelt reunion where you realize who was the MVP all along. You apologize for being sucked into the excitement of the drama. An 80’s pop song plays. Credits roll.
Hey, you made it all the way to the end of my hypomanic word vomit!! Thanks for sticking with me and making an effort to understand other people’s lives or maybe your own. We’re working together to normalize different mental experiences. Go team. Take care of each other and take care of yourself. 💚
I’m no stranger to oversharing on the Internet. But I’m more and more selective of what I share on social media nowadays. I thiiiink I want to talk about this. That may or may not be true in a week or something.
I’ve seen a lot of people talking and posting about mental health recently which is wonderful and inspiring. It’s really important to start this dialog. There’s a huge stigma surrounding the topic that comes from a lack of understanding, and it prevents people from seeking help if they’re not feeling right. The more we talk about it, the less uncomfy we become. The less uncomfy we are, the more wiggle room we have to acknowledge, heal, and grow. Plus, social media sucks for a lot of reasons but it is really nice for sharing important life changes with people who want to know, and even better for sharing doggo memes.
SO, I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, both of which I’ve suffered from for a long time. I just know their names now and know I’m not insane! Which is awesome! I am definitely writing this (at 2AM) and posting this for the world to see because I’m currently hypomanic! But that’s okay! More on that some other time maybe! I can’t sleep!
On a serious, honest, big girl note though, it is not all productive insomnia and inspired creativity. I’ve struggled immensely for years and it’s gotten really scary at many points. It has been quite honestly unbearable at certain points. There were several times where I actually thought I was losing my mind… Turns out I was just experiencing obsessive compulsive thoughts, but without knowing what was happening, it was uncontrollable and so powerful.
Bipolar and OCD go hand in hand. My psychiatrist told me that she’s never once had a Bipolar patient that didn’t also have OCD. I’ve lived with OCD since I was a young child and Bipolar the past five years or so (typical age of onset is in the 20’s-30’s), but I’d been assuming the way I functioned was more or less “normal”… even though I was totally miserable. Because I was misdiagnosed with Major Depressive/Generalized Anxiety disorders (still very valid and difficult) for many years I was treating only a part of the problem and wondering why I still felt so unstable. I just had no idea what I was dealing with.
These two disorders seem to have particularly big stigmas. People throw these words around all the time in conversation when they’re trying to express how they are or someone else is acting like a weirdo. “She’s soooo bipolar,” or “I’m totally OCD about this.” These disorders are misunderstood and also ridiculously overgeneralized. OCD isn’t confined to germ and balance obsessions/compulsions, nor is everyone living with it switching lights on and off. Bipolar isn’t instantaneous mood swings, screaming in rage one second and then laughing hysterically the next. It’s certainly not always (and not in my case) delusion and hallucination.
I was guilty of these types of actions and assumptions too. I didn’t seek to understand these disorders until they were my own. So I know there is no ill intention but this is just one more reason why education is key. It’s taking me a little while to settle in, to hear these terms and retrain my brain to believe that they are not synonymous with “nuts.” Not like, almonds. Like, crazy person. I’m working on not viewing my diagnoses as labels, but as tools for discovering more about myself, for learning how to live as wholly as possible.
Being properly diagnosed is just… really nice. I’m actually getting the help I need. I’m gaining skills to manage what I now know are my symptoms. The knowledge of these disorders has put all the confusing pieces of my life together in a way that finally makes sense. Just as important, my loved ones are better able to grasp why I function differently, sometimes confusingly, sometimes horribly. They’ve been through a lot. God bless those dudes. I do still feel like a lunatic sometimes. But I’m more and more stable every day, thanks to them and the other members of my Please Help Me Feel Better Team™️ (psychiatrist, psychologist, meds, supplements/vitamins, and pooches).
Blogs are sorta weird and feel a little self indulgent at times but I’ve promised myself to never be ashamed of this part of me. Talking about my experiences–to whoever wants to listen–feels like an important aspect of that. It helps me establish my identity with clarity and pride. Being an open book also makes it so much more approachable for others who don’t understand right away. Things don’t always have to be so serious and scary. There’s plenty of that already. Sometimes I just want a lil hug and a casual, curious convo. It makes me feel heard and seen when we can just talk about our experiences, human to human. I hope others feel like I’ve listened to them, as well.
Most importantly, being vulnerable is helpful to others because it allows them to do the same. You don’t get anywhere worth anything with a closed heart. My hope is that if you’re reading this, you’re inspired to tell your own story in your own way, and are reminded to check up on yourself and your loved ones. If you’re struggling, know that there are ways to heal and they’re within your reach. Ask for help. If you don’t know where to start my door is always open. You can message me anywhere any time and I would be so happy that you reached out.
Mental illness isn’t shameful. We can’t control the brain we were born with. All we can do is learn how to become friends with it. You are believed and loved. Take care of each other and take care of yourself. 💚
Some people will love you like an unripened plum.
You’ll taste them and your lips will pucker.
Some people were grown on shaded trees,
were plucked too soon.
But you come from rich soil.
Your roots were nourished, your branches patient.
Your sweetness doesn’t make you better than,
it simply makes you lucky.
So find your kindest self
and untwist your distorted face.
Give them your rain.
They will soften
and sweeten in your hands.
I crammed myself between six friends, all sleepily perched on barstools. Three beers served from the cask rose like sea foam in their glasses. Two gin and tonics drowned napkins in sweat. One warm hand wrapped itself around an Old Fashioned, and there we sat, sipping slowly with glazed, lazy, midnight eyes.
Find the people you can sit beside in silence. Do so often. Save your stories for another night. Love isn’t measured in word count. In fact, I find it is often most alive in quietness.
So instead of talking I notice the tea light candles and the faces lit up by them. I breathe in the stale air of the bar in my soft spot town. I write down the skeleton of this dimly lit memory because these are the people, the places, and the moments I’ll bring with me to God and say, “this is what I miss the most.”