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I am a 29 year old woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 and also suffer from general anxiety and panic attacks. I have only been recently diagnosed but have been ill since I was a teenager. I tend to have mixed-manic episodes, hence the name of my blog. I am a regular guest blogger for Black Dog Tribe. I am not a mental health professional. I am just writing from my own experiences with mental illness. If you wish to use any of my blog content please contact me at lababup@gmail.com. Visit me on twitter @lababup

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Stress triggers bizarre episodes

I have not been feeling very well for the past few weeks. I was mainly depressed but in a very agitated way. I felt all the feelings of despair, hopelessness and emptiness but I didn’t feel all lethargic and slowed down. Instead I felt agitated, anxious and wired up. But my mood all changed again a few days ago.

As I am on a break from university due to my health, I thought I had better add some structure to my day. Besides, I needed to do something that I felt was worthwhile. My self-esteem is pretty low right now and I needed a boost. So I joined a creative writing class. Big mistake. I had hoped that the class would mainly be a taught one. I expected to have to write a story for homework each week to be marked. Perhaps some volunteers would read their work to the class if they wished. However, the class wasn’t like that at all. We were asked to write something on the spot and then read it out. I was so nervous and could barely think straight enough to write anything down. I managed to come up with something that made people laugh but I felt so utterly exposed that I felt devastated. My legs wouldn’t stop shaking throughout the rest of the class. I kept trying to move them in to different positions so they would stop moving but they wouldn’t. I could barely breathe for two hours.

I found out that in the other weeks there would be more of these exercises and that everyone would have to have their homework read out to the class to be critiqued. My worst nightmare.  All those people staring at you and judging you on something you had put your heart in to creating. I left the class feeling absolutely shattered and emotionally frail. I didn’t talk to my husband on the way home. My brain was all over the place. However, when we got back a strange thing happened: I started to go manic.

I know that, like depressive episodes, manic episodes can be triggered by stress. However, it still seems like a really strange thing to happen. How can you go from feeling incredibly anxious and distressed to high as a kite? But that is exactly what happened. I started laughing wildly and jumping up and down around my husband singing songs. I pinned my husband to the bed because I felt playful but he told me that I was being really creepy. I somehow picked up on this word and started mimicking him by screaming ‘creepy’ over and over again in funny voices whilst touching his face. This lasted for about half an hour. Eventually I stopped and just stared straight ahead at the wall in a complete trance. I didn’t talk for a long while and when I did tears started rolling down my face.

I went to bed later and woke up feeling depressed again. However, this strange pattern has repeated itself over the last few days: lethargic and depressed in the morning, with agitation increasing as the day goes on, followed by an eruption of manic energy around dinner time. Yesterday for example, I started laughing excessively and making jokes. I am told that my voice went all loud and high-pitched but I barely noticed. However, my eyes felt like they were popping out of my head. I was staring wildly at my Mum and my husband, trying to get them to ‘play’ with me. I sung silly songs and said strange things. Sometimes I erupted angrily to various things they had said. For example when they said I should calm down I would scream at them that I was calm and hit my hand on the table. Obviously I proved myself wrong!

Joining a creative class then has sent me ‘mad’. Strange that such a minor event to most people could lead to such a rollercoaster of mood swings. But there you have it. It is the nature of the bipolar beast.

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