themighty logo

The Swings of Bipolar Disorder


“I’m in a¬†swing.‚ÄĚ

This is¬†how I describe ascending into mania or falling into depression ‚Äď a swing.¬†Today, it is an upswing. I’m gradually rising to what I know will be a peak. It feels¬†exhilarating, as I seem to leave my body on the ground behind me. My ideas are¬†flowing, and boy are they good ideas. I want to reconnect with my previously¬†frayed friendships, I want to write novels, travel the world, study every subject,¬†and start 10 craft projects. I can conquer Rome overnight, seeing as how I’m¬†not sleeping. But, today is actually when I need to be careful ‚Äď when I need to¬†stop the rush of everything. I need to jump off this ride before I get too high¬†on the swing. The higher I let myself go into mania and suspend above reality¬†for a time, the greater the crash will be when I come down from the high. The¬†gravity of depression that follows an upswing will accelerate me down faster if¬†I don’t jump off now.

It’s difficult because I know when I jump off the swing, there will still be a small crash, as I shoot off¬†onto the ground. But it is so much better than getting to the top and falling off. I have to remind myself of that. I have to look past the euphoria. I have¬†to see the catastrophe that follows. I have¬†to. If I don’t, the depression that follows will be just as great as the mania,¬†just in the opposite direction.

I have learned to watch for the¬†swings ‚Äď both up and down. They are my red flags. When I feel my mind begin to¬†fall or rise, I have learned to second guess myself. I question my ideas as¬†they speed up, and on the flipside I question my thoughts as they turn bleak.¬†Is depression making the world look dark? Is the ascension into mania turning¬†bad ideas into good ones?

At first, this method of watching¬†for triggers seems exhausting. It seems overbearing to have to ask yourself¬†over and over again if you are looking at something with a level head, or if a swing is affecting how you see the world. Above all, it takes humility to¬†question the validity of your own thoughts, and that is something not¬†everyone is willing to do ‚Äď even when they don’t have¬†bipolar disorder.

But as time has gone on, and I have been able to recognize the swings earlier; their aftermath is much less profound, thus the recovery is easier. My psychiatrist says the less swings (episodes) I have, the less I will have in the future.

Jumping off the swing is tricky in¬†itself, but it is doable. In my experience, to slow the bipolar high in its¬†tracks, I need to practice calming methods for my brain. I try to sleep more,¬†avoid caffeine, stay in a routine, sit still, practicing deep breathing, and¬†talk about it with others ‚Äď to name a few. All of this helps release me from¬†the upswing I know will lead to disaster.

I have learned a manic swing ‚Ästas good as it feels in the beginning ‚Äď only leads to epic destruction in the¬†end. If you can try to catch it early, if you can hop off the high before it reaches its peak, eventually you’ll stay on level ground most of the time. There¬†will always be stressors and life factors that trigger the upswings or downswings,¬†but sensing them before they pick up speed is a key component to addressing the¬†episode, getting through it, and practicing skills that will help deal with the¬†swings in the future.