The Tug-of-War of the Dreaded 'Mixed State'


When you hear the word bipolar or the phrase manic depression, are you like most people and automatically visualize two extremes? While this one of the characteristics, some people, like myself, struggle with an additional state, the dreaded mixed state. For me, this is the most difficult to deal with. I think it is also probably the most difficult for others to comprehend because everything about it is contradictory.

How is it to feel two completely opposite emotions/sensations at the same time? It often happens during times of major stress or, interestingly enough, during change of seasons. What makes it so frustrating is that it seems as though every fiber of my being is violently being pulled in opposite directions, and the rope I’m holding onto is quickly fraying and about to snap. Times like these, I so desperately wish one side would pull me over the edge because at least then the tug-of-war would be over.

Recently, I experienced this torture (yes, make no mistake, it is torture), in my mind and body. It is often misunderstood or overlooked. Yet, it needs to be taken seriously since it can often lead to destructive behaviors and, in my experience, is the worst part to deal with. My hope is for you to continue to understand what a person with this diagnosis goes through by describing my experiences. Hopefully, it will assure those who struggle that there truly is someone else who gets it.

Imagine: There is total chaos going on in my brain, and it is the only thing I can focus on. Inside, I feel desperate, but I’m numb. Fear is overwhelming, but part of me is content. I am fidgety, but my body is paralyzed. Agitation saturates every cell within me, but my outer shell is containing it.

I feel inspired by a note from a friend, but I’m convinced I’m useless. I am ready to explode, but it remains contained although bubbling just below the surface. I want to care about something, but everything pisses me off. I ask for help, but when I get it, I feel resentful. I feel stable, but I am choking.

I want more than anything to be dead, but I desperately want to live. I want to bury myself in my bed, but being still is bound to be maddening. I want to scream, but I can’t utter a sound. I want to go into a frenzy of cursing even though I know how completely inappropriate it is, but it’s on the tip of my tongue and shouting obscenities seems so necessary.

I feel something boiling up inside me as I sit on my porch swing, swaying back and forth trying to write. The pen moving across the paper is soothing so I keep going even though I don’t know what I’m saying. I look at the paper and want to tear it to shreds. I know if I was among people, I’d be rambling and my words would fly out of my mouth. Yet, thankfully I am surrounded by silence and say nothing. I sympathize with those who engage in self-harm and wonder if it would help.

The cycle is physical, emotional and psychological and everything clashes into deafening noise triggering the desire to get it out of my body. The intensity of the battle can become unbearable, and with it is the certainly that physical pain, however it is inflicted, will release some of the pressure that is built up inside like a volcano within my bloodstream poised to erupt. My entire body feels as if it’s being ripped to shreds despite all of my efforts to keep it intact.

All of these feelings fire rapidly becoming intertwined. Over the years, I’ve learned how to cope with this so I attempt to summon a strategy that will work. Running to release the tension would be wonderful, but the thought of moving makes me cringe. Praying is absolutely necessary, but quickly, the thought seems absurd. Listening to music would soothe me but that would require effort that I’m not willing to give. Going for a walk in the woods would relax my mind, but it reduces me to tears because I don’t want to put on my shoes.

I run through this list in my mind. It irritates me because I know any and all of those things will help, but I can’t convince myself to take the first step. For what seems like eternity, yet in reality only a blink of the eye, I close my eyes and hope to disappear. The desperation is threatening to take over, but as long as I keep swinging, I’m OK. Eventually, I realize I can’t sit there forever, and if I continue to give in, I will truly lose control. The only thing I am willing to try is a prayer since it will not require movement. All I can bring myself to say is, “God, make it go away.”

Eventually, I am forced to get up. Moving around seems to help. I wonder if God has stepped in. I know I have to force myself to use my coping mechanisms because I do not want disaster to come. I once again ask God to motivate me to keep moving. The battle in my mind and body continues, but it becomes more bearable and some of the negative emotions begin to fade.

Often this state disappears as quickly as it came. Other times it can linger for hours. When I am fortunate enough to fall asleep, the sensations are gone by the time I wake up. If I remember, I pray for just that, sleep.

The word I hate most during this time is “just,” even though I sincerely know others have the best intentions. Yet, this is why I’m writing this. I wish it was as easy as “just.” You know how to cope just do what you need to do. Just pray and God will help you. Just think positive and focus on all you have to be thankful for. Trust me, I just want to do anything other than what I am currently doing. Intellectually, I know what’s necessary, but there is a disconnect that I still struggle to explain, but it’s not for lack of trying.

So please understand, if you are someone who has ever felt this way, I get it! I hate it too. I know how scary it is. You are not alone. Ever. It will pass.

As friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers and fellow human beings, we need to understand people need help, empathy, patience and love no matter how difficult it may be. Our minds and bodies are amazingly complicated. There is so much we need to research and discover when it comes to mental health. Yet, as we learn, we need to create a safe environment where it’s OK to share our scary thoughts and experiences that often are inexplicable because only then will we open the door to understanding.

Be the person to facilitate change. Be the one who shows compassion and reaches out to those who struggle. Be assured when you do, you truly are making a difference!

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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 Image via Thinkstock.

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