What It's Like to Have a 'Bipolar Breakdown'

Sometimes I feel like I’m lying by saying I have bipolar disorder because sometimes I almost forget I do. I can go weeks or months without a breakdown or a manic day, and I’m lucky I have a great doctor who has me on the right medications. Before I was on the right meds, I couldn’t even go a day without extreme ups or downs, but then I have a breakdown and I’m reminded how scary this mental illness truly is.

Yesterday, I was having a great day. I had a good day at work, I discovered a song I am obsessed with and the sun was shining. Then I came home from work. I sometimes feel lost when I’m not at my job. My job gives me a purpose and I sometimes need to be reminded I have one. My husband and I struggle with money; we just don’t have a lot of it. It was payday and after bills and borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, we were pretty close to being out of it yet again. It is exhausting being broke. It wears a person down, just the constant fretting you won’t have enough to make it to next payday. So I lost it. I just lost it. I was crying, I was yelling, I was inconsolable. That’s the hardest thing about being bipolar — when I go down, I go down hard. I spiral out of control so quickly, I can’t stop it. No matter what I do, I cannot stop it.

It’s hard to explain how I felt when it was happening, because it’s hard to remember. You feel so many emotions and you say so much, it’s just not possible to remember it all. But I remember the feeling of despair and desperation. That lingers with me for a few days after the fact. That hopelessness isn’t easy to shake. When you go down that far, it’s hard to swim back up. It really is like swimming. You start running out of air. You feel like you’re drowning. It is truly awful and I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. But swim I must. I have to keep going and that frustrates me sometimes. I’d like to just stop, just stop it all — the thoughts, the fears, the rapid heartbeat, the anger. The anger is one I could definitely live without. But I can’t just stop. I will drown if I do.

So I wake up the next morning, and I do it all again. I just keep going. And sometimes, that means sitting in my living room, listening to music and being with my dog, doing absolutely nothing but recharging my mind. Getting back to a level state of mind. It’s hard to do, because it would be so easy to sink down lower and lower. The way my brain works makes it extremely easy to fall down that black hole. Some days, I keep going for my husband and my dog, or my parents and my brother, but some days it’s for myself. Today is for everybody else, because I’m at a very low point, not feeling good about myself, my choices, my life.

Then the day comes where the fog clears. I wake up and I know I am out of it — out of the sickness, at least for now. I hope at this point I have some time before the next episode hits. You need that time to remember what it’s like to not feel so depressed, so when the time comes where you fall down that deep, dark hole again, you have some good things to cling to. The fog always clears; even if you know it will return, you know it will always dissipate again.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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