What It's Like to Experience Mixed State Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar disorder is inherently unpredictable. In addition to the extreme highs known as mania and the intense depressive lows, there can be periods of “mixed states” which are a combination of both.

Imagine waking up into a debilitating anxiety attack that propels you out of bed. You try to distract yourself from the increasing sense of panic by making a tea, perusing social media, reading the news, practicing different breathing techniques you’ve learned in therapy. After a while, the anxiety subsides and you feel relatively OK. You begin your morning routine that you have mindfully established to help keep you stable, or to at least provide a false sense of normalcy when things feel out of whack. You do some yoga, jump in a warm shower, ground yourself by focusing on the water cascading against your skin. This brings you back to your body, aided by the familiar scents of your shampoo and soap. You feel as though you can face the day. 

You have a schedule you’ve outlined for yourself to maintain productivity. Everything feels good — almost a little too good. Your energy level is higher than the clouds. You laugh a little too loudly. Someone tells you a joke that catapults you into hysterics. You know you should stop laughing at this point, but the harder you try to regain composure, the more wildly you roar. A reservoir of raw emotion erupts and you are crying, sobbing inconsolably. You simply feel too much. You are embarrassed about your lack of control. Your nerves feel exposed, wounds being rubbed by salt and sandpaper.

You recover after a few minutes and attempt to go on with your day as “normally” as possible, but you are agitated. The most minute things irritate you. Sounds, smells… Why won’t people just leave you alone? Then you feel good again. You are bursting with creativity; ideas race through your mind. You lose track, they overwhelm you, there are too many, this is all too much.

You need to walk, walk anywhere, walk until you are exhausted, until you want to lie down and sleep, but you are too far from home and while the ditch looks oddly inviting, you trek on. When you make it back, you wish to tumble into bed to sleep but when you try, your brain buzzes with electricity. You are jolted out of your fatigue. You want something to calm you. You try your breathing exercises again but are immediately frustrated because they aren’t working.

You cry. You wail. You just want to be held. No, don’t touch me! You just want to be alone in a quiet room. You don’t want to be alone. You are terrified of being abandoned. Everything is too much. Too much. Sensory and emotional overload. 

You text your friends to say you’re not OK. You don’t respond to their concerned inquiries because you don’t have the energy.

You are afraid. You are apathetic. You are pathetic. You want the day to end even though your sleep will be broken, filled with vivid nightmares; you’ll wake up shivering and saturated with sweat. You’ll wake up too early again with the same anxiety as the previous day.

You know your moods will stabilize but you don’t know when, and what is time anyway? What is anything? You’re decidedly not OK, but you will be. You just don’t know when.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty Images photo via Halfpoint


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Bipolar Disorder

A woman sitting alone and depressed in window light

Why Relapses Have Been an Important Part of My Bipolar Recovery

 I live with bipolar I disorder and anxiety and I have to be honest, I didn’t fully understand what recovery meant until about six months ago. While I think recovery means something different for everyone, for me it doesn’t mean a “cure” for this illness or the idea that I will never have to experience [...]
Girl holding a retro camera.

What Happened When I Took a Photo of Myself Having a Bipolar Breakdown

I felt it coming on since the early afternoon yesterday, and it finally came to a peak in the early evening hours as I returned home from work. The hyperventilating, the feelings of worthlessness, the voice in my head that never misses these opportunities to remind me how pathetic and useless I am despite my [...]

Why I Didn't Tell You About My Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder type II just shy of two years ago. I remember sitting in that tiny conference room, listening to my case worker explain the disorder to my parents and me. The depths of depression, the danger of hypomania, the bouts of irritability and the creative mind. I wanted to [...]
Wonder movie poster.

When You #ChooseKind, Don't Forget Invisible Disabilities

My son’s fifth grade class read R.J. Palacio’s book “Wonder” together and took a field trip to see the movie.  First, how cool is it that Sam and his peers explored, discussed and experienced both the book and movie as a class? They will be entering middle school next year and will face many of the [...]