A Week in the Life of a Mom With Bipolar Mania
It’s just another manic Monday! You’ve heard the song, right? It’s about a girl. A girl having a rough day… she is late to work, her bed is unmade, she can’t figure out what to wear to work and, dang it, her boyfriend wants to have sex with her after she made dinner. Apparently, Prince and the Bangles call this mania. Not quite the case.
And the weather? It is bipolar, right? Because it’s “crazy” and erratic? When people compare my mental illness to a flip from sun to snow, it makes me feel they don’t “get” it. Whether they are aware or not, they are perpetuating a stigma and comparing my daily struggle to nothing more than a mere forecast. Bipolar disorder is not an adjective to throw around flippantly and, no, you do not “wish” to have this type of “energy” we call mania.
This is a week in the life of bipolar me.
I have been manic since Friday and here is how it went.
Friday through Sunday:
I did 8-10 loads of laundry.
I cleaned my bedroom top to bottom.
I organized clothes and sorted them into keep or donate.
I baked and baked and cooked and cooked.
I cleaned the kitchen, living room and constantly checked my son’s room to make sure it was still in perfect order.
I made purchases for things I don’t need and will probably never use.
I made five bowls of snacks and drinks for my son’s friends and made sure they were always filled to the brim.
I interrupted their play about 10 times to ask if they needed anything else.
I made breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and cups of coffee all day, all weekend for anyone who wished, as I asked frequently.
I happily left the house early Saturday morning to go to Target to purchase a lightsaber for my son because every 10-year-old needs eight lightsabers. Not a big deal, right?
I paced the house, looking for anything to do, all while starting to do multiple things and moving on to the next before finishing the last.
These things were done repeatedly.
One night, I didn’t even fall asleep until almost 4 a.m.
After barely any sleep all weekend, I woke early to get to work. My mind was still buzzing, so I had to go back home to grab all of the things I forgot because of racing thoughts.
At work, I couldn’t focus. I talked to my coworkers non-stop, paced, wandered the office, showed them pictures of my cats and began multiple conversations with my boss, losing track in the middle of each. I don’t recall actually finishing one.
Several times, I said, “I’ll come back when I remember what I was going to say/do/ask.”
I canceled my psych appointment for Tuesday because I “felt great and didn’t need to see her yet.”
Tuesday (Oh, how quickly the tides turn):
Woke up irritable.
Dumped my purse out all over the floor because I couldn’t find my lip gloss.
Redid my makeup twice because it wasn’t perfect.
Ended up being 15 minutes late to work, even driving at breakneck speeds
As the day went on, everyone spoke too loud, talking to my husband felt like he was talking in overdrive, the lights in my office were blindingly bright and every interruption left my tongue bloody from biting back harsh words that would not have been justified.
Once home, I snapped at my husband as soon as I walked in the door.
I immediately went to my bedroom and isolated myself.
I had picked up dinner from a restaurant and my husband wasn’t fond of the dish so, internalizing it, I screamed about how nothing I ever did was good enough. At that point, I retreated once again to cry and berate myself for 45 minutes because I was “worthless.”
I had to take anxiety medication to calm myself down enough to get five hours of sleep.
Wednesday (Today, the crack is deepening):
Irritable doesn’t begin to describe how I felt when I woke up.
I felt I could have run to work instead of making the 45-minute crosstown trip.
Purse dump yet again to find the damn lost lip gloss.
Got in the car, halfway down the street… purse dump again to find my phone. This was accompanied by screaming for about five minutes about how I am “so stupid I don’t deserve to live.”
Got to work and immediately told the staff and my boss that I was at a “level 10 rage” today and would be keeping to myself.
It is now lunchtime. I ate soup and a huge cookie in the parking lot of a grocery store and now I am cleaning my face up because I sat in the car and cried. I cried because I am tired of being sick. My mind never stops, even when my body has no other option but the crash. In psychiatry, they call this “wired and tired.” I am too keyed up and manic to rest and my mind just keeps going, but I am begging it to slow down, to just let me rest for a little bit, to catch my breath. It doesn’t listen. I am exhausted.
People have said, “Oh gosh, I wish I had that energy.” No, you don’t. Trust me. That “energy” is the devil. That energy is laced with anxiety because I know what is coming. First the anger and then a very deep depression. It is just the top of the roller coaster and what goes up must come down and come down it does. Hard. For me, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) laced depression will inevitably follow quickly.
Does that weekend sound like the day in the life of a busy mom? It’s not. It is all done at breakneck speed with dilated pupils and a need for absolute perfection and order. It is a frenzy unlike any other. It is all done with the knowledge it is going to end and it going to end badly, in a bottomless pit of despair because this is what my brain sees.
So, no, mania is not being busy and having an unmade bed on a work day, having a hard time choosing clothes or having sex when you are tired. It is not simply heightened energy or creativity unbound. It is the beginning of a very fast-paced cycle. Bipolar disorder has nothing to do with a weather forecast. It is a real-life beast. It can at times be terrifying, unpredictable and debilitating. Simple truth. If in real life my mental illness was so small it could be equated with weather accurately or used as an adjective flippantly, I would be one happy, balanced girl.
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