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How I’m Finding My Voice Between My Bipolar Depression and Mania

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Being diagnosed with mental health conditions as an adult is weird. I’m about to be 36, I’ve been married forever (17 years) and have been raising three very successful kids. I have a master’s degree and a career I’m proud of. I also had a breakdown and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about six months ago. It’s taken some time, but I think I’m starting to get used to this whole bipolar thing. Recognizing signs that are specific to me, putting names to the parts of me that made me feel so “crazy” that I have kept them hidden for decades. Understanding things I’ve done and decisions I’ve made that were reckless and, well, manic.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

It’s always felt as if there were two distinct parts of me, and now I understand them… but gaining perspective on the extreme sides creates a different need: trying to distinguish your own voice from the magnets pulling you in each direction. What is mania and what is just taking advantage of the energy and mood before it slips away again? What is just a normal dip into the bad mood world, and isn’t an inevitable sign that I’m already sinking into it completely?

I’m in the in-between time right now, where I feel like I have my own voice clear and trying desperately to come through. Trying to keep me positive enough to avoid sinking into depression… but without letting the euphoria take over and going to full manic. In between them, I can hear Jill, trying to break through.

The mania is pushing me faster and harder:

“It’s spring break and you only have one week and so many things to do… and you can do them all if you just keep going, just keep thinking, just keep planning, just keep moving…”

I’m cleaning. I’m organizing. I’m trying to get everything and everyone in order. I’m impatient and easily frustrated when things aren’t going the way I want or as fast as I need them to go. No one can keep up with my momentum. I want to fix all the broken things in my life. I want to solve all the crisis. I want to do all of the projects that have been too overwhelming to think about for too long. I want to mend all the relationships and make sure I have done everything I need to do before the inevitable claws of depression pull me back down. I don’t know what will happen or how long I’ll be gone when it takes over, so I feel anxious and hypervigilant.

The depression is quieter, although she’s always there:

“It’s too much, it’s too hard. You aren’t good enough, and nothing you do will make up for that. Let go. Stop being such a burden on the people around you and disappear; it’s what they all want, anyway. Who would want to be around you?”

I can hear the soothing voice whisper these things, reminding me there is always another way. I could let the racing thoughts and manic spinning overwhelm me, and let the blanket of depression wrap around me. Let the slow suffocation begin again. The release. The serenity that only comes from giving up, no more expectations to live up to or things to fix or fill.

I’m fighting back right now, fighting my own brain.

I’m trying to slow mania down, talk to her about how many things she’ll leave half finished and undone in her wake if she pushes too hard too fast.

I’m telling depression to let go, that her mean words and offer of release is just going to hurt the people I love. It’s not forever and all the pain will come back eventually.

Don’t let the mania take over.

Don’t sink into depression.

You can do this.

You can take control.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Originally published: June 17, 2018
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