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How I Feel When Bipolar Disorder Mania Ends

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The morning after a manic episode ends should be a day of celebration. It should fill me with joy and give me a reason to finally relax. My mind isn’t racing uncontrollably anymore, I’m not shaking and I no longer feel the need to stay up until 3 a.m. shampooing my carpets. The overwhelming pressure to accomplish everything I can as quickly as I can has passed. I’m overjoyed it’s done for now, but it is a bittersweet celebration because I know it won’t last and, worst of all, I know what’s coming next.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

The depressive episode that follows a manic one is heartbreaking and soul-crushing. Unlike the mania, its onset is slow, but at its peak it’s all-consuming. At first, it’s little things, like opting for a ponytail and sweats over styling my hair and a well-thought-out outfit. Then, it’s declining the invitation to the bar, deciding instead I need to focus on “self-care.” Eventually, it becomes staying in bed until 1 p.m. because of a “headache.

It kills me to know I can and should do better, but not having the effort to do so. My daily routines become chores. The knowledge that the dogs need to be fed, the laundry needs to be done, and dinner needs to be planned and cooked is all there, but the drive to do so simply isn’t. I know how much these things all need to be done, but that doesn’t mean I can just force myself to do them. There’s a level of executive dysfunction that comes with bipolar depression. Not only does it affect what I do, but also what I remember. The depressed periods are when I lose track of time. It may be Tuesday and I don’t feel like I need to eat anything because I just had pizza for dinner, but it turns out that was on Sunday, and I haven’t had anything since. Homework assignments are forgotten, phone calls go unanswered, emails remain unopened, and at the center of it all is me, watching it all fall apart and feeling no real desire to stop it.

The hardest part is not knowing how long this is all going to last. I guess you could say I’m lucky when it comes to the mania because those episodes typically only last a few days. But the depression that follows isn’t as kind. It doesn’t run on my schedule. That’s not how this works. I don’t have time to be depressed, but my depression doesn’t care. I could be like this for a few days or a few weeks. There is no way to know.

But what I do know is that this won’t last forever. There will come a day where I wake up before noon, excited about the day ahead and the opportunities it presents. I will check things off my to-do list in a timely manner. I will accept a party invitation without giving it a second thought. If learning how to manage my mental illness has taught me anything, it is that there is always hope. Better days are coming, and I would like to be around to see them.

Photo by Dương Nhân from Pexels

Originally published: January 3, 2019
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