Daily Archives: March 12, 2012

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Most people with bipolar disorder are familiar with the concept of hypomania. It is those fun periods where you have more energy, feel great, the creative juices are flowing, and taking on the world seems like a simple task.

Less commonly known is that hypomania has two faces. Euphoric hypomania (which is the “fun” state described above) and the much more ugly, dysphoric hypomania.

I’ve been hitting a brick wall when it comes to describing the concept of dysphoric hypomania, beyond the fact that it is something of a mixed state. The concept seems simple enough -notably a combination of manic or hypomanic symptoms as well as depressive symptoms, but I’ve been at a loss when it comes to describing what it looks like and how it feels.

I’ve heard words like irritable and agitated used a lot in conjunction with the description of this state, and it occurred to me that these words seem to be descriptors that come from viewing this state from the outside. They fit what I experience to some extent, but they don’t paint a very accurate picture of the sorts of thoughts and compulsions that come with this dangerous territory.

Thankfully (HA) I have the opportunity to experience this thing, this group of what people consider “conflicting” symptoms on a rotating basis, and my episodes are of such a nature that if I’m lucky, it’ll happen for a couple of hours, or half a day, and be gone. That isn’t always the case, but when I’m lucky my symptoms occur in bite-sized chunks that I am beginning to be able to wrap my head around.

So when crazy girlfriend made an appearance last night, I wanted to grab the opportunity to get some genuine descriptions about what was going on.

For those of you who don’t know, crazy girlfriend is my pet name for this blurred, extreme version of myself that is just how she sounds. She exhibits the traits of what you (or I, anyway) would expect from someone who is a “crazy girlfriend”. She is irrational and rather dangerous, moreso than I expected when I had her jot down this list of what was going on in that dysphoric hypomanic state last night.

I’m going to leave this laundry list of symptoms pretty much as it was written last night.

Crazy Girlfriend:

  • There is noise. Insane noise. A high-pitched whine or ringing that becomes present over all other noise at this time. Sometimes it is a whooshing, but it is always unpleasant.
  • I want to throw fits. Serious throwing-things, yelling, stomping on the floor, even just laying on the ground flailing my arms and legs around. A full-on childish fit. 
  • Crushing souls. I want to be a bully, I want to push people around. Be rude, break hearts, disappoint on purpose, screw over, and destroy the dreams of everyone. I want to instigate cruel and unusual punishment.
  • I want to destroy everything good in my life. Rip apart relationships, trash everything I own, blow all of the money I have, and fuck up my job. Because I want to and it feels good.
  • This is usually when self-harm seems like a grand idea. Combine the desire for destruction with the urge to throw crazy fits and that is where the concept of self-harm is usually birthed for me.
  • I become suspicious of everyone, and feel distanced from others because of my current point of view not lining up with theirs. There is paranoia, believing my boss doesn’t like me anymore, believing my boyfriend doesn’t like me anymore. It can get bad enough that I think they are trying to hurt me or get me fired.
  • There is anger. Amazing amounts of anger. And cruelty. And malevolence. I might even go so far as to call it malignity.
  • In addition to the anger, there is the feeling that all actions are pointless, which borders on some kind of sadness. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter, because the future doesn’t matter and does not exist. Only the present exists, immediacy and self-centered destruction. There are no consequences in this place, only mayhem.

It is like being that kid that stomps on another kid’s lego castle.

If there was ever such thing as an evil twin, this person would be mine. These feelings and compulsions can be completely engulfing, and I find that I can no longer relate to my usual self, to the point where I feel like someone else entirely.

This group of feelings is the reason biggest reason I never want to have children.  I become the most heinous, terrible person and this place has compelled me to do a lot of just plain awful things. I can’t even tell you what I’ve done, I don’t know that I feel willing to commit any of those atrocities to the permanence of the interwebs.

So that is crazy girlfriend in a nutshell.

However, I just wanted to add that this is not the only combination of symptoms I have in something that is a potential “mixed state”. There are other versions I experience from time to time, including one where I feel very much like I’m crawling out of my skin and the feeling is so intense I can barely sit still. The only time the awkward pain is pushed to the back of my mind is when I’m moving, so I wind up writhing my way around my apartment. The sensation is so extreme and unpleasant I can easily say that it is my least favorite state to be in, period.

For me, depression is agonizing… but usually I’m not in nearly the amount of risk I am in while experiencing a mixed episode. At any given time, the worst parts of depression are paired with the worst parts of mania or hypomania, and the result is an intensely uncomfortable and unruly character. The feelings themselves feel like cruel and unusual punishment, and the result is that I tend to turn around and dole that out to others.

So call that irritability if you want, but it feels like a whole lot more to me.

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