I know there was a time a few months ago back when I started this blog where I was unsure of whether I was more likely to have bipolar type 1 or bipolar type 2.
To be fair, I don’t think any doctors were really comfortable pinning either one on me (because my symptoms are certainly outside the “norm” in regard to these two types), and my conclusion was that I am probably a type 2 with some extra fun things, cyclothymic cycling (several mood changes in a day) for example, sprinkled on top for good measure.
BUT, after the last few weeks I feel pretty darn comfortable saying that I probably actually fall into the category of type 1.
It can be extremely hard to judge when I spent almost a year in severe depression, and I don’t think my [current] psychiatrist knew quite what to make of it either. When you are working with someone who isn’t exhibiting any manic symptoms (apart from when he gave me an antidepressant very briefly), how would you know?
My hunch (though it is a little more than that now) is that if one of these three things doesn’t sweep me into the type one category, the inclusivity of all three of them certainly does.
2. mixed episodes
3. the manic episode from a week or two ago, which was both severe and roughly 10 days long.
So there we have it, I guess. Ta da!
Obviously I am not a doctor, and there can be subtle nuances to this sort of thing, but after the last few weeks I’ve had some time to really soak in the little trip I took to the land of mania and back.
And honestly, I have a lot of trouble looking backwards through time to recall certain feelings and events, so if I can document them as they’re happening I know that this has happened at least once. Namely, this time. There may have been others, but my memory is so foggy I really couldn’t say where or when or what happened.
It wasn’t quite like when the werewolf episode showed itself, because to some degree it felt like an old, familiar… friend, let’s say. My experience this time around dragged me through a whole spectrum of oddness, and though some portions were familiar… there were certainly places I don’t recall ever going before.
I’ve been encouraged to name them, to quantify these states and feelings -which I don’t mind because that’s what I enjoy doing anyway. I like getting to know them (for the most part), it can be a lot like opening doors at random in my brain and seeing what is hanging out behind them.
I find mania to be confusing, because when depression happens… it is depression. All of the symptoms (for me anyway) seem to stack on top of one another so it is pretty easy for me to discern how bad it is. Mania, on the other hand, seems so random. The symptoms I have don’t always seem to overlap from one moment to the next, and an episode can feel severe, be right next to another episode that seems equally as severe, but they are in two totally different ballparks.
My argument to my therapist was that if I just experienced the same thing over and over again, it would be a lot easier to pinpoint, a lot easier to quantify, and a lot easier to describe. Instead, mania is tricky. For me, it has a LOT of different faces and if I’m not careful, it can disguise itself well enough to slip past my radar.
The saving grace there is energy, because if my energy level is pretty high I usually know something is amiss. I know there is a shady character skulking around somewhere ready to clamp on to me at the first opportunity and wreak havoc.
Some of you may remember that I made a list of the sorts of qualities I’ve seen magnified in people who are experiencing manic symptoms (myself included) so I’ll jot down a couple of those for each of the states below.
- I’ve talked to some extent about Werewolf which, thankfully, didn’t make an appearance this last week. These episodes usually involve psychosis for me, and I have the overwhelming urge to 1. be in nature, and 2. expel energy. If I can do both at the same time, brilliant. The werewolf brings something of the hippie/the bohemian to the table, because I have the overwhelming urge to shed my possessions and live in nature.
- I’ve also spent some time talking at length about Crazy Girlfriend. These are the sorts of irritable, agitated, angry (to say the least) mixed/manic episodes I have. Somehow, the goal in this state becomes to destroy everything awesome, which is incredibly frustrating. I am typically a fan of awesomeness, so destroying it is not usually on the to-do list. I’d say this incorporates a little bit of the dictator and perhaps Joan of Arc a little bit? A strong female warrior type character with the brain of an evil villain, for sure.
- I haven’t brought Reverse Vulcan to the table yet, but when this happened last week I was surprised because I seemed to make the same sort of series of bad decisions as the last time I recall feeling that way. A Reverse Vulcan episode happens when logic seems to only lead to the illogical. So if logic dictates something will be a bad idea, it will look like the most brilliant idea ever. For me, this phenomenon is centered primarily around social situations, and I feel so much more outgoing, bold, and optimistic than usual that for some reason it feels like nothing could possibly go wrong. I would say this is something akin to the thrill seeker and the comedian or social butterfly combined.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Reverse Vulcan doesn’t seem that bad, right? Confidence? Sociality? More like Awesome Vulcan! No. You’re forgetting the part where logic works backwards, and because of this, I have found myself in some really seriously awkward (and potentially dangerous) situations because they seemed like a good idea at the time. Example? Well last week I had to be escorted down from the top of the space needle when I suddenly realized I was having dinner at the top with 3 near strangers, one of which was an ex-con who just finished spending 16 years in prison. The reverse vulcan goggles came off, and I had a panic attack and was stumbling around a rotating restaurant (because my table wasn’t where I left it) trying to figure out where my purse was so I could get out.
I told you so.
- As alarming as that last one was, this one was more-so because I don’t actively recall ever having this happen to me before. It was as if my sense of self Evaporated. My physical symptoms were pretty extreme, and it felt very much as if I was floating around. My attention span was minute and focused on the tiniest of things, all purpose and time had vanished. As I floated around, it was like being caught on the wind, a smell directed me one direction, a vague idea another, and I might as well have been a cloud.
Now, like I said, this is a new one for me… so unlike what I normally experience, I don’t think there were specific parts of my self that were magnified. It was more like they were simply gone, with the exception of one small string tied to a lamppost keeping me from floating away altogether.
Is this new territory? Something more extreme than what I have experienced before? Or is it simply a new kind of episode? A new mask mania was wearing that day? At this point, I genuinely don’t know.
What I do know is that I have an appointment with my psychiatrist this morning, and I am already certain my therapist has called him to express her concern. A whole new can of worms is opened now that I’ve been talking to two medical professionals who are now talking to each other, so all I can do at this point is show up and see what the verdict is.