To Stir The Pot or Not?

It seems that bipolar disorder has two modes; on and off. I’m certain that most people, when thinking of this disorder, think of it in its on mode (widely known as cycling). While cycling moods act as something of a roller coaster, with easily triggered mood swings in all directions and even long strings of swings that seem to go on independently of triggers or situations.

For the last two and a half years, I have been cycling.

Before that, though, the bipolar shifts would come and go. There were periods of weeks, if not months at a time, where I felt perfectly fine. Times when it felt like bipolar disorder had suddenly turned off. 

Most of the people I’ve talked to that are experiencing these periods of rest seem to be the ones who are still learning about the “whole bipolar thing” and whose symptoms have only begun appearing recently(ish). Of course, this is kind of just speculation on my end, because I really don’t know… is this something everyone experiences, or if it is more of a random occurrence?

Anyway, this off phase has its good and bad qualities. In the realm of good, it allows people a much needed break from the roller coaster of emotions that bipolar disorder has to offer, and it can mean something of a return to normalcy. On the other hand, it isn’t uncommon for people who experience this to suddenly drop their doctors and medications because of the seemingly miraculous healing that has suddenly taken place. Sometimes symptoms are forgotten about completely before the on switch flips on and mood swings return again.

In my life the most common response to this off switch is one of paranoia.

When will my symptoms start again?

Will doing action x trigger it all to come back again?

The last two weeks or so I’ve fallen into one of these periods of stability. My bipolar symptoms are in off mode. Though the whole thing has been quite nice (the first period of stability in two and a half years) I find myself, as I said, a little paranoid about what might bring it all crashing back.

My doctor wants me to try new medications despite feeling good, and I’m somewhat terrified doing so will “unstick” my stability. Stir the pot, if you will.

To be fair, there are a lot of other things I am doing (or not doing) to avoid stirring the pot as well. I haven’t had any alcohol. I’ve been (actually) exercising (with like… weights).

If I think of all the things I do to try to sway an elevated or depressed mood one way or another, it is sort of the same ballpark. Just trying not to sway things one way or another.

Overall, I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know how long this will last (and winter is coming). I feel compelled to take advantage of the time I feel more like myself than any other time. I take my life one day at a time, and these days have been something like a time warp to a time like three or four years ago.

In a sense it is like taking a vacation from myself (or the self of the last three years, anyway). To stir the pot or not? I can’t. With these moments so few and far between I feel compelled to stick a lid on that pot and (mindfully) let it simmer.

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3 responses to “To Stir The Pot or Not?

  1. I have noticed this ebb and flow of bipolar over many years, both with and without medication. I can look back and see both turbulent roller-coaster times and periods of relative stability. I have not seen anyone express it this way, but for me there seems to be two different cycles, the obvious short mood swings (from ultra-rapid to 2-3 weeks), then the long cycle with periods of stability lasting up to a few months. I know better than to pause my treatment during those lulls, because I know the stability would quickly end.

    To stir or not? I think the doc should listen to you, and if it doesn’t feel right to make a change while things are calm, he/she should respect that. You know the symptoms will eventually return, and I think it is easier to see the effects of new drugs while you are cycling.

  2. I know exactly what you mean. I have been cycling for quite some time now and am longing for a break. I think back to years ago and feel like I am so far from a ‘normal life’ that maybe I won’t ever get back there.

    Thabk you so much for sharing. It really helps.

  3. Thanks..you’ve expressed it beautifully.

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