Where Do I Begin…Let’s Start With Right Now

I often find myself coming here after it’s been some time and I need a release. I know, or maybe I just wish, it was always that way or maybe it’s even better that it wasn’t always that way. Because it often means that I’ve needed a release for some time before I’ve finally sat down at my computer to actually type something out. I am someone who heals in a few different ways. Nature, this is a big one for me. Photography (though not when it’s the midst of busy season which it is right now) when I can do it just for me. Quiet time, no this isn’t just for children. Prayer & meditation, gosh, I need prayer and I need spirituality. Music, it’s so very good for my soul. Reading and Writing, the escape I get from both is just so good for my heart and my mind.

So. Let’s start with right now. Don’t worry I promise I will catch you all up in the coming days. Right now, well things seem hard. We are still in the middle of a pandemic that people seem to fall to either two sides, you’re really worried or the total opposite. I happen to fall on the very concerned side, meaning we have stayed home for the most part, minus my husband and myself working and a few necessary trips to the store. But we haven’t had playdates or done our normal homeschooling co-ops (we home school two of our children and then two of our children go to public school) or gone to museums (we also live just outside of D.C. and have some of the very best museums) or seen our very best of friends. So life as we know it has been quite different and if I’m honest has had many, many ups and downs. Here’s where I’m right now.

I’m struggling… I am having a very hard time wanting to continue to take my medications. Now. I know, I know. How silly and dangerous. I know from own experience this is absurd. I KNOW that I must stay on my medications, yet here we are. My own mind trying to trick me into why it’s completely absurd for me to stay on my medications. There’s so many reasons why I’ve convinced myself I need to come off of them. Currently, realizing that one of the things I do and love most, one of the things that feeds my soul is likely something I won’t be able to do anymore is so hard to accept and so hard to not blame this illness or my medications. And to be honest, some reasons are maybe a little valid…in the sense of I’m not as creative as when I’m manic… or maybe that the creativity presents itself in a much different way and clearly in a very unhealthy way. And of course I can’t get as much done, because I’m not manic. Which is good. But somewhere inside of me I’ve started to hate that I can’t think that way or have that creative part of me at times. And it’s so incredibly hard not to want it, despite knowing that it’s not healthy. And of course, I’m so grateful for the amazing support team I have, I have the most incredible doctors and therapist and my husband and family are truly amazing. But my goodness, the things your mind can make you think. This is something I’ve always battled and is something I know that is apart of the battle for me and apart of my personal journey. So here I am, right now. Struggling with taking my meds, the ins and outs… every.single.day. There’s so much more to it than that. But that’s for another day. Today, I push forward. Today, I choose to take my meds and to keep on keeping on. Today I will choose me.

Let’s Get Real… Mania Through My Eyes…

So. I want to get really honest. I want to talk about being in throes of Bipolar 1. I mean get really honest about what life has been like recently, as I navigate this slippery, and crazy road. These past few months have felt, well exhilarating (if you’ve experienced that blissful, euphoric, dangerous part of mania then you know exactly what I’m talking about), while simultaneously feeling like a dreadful awful few months. I’ve been riding those insane highs, that then become so sickening and terrifying (often includes severe lack of sleep, ‘pressured speech’, delusions and hallucinations, as well as an uncanny ability to become irritated at my husband and life, spending a lot of money…. you’re likely getting the point) in just a matter of days or even hours… and goes on for unknown amounts of time. I want to talk about what that looks like, and as you know this is just parts of my story. I must say I often can feel that ‘itch’ as I call it or the hairs on my arms start feeling funny, well before I am at the end of my mania. This most recent time something so personal triggered this episode. I had no idea at the time that this episode would lend to so much at one time. After this first event, it was completely out of my control and related to hormones, I knew something was shifting. I’m not sure if I truly felt it right away or just knew I was already so fragile from a recent episode that it more than likely would, but nevermind that. Whether I just had a gut feeling or truly felt it right then doesn’t much matter. Shortly after ( about a week and a half afterwards) I’d flown out to see my mom. Now, a few things were so different about this than every other time. First being that this previous event had just occurred (I’d had my trip booked for a few months prior to that). Second, being that I was still finding my ‘sense of stableness’. And third, last but certainly not least, being that I was travelling alone… NONE of my four little ones were coming with me and my husband was staying with them. This is of course significant for many, many reasons. I was SO excited, but noticed just prior to leaving that I wasn’t sleeping much, I was BEYOND elated and I found myself in this fantasy land of wondering what was to come on this magical trip. Things also started to feel really intense… The type of intense that you can’t quite convey to people…The type of intense where you can feel every. single. emotion. to your bones and core. This is a feeling, as far back as I can remember, that always proceeds a good, solid manic episode. A manic episode that is likely going to take me and everyone around me on a wild ride. Now, I must say I’ve been so blessed with an amazing family and with being treated and with amazing doctors. There has never really been any doubt about what I have and I have a support team that loves me unconditionally and support me. So… moving forward. I proceeded to go on this trip, though I remember vividly mentioning to my mom how wonderful I felt, how good the sun beaming on my skin felt…. And then it happened. The non stop, rapid thoughts. At first it feels so good. I feel my most creative (and seeing as I’m a photographer that matters a whole lot to me), I feel determined and like I can conquer the world. I quickly made plans to go out with my mom, pick up cigarettes (did I mention I don’t smoke unless manic), and contacted a dear friend who lived in the area. I also remembered very quickly how badly I wanted another tattoo; I have several and in my defense I’d been planning this for several months. But what also happened right in that moment was I decided I could maybe even get a few…since I didn’t have the kids with me. I distinctly remember saying out loud to my mom, that I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible while I was there and noting what days she had to work. I then remember saying…’Ok, maybe I’ll get another tattoo too… only if it’s easy, then I’ll know it’s ok and ‘meant to be’. And so it continued. …The pure bliss that mania first starts out as.

I often struggle trying to explain what comes next. What comes after this amazing high, this crazy intensity of ALL emotions, and the sense of pure grandiosity. Right around this time, now like I said this is just my story and not all of my manic episodes have gone this way, I start to become very noticeably unwell. I often haven’t slept in quite a few days, and it’s quite possible I haven’t eaten or showered either. My thoughts are usually racing so quickly that I feel I don’t quite have the time to worry about those things. In fact, this last episode I had a close friend over and I remember telling her how absolutely appalled I was that this conditioner was leaving my hair SO greasy, she quickly looked and agreed that that conditioner seemed to have clinged to my hair. What she didn’t know, and what I had completely forgotten (or just didn’t realize) until I wasn’t manic, was that amidst my lovely shower two days prior… I had one of the ‘BEST’ ideas I’d ever had and had to jump out of the shower right that second to act on it. And just like that you have it. The conditioner was in fact still in my hair… there never was any sort of washing it out. So there you have it, mystery solved! So. You see as it progresses it almost evolves. Shortly after this I remember being so insanely frustrated with my husband. What I was frustrated with him about was actual a complete delusion. And boom! Pair that with lack of sleep, grandiosity and anything else, starts the ideas and often times hallucinations. Now, I’m not saying every manic episode I have that I experience hallucinations. BUT this specific time (and others) I did. I came home from my trip and started noticing immediately that things were quickly shifting. And of course, so did my husband. The next week or so proceeded to get worse and worse. For me and for others around me. My spending got worse, my ideas got worse (and increasingly riskier), my sleep continued to dwindle, my delusions and so got worse. Thankfully, like I said earlier, I have such an amazing team of doctors, family and friends. I should add, several of my close friends reached out with concerns. My husband and I quickly reached out to my doctor, even IF at the time I felt like no, I don’t need help (like I said delusional), I took the step with support. My doctors quickly realized I was in a manic episode and adjusted my medications accordingly. Now… many think this means things just go right back to pre mania… I’m here to tell you that is not the case. At least not for me. There have been times where I’ve needed hospitalization in order to come out of a mania phase or because I was in a ‘Mixed state’ (if you don’t know what that is I encourage you to reach out) and suicidal while also completely consumed by mania.

This specific time, took several weeks and things got worse before they got better. Again, this has been different at different times and depending if I’m gripped with depression or consumed with mania. Or again, a mixed state. Almost, always looking back at my manic episodes (since this is what I really went into) I can see where things started going south. I can see that I was hallucinating, delusional and so consumed by figuring out a puzzle, or being my best creatively wasn’t so healthy. I can also see how good that first few ‘moments’ of bliss felt. I can see how much money I spent on absolutely nothing. I often can’t fully recollect things in the correct chronological order, but can have enough to piece it together from others around me. I can remember the intense feelings and then I quickly realize when I’m no longer manic how much I have to put back together. Which is often times so very hard. Putting the pieces back together after a manic episode is hard as hell. Life seems to be a bit of a blur, but most are expecting it to be back to what it was. It takes time, seeing my therapist, my psychiatrist and any other doctors. It takes work and a lot of forgiveness and healing. It takes realizing that my everyday life needs to shift, that I HAVE to take care of myself so that I can take care of others. It often takes a lot of journaling and writing for me, a lot of acceptance and a lot of willingness. Because again, being real, this illness doesn’t discriminate against any one. So. Thank you all for listening and reading. Thank YOU for sharing this bit of space with me!

-M