I’ve been pretty open about having bipolar 2. It finally came to a head one night. I’m going to write a series of posts on my experience because I had a hard time searching for experiences like my own online. Cracked has a couple of good articles, mixed in with using the words “crazy” and “insane” on every other piece.
This is entirely my own experience as an able-bodied, educated and articulate white cis woman with health insurance. Until now, I’ve successfully managed with intense talk therapy.
Right after Woodhull, I became very depressed. I was suicidal at various points. I homeschool our daughter, so we got very, very behind in school, which further spun the shame spiral. It lasted until the beginning of December, when I started to go “up” again into a hypomania.
Hypomanias differ from true manias in that there’s no real loss of reality. I say I hear from “good idea fairy” constantly instead. I start lots of projects. It’s accompanied by a boost of energy, but I can’t focus on anything for very long and moods are extreme. If I get frustrated I will lash out angrily at those around me. I’ll get the urge to spend a lot of money. Insomnia is a telltale sign for me. Carrie usually sees them coming before they actually hit. They say my mannerisms change, and I have a look in my eyes that’s different.
By the time we were at Carrie’s parents’ house for Christmas vacation, I was up again. I hardly ate. I couldn’t sleep. When I got home, I had a few days of mixed symptoms, and my anxiety was through the roof. In the week leading up to the breakdown, I had eaten maybe 2 meals. I was sleeping in 2-hour chunks every other day.
Finally, one night, as I was sitting at my desk, I realized I had nothing left I really wanted to do. I was desperate for something, but didn’t feel deserving enough to choose from the available options. I was consumed by the idea I wasn’t allowed to want. I became agitated and angry at Carrie. I was forced to sit in silence. And then I realized why I have always been so afraid to sit in silence, why I always need something to focus my mind on.
It started almost like tinnitus, but inside my head, and at a pitch that varied. Then the white noise started, and got very, very loud. It was like a TV at full volume changing channels, with static on every channel. It was a lot like this:
You know how you have a constant running tape of your own voice in your head? That unfocused, unconscious part of you that just makes general commentary on what’s going on around you? That voice, this time, was very…off. My thoughts were self-loathing in nature, like depression thoughts. I didn’t deserve to have anything to do. I wasn’t contributing to anything. I was being a burden to everyone around me. I’m so pathetic I shouldn’t exist, sitting here doing nothing. I wanted to get up and go outside.
Frightening images started to play on the “TV” in my head. The images themselves weren’t in front of me but I knew they were there and I could see them when I closed my eyes. Several different kinds of music started playing very loudly. The static got even louder.
If I went outside, maybe I could walk in front of traffic. Maybe it would stop. Maybe this isn’t even real.
“Why haven’t we ever liked the idea of a rope around our neck? Robin Williams hanged himself. I bet drowning isn’t so bad. I wonder what it’s like to stop breathing…”
I realized I needed to call for help, but my mouth wouldn’t open. I felt pulled down inside myself, lost in the noise, almost watching from the outside.
“I need help. I’m not okay.” I focused on that thought. I desperately tried to make eye contact with Carrie, trying to send the message that I wasn’t okay.
I fought, like clawing my way through a jungle of razor leaves, to find my way to the forefront of myself. I feared if I moved I would run out the door into the street, but I had to risk moving my lips.
“I’m not okay,” I mumbled. “Try harder, please!” I thought.
The noise tried to drown me out.
“I’m not okay. I’m not okay! I’M NOT OKAY! I’M NOT OKAY!!” Finally the words poured out. Carrie rushed towards me and held me. I grabbed them tight, not wanting to get dragged back down. The noise didn’t stop.
The next thing I knew, my body started crying. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t upset to the point of tears. It was a full-on ugly cry with zero ramp up. The tears poured down out of nowhere.
“WHAT’S HAPPENING? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? WHAT IS GOING ON?” I only heard myself whisper, but I was screaming.
I was really afraid now.
Carrie decided to take me to the hospital. This was beyond their purview.
No one ever tells you what it’s like to have a psychotic mental breakdown. This is what it was like for me. Read the next part of the story here.