Swinger

For the past two or three months, my mood has been overwhelmingly depressed: sleeping a TON, unmotivated, hiding out in my little condo from the world. I made few plans and cancelled the ones I made. It was really difficult to brush my teeth, take a shower, and get up to take a glass to the kitchen sink. And forget about physical activity; walking around at work was the entirety of my “exercise.” I was a zombie.

Two weeks ago, I fell into an even deeper depression. I thought about suicide frequently: how to do it, if I could do it. I was incapacitated. Eventually the veil lifted a bit, just enough to get me into “the danger zone,” where you’re still having suicidal ideation but now have ample energy and motivation to do something about it. I knew enough from past experiences to get my doctor and counselor on the phone and to reach out to my family and friends–my incredible support system.

And just when I thought the suicidal ideation would never end, it stopped abruptly in a big way. I woke up last Thursday ready to take on the world again, with a strong desire to buy a purse (my go-to expenditure when I’m hypomanic). Life was glorious again, and productivity was my middle name. I wanted so badly (like always) to believe that I was just having a good day, but I knew I was hypomanic.

Hypomania is the slightly tamped down version of mania. It’s characterized by a surge of ideas, the desire to acquire (read: late night Amazon binges), increased social and sexual activity, difficulty sleeping, and an increase in goal-directed activity. Suddenly, mopping the kitchen floor seems not only pleasurable but also very pressing; you give off and pick up on sexual energy; you pace impatiently until 7:00 in the morning, when you can finally call someone you’ve been wanting to talk with since 2:00. Until the sleepless nights catch up with you, hypomania feels amazing. (At least it does for me.) And for that reason, hypomania is very seductive. It’s tempting not to call your doctor to get a med adjustment because you’ve been waiting so long to feel good again. Who doesn’t want to feel enviably attractive while pushing her overflowing TJ Maxx cart toward the checkout, where she’ll spend money she doesn’t have to buy things she doesn’t need?

But I did call my doctor. I was immediately put on higher doses of mood stabilizers. At the same time, I started a new “thought organizer,” which is a kind term for the anti-psychotic class of drugs. And y’all, in only seven days, this thought organizer has changed my life. Martha Stewart would be proud: my squirrelly little brain has never been so organized. My counselor informed me that thought organizers regulate the dopamine in your brain, which basically means you get more hits of pleasure. So when I do a load of laundry and feel good about finishing it, I want another hit and do another load. I’m able to slow down and totally be in the present moment and enjoy it thoroughly. I really taste my food; I keep my environment clean because it makes me feel good; I focus on the task at hand at work and get pleasure out of checking items off my list. I am experiencing more joy than I have in months and months.

You know, despite being bipolar, I’m extremely fortunate. I can feed and clothe myself. My parents still help me with expenses when my paycheck won’t cover it, partly because I’ve never had a job that would cover things like psychiatrist and counseling visits. They want to see me well and do whatever they can to support me. I live in a great little home in a safe, lovely area. My brother, his wife, and my nephew are just ten minutes away, and they’re always there for me. I have wonderful friends who are supportive and thoughtful. But when I’m depressed, I can’t generate gratitude. All that registers is pain. I just withdraw into my shell and often try to shut out the people who love me.  My couch is my security blanket, and I lie there for hours with Walter.

But just for today, as they say in AA, I’m not on that damn couch! I am living and thriving. It feels good to be a human again. I AM grateful for the multitude of gifts in my life, and I’m not taking anything for granted.

Will this last? Maybe, but if the past is any indication, all signs point to ‘no.’ In the world of bipolar disorder, as in gravity, what goes up must come down. But I choose to be thankful for the past seven days: a whole week of wanting to be alive, a week of loving and breathing and feeling my heart fill with joy. That’s a real gift. Thanks for reading.

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