Navigating the Waves of Bipolar Disorder

There are times I feel angry. It’s an irrational pissed off-ness for no reason. It just is. My husband notices. If you’re close with me you’d notice too. I shut down. I withdraw. I hide.

“Hey you, what’s going on?”

“The monster wants to come out today.”

Although my husband admittingly doesn’t understand he still offers compassion. “What can I do for you?”

“Go away. Leave me be.”

Unfortunately, that’s the truth. Go away. I want to be alone.

Every therapist I’ve ever met with has told me when I’m in these moments I should reach out but once I’m there I can’t bring myself to do it. Could you? The only words I can think of to describe my anger is the thunder that roars before the storm. I’m afraid of what will happen when that storm gets here. Why would I put that on anyone?

My manic episodes shift with no rhyme or reason. Sometimes I’m sped on negative energy and I feel both invincible and capable of powering through anything. Then there’s days I feel mad, and mean, and viscous. I take daily medication as part of treatment to help stabilize my mood. For the most part Lexapro and Lamictal have been my savior.

Of course there were a handful of different medications I tried before I found the ones that work best for me and then adjusted accordingly for the right combination and dosage. It would be a year of trial and error. I’m also prescribed Klonopin. The label on the bottle says to take .5 mg daily but I don’t. I only take it in the worst moments when I struggle with myself.

Maybe I should take it as prescribed but there’s a part of me who wants to believe I’m capable without doing so. My natural coping mechanisms should be more than enough. Compared to some who experience Bipolar Disorder I don’t believe my experience is rough. You can do it, I tell myself. You don’t need the Klonopin, I tell myself. Have you exhausted every other option? I ask myself.

I function at a high level. Chances are unless you’re close with me you most likely wouldn’t even know I struggle. One, because I’m able to excel within all that I do. Two, because I hide it. Not out of shame or fear of being blamed but because maybe if I ignore it it’ll go away.

This was the day of my last manic episode:

Late morning I went far away from the house and sat in the hammock reading. I thought for sure if I relaxed it would tame my shitty attitude but when my husband came out to offer me a donut it was clear my feelings hadn’t changed. My emotions boiled over and I was afraid to open my mouth in the event the worst of me would come out. I swallowed the rage.

Early afternoon I decided all I needed was a nap. Of course, It would shift my energy and I would wake up feeling calm and more myself. Except I couldn’t fall asleep through all the hell-bent anxiety. My energy did shift, however. I was now pissed, and frustrated.

By late afternoon I warned everybody. Hey, I feel the monster, can I please have some space? My children know me all too well. They hugged me without saying anything and walked away. My husband, he’s a fixer. He can’t just let it go. I cringed at the thought of him attempting to “fix me.” I want to scream, lash out at him and yell. I don’t. Instead I stuff it deep down inside so it’s only toxic toward myself.

Before I started cooking dinner I went back outside and jumped on the trampoline. I merely needed exercise, I’m certain of it but the state of euphoria lasts hardly twenty minutes. It started to dwindle away.

This is my thought process while cooking dinner that night:

WTF, who left all these dirty dishes? I have to clean this shit up just to cook everyone else dinner. They must assume when I was a little girl I dreamed of growing up to wash sinks full of their dirty ass dishes. I should smash them all. We’ll see how they like that. I already know I’m going to want to scream while sitting at the table. I hate it. I hate it all. I hate everything. WTF is wrong with me? Pull it together. I’m so pathetic.

My chemically imbalanced brain tricked me into believing such horrid thoughts.

I made it through dinner by not saying a word. I kept my eyes down on my plate. The chatter of my family members grew intense. I wanted them to stop talking. I was ready to explode. Can’t we have just a moment of peace? Or even just sixty seconds? I had become even more angry at everything, but really nothing at all.

After dinner I stretched and meditated. Maybe I needed to get it out of my body. I once read that your hands, feet and head are your outlets and everything in between is bottled up stress.

I grabbed a thick book. The Five Great Dialogs of Plato to be exact. I set my forehead on it and sunk down into child’s pose. I should have been breathing deep. In with the good. Out with the bad but I was distracted.

Why are you doing this to yourself? Take the Klonopin. It’s intended to help you get through the tough moments and while you may not be lashing out at others it’s equally as destructive to yourself.

I have now invested over eight hours into decreasing the intensity of a manic episode only to come out on the bottom a failure at doing so. This is the point when I think I may break down and cry, but I don’t. I don’t cry ever, really. As I began sun salutations I was entirely unfocused and unhinged. My mind was planning an escape route. I was thinking of a place where I could run off and cry. In case I do actually cry, which I didn’t.

I went upstairs and sat on my bed alone looking randomly at the belongings scattered throughout my room. I thought silently to myself. You’re a warrior. You’ve made it through the majority of the day. It’s an illogical expectation you have of yourself. The medication will make you better. You need to feel better. It’s not healthy to feel this way. Why can’t I make a decision?

I swallow Lexapro and Lamictal every night. I would never miss a dose. I would never allow myself to be the person I used to be. I promised myself. But why won’t I just take the Klonopin? I had an awareness that I should have taken it immediately at the onset of symptoms but the illness in me fought it off.

My chemically imbalanced brain tricked me into believing I’ve got this. And I do. Maybe. Not really.

I caved. I took the prescribed dosage of Klonopin. Forty Five minutes later I felt in mind- blowing relief from all the anger.

The day I just described, the one of my last manic episode? That was yesterday and as I write this the cycle has already begun for today. Even though I already know the Klonopin will ease my suffering I still won’t take it until I’ve exhausted all my other options.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store