Photo Credit/Copyright: Jessica Hartman
A Depressive Episode
This is generally the most common type of episode experienced by those diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.
Triggered by things such as stress, worry, grief, loss, or even simply the fact that it was cloudy too many days in a row.
- This level of depression is not the same as simply feeling blue cause it’s raining.
- This depression is literally physically, mentally, and emotionally crippling.
- It affects your usual activities making things such as work or study impossible, or only barely possible through great personal effort.
- It takes the joy out of absolutely everything. It’s like viewing life in black and white through a blurry, out of focus camera.
This episode can last for an average of up to 13 weeks.
- When your desire to celebrate life has been suddenly yanked away from you, the only thing in the world you want to do is to stay in bed with the blinds closed.
- One of the initial symptoms of Bipolar depression is either a lack of need for sleep (insomnia) or an overly increased need.
- Everything becomes a reminder that we feel nothing but emptiness, failure, and frustration.
- This fuels the depressive episode even more because you can’t physically seem to be capable of thinking about anything other than what you are not achieving.
- All because you simply cannot appreciate the beauty or happiness out of even the simplest of things when you are in a depressive state.
- Chores and housework come to a screeching halt during a depressive state.
- Laundry will get washed, dried (multiple times to avoid the finality of laundry being done and ready to be folded),
- and then stacked in baskets off to the side for when “we are feeling better”.
- Weeks will go by and it just keeps stacking.
- Dishes are stacked on dishes as we wait for that sudden burst of energy to tackle the task.
- Because SURELY we will feel better tomorrow
- Eventually it becomes such a disaster that we can’t even believe we could be capable of such a lazy, disgusting lack of upkeep.
- When you are having a bad hair day, or have a random pimple on your face, you probably are a little less excited about your self care and personal hygiene.
- Sometimes you just don’t have energy because depression drains you physically. Personal hygiene becomes unknown.
- A person in a serious Bipolar depressive episode could easily go weeks without a shower.
- Sometimes, in part, because they lose track of their days, sometimes because they don’t have the energy.
- Brushing teeth is easily missed or skipped causing severe dental problems down the road.
- All of this is essentially a very real problem of personal self-neglect.
A Manic Episode
Triggered by things such as anxiety, stress, time changes, worry, season changes.
- Everybody experiences elevated moods, periods of excessive joy and excitement, and the occasional irrationality. But it typically is not to the extent that it hinders personal growth and interferes with your life.
- Bipolar mania creeps up on you and is a difficult episode to handle, because initially it is the most euphoric feeling.
- Everything is exciting and passionate and full of possibilities.
- There is almost always a brutal emotional crash after the mania subsides which can include severe levels of anxiety, a feeling of losing control, frustration, and sadness. It can take months, even years, to repair the damage caused by the brief, inevitable moments of irrational decision making.
A manic episode can last an average of 1-13 weeks.
- It is extremely common for somebody who has experienced mania to be in some form of debt.
- This does not mean Bipolar individuals are bad at finances in general. Mania creates this illusion that whatever item or financial risk that currently holds your attention is the MOST important thing in the world.
- Online shopping is extremely dangerous during a manic episode.
- Boxes start piling up as it all starts being delivered and you become overwhelmed by all the expensive clutter you have now invested in.
- Credit cards are also extremely dangerous, because when financial inhibitions are lowered, you have a higher possibility of creating a financial disaster for your future self.
- Financial freedom and responsibility is possible, but it works best when you have somebody to help keep you accountable, help you to budget, and will help to talk through a large financial decision with you when you are experiencing a manic episode.
A Mixed Episode
Triggered by any combination from the first two episodes, but the most common trigger is stress.
- A mixed episode is when somebody is experiencing symptoms from both a depressive episode, and a manic episode.
- A Bipolar person experiencing a mixed episode may start to have racing thoughts and lowered inhibitions, typical to mania, but also feel sluggish and sad.
- Being unmotivated when you want to accomplish everything, or hating yourself even though you feel full of life, is one of the most mentally frustration situations to be in.
- You basically become a walking contradiction.
- Full but empty, light but dark, beautiful but disheveled.
- Having a mixed episode is living a contradiction between positive and negative emotions.
- It can become extremely frustrating because you want to accomplish things and strive to move forward, or be excited about the little things, but there’s an equally depressive emotion or action there to squash the positivity every time.
- It can feel a lot like spinning in place when you’re mixed, because you move 4 steps forward only to move 6 steps back.
- A mixed episode is mostly a combination between a Depressed episode and a Manic episode. So the experience changes from person to person, and time to time.
- Up to 17% of Bipolar individuals will take their life as a result of their illness.
- Up to 50% of Bipolar individuals will attempt suicide at least once.
- Women attempt suicide 3 times more often than men, although men are 4 times more likely to complete the task.
- Experiencing a mixed episode (risky behavior, impulsivity, depression) increases a Bipolar individuals risk for suicide by 50%.
- That means if somebody is mixed, they are 50% MORE LIKELY to attempt suicide.
IF YOU OR SOMEBODY YOU LOVE IS/HAS EXPERIENCED THESE DEPRESSIVE THOUGHTS, OR ARE EXPERIENCING ANY THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE OR SELF-HARM, PLEASE REACH OUT FOR HELP. THE SUICIDE HOTLINE IS:
The timeframe for achieving stability when dealing with Bipolar Disorder varies between individuals.
- Bipolar disorder creates an environment where you stop trusting yourself, your decisions, your thoughts, your experiences, and your emotions.
- Becoming truly and successfully stable includes a combination of support from your loved ones, the right medications, patience, regular therapy sessions, constant hope, and a great team of doctors.
- Relearning who you are from a stable and grounded perspective is a long, hard journey for many.
- But stay strong. Because by replacing all doubt and despair with hope and faith in yourself, you can truly live your life successfully.