Bipolar Type II: Surviving a “Bad Day”
Yesterday was a bit of a difficult one.
Not long after shaking out the morning cobwebs, I felt a terrible, familiar itching in my chest. A feeling that you would likely equate with anxiety, but without the anxious thoughts that usually accompany the sensation. They would come later.
The apparent delay that I experience between bad feelings and bad thoughts is actually a bonus as far as my treatment goes. I’ve been prescribed an atypical antipsychotic that is fairly efficient in halting the process as long as I recognize the sensations early enough. On this day, however, the medication seemed to be of little use. The physical symptoms were rapidly increasing and my thoughts were starting to race. I had no choice but to hold on tight and ride out the storm.
As with other types of bipolar disorder, type II can present with different types of “mood cycles.” I tend to experience rapid (or more specifically, ultradian) cycling. This means that I can experience severe shifts in mood multiple times in the same day, sometimes in the same hour. My moods range from depressed to irritated to euphoric, all at varying levels of intensity. This makes social activity a nightmare scenario on my “off” days.
I do my best to stay away from people when I’m cycling for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I don’t want to subject them to my suddenly changing moods, but I also can’t spare the energy to be socially “normal” on those days. I simply cannot behave and perform as society expects when my perception is so volatile.
As you can imagine, this creates many secondary issues, the most pressing of which is maintaining employment. For the time being, I’m lucky enough to have a very understanding employer who is familiar my condition (which should be expected, considering I work in the psychology department at a university, but is still very much appreciated). Nonetheless, I’m rarely able to work more than 15 hours in a week.
I spent the majority of yesterday sitting at the computer, swallowing my irrational emotions and trying to write a blog about how I was feeling. I couldn’t even accomplish this task, as I would write one sentence and immediately erase it. This happened about a dozen times. I could not find the words to express the turmoil I was experiencing at the time. Finally, late in the evening, the mood swings subsided and I was able to get a good night’s sleep.
Earlier, I mentioned that the physical feeling of anxiety or changing moods typically happens before I begin to think about anything that would make me feel this way. This delay is not only an opportunity to medicate, but it also reveals an important characteristic of this affliction (at least in my case).
When I experience symptoms, it’s typical that my biology initially influences my psychology (though the road is certainly two ways). This tells me that the thoughts I experience during a bad day are likely biased, and therefore false. This is very important, as it allows me to let go of any lingering ideas that could continue to strengthen the altered mood, and is vital to my ability to move-on from a bad day.
For those of you who are psychologically afflicted, I strongly suggest that you examine your own experiences and become familiar with what works for you, and why.
Good vibes (and yes, today is a better day),
Photo by Lee Haywood, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
Pace, S. (2011). Bipolar Type II: Surviving a “Bad Day”. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 3, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/edge/2011/08/bipolar-type-ii-surviving-a-bad-day/