Looking for a Fight

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Spring has sprung. Or rather, it’s March and while spring isn’t “officially” here yet it’s been here in spirit for awhile. But then again it’s also supposed to snow this weekend so maybe spring is just confused. It’s March in Kentucky. Anything can happen.

The coming of spring is a wonderful time. It is a time of renewal, of new life, of new growth. Flowers are blooming. Birds are singing. The grass is starting to grow…

And will need to be mowed soon…

I really hate mowing…

Okay, so it’s not perfect. But the days are getting longer, warmer, and sunnier. Who wouldn’t want that?

For those of us with bipolar spring is a complicated time. I tend to cycle with the seasons. As the days get shorter my mood goes down. As the days get longer my mood goes up. It’s cyclical. It’s predictable. That helps in managing my bipolar. We pretty much know what to look for and when to look for it. It’s not perfect. I don’t always follow this rhythm. But by and large my mood does typically follow the seasons.

So you would expect, then, with the end of winter and the coming of spring, that I would write something now about how the fog of depression is lifting and I am starting to feel good again, that I might be feeling back to my old self or something. But this is not that kind of a post, unfortunately.

First, as I said, my mood typically follows the seasons. Typically. Not always. I would say that I left my usual winter depressive episode back in January. Medication and therapy really kept that episode from getting too bad, which is good. Bipolar isn’t something that you can be cured of, and treatment doesn’t make you “neurotypical”, but treatment helps make bipolar symptoms far more manageable. So this episode was shorter in duration and less intense than most previous ones.

The issue with bipolar is that there are two “poles”. I left one and I went screaming straight for the other. There may have been a brief period of time in there where I was “balanced”, but if there was it sure didn’t last long.

There are a lot of misconceptions about hypomania and mania. One of the most common misconceptions is that, at least in the early stages, hypomania is fun. An elevated mood is often conflated with a positive mood. Sure, in bipolar that mood may be too positive, but at least it’s positive, right? That kind of mania is called euphoric mania.

And yes, people who experience euphoric mania seem to be enormously happy. This can lead to all kinds of negative consequences, like excessive spending, hypersexuality, delusions of grandeur, and all manner of other issues. But people experiencing euphoric mania do at least seem to be happy. Whether you should consider that to actually be happiness is another story for another day.

What I am decidedly not, at present, is euphoric. I am anything but euphoric. Frankly, I’m pretty much just pissed off. All the time. And I’m looking for a fight.

No, I’m not going to go all Fight Club or anything. I’m not going to punch a nun or club a baby seal either. In fact, I abhor physical violence. I may headbut my way through a wall that has wronged me by having the audacity to actually exist, but I am not about to hurt any living thing. That’s not how I roll. Hurt myself, sure. Hurt someone else, not on your life.

I’ve got a long history of self-harm. I hate myself. I hate myself when I’m down. I hate myself when I am up. I pretty much always hate myself and want to kick my own ass. This is a difficult thing to explain in the ER. Once you tell them that you’re the one that broke your ribs, or you’re the one that gave you the concussion, or you’re the one that did whatever it is that led you to the ER, they don’t know how to deal with that. Generally they judge you. Even worse than that is when they try to understand why. There is no rational explanation for the irrational. Stop trying to understand. It’s not going to make sense.

I’m not going to label where I am right now, mood-wise. I’m starting to loathe labels. But if you really wanted to label it you could go with mixed states or dysmorphic mania. I’ve got manic symptoms, especially the racing thoughts and intense anxiety and paranoia that are the bane of my existence. But I also have a very dim disposition towards myself and even existence itself. These are symptoms that are typically associated with a depressed mood. It’s almost as if I’m depressed, but with a ton of extra energy, and I’m really pissed off about it.

As you might imagine, this mood episode has made it so that I am not the kind of person that you might enjoy being around. Like most people I can fake it for awhile, but on the inside I am exploding. I can’t hold it in forever. And, like Hulk, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. And angry is always right around the corner.

Cut me off in traffic at your own risk. Because there is a profane tirade that is about to come spewing out like ash and lava from Mount St. Helens.

I want to be clear. I have not been in any road rage incidents. I haven’t chased anyone down to let them know what I think about them and the mother that must have raised them poorly, which is the only explanation for how shitty of a driver they are. In fact, if you’re the offending driver you really have nothing to worry about. My tirade may be directed towards you, but from a safe, for you, distance. Now, if you’re my passenger, then you’ve got something to worry about. Because you are the one that is going to bear the brunt of my anger towards that idiot driver.

Pretty much everything pisses me off right now. Everything. But I know enough, and have enough self-control, that I’m not going to unleash it all over a stranger or in public. I can put a temporary lid on this rage cauldron. But the lid is temporary. And if you live with me right now you’d best be prepared to duck and cover.

This is what I hate most about myself. My temper, my agitation, irritability, anger, and rage only come out around the people I love the most. My family bears the brunt of all of the horrible things that I say and do when I am like this. I bear the brunt of it, too. Self-harm becomes a frequent companion, because the person I am really angry with is me. It just spills out and goes everywhere, all over my family. And that is just the worst.

Then things get even more complicated. As I mention, paranoia is a big part of my hypomanic/manic cycling. When I get like this I do things that should cause any rational being to get the hell away from me and stay that way. So naturally, when I consider this, I consider that my friends and loved ones should, as rational beings, leave. So I convince myself that my partner of 20 years is leaving. I convince myself that my friends are talking about me behind my back and shunning me. I convince myself that my kids hate me, and for good reason, and that as soon as they are old enough they will leave and never look back. They won’t ever speak to me again.

All of this has a snowball effect.

So I’m in this cycle. It’s like a feedback loop. Input goes to output, and then it comes back to input and output again, over and over again, until it doesn’t do anything but produce a deafening screech. I’m at the deafening screech stage right now. It is a desperate, horrible place to be in. And it must be a desperate, horrible place for my family to have to be around. But this is where we are.

Meds help. Therapy helps. They really do make things much better, much more manageable. But I’m bipolar. And meds and therapy may make it more manageable but they don’t change that fact. And right now I am on the shit end of the bipolar stick and so is everyone who loves me. And there is no shining that turd except to say that it has been worse.

And it has been worse. Much worse, in fact. And if I step back a bit I can see that. I can see that the process is working, if not as well as I would like. I can see that these mood episodes aren’t as intense as they used to be, and that they don’t last as long. The fact that I am aware of my own mood in a somewhat objective way is a good sign in and of itself. Before my current treatment plan I would completely lose myself in a mood episode and have very little self-awareness. I am mercifully not there right now.

It is not as bad as it could be.

It is not as bad as it has been.

But yeah, it’s pretty bad right now.