What it’s like having a mood disorder

It’s been a while since I’ve written but I thought I’d share a little glimpse of what’s been going on in my life. This past year I was diagnosed with a mood disorder. Doctors believe it’s bipolar disorder but are unsure if I’m type 1 or type 2. Either way, I struggle with my moods and have since I was an adolescent. I felt it’d be helpful to share a bit of my experience with this.

life with a mood disorder

I had my first suicidal thought at 14. I self-harmed during all four years of high school but if you asked those who knew me in high school they’d say I was chipper and full of energy. People who knew me in college might say the same.  They weren’t wrong, not completely anyway, I was a combination of chipper, happy and full of life but also depressed and suicidal. I had periods of activity when I’d be involved in everything and periods where I’d completely isolate myself. I quickly developed a reputation by those who just so happen to see me at my worst. I was “the crazy girl”.

Those who got close enough to me definitely noticed that my moods were not stable. I’d go from being completely happy and full of life to feeling worthless, lethargic and depressed. I either went to all of my classes and made good grades or skipped them all and stayed in bed. Many who grew up with me assumed I was just dramatic, sensitive, or thought it was a passing phase… they were wrong.

I’ll be 26 in less than a month, married for almost 6 years and the mom of a soon-to-be four-year-old toddler. I STILL struggle with my moods. On a typical day, I’m productive, organized, and outgoing. During depressed phases, I can’t even manage to get out of bed. I spend hours on end crying until my head pounds from the tension and all hygiene and self-care goes out of the window ( I’ll go weeks without doing my hair). I feel a deep sense of emptiness and it quite literally feels like there is a hole in my chest. Other times, I feel nothing at all, completely detached from the world around me like I’m watching someone else live it.

On the other hand, when I’m manic my thoughts are nonstop. I’m full of energy, full of ideas, and full of life. I get the most done when I’m in this phase. I feel like I can do anything. I consider learning a new language, or maybe 5 (hello Duolingo). I learn a new dance or two. I even consider the possibility of being psychic and pretend I’m moving my train home from work with my mind.  Take me out when I’m like this and I’ll definitely be a good time. I’ll dance the entire night.

This may seem fun, especially compared to the depressed phases, but I also become impulsive. This means I can always count on a manic phase to help me go broke. Severe mania can also lead to psychosis. During this phase, you can literally blank out. I’ve had this happen many times and they almost always end without someone getting hurt (I’ve also had to replace a few household items I broke after a period of psychosis). There are also studies that show mania can be linked with brain damage (not so fun after all).

These phases for me are always followed by a “crash”. I can easily say this is the worst feeling in the world. I can feel myself becoming hopeless, tired, depressed and there’s nothing I can do about it. No matter how great my week had been or how perfect everything around me may seem… when I crash into depression I know I’m going to feel worthless, exhausted, and empty. Even if deep inside I’m technically happy, my brain makes me feel sad or apathetic.

The suicidal thoughts are there whether I’m manic or depressed. Even if I feel completely happy and I had a perfectly good day they manage to come. The biggest difference between these thoughts during these phases is that when I’m manic I have absolutely no desire to act on them… they are just another one of many MANY thoughts. They come intrusively and then they’re gone. When I’m depressed it’s a different story. Especially right after a crash… this is a terrifying time for me because while a huge part of me knows I want to live… my brain tells me otherwise. Sometimes I believe it.

This disorder feels like a constant internal war. It feels like two extreme versions of myself wrapped into one and I wake up not knowing which I’m going to be. The worst is that I have adult responsibilities to tend to even while struggling with this. I can’t just stop being a wife, mom, employee… but my brain doesn’t stop for those things either. It affects every aspect of my life. Every relationship, both professional and personal. Because I’m usually either at work or home with a toddler, I have to always work to keep a calm head even when I feel like I’m going to explode. I’m constantly being fed lies about who I am by my own mind and end up quite defensive. To prevent this from impacting how I react to those around me, I usually shut down completely as a result and become extremely apathetic and detached. I stay as busy as possible in an attempt to distract myself from my own mind. If ever I have time to be idle I’m left alone with my thoughts, and for me, that’s the most dangerous thing. As a result, I never feel rested.

I’m not writing this to make anyone emotional or sad but to hopefully give people an idea of what this is like. It’s far from a choice, it’s a matter of brain chemistry and in my case, a result of previous trauma. I’m working on finding healing but this is something that I’ll always have to live, and work, and grow through.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and if you’re struggling I hope you know you’re not alone and that you take the time to seek help.

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< National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255 >

4 thoughts on “What it’s like having a mood disorder

  1. I just feel deep empathy reading about people who are going through similar situations. I visited a psychiatrist for the first time finally yesterday and had a preliminary diagnosis of PTSD. It has to be refined yet because it was so difficult for me to talk and say everything I mean. I feel a lot of the same things you mentioned here. I do much of the same when feeling high. I once read through a dozen cookbooks in a night of no sleep (sigh). And I learned French in a month. Sending good thoughts, and thanks for writing about your struggle. I’ll do the same.

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    1. It’s both very sad and reassuring to hear that I’m not alone but because I know all to well how much it… well sucks, I’m sorry. Sorry you understand how awful it is and glad you’re getting help. (also really impressed you learned French in a month)! Thanks so much for reading and stay strong

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