It’s been one of those weeks.
Being Bipolar means that my brain has multiple modes of existence. The two big ones are ManicBrain and DepressedBrain, but there are others that can manifest themselves in different ways depending on which end of a cycle I’m on. The worst of them, the one that causes days when my brain and I just don’t get along, is AnxietyBrain.
I was first diagnosed as Bipolar II five years ago. I’d been wrestling with cyclical mood changes for several years at that point, and finally having a name to attach to the thing that was happening made it all a lot easier to manage. I am medicated enough that I don’t go flying off too far to either extreme, and I have a host of coping mechanisms that work well for me about ninety percent of the time.
The other ten percent of the time, I am just barely hanging on. Nine times out of ten, this is because I’m being visited by AnxietyBrain.
This week has been full of AnxietyBrain. For the most part, it’s just been generalized, unfocused nervousness. I get a little twitchy. I feel vaguely unsettled. But then Monday rolled around, and as I was waiting for a bus and trying to talk myself into going somewhere and doing something intimidating, I nearly blacked out. In the end, I admitted defeat and went home feeling like a failure, because I’m not supposed to be the sort of person who gets so overwhelmed by such trivial things.
I wish there was some sort of descriptor for the state between generalized, low-grade worry and the sort of panic that causes a person to think they’re having a heart attack. I worry that applying the label of “panic attack” to the seemingly endless stretches of heart-pounding, trembling, dizzying time that I spend trying not to hyperventilate, trying not to let anyone else see how completely unhinged I feel is too extreme, because I never think my heart is going to stop…I just don’t know how long I can handle hearing its racing staccato before I scream. It’s probably a useless thing to worry about, but hey, that’s what AnxietyBrain is best at: taking trivial, mundane things and fixating on them in such a way that they gnaw at the fabric of sanity until the vague feelings of unease compound and snowball and turn into something monstrous.
On top of the AnxietyBrain, I think I’m heading into a bit of a down swing. My depressive episodes have been unbelievably mild and unexpectedly brief for the past seven months or so (whether this is tied to the fact that I started on testosterone around that time, I don’t know for sure). This has been nice. However, past experience has taught me not to trust that this will last, so every time I feel myself slipping down from ManicBrain in the direction of DepressedBrain, I am apprehensive. DepressedBrain has significantly less energy than its partner, and that makes it hard to keep up with life. I have a lot of activities packed into my life these days, and I am not confident that DepressedBrain has the horsepower to handle all of that. This, of course, makes the AnxietyBrain that much worse.
I’m not entirely certain what the point of this particular post is, other than to say sometimes, brains are frustrating, and no matter how much we might know, from a rational standpoint, that the current state of things will probably not last forever, it doesn’t really make what’s happening NOW any easier…and there’s always that lingering doubt. What if this is the way things are now? What if I’m stuck being an anxious ball of sad forever? It sucks.
What does help, though, is the knowledge that my life is full of extraordinary people, people who love me and will not stop loving me even if I am an anxious ball of sad forever. They will let me be anxious and sad, if that is what I need to be, but they will also comfort and cheer me, and I know that if anything or anyone has the power to get me out of a slump, it’s the incredible people I am blessed to call friends and family.