I went on medical leave from work, and checked myself into an intensive outpatient (IOP) program for mental health on January 16th of this year to help me cope and attempt to overcome my bipolar diagnosis. I decided to enter into the program because, I had an episode of hypomania, perhaps full on mania that lasted about three days. I was also cycling between ups, downs, and mixed states much more rapidly than I’m used to. So, I decided that I needed something more structured and intensive to have my “episodes” more closely monitored – this allowed the psychiatrist to better understand how my diagnosis is manifesting and allow for more precise management of my medications. In addition to all that, I was very resistant to therapy – essentially I’m a pretty good bull-shitter, and so I BS’d my therapist with what I know she wanted to hear, and with examples of coping skills that I knew would help, but that I never utilized. The IOP program offered me tons of therapy, including traditional one-on-one, but also group therapy. The groups are really what wore down my therapy resistance and opened me up to processing my past traumas and current struggles more freely.
My (hypo)manic episode,the reason I checked myself in, occurred over a three to four day period in which I did not sleep – at all. In fairness, I probably slept a total of 6-8 hours over the three days, enough to keep me from dying I suppose. During the episode I was functional for the most part. I was overloaded with energy, despite the lack of sleep – and I made some very careless decisions. For example, I spent about 2,000 dollars on I’m not quite sure what. I engaged in some risky behavior, like having a string of anonymous sexual partners, and I also took out a loan for a couple thousand dollars, that I didn’t even need. I just found it to be exciting. My behavior became erratic, and I suffered from racing thoughts that impaired my ability to function for a few hours at a time. I also strained relationships with close friends. I can only liken the experience to being on some sort of “uppers” drug for days on end – without taking any substances. Eventually I came down from the high, hard. My entire body was in excruciating pain, and I lost mostly all motivation to do much of anything.
That’s just a quick summary of the experience – it’s far more complicated and nearly indescribable.
The point is that I feel better now than I have in a long time. I will always have this condition, and I’ll always cycle up and down – but highs are less high and the lows are less low. I feel empowered and more in control of my life. I feel comfortable again.
I’ve still got a lot to learn, and I probably always will. Stressors may become triggers, and triggers may become episodes, but I’m no longer worried about them. I’m focusing on the here and now, and that’s big. So, what am I actually trying to say? Am I cured? No. Am I worried about it? No. What I am is alright.
Here, and now – I’m alright – and when I’m not, I will be soon.