What does being bipolar feel like?
Last Updated: 01/27/2022 at 6:35pm
Stacy Overton, PhD.
I am an enthusiastic life-long learner and also a professor of counseling. I have a passion for peoples stories and helping to guide and empower the human spirit.
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Not everyone deals with it or 'feels' it in the same way but I can tell you what it's like from my perspective. I was diagnosed with Bipolar 3 years ago when I was 13 years old. At first I didn't want to believe it but soon came to terms with it and agreed to get help. Before I was put on medication, days were really rough emotionally for me. I would have down days in which I would feel very depressed, unmotivated, and hopeless. On up days I felt like I could rule the world. My moods felt like they were always changing and even had multiple highs and lows throughout the day. Thankfully, I'm now on meds and they help a lot. I feel more in control of myself. I still have my days but not nearly as often.
While I can't speak for everyone, I sometimes experience psychosis during mania and depression. I get paranoid delusions and occasional hallucinations. For me, the worst part of this is the inability to decipher delusions from reality. I end up questioning my every thought. Personal relationships with friends and family become strained, because I find myself over-thinking everything said between us. People begin avoiding me when they realize I'm going through one of my phases again, and I can become rather difficult. So I'm faced with having to deal with loneliness. I battle with the decision to reach out, because I really don't even know what's a real problem in my life and what are made up issues in my head. I usually end up making the right choice to reach out. That's what keeps me stable.
I would describe it as heavy emotional weight bearing down on you as you try to gain footing. Mania is always on go mode, there is no stopping, and I feel like I could take on anything at 'any cost'. The costs that follow are usually from outbursts, hard distrust, sometimes even cutting people off because they feel like a burden. When the depression seeps in, then a lot of my mistakes I made during manic episodes come back like demons siphoning my life. It's probably a little more descriptive than I need to be, but it's more than just "being sad" it's more like being so weighed down by the smallest details, that you feel you need to drag your life to get going. To summarize: I feel like manic episodes are setting a garden on fire, and depressive episodes are slowly the burden of regrowth at such a slow rate the effort feels useless.
being bipolar is to feel the intensity of everything, not just happieness and sadness but all the inbetweens of every feeling with a name, being bipolar is to feel so intensely that you are connected to others and all their feelings or to feel so alone like the sharpness and rawness of the world is cutting you just by existing it and you have no words to explain it and when you try to find them people can't relate to them, being bipolar is to feel so alive your nerve ends tingle and there is possibility in every exciting moment and it is also to the hopelessness and lonelieness of an unbearable weight that will insist on stealing on you every single second until all you wish for is a deep dark UNFEELING sleep, being bipolar is to be tired of fighting, very very tired, its giving up but still living and then its feeling the tiny flame buried so deep inside of you flickering so softly that despite everything it has not gone out, being bipolar is coming back from a lot, sometimes from near death in a lot of cases and realizing how strong you are to have survived, to be here, to continue, being bipolar is having so much to offer the world because you feel so much and therefore emphatise with so much. Being bipolar is to curse all you feel and to be grateful at the same time. its paradoxes and contradictions and a big fucking mess but in the end it is not YOU, you are you and what you do with these feelings, with these experiences, how you interpret all you've been through and how you live your future is all totally unique to you and nothing to do with a diagnosis.
I am new to this and being diagnosed with bipolar 2. I still think and say “if I have this” when I try to talk about it. I have this funny fear that if I get comfortable understanding and accepting it, it suddenly is going to be pulled away from me. I will once again be wondering what the heck is going on, who I am, and what is the point in all of this. However, taking my medication is what helps me come to an understanding somewhat. Before I started my medication my days were horrible. I could go from feeling fine, to yelling, to crying, then feeling like the worst person/mother ever all within a day or hours of waking up. This was my normal for so long and I can’t remember when it started. Sometimes I just woke up feeling mad, irritable, and depressed. I felt like I stayed horribly depressed for so long that now it is hard to tell what is normal. I know my medication is working, but I still fear stepping off into this abyss. I am always waiting. I feel like there is this cloud around me and I will never get my feelings or thoughts across to anyone. I feel fake and alone. I fear not having bipolar and that makes me feel weird that I would want it. I feel most people would look at me and think you don’t have bipolar. I process so much inwardly and only my family truly ever sees the ugly. I just want to understand myself and be happy. I want to be able to live the life I can imagine, but seems so hard to accomplish. A revolving door of my thoughts and wants. I feel trapped in my head, and I am constantly going back over the same things to the point it is embarrassing to talk about with others. I am scared to feel motivated and energized because the ball always drops. I am left depressed and embarrassed, then angry at my life and past decisions that I know I can’t change. Not sure if what I wrote is helpful or not. I am still navigating.
You're laughing one moment, then you're in bed for a week. Everything is sunshine or beyond sunshine for a period of weeks and then your ideas and thoughts go haywire. You start off with great ideas and productivity, but soon you're not sleeping , not eating and not functioning. But you're too busy focusing on stuff you wouldn't see as important if you were well. When you're low, you're low. When you're high, you're high as a kite. Friends notice the mood swings and sometimes have to walk on eggshells around you because they don't know how you're going to react to stuff.
Before I was diagnosed it was confusing. I was depressed often but then have these periods of high energy. I would sleep less, have racing thoughts, and I’ve never heard anyone say this before but it was like I had better access to certain parts of my brain like I’d be able to access my knowledge of difficult words to use. Things weren’t too bad until I turned 19. Then I was suicidally depressed. I had been drinking and doing drugs to manage my moods and it wasn’t working anymore. After a suicide attempt I was hospitalized and diagnosed. I had one major manic episode after that where I didn’t sleep for days, I had delusions of grandeur. I love reading and writing and was convinced it would be super easy for me to submit a pilot and get picked to be a writer on a show. I was also spending a lot of money on my credit card. I also felt like hooking up with someone which is really weird bc I’m demisexual and don’t usually have interest in sex. Then I was hospitalized again. Things got a lot better on meds but it took about 2 years to find the perfect combo that didn’t stunt my emotions and allowed me to feel normalish.
Bipolar disorder is a confusing condition, especially for someone viewing it from the outside. If you have a friend or relative living with bipolar disorder, this person may be reluctant to share how they feel. Because this can make it hard to know how the illness affects them, reading first-hand accounts of other people living with bipolar disorder can help you understand the condition from their perspective. To outsiders looking in, bipolar mania comes in many forms. During these emotional highs, your friend or relative may become full of energy and overly excited about life. Mania can be mild, moderate, or severe, so you may not always link their happiness and elation with a mood disorder. Sometimes, all you see is a fun, optimistic, and upbeat person, the life of the party. But other times, you may notice erratic behaviors with their joyful mood.
Being Biopolar is feeling like you have no control over your emotions, you feel depressed and the next second you are all energetic. You feel sad and then you're happy. Things might be going well and then you're angry for no specific reason. You don't sleep normall, either too less or too much but you still function perfectly, or you might have had a good day but you're still sad and God knows why. It's like your emotions and you're environment (what you're going through), they have no link to each other, no connection whatsoever. You're just out of control and at some point it feels exhausting because not being able to control how you feel is exhausting, a lot.
Being Bipolar feels like one minute you have really high feelings of happiness and excitement and the next you have really low feelings of sadness or anger. You feel like your emotions are controlling you rather than you controlling your emotions. Taking medication or going to counseling to learn how to cope with your feelings is a good way to take control of your feelings. Being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder can make a person feel like they are different but you are just like everyone else, your emotions are just more sensitive than others. There is nothing wrong with being bipolar.
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