Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
I have bipolar disorder type II and as many people know, this comes with many highs (hypomania) and many lows (major depression). For me, the hypomania can be a lot of fun — excess energy, creative thoughts, euphoria and joy. They’re especially great in contrast to an episode of depression.
However, there is a side of bipolar that I feel is less widely spoken about. When most people think “bipolar,” they think mania and depression, high and low. Many people with both bipolar I and bipolar II experience what is called a “mixed episode.”
A mixed episode is when an individual experiences features of both depression and (hypo)mania at the same time. These episodes can look different in every person who has them, but I’ll explain what they look like for me.
In a mixed episode, I feel deeply depressed and in more severe cases, suicidal.
In a mixed episode, my thoughts are racing and jumping from place to place inside my mind.
In a mixed episode, I feel extremely impulsive. This has led to me engaging in dangerous, self-harming acts.
In a mixed episode, I feel incredibly anxious. I feel as though I am crawling out of my skin, my heart is pounding inside my chest, and with this I have intrusive thoughts, similar to that of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I also have a diagnosis of OCD, further complicating this.
In a mixed episode, I am very energetic while simultaneously wanting to sleep and shut out the world. It is a contradicting feeling to experience.
In a mixed episode, I see the beauty in the world while at the same time, I don’t see my place in it — an appreciation that is found in hypomania and a despairing feeling present in depression.
In a mixed episode, one that is primarily depressive, I usually feel hopeless.
Mixed episodes are the features of my bipolar disorder that have landed me in the ER and following that, the psych ward many times. After going through several medications, I feel I am finally on ones that will keep me stable (relatively speaking). I have gone through dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and feel I have better coping skills to handle these moods if they are to arise.
I can recover from my bipolar disorder and mixed episodes and you can too. It may be a lifelong illness, but we who struggle can manage it with the right help and treatment. I was just about to give up hope, but now I’ve pushed through to the other side. You can too.
If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
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