Collectively speaking, our understanding of mental illness is relatively minimal, even by those diagnosed and those who do the diagnosing. This is likely in part because while symptoms form patterns that we can group up into general subsets (ie Bipolar, schizophrenia, etc) symptoms, experience, and the way it impacts ones life are hugely subjective to the individual.
I’m no psychologist, or psychiatrist, but I’m diagnosed with bipolar, so I felt that by sharing some of my own experiences with illness, that it might help someone else who is either struggling to cope with their symptoms or that is in denial and refusing to seek health services.
The world of bi polar disorder can be very different between individuals, and even within the same individual over time. There are 4 primary subdivisions of the bipolar spectrum which are used to categorize symptoms: Mania, Depression, Hypomania, and Hypodepression. Some people with BPD also experience mixed episodes where they may be in a state of both mania and depression simultaneously.
Assuming most of you have at least a basic understanding of depression, hypodepression can be thought of as a milder form, people who are hypo depressed tend to feel calm, apathetic, often pessimistic and sometimes passive-aggressive, In my experience hypo-depression can be even be quite pleasant albeit boring.
Hypo mania, is the exact opposite; increased goal directed activity, reduced need for food and sleep, upbeat, fast paced, higher levels of self-confidence, drive, and motivation.
Mania is where the illness begins to get very complicated. It is incredibly hard to describe exactly what a manic episode is like because their always different. Some of the manic episodes I’ve experienced were extremely fun, and some of the more obscure ones even felt spiritual or divine in nature to say the least, the better manic episodes have often left me feeling like I ingested a small dose of psychedelic drugs. Some of them are terrifying, bearing a likeness to that of a schizophrenic psychosis with delusional thinking, psychotic hallucinations and paranoia, though for me these types are the minority.
I’m not actually sure how to describe the split between the two, but I call the more positive type the manic hallucinations and the more negative type the psychotic ones.
The manic hallucinations are beautiful. As I write this I can see a faint trace of a rainbow behind the screen, and the letters are all vibrating and dancing ever so slightly, sometimes when i’m reading, I’ll see complex, colorful, motion filled animations of what’s going on behind the text.
At night maybe I’ll walk outside my families house for a cigarette, and stare down at the ground only to be met by arrays of purple and green globs that sparkle and glide across the stone floor of their garage and remain captivated for the duration of my smoke.
If i’m writing a song or poem of significance sometimes the text will glow, vibrate, and dance with an extreme vibrancy that makes my work feel very important and spiritually satisfying.
When I listen to music, I often close my eyes and hallucinate incredibly vivid scenes which I can only describe as putting me in the shoes of whoever wrote the song.
When I’m focusing really hard on singing or playing an instrument, I can often see not only the sound waves as I bend and conduct them to my will, but also the rhythm as the world around me grooves along too it.
While these types of hallucinations feel the most real, they don’t actually alter or add anything to the experience besides color, detail, and visual stimuli and are entirely harmless in nature.
The psychotic hallucinations are not usually as fun, though on rare occasions they have been quite amusing and entertaining.
Here’s an example of one that I found pretty amusing. I had been sleep deprived and was walking into my kitchen to grab a brownie. As I took a bite, I could hear what I can only describe as an angrier version of my own voice that came from outside of my head. This is what it said:
“Look at you eating that shit tier food, enjoy that fucking brownie you scumbag, TRANS FATS AND SUGAR YUMMY, enjoy that you fucking scrub.”
To which all I could do was laugh hysterically, for whatever reason it was absolutely hilarious to me. It’s not uncommon for me to feel like I’m narrating my own life during manic episodes, but this felt more like my brain narrating my subjective experience, whereas I usually experience those two things as a unified being.
My illness has on certain occasions felt more like a blessing or having a divine presence than an illness. In the same breath it’s also caused me to do some not so good things especially during periods of depression and mixed episodes generally involving risky and or indulgent behaviors usually involving drugs, alcohol, junk food, social media, laziness, over-spending, self-destructive behaviors, and or sleeping around, however the bad parts have been fading with age and increased self discipline, and continue to get a little better every week as long as I focus on making things better instead of allowing myself to regress.
I have experienced a small deal of paranoia, it happens very rarely but when it does it is quite pronounced, and rarely has much if any grounding in reality. It usually manifests in one of four ways: fear of government surveillance, fear of god’s judgement, fear of fatal illness, and the irrational belief that somebody Is trying to kill me. During these periods I may be afraid to leave my house, sleep in different places every night for several days in a row, be too afraid to sleep, experience extreme levels of anxiety and feel fake psychosomatic pain that fades away as soon as I realize it isn’t real. These are often short lived, with the longest one I had ever experienced lasting a mere five days.
I would probably say I experience the fear of gods judgement the most, which can be incited by small things like forgetting to clean, overindulging, forgetting to pray etc.
The fear of illness generally happens when im not taking care of myself, and these are often the shortest lived, rarely ever lasting more than half a day before I begin to comply with what my body is trying to tell me.
The third most common would be the fear of government surveillance, but after the patriot act and the wiki leaks thing can you really blame me?
The last one is extremely rare, and It kinda feels like all three of the former in rapid oscillation but generally involving someone whom I don’t know being out to get me. I’ve only ever experienced this one twice, and despite feeling like I was in more danger than I ever had through the others, I somehow acted quite calm and collectively through both, almost like I was training for what I would do if someone really was hunting me down.
Rather than be afraid of these symptoms, I try my hardest to make the best of them by using them to improve things about myself I wouldn’t normally be compelled to work on. I might realize I need to pray more often and reconsider my intentions to fight my fear of god, that I need to cut down my caffeine and nicotine intake and follow a better sleep schedule to fight my fear of illness, that I need to use better security on my Wifi enabled devices and take more control of my data to fight my fear of government surveillance.
Delusional hillucinations often come in the form of somebody on the television addressing me personally attempting to provide me with some sort of information which is almost always false, or a similar phenomena that sometimes happens while reading in which words may temporarily morph into different phrases.
Delusions are typically a bit harder to deal with. These often come in conjunction with hallucinations. It’s far more likely for me to hallucinate without being delusional than too experience delusional thinking without accompanying hallucinations. Much like the hallucinations the delusions can either feel great or terrible depending on both the nature of the delusion and the pretenses that brought me into it.
I’ve also experienced periods of intense dissociation, where I felt like I was as tall as a telephone pole, or felt like I was controlling my body from the third person like in a video game, or that I was watching it all unfold like my life was a movie, and I was the narrator or spectator. In hindsight I think the dissociation was a sort of defense mechanism against painful or difficult experiences.
Unlike the hallucinations the delusions are not as innocent, and have on certain occasions yielded either positive or negative consequences to myself and those around me. Sometimes a delusion can simultaneously yield both positive and negative consequences in my experience.
In my last relationship, I experienced an extended delusion that my significant other was cheating on me, despite not being able to prove it. This made me act like a major asshole on certain occasions, doing things that I have a very hard time forgiving myself for even today. Because of this paranoia I would sometimes get irrationally irritable and yell at her for being a cheater and a liar, I searched her phone without her permission and invaded her privacy. I have a hard time forgiving myself for that too. Both of these are actions that would normally be quite out of character but it shows how fear can drive people to become worse than they intend to be.
That is however, probably the easiest example of a delusion for someone with a normal brain type to understand, besides irrationally being afraid someone’s stalking or trying to kill you. Delusions can often take some very very strange turns though so I wanna talk about some of those.
This one is my favorite, I call it the sponsor delusion. and just because I say it’s my favorite doesn’t mean It’s always positive. This delusion, while compelling me to do some great things like take up instruments, read philosophical texts, and helped me understand a lot about myself and people in general.
I call this the sponsor delusion because it reminds me a specific aspect of the movie Hunger Games, in which people who have already been through the game can pick favorites and send them gifts. “The Universe Is Chaos, but Chaos Plays favorites” – Wingnut Dishwashers union.
The delusion basically entails believing you have some special tie to artists, authors, celebrities etc who have impacted the course of your life and mental development significantly. The way this generally works for me, is that every time I discover a new artist or author that I like enough to obsess over, I retain some aspect of their craft into my own, making art feel like a spiritual adventure in of itself. The bad side of this, is that it in my younger years especially, tended to reinforce negative traits, bad habits, and charector deficits I might have had in common with the individual along with inheriting new ones which had not been there prior. Usually moving on when the inherited negative traits are defeated and the positive ones are integrated into my writing, songwriting, guitar, piano, etc.
Oftentimes I find myself in delusional thought patterns, without being immersed in the delusion itself which tends to be far more benign and enjoyable than full on delusions. This has arisen some pretty strange and amusing thoughts including:
>Believing I had the soul of a cat, or the soul of a cat-dog hybrid.
>That I was a deity that was one third human, one third angel, and one third demon, or just two thirds holy and one third evil.
>That I had at one point experienced a spiritual rebirth related to a near death experience.
>that my soul mate was trying to communicate with me via telekinesis.
>that I was the reincarnation of Alexander the Great and Phil Ochs (and a few others)
>That god was controlling my left arm and writing instructions for how I ought to live, or writing poetry/songs that I perceived as having divine healing powers.
>Believing I live in a computer simulation.
>Believing that I have a divine purpose on earth related to literature, music, philosophy, religion and or technology.
>Insert conspiracy theory of choice.