Today, we have with us, our fourth Guest Blog Thursday, where YOU, bring us fresh and intriguing posts to share with the rest of the world. Today’s blog post was written by Anja Burcak. If you would also like to contribute to PsiHub, visit this page.
Here is a short introduction to the author. Anja Burcak is a blogger with a passion for mental health advocacy. She often writes about mania, depression, and anxiety, from a first-person perspective. Being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 years ago has given her insight into the struggles many face with finding the right diagnosis, treatment, and providers. She hopes that sharing her story will create more open, honest conversations about mental health, fighting the stigma one conversation at a time.
You can check out her blog called “The Calculating Mind” where she discusses her personal journey in battling Bipolar Disorder.
Today, I feel normal… so normal that I might just cry. To someone who has no personal ties to a mood disorder, this statement may seem odd, even bizarre. Why would someone be so emotional about feeling just “okay”?
Here’s the thing: for the past four years, I have constantly been battling mood episodes, both manic and depressive (Bipolar 1 diagnosis). The depressive episodes could be mild or severe, making me nearly catatonic or extremely agitated (such as pacing back and forth pointlessly). During my first depressive episode, the summer of 2014, I spent most of the day obsessed with death, particularly my own. Before, I had never even fixated on my own death. Death was a vague, distant concept rather than something to worry about anytime soon. Once this episode hit me, suicidal ideation became my constant companion. It ruled my: every thought (suicide methods all day everyday), my plans (cancelling plans), and social behavior (isolating self). Depression robbed me of the ability to see my own future; I was convinced that I didn’t need to prepare for the upcoming college semester, because I would not be alive by August. This was a really severe episode, but other episodes followed it as well. As for mania, a lot of people assume that it is a really “fun” experience. I can understand how someone may perceive euphoric hypomania as “fun”, since it does not cause much impairment and gives the person a good mood. Dysphoric features, however, can cause excessive irritability, hostility, impatience, and a painful degree of emotions. Episodes with mixed features (having characteristics of both mania and depression) are the worst type of hell for me, a hyper alert, agitated state of sucidality and despair.
Full-blown mania, at first, was not concerning to me. When it was clear that my obsessive writing, racing thoughts, scattered thinking, and insomnia were getting in the way of my life (i.e. college exams), I saw that it was really a problem. My impulsive trip to Washington D.C. to talk to Obama to fix the mental healthcare system was a major wake-up call that A) I was clearly grandiose and manic B) My behavior, such as spontaneous trips in the middle of the night by myself, was dangerous C) I needed help right away.
Even after 2 hospitalizations, it was hard to accept that something was “wrong” with my brain. I’ve spent a lot of time on and off meds. I have had alarming side effects, including oculogyric crisis (Imagine not having control over your own eyes!), irritated skin, and sedation to the degree that I was unable to safely walk on my own. Trying medication after medication made me want to give up. It seemed like I was “treatment-resistant,” so what was even the point of wasting more time, energy and money? My family, boyfriend, peers, and friends have supported me through this frustrating journey towards better health and finding the best treatment, for which I am incredibly grateful.
But, last night, I did not sleep too much or too little. My thoughts are not excruciatingly slow or shockingly fast. I feel motivated, but not in a grandiose “I am going to save the world” manner. I’m not socially isolated nor am I bombarding friends and family with messages. My self-esteem is not at an all-time low nor is it at an “I’m the best person ever” level. I recognize myself, the way I was before my first episode. For the first time in four years, I finally feel like myself again.
By: Anja Burcak