For all your mood swing identification needs.
Possible responses to breaking a glass:
- Manic: “Fucking fuck, I do not have time for this, I am TRYING to get things DONE if everything would just stop getting in my WAY for half a goddamn minute. I am too smart and too important to be cleaning up fucking GLASS.” Kicks the floor, stubs toe. Stays up all night researching what kinds of glasses are least breakable, while also doing an intense workout, watching TV, listening to the radio, reading articles, being pissed off with the TV and radio and articles, and hatching plans to hop a freight train going West and subsist on itinerant work for a year. Buys an expensive set of “unbreakable” glasses. Walks on the glass and doesn’t notice cut feet until they become infected.
- Hypomanic: “There is a reason I broke this plate. I just need to figure out what it is and it will change my life. This gives me a good opportunity to clean the floor, now that I’m down here it seems very dirty, and while I’m at it I’m going to wash the walls and windows and disinfect everything, cleaning is fun, woohoo!” Puts on loud music and skips around cleaning the entire place while coming up with hundreds of creative ideas; rushes to try to pen them as fast as they arrive.
- Depressed: “Fuck, not again. Why does this always have to happen? I am such a clumsy retard. Now I have one less glass, which means I’ll have to wash the dishes more often, and I’m going to have to spend hours cleaning this mess up and probably still end up with glass splinters in my feet. You know what, fuck it, I can’t deal with this right now.” Huddles on the couch under a blanket pretending to watch TV.
- Very depressed: Bursts into ragged sobs and runs to hide in bed, overwhelmed by the horror and absurdity of the world.
Thoughts on being asked to a party:
- Manic: “I’m trying to WORK here and you just made me lose track of the ineffably brilliant train of thought I was following. If you can’t keep up, at least get out of the way, why can’t you understand how important this is, it’s all so simple! I guess you just aren’t chosen like I am. You can’t know what I know.”
- Hypomanic: “Yes! Let’s go dancing! Let’s stay up all night and go trestling* and come up with a theory of everything! You’re the best, and I’m pretty great too! I don’t even need sleep or food! Everything is fantastic!”
- Depressed: “I really want to go and have a good time. It’s not like people ask me to things very often, because let’s face it, I’m pretty shitty really. But I know if I get there I’ll feel alienated and anxious and will freeze up and turn red all over and sweat like crazy and have to leave right away, which will be humiliating. Great, not likely I’ll get invited to anything soon since I’m declining this time.”
- Very depressed: “They’re only inviting me to make fun of me, or out of pity, or both. If I go, I’ll just ruin it for everyone else. Why am I even here? What’s the point of all this? Sometimes I wish I could put a bullet through my brain just to make it stop hurting so much. I wish the sky would just open and swallow me up and no one would ever even know I existed. Going to a party is the most miserable thing anyone could do. If people see me they will hate me and I won’t be able to stand it.”
Manner of speaking:
- Manic: Fast enough to be nearly unintelligible, with thoughts streaming out faster than anyone can keep up with. Total inability to control speech. Replete with swearing and offensiveness, without a thought for the consequences.
- Hypomanic: Fast, boisterous, difficult to interrupt, fixated on special interests.
- Depressed: Slow, flat, filled with sighs and groans and more complaining than intended; visible lack of interest in interaction coupled with a yearning to be understood and reassured.
- Very depressed: As little as possible; muttering.
The bottom line: Next time you see these symptoms, know that they are not personal and in no way reflect on you as a friend, partner or family member.
There is no question that bipolar people are difficult to know and care for. Our experience is often described as a roller coaster, but that’s really too tame. It’s like a roller coaster where every inch ahead is shrouded in impenetrable fog, and most of the time when you go down a hill, which, of course, always happens eventually, your car smashes to bits and you have no choice but to rebuild it from scratch and get back on, or throw up your hands and walk away. Half of us will try to kill ourselves at some point in our lives. Half of those will succeed.
By recognizing what traits are affected by our mood swings, though, you can learn to see the person underneath the mood, or so we hope. We’d like to think it’s worth the effort.
To paraphrase Season 8, Episode 1 of the rebooted Doctor Who, no matter how scared you are of others’ mental illness, they will always be more scared than you.
*The hobby of climbing a train trestle as a train passes over while yelling and holding on really tight.