Breaking the silence: Mood Disorders
Updated: Dec 7, 2021
About this series:
This series aims to raise awareness about different medical conditions through storytelling and information.
In 2019, I fell into a very intense, depressive and dissociative state. At some points, I felt no connection to the word “I”, so I thought of myself in third person. I was literally crying all the time for no reason and it wasn’t cathartic.
I went to see my general practitioner who prescribed an antidepressant. It put me into hypomania. I was in a really good mood, euphoric and very bouncy. My thoughts were racing. I did not feel like I needed to sleep so I would stay up all night reorganizing my closet. I was experiencing paraesthesia, crawling sensations on my skin. I felt like I was on the level of the geniuses in history because a lot of them were also crazy.
“The Watcher” in me was aware that I was acting irrationally and didn’t want things to worsen. The hypomanic part of me, “The Doer”, was doing all the things and wanted to have visual hallucinations to see what they are like and to see demons.
Changed over a night
One time, I stayed up all night. In the wee hours of the morning, I started hearing voices. It felt like I was eavesdropping. Every voice was coming from its own location in my room. They each had different ages, genders, sexes and ethnicities. What they said made no sense. In the morning, I was kind of scared but I was also hypomanic so I thought it was cool that I had heard voices.
I called my GP who put me on an antipsychotic. He thought I might have scitzo-affective disorder bipolar type. This diagnosis was very surprising for both me and my parents because we have no family history of any sorts of mood disorders or psychotic disorders.
A side to the side effects
It didn’t start working right away so I still had subtle hallucinations. When I was lying in bed at night and looking at my furniture or the walls, they seemed to be breathing or underwater. I saw spiders that would disappear when I came closer to them. It eventually did start working.
Antipsychotics often affect your dopamine supply which is responsible for movement. I ended up with drug-induced Parkinsons.
I experienced dyskinesia. My arms and legs would spasm and contract on their own. It was extremely painful. The first time it happened to me, I took an Uber to the emergency room. They had to give me medication to stop it from happening. It did happen a few other times after that but the medication took care of it.
Because I was so out of it, I didn’t realize I was really depressed. I thought this was the normal part of getting better. Every day, I would wake up, go to class, come back home and sleep 16 hours.
I was experiencing really bad mood swings. I would be hypomanic one evening and then suicidal and crying on the bathroom floor the next morning. Because nothing seemed to trigger my episodes, I had to learn how to deal with them once they happened.
One day, my parents told me that they didn’t recognize me anymore. I went back to my psychiatrist and she switched me over to a different antipsychotic.
After a while, my moods were steady but I was still pretty depressed. Since I had experienced psychosis, I was put on an antidepressant not known to cause mania or hypomania. I finally received a proper diagnosis. I have a mood disorder not otherwise specified with psychotic features.
This combination of medications worked and I’ve been on them since. I was really lucky because it can take people years to find the right regimen.
Habits and Coping Mechanisms
Other things I used in addition to therapy were meditations, journaling and poetry.
I worked very hard not to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms and I’m proud of that. I tried to stay away from alcohol, weed and cutting. If I was ever feeling off, angry or depressed, I would just go to bed because I didn’t want to deal with it.
My episodes never lasted long enough to receive a clinical diagnosis of hypomania. I felt like an imposter. The self-sabotaging part of me wished I was more mentally ill and that I would experience more trauma because only then would I have the right to my diagnosis.
Support in silence
My parents didn’t want me to talk about it so only my doctors and best friends knew what was going on. I just told everyone else that I was depressed. I didn’t really talk about my psychosis or hypomania. I wished that I was able to have support from my peers. Even if they wouldn’t have been able to relate to or understand what I was going through, I would’ve felt less burdened. I felt isolated from both myself and the world around me.
Words of advice to those struggling
You are not going to get better unless you want to get better. You can’t be passive and just sit back, take your medication and go to therapy. You have to put in the work and constantly stay on top of yourself.
Someone once told me that situations are constantly changing. Things may not be better right away but they will be different. Eventually, that different will hopefully be better. The only way out is through.
Today is a dysphoric day. Small things, like fine grit on my skin, chafe at me. I feel sideways and slanted. I don’t quite fit into my skin the way I’m supposed to. Everything around me seems flat and lifeless, like cardboard cut-outs. One-sided and two-dimensional. My chest is an empty set of drawers. My mouth is a bathroom sink and my eyes are faucets. Tears, like water, drip slowly down my face. My sense of self is slowly eroding. I wish to cease existing. Sorrow pools at the bottom of my feet and vines twist around my throat. Boredom blooms within my empty chest. Teeth scrape and bones crunch. The whisper a page makes as it is turned sounds loudly in my head. I am drained of all that makes me alive. I remain but a consciousness, a white wisp, like a flame flickering in the wind. Dust sights through the caverns of my hollow bones. My name echoes strangely in my ears. I wish I could flatten myself and fold myself up, like a piece of paper, slip myself into a crack, and remain there, untouched and unseen. People’s gazes burn my skin and their words claw at my ears. I want to dissociate. If you peel back my skin, there is emptiness underneath. Time is arbitrary and a meaningless construct. Hours mean nothing. This moment stands still, and you experience it over and over. There is no continuity, just endless repetition. Time is thus dead, and sleep will bring me no rest tonight.
When I felt depressed or unwell I struggled a lot with the urge to induce hypomania to feel better. Here is a poem I wrote about that:
the knife, held by my hand
harsh slices of
choking limitations i
yearn for vices i
like things that are
not for me self-sabotage
calls an alluring song
drugs sing in my blood
if only i could escape
this twisting reality
carve out veins of self-sacrifice
turn into an abstraction
of myself and this
yet i with my
am pulled to dark waters
a unbalance of
neurons and synapses
caustic chemicals burning
urgent, uneasy yearning
this desire it's a
knot of want it's a
lot of want it's a
strangled around my throat
smearing purple bruises
and i fear i shall choke
Here is a poem I wrote when I was hypomanic:
my brain is trapped in a vessel
that's too weary of living life for
the sake of a hurtling rock in outer space i have
made myself small yet i contain
multitudes my inhibitions
swept away by a wall of
rushing water i still
don't recognize the
face in the mirror money runs like water through my
the words that trip out of
you're hearing them for the
first time too being in public is hard i have to force
my face into some semblance of a mask
the timbre of my voice does not
match that of my thoughts i wish to carve open my back
for some relief my hands are leaves in the wind
life is too beautiful the ache is a slicing sharp pain in my
chest a stab in the heart it beats painfully to the rhythm
that all living things sway to
The name and all identifying details have been withheld for privacy.
Prose and poetry courtesy of the narrator.
The narrator can be contacted through The TAV Times.
If you'd like to share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org with 'breaking the silence' as the subject line.