I saw this sign the other day and it really resonated with me. Personally I know that an unmade bed is definitely a sign of impending depression. But what about the flip side? In Bipolar Disorder, a slip in behaviors could indicate either a coming depression or mania. When you’re dealing with the possibility of these two extremes, you have to carefully delineate your warning signs ahead of time, while you’re feeling well. One of the best tools I’ve found to help me with this is Mary Ellen Copeland’s WRAP process, which you can follow the link to learn more about. WRAP stands for Wellness Recovery Action Plan, and is an excellent tool to set yourself up for the best, and prepare for the worst.
Here are my signs that things are breaking down, and maybe you will see yourself in these too:
Sleeping more than usual. For me this is 10+ hours a night without sleeping medication. Can also include sleeping during the day.
Having no interest in your usual passions. In fact, having no passion for life at all. The thought enters my head, “Why has anyone ever wanted to do anything, ever, in the history of the world? What’s the point?”
Feeling like you have “Grey Vision”. Colors fade away, everything takes on dark shades of grey. And no, there are not even fifty of them. Maybe more like four.
Skimping on your personal hygiene. Only brushing your teeth once a day? Check. Showering every other day? Check. Showering maybe only twice a week…? You get the idea.
Having no interest in your physical appearance. This goes along with the aforementioned and may be more of a personal problem for me, but it might be something you recognize in yourself as well, so I’ve included it just in case. For me, when I stop caring about makeup or fashion or start wearing the same few clothes over and over, it’s a serious sign of depression.
Feeling a deep sense of dread or despair. Your alarm clock goes off and your first thought is, “Not another day.” And you can’t get out of bed, let alone tend to the myriad other things you’re supposed to do that day. Then that sense of dread follows you around for the next several hours until you can crawl back into bed.
Loss of energy. Having gotten out of bed and onto the couch, now you cannot move. Not to look at your laptop, TV, or even your phone. And what’s more, you don’t care.
Decreased libido. Or really, no libido at all. Just. Don’t. Touch. Me.
Decreased need for sleep/excess energy. That feeling of “When will the day start?!” after you’ve slept four hours and decided it’s time to get up, and then realize it’s only 2am.
Excessive interest in certain things. Interests, passion, and desire are wonderful. Obviously we don’t want to quell these things. But you know your limits and you know when things are becoming excessive for you. For me this feels like “mission mode”. Mission mode is a common occurrence in children with bipolar disorder, and for me the feeling is similar if not as intense as described in children. It is caused by a deficit in executive functioning, which takes place in the prefrontal cortex and regulates things like reasoning and self-control.
In my experience I begin to harbor an excessive interest in beauty and fashion. Now, like I said earlier, when I have zero interest in beauty or fashion, I know I’m depressed. But there is also a happy medium. However, when I start to spend hours on couture websites or watch countless beauty tutorials on YouTube (and more annoyingly for everyone else, post them on Facebook), I know I’m becoming manic.
Which brings me to excessive spending.For me, an excessive interest in beauty and fashion, plus my urges to spend money constantly during mania, can be a dangerous mix. If I’m ordering “must-have” items online or driving to far-away stores that carry a special product, I know this is not my normal behavior and I need to rein it in.
Seeing everything as more vivid and colorful than it may be in reality. In my manias I am drawn to bright colors and shiny objects. Like a young child, I get excited by the fancy marketing tactics companies use to lure us in. “Oh, those Twix bars have red and green wrappers for Christmas? I need them now!” However, if you begin to experience vivid colors along with images that others can’t see, or you start distrusting people or believing something without any evidence, you may be entering psychosis, which can be very dangerous if left unchecked. Read about the symptoms of bipolar psychosis.
Feelings of grandeur. As we know, mania is a feeling of euphoria. But this can sometimes lead to feelings of grandeur, also known as grandiosity. Have you suddenly decided you would be the perfect person to quit your job and spearhead the campaign to end world hunger? Or start stalking Leonardo DiCaprio on Twitter and think you are practically besties? Yeah…that might be grandiosity.
Sudden outbursts of anger or swells of rage. I get surges of rage when I’m manic, and luckily I don’t usually act on them (these feelings can manifest in depression as well). Every once in a while though I will have the urge to throw or break something, scream or curse, and I end up doing so. I apologize immediately because the adrenaline has been released in the moment of action, and afterwards I am left feeling guilty or ashamed. This is not to say that anger is unhealthy or something to feel guilty about, but it is always best to find a constructive and non-threatening way to release this energy.
And coming in last for the bipolar symptom no one wants to talk about: Hypersexuality. For those of you who have bipolar disorder, I don’t need to explain this one. And for those of you who don’t, I encourage you to read this article for a thorough explanation of this very troubling and destructive symptom.
I hope my examples have proved useful for you, and I hope you can make your own list so you can more easily recognize when things might be getting out of control for you, either propelling you into a depression or a mania. And just as important as writing these things down for yourself is sharing them with a trusted person who can help recognize your symptoms and discuss them with you.