How Does Bipolar Feel?
While having bipolar disease does not mean a person is always either feeling depressed (depressing) or feeling high (mania), people often ask, “How does bipolar feel?” Here is how the episodes of depression and mania can feel:
How Does Depression Feel?
The author William Styron (Sophie’s Choice) describes his bout of depression in his book, Darkness Visible, as follows: “It was not really alarming at first, since the change was subtle, but I did notice my surroundings took on a different tone at certain times: the shadows of nightfall seemed more somber, my mornings were less buoyant, walks in the woods became less zestful, and there was a moment during my working hours in the late afternoon when a kind of panic and anxiety overtook me.”
The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay writes in “Burial” of being ‘six feet deep.’ In “Sorrow,” she likens sorrow to ‘ceaseless rain…People twist and scream in Pain in a chair.’ And she declares, ‘The anguish of the world is on my tongue. My bowl is filled to the brim with it.’
Others comment that the experience of major depression is “like someone with an army boot is pressing down on my chest…like trying to run up a hill of mud and always sliding down…Movement and thinking are in slow motion…I can’t make decisions…I have crying jags…I cannot smile…I cannot concentrate.*”
How Does Mania Feel?
Juliet writes on healthy-place.com: “I feel joy juice surging through my veins…A colossal ‘high’ has found me. I’m witty, charming, quick, talkative and effervescent…Euphoria is an understatement… I compulsively call people randomly on the phone while chatting on the computer…I’m chatting with strangers, shopping for things I don’t need.”
Dr. Kay R. Jamison (her self bipolar and a psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkin School of Medicine) puts it this way in her book An UN Quiet Mind: “The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars and you follow them until you find better and brighter ones. Shyness goes, the right words and gestures are suddenly there, the power to seduce and captivate others a felt certainty…Sensuality is pervasive… financial omnipotence and euphoria now pervade one’s marrow. The fast ideas are too fast and there are far too many…Humor and absorption on friends’ faces are replaced by fear and concern…You are irritable, angry, frightened.”
I am humbled that describing what I feel at both extremes cannot be better stated than as they are above.