Psychiatric Avalanche Effect – Unraveling the mystery of my past brain quirks


About 12 years ago, one “thread” of my brain’s tapestry got pulled hard, and some of the rest started to quickly unravel. It wasn’t just the blue threads, but the red, yellow, and purple threads seem to unravel, too. The image of stability and mental wellness started to disappear. Doctors of various sorts, and numerous therapists, tried to knit my brain back to before, but the various colored “threads” became misaligned at times and the image was sometimes unrecognizable and disturbing.

unraveled yarnI’ve mentioned my bipolar disorder on my blog many times. In my About page I mention that the worst of my illness began at age 32. That was when the major unraveling began, and happened so quickly and furiously, that I could not make proper amends for a long time.

I don’t think it is uncommon for people with bipolar disorder to have additional mental or physical issues that crop up after episodes. Bipolar episodes (depressive, manic, rapid cycling, and mixed) can be overwhelming, especially if they are severe, and come on like an avalanche. I found for myself that at times what I experienced was even traumatic, to a degree.

After my worst bipolar episodes, I started to develop what one might call some strange brain “quirks”, for lack of a better word. I found myself thinking and behaving in new strange ways:

  • Developing obsessions and compulsions, even though I’ve never been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
  • Having short periods of amnesia
  • Dissociating (depersonalization/derealization)
  • Developing odd specific phobias (like fear of swallowing meat, fear of going into my basement, fear of driving outside of my town)
  • Agoraphobia
  • Hallucinations of various sorts (musical, olfactory, visual, and auditory)
  • Migraines for the first time in my life, including “silent migraine auras”
  • Anxiety and panic attacks

brain knittingOne of my doctors was even concerned that I may have been having seizures. So I went to a neurologist, and received many tests (MRIs, EEGs) and was given the diagnosis of Simple Partial seizures (SPS).  The type of SPS that the doctor suspected I had, were not motor (convulsive) or autonomic seizures, but rather psychic and/or sensory seizures. I would be conscious during them and usually remember the details. This diagnosis, which was born from “I don’t know what”, explained some of the strange behaviors I outlined above. I was coincidentally prescribed a medication for the seizures, which also happens to be a bipolar medication. To those of you unaware of this, many bipolar medications are also seizure medications. Strange, huh?

Why if my bipolar episodes were no longer severe, did I develop all of these other strange behaviors? All that could be done was to treat the symptoms as they appeared with medications, therapy (and coping skills), a low stress situation, and healthy living.

I am happy and proud to say that I have not had any major bipolar episodes in over two years. Most of the strange behaviors outlined above have also disappeared.  I feel grounded, clear headed, creative, and more motivated. I feel like the tapestry of my brain is restored. It took time and patience to form a recognizable image back, but when it was restored, it was not exactly as it had been originally. I find the image to be simpler in some ways. At first I didn’t find it to be as attractive, but now it’s growing on me.

I don’t know if I will ever figure out the exact causes of the total unraveling of my brain. My guess is the stress and trauma I experienced. It’s amazing what effect such things can have on the brain. It sure is a sensitive and complex organ!

Even if you don’t have a mental illness, have you ever experienced a similar string of issues born from one major instigating one?



15 thoughts on “Psychiatric Avalanche Effect – Unraveling the mystery of my past brain quirks

  1. yuhublogger April 24, 2017 / 6:59 pm

    Another wonderful write up. A peek into your life. I’m glad you got over it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight April 24, 2017 / 7:11 pm

      Yes, I’m mostly over my strangest brain “quirks”, but occasionally one or two come by for a brief visit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • yuhublogger April 24, 2017 / 7:11 pm

        I’m sure only bright things are ahead for you. Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. zlotybaby August 9, 2017 / 5:39 am

    I have OCD that thanks to mindfulness and exercise I manage quite well at this stage of my life. I can relate to develop irrational specific fears and of course obsessions. I can’t tell how much of me is “really” me and how much is the disorder. For instance I find particular pleasure in exploring the same story from different angles. I’d watch ALL film version of Jane Eyre story or read everything about Hitchcock and see all his movies and books he based his movies on etc. I can get super hyper when I’m in the zone and then super low when I’m out of it. I thought I could be bipolar but my episodes are apparently way too short to be diagnosed as such. I know it can be tiring when things just happen in your head and you seemingly have no control over them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight August 9, 2017 / 12:17 pm

      I’m so glad you’ve been able to manage your OCD with healthy living skills and mindfulness. That is the best way. I have to take medications for my bipolar disorder, but healthy living and other skills help me, as well.

      I think many people have minor obsessions. Unless they are distressing, I think the average person need not worry too much. I, too, have some obsessive behaviors, but not to the point of OCD in my case.

      It’s true that for diagnosis of bipolar episodes there is minimum criteria requirements in terms of length of episodes, but some people can have very very rapidly cycling mood symptoms that are concerning. If you continue to have such rapid cycling of mood symptoms, please see your doctor.

      Liked by 1 person

      • zlotybaby August 9, 2017 / 4:10 pm

        OCD is believed to be a disorder that can be managed without medication. Between CBT, exposures and self-work, it’s doable but you always have to remain on guard. I have two friends with bipolar disorder. One is stable because she medicate it the guy is constantly skipping his meds.

        OCD is a weird one. There are genetic reasons for it, but the environment plays a big part. I agree that a lot of people develop minor obsessions and it’s not a reason for worrying. It only becomes a problem where the compulsions/rituals start to hinder your everyday life. I wish there was more awareness about the disorder, though. I showed the first symptoms at around 14-15 but my parents would only get upset with me. I even went to two different psychologies in my early twenties and none of them noticed it. Everything started to make sense when I read a memoir written by a person suffering from OCD and I was like “There’s a name for what do? It’s manageable?”.

        I’ll keep that in mind, thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight August 9, 2017 / 4:12 pm

        I’m glad you finally found a name for your OCD behavior. I know that a lot of people with bipolar disorder go through their life (before diagnosis) and wish they had a name for it. Many who finally get the diagnosis have relief. Relief wasn’t my reaction, though. I was more one in denial.

        Liked by 1 person

      • zlotybaby August 9, 2017 / 4:22 pm

        Were you in denial because you didn’t want to be someone with a mental disorder? Or were you upset to be forced to take medication for life? I was just relieved. The first time I went to a meeting of the OCD support group I was so happy to hear experiences similar to mine I wanted to cry.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight August 9, 2017 / 5:31 pm

        I never liked taking pills, but I guess it was that I just didn’t want to think of myself as a person with a bona fide mental illness. I had had anxiety and depression in the past, and what was surely a manic episode, but I thought those things just pass and would perhaps never return again. By not being treated properly my illness grew worse and worse as I aged.

        Liked by 1 person

      • zlotybaby August 10, 2017 / 6:16 am

        I can understanstand. I think some people maybe have one episode of depression in their life when things are bad, but if it keeps happening it’s a sign there’s some bigger issue there. I don’t know how your environment reacted to you behavior but people often attribute unusual behaviors to your personality which doesn’t help.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight August 10, 2017 / 2:47 pm

        That doesn’t help. I agree. I know, however, that my mood issues are not personality related, because they were just short episodes when I was younger. Unfortunately the episodes have lengthened as I’ve aged. Tragedies have also taken their toll.

        Liked by 1 person

      • zlotybaby August 11, 2017 / 5:51 am

        I’m sorry to hear that. I’m glad you’re doing better now.

        Liked by 1 person

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