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.
I’ve mentioned my bipolar disorder on my blog a few 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 quick and furious, 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 with certain things/people, 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)
- 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
One of my doctors was even concerned that I may have been having seizures. So I went to a neurologist and received many tests (EEGs) and was given the diagnosis of Simple Partial seizures (SPSs). The type of SPSs 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? It was difficult to understand how or why. All that could be done was to treat these 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 cause 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 physically in 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?