Trauma from years of severe bipolar disorder episodes


This morning, I just read a blog post by Melody Moezzi entitled “Bipolar & Hospitalization – When Treatment Is Traumatic“. I found it addressed a significant topic that I’ve heard/read others discuss in the past. However, when hearing/reading such stories, I think back to some of my many hospitalizations. I, too, was literally dragged into isolation rooms and given injections. I was, at times, so sick that a hospital security staff member had to follow me around the ward for a couple days and watch me shower. However, unlike Melody’s (and some others’) experiences, when looking back, I found that it was even more my actual bipolar illness that left me with trauma. I don’t deny the trauma Melody writes about, or even that trauma can’t trigger bipolar disorder (I definitely know that), but feel that trauma, from the illness, is too inadequately discussed.

In my life, I was unfortunate to have experienced several severe manias with mixed features and psychosis, among other types of episodes. Very often, my psychosis included delusions of persecution and frightening hallucinations. Even the non-stop figurative beating I received from my illness, ultimately traumatized me. So many years of episodes made me almost feel like a soldier fighting in a long and sometimes vicious war. Then to crash into severe paralyzing depression depleted what little of me was left. ECT, itself, seemed like a final torture, despite its intent to provide relief. During my first ECT treatment, I experienced anesthesia awareness, yet another type of fright. I also struggled greatly to find a helpful (not so unfriendly) medication mix and adopt healthy coping skills (not alcohol abuse).

Beyond the pain and strain I felt during my worst bipolar episodes, I also had to cope with extreme embarrassments; past work colleagues witnessing my illness at its worst, neighbors seeing police and ambulances at my door; anger and rejection from others that resulted from bipolar behavior, throughout my life. I experienced extreme grief at the loss of a career, and the loss of the inner strength that I used to have. The recovery process was so long and arduous, and required a patience that I never thought possible for me.

avalancheAfter the four years of my worst bipolar episodes, I was also left with additional unexpected challenges. I started to have severe migraines for the first time in my life. I exhibited symptoms that doctors suspected were simple partial seizures. For a short period, I developed two specific phobias and agoraphobia. For much of a year, I felt terrorized by musical hallucinations. My brain seemed to have fully unraveled. It took a long time and great efforts, after numerous uncomfortable tests, to restore some psychiatric order again. To stop the psychiatric avalanche, and dig myself out.

I have made great progress in my recovery from the traumas of my bipolar episodes, but I am still quite weakened in various ways, especially stress tolerance. It’s like having to recover from a major physical injury. I’m not sure if I will ever be as strong and able, psychologically, as in my youth. I’m now almost 50 years old. I continue working on recovery, but also on acceptance.

There have, however, been major positives that resulted from my traumatic experience. I’ve learned a great deal about myself and my illness, along the way. Though I still experience bipolar episodes, I have gained more insight into them and can often nip them by the bud. That’s so extremely important! I’ve worked so hard. I don’t need new trauma, if I can help it, so I take my medications, continue working with my mental healthcare team, and do my best to create/maintain a healthy mental and physical lifestyle. My journey has also given me more compassion for others, and myself. I’m more grounded than ever before, and value life in a deeper way. I see others, and myself, as heroes for surviving and battling such a formidable illness. I did not permanently lose my optimism, and I continue to have hope for many brighter days in the future, even if there are some hiccups along the way.

13 thoughts on “Trauma from years of severe bipolar disorder episodes

  1. kachaiweb June 12, 2020 / 9:54 am

    I agree with mental ‘breakdowns’ as I call them for me being similar to an physical injury. Recovery is a long way to go but step by step I feel I’m moving forward.
    Thank you for sharing your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight June 12, 2020 / 11:34 am

      Thanks, kachaiweb! I’m glad you are making progress with your healing, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. celtics345 June 21, 2020 / 5:07 am

    I feel the same I went through trauma at school for having bipolar they made fun of me the cheerleaders were cruel i was told they made fun of me behind my back so the one that told me this liked to laugh but she shut up when i asked her if everyone likes her. i went through abuse very traumatic i went through a few really bad episodes but like you said over time we can nip it in the bud last year in august i had an episode i caught right away so i was only in 10 days in 2016 to 2017 i was in the hospital 6 times i am back writing what i love to do its a positive and gets me through the world right now and reminds me i can manage my disorder but also sometimes its out of my control.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight June 21, 2020 / 1:49 pm

      It’s so nice to see you here on WordPress again, Celtics! I’m glad to read that you were able to get some control over your last episode. I think it helps to prevent major switches.

      I always remember how passionate you have been about writing. And you always write about girls/women in such a generous way. You are such a good guy!

      Liked by 1 person

      • celtics345 June 22, 2020 / 4:43 am

        I am glad to read about you. I missed you a lot. You a very good friend/supporter. I love women. Women need their support in their dreams too. I write to brighten their day up whether they are an insecure actress a writer and artist feeling like a failure. I like women of all ages AnnMarie is 55 but I always make her feel better. Paris has social anxiety and a great actress but lacks confidence at the moment in her acting shes from the uk coming to the states i love her so much. shes very young though but if we never move past friends i am still happy.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. stoner on a rollercoaster September 25, 2020 / 2:35 pm

    This one hits very close to home. You are exceptionally brave to write about it and thank you for that.
    i have scheduled this piece for the reblogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight September 28, 2020 / 9:20 am

      Thanks so much for sharing my post, stoner on a rollercoaster!


  4. Robert Matthew Goldstein September 28, 2020 / 11:15 pm

    I had difficult hospitalizations when I was younger. The problem was that I was misdiagnosed. I was often restrained and wet sheeted, traumatic episodes but, in retrospect, necessary. I was so dissociated that I had no sense of my physical boundaries; the wet sheeting gave me that and was a turning point. For me, the most traumatic part of hospitalization was going home to a broken life and a broken-down apartment with nothing but my hunger and a bag of toxic medications.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight September 29, 2020 / 12:17 am

      There really must be, in my view, an even softer way to find healing after the shock and trauma of major psychiatric events. I don’t think Partial Hospitalization or Intensive Outpatient Programs are sufficient. Definitely going straight from the hospital to home (if it even has the comfort of one) is acceptable. I am sorry you didn’t have sufficient support.

      Even with my loving husband I struggled after rough episodes. Sometimes the IOPs, themselves, were harmful for me. I found DBT particularly harmful at the tail end of a severe bipolar mania. Not to say it doesn’t have some benefits, but at the right time, not wrong one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Robert Matthew Goldstein September 29, 2020 / 7:40 pm

        I agree with you. The U.S, system of care for people with mental health issues is sick with stigma. In fact, the worst stigma I’ve faced came from the staff of hospitals. I found DBT helpful after I was accurately diagnosed.

        Liked by 1 person

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