Its name puts bipolar on the same axis as the earth. There’s a plumbline drop from north to south. The north pole is mania, the one people assume is the party of a lifetime. Halfway between it and the centre is hypomania – helium happiness and the difference between the two is what separates bipolar 1 from 2.
However, bipolar is not flat, anymore than the earth is.
Earth is a 3D thing, oblate spheroid, distorted by its own gravity and mostly covered by shifting water, partly covered by land in various flavours of stability. Those two poles exist, because we have decided that they are a thing. Points of reference. We don’t move between them by drilling through the earth’s core, we wander along a multitude of trajectories. The equator (which goes all the way around, of course) is euthymia, the ‘normal’ state of non-extreme moods.
You could compare bipolar to global weather systems, but I’m taking the simpler option – the sea. People (muggles, I mean) tend to see oceans as capricious and moody things, liable to change direction and attitude at the drop of the proverbial hat.
That’s a very superficial assumption. Calm, storms and everything in between the two states are caused and affected by all kinds of things, most of which are invisible to the naked eye.
It sparkles, but the main thing about mania is that it isn’t always a very merry mood, it can be a mean mania too and then that shiny sunlight is broken, glittering glass. It can be a perfect wave, but remember that water and waves operate on tension and motion. You can’t get a wave like that to lie down quietly, it has to break. Sometimes waves make it to the shore and crash, sometimes they fall apart in deep water.
A smaller wave that doesn’t hospitalise you – but it fragments in the end, like they all do.
It may appear fairly calm on the surface, but depression is neither quiet nor static. Imagine yourself sad. No, sadder, the most sadness you can possibly get your mind around. Now imagine that while you are feeling that, you are being sucked down by a vortex, so deep you can feel the oxygen begin to riot in your veins. And it can last for years.
Another fun format of depression is anhedonia, when the winds drop and you’re becalmed in the doldrums. It’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner stuff. Nothing shifts, nothing happens, you don’t enjoy anything. No-thing. Doing your absolutely very favourite thing ever just makes you despair, because you can’t enjoy anything.
Choppy seas … sometimes the sun shines and life doesn’t feel to bad, at others there’s no light, it’s cold and everything is bleak. The danger of mixed states lies in their energy. Those are the times for suicide watches, because depressed and suicidal people find the energy and motivation to carry out plans they couldn’t while only depressed. Chuck in agitation and anxiety along with mania and/or depression and hopefully you’ll understand that mixed states are bitches straight from hell.
Not all ships get totally wrecked, but psychosis is an indicator that it’s time to get the lifeboats sorted, or you could end up in concert with Celine Dion. Not everyone experiences it, it’s caused by a stress overload and can manifest as delusions and auditory and/or visual hallucinations. History has tended to file psychosis under madness, visionary or both. It is neither. In fact, psychosis is nothing like a badger.
Seahells on the Seasore
Manic depressives are seafarers. It’s plain (ish) sailing for some, temporary for others. And then there are the bipolar ancient mariners – our ships are wrecked. When we surf, we fall every time. When we dive, we always get the bends. And you wouldn’t believe how many sea miles we accrue.
Don’t shoot the albatross.