One of the funny/strange things about bipolar disorder is the way people’s eyes change when they’re in a mood episode.
Seriously. I can always tell when I’m manic, even when I don’t think so otherwise, because my eyes actually sparkle and change colors. My hazel irises turn green and there’s this slightly mad look in them that tends to make others wonder just what I might be up to. My eyes also widen and the pupils dilate; friends call this phenomenon “psycho eyes”. If you’ve ever seen the Vraylar commercials on TV, they show a woman whose eyes do pretty much the same thing, which is about the only realistic part of the ad (come on, when you’re really manic you don’t even know where the sticky notes are, let alone have them lined up neatly on your office window).
Eyes also tend to change when you’re depressed, although not as dramatically. Mine will darken and take on a sad, dispirited look that gives me away even when I tell people “I’m fine”. My parents told me my face was way too easy to read, which is something I’ve spent a lifetime unsuccessfully trying to overcome because I was often punished for letting my emotions show. It’s tough facing the world sometimes when you know anyone with the emotional IQ of a seventh-grader can tell that something’s wrong.
My youngest son, Ethan, could assess my feelings even when he was three years old. I remember one evening in particular when I was putting him to bed, and he began asking me questions. “Mom, are you sad? Mom, are you mad?” he inquired, obviously concerned about me. At the time I didn’t think I was either, but sometimes my resting bitch face causes people to assume I’m upset and trying to hide it. Rather than try to explain my apparent funk, I told him I had a headache, and he said “You need an aspirin!” His ability to ‘diagnose’ problems has also served him well in his nursing career so far. LOL.
But it’s the mania that really brings out the crazy in my peepers. I have been told at various times that they almost glitter, and that it’s kind of frightening for the people who know me well. Others mistakenly believe I’m just super happy, and for the most part I’m content to let them think that. Believe it or not, I have a few friends who have NO idea whatsoever that I’m bipolar and I’m not about to let that cat out of the bag. They all came from a time when mental illness was something to be ashamed of and thus wasn’t often talked about, so I simply let them think I’m perfectly normal…and if by chance someone remarks about my wide-open, sparkly eyes, I only tell them I’m having a really good day.
Julie A. Fast, a well-known bipolar expert who herself suffers from bipolar 2, has actually posted pictures of herself in both mania and depression in BP Magazine, and it’s very easy to tell which mood state she’s in. I’ll do the same here one day if I can ever think to take photos when I’m one way or the other.
Speaking of moods, I seem to have returned to baseline for the most part…just in time to see Dr. Goodenough this coming Wednesday. I will, of course, have to fill him in on how I’ve been flipping in and out of hypomania this spring, and he may not be very thrilled with me given his repeated requests that I call in to report any deviation from stable and I haven’t done it. I will also have to tell him about my screwy sleep patterns; I sleep nine or 10 hours some nights, and two or three hours on others. Wednesday night I didn’t sleep at all, and last Friday I was up for 36 hours straight. And I wasn’t even tired. That’s never a good sign. So it’s probably going to mean an increase in meds, and not a decrease like I would have liked. We shall see.