I am in an extended “mixed state.” A mixed state is perhaps the most unpleasant and risky mood state in bipolar disorder. It is where the bleak hopelessness of depression meets the frenetic agitation of mania. In my mixed states, I find it impossible to be creative. I am mean to others, particularly my wife. I want to just take my mind off my troubles, but my mind refuses to be distracted.

The extended mixed state I am now in is raising the question of whether my current regiment of medication is working. I’ve been on the same “cocktail” of four psychotropics for over seven years now. For someone with my diagnosis, that’s a long time to be on the same meds. My psychiatrists has done about all the “tweaking” she can do, as I’m on the maximum doses of each med. I may have to face the reality that I may have to make a change if I am going to manage my moods.

But such a shift is fraught with untenable hardship. The big one is loss of creativity. The one med I would likely take is very sedating. People I know who take it find their senses dulled. They have a flat affect. Their ability to feel, much less feel passionately, is lessened, if not removed. I simply don’t want to go down this road and won’t if I can avoid it. As long as I’m not an imminent risk to myself or others, I would rather experience rapid mood cycling than a dull sameness, likely stuck in depression.

This is about all I know. About all I can drum up for today. So I thought I’d pull up a draft of a post I wrote in the spring of 2019 that describes a little of what I’m going through now.

March 20, 2019

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.  (Psalm 139)

Time will pass; these mood will pass; and I will, eventually, be myself again. But then, at some unknown time, the electrifying carnival will come back into my mind. ― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

For some months, I’ve enjoyed relative emotional stability. It is tempting to begin to believe I’ve achieved a new normal. To question if I really have bipolar disorder. To dream of all the wonderful things I can do now that I am not impaired by debilitating symptoms.

But, with my mental health diagnosis, relapses are more the norm than the exception. And that is what has happened this past week.

There is something woefully wrong with the term “bipolar disorder.” It implies only that we swing from highs to lows. It fails to capture the times when both mania and depression attack our psyche and together leave us run over and ragged. I am in this “mixed state” now. My gut is wrenched both by pangs of sadness and the sense that I need nothing to sustain me. My chest burns with fear as well as the feeling that I have the power to create and destroy. My mind is distorted by racing thoughts with no form and I easily become agitated when others can’t make sense for me.

Of all the states of manic-depression, this is the most painful to myself and damaging to my relationships. I feel trapped in aloneness. But I am not alone. Hear what others say about their experience of mixed states*:

Gracie: One minute you’re full of energy, cleaning the house, feeling great about life, having some great ideas, getting your excitement back. Then the next, [you’re] about to cry and over-emotional for no reason, so lost in life you don’t know where you’re going [or] how you’re feeling, just that you’re not feeling good at all, feeling like you’ve not slept in weeks, irritated beyond belief by anything and everything. I get extremely agitated. I’m very short with people. Even the smallest things can set off my anxiety. I’m quick to snap when I’m in a mixed state, because my mind and body are so confused.

Joey: A text message could burst my entire day into flames and I can’t see any of the good that happens. And then if I ask for help, it’s like my mind doesn’t want it, and I flip out on whoever I was asking.

Emma: You want your significant other there to hug you and hold you and tell you it’s going to be ok but at the same time the idea of someone touching you makes your skin crawl.

In the midst of this state, it is hard to find hope that we will ever pass through this blinding/light, this neon/darkness. But with faith in Christ, we cling to hope in spite of all evidence to the contrary. In Christ, God never leaves us nor forsakes us. God will never give us over to the tyranny of our feelings. God will lead us through dark valleys of maniacal despair into a place of peace.

(from “This is What a Mixed Bipolar Episode Feels Like,” Self)