Bipolar: The Bungee Experience

TRIGGER WARNING: Bipolar, depression and mania explained

I have a bungee cord in my head.

I’m attached to a platform and occasionally sit myself up there and look at the world from a great height. But only for a short time while I’m practising yoga, meditation and/or mindfulness. It’s beautiful and I am at peace. But before long I know I have to jump off again.

We humans can’t sit there looking into the distance all the time. We have people to take care of, lives to live and challenges to overcome. Sometimes we have to fling ourselves off into the world and give the bungee cord some exercise. The cord is our lifeline but sometimes it feels like it’s going to snap or that you’ll never reach the safety of the platform again; anxiety.

The cord changes length depending on the anxiety attached to the task at hand and can be different each time the task is attempted. Leaving the house can mean a short, easily managed bungee jump where I’ll be sitting pretty on my platform again quickly, or it can mean a long cord that makes me feel totally out of control and afraid. It depends on my mood at the time and the level of anxiety.

Sometimes when I jump I am surprised by either how much shorter it is than expected; the task was less challenging than I thought, or by how long it is and how far I fall before I come back up again; when something is more challenging than I thought.

I have bipolar and I think this is where the feeling of falling and bouncing back up comes from and where this analogy seems to fit. Sometimes I love my bungee, it’s exciting. I fling myself from great heights and bounce straight back up again, on a shorter cord, and can sit myself back up on that platform and take in the air again. When I’m well.

When I’m not well my bungee controls me. I don’t have a choice to stay on the platform. The cord can leave me dangling for days with fears I’ll never bounce back and occasionally my cord is up in the sky and the calm of my platform is below me. Bipolar.

This condition causes severe mood swings ranging from depression to mania. When I’m depressed my bungee cord is long and it can take days or weeks before I get back to my platform and can be mindful again. When I’m experiencing mania the chord is also long but instead of dangling, head down, I’ve shot right up past my platform and am defying gravity.

Sometimes it’s the force of the fall that sends me rocketing up. In a way the bipolar seems to react to itself. If I have a serious ‘on the ceiling’ day I can be sure that a severe depressive episode will follow. The effect of my jumps, and the time between platform visits can last days or weeks. 

Dangling around in depression means you can’t leap off and do something else. You can’t focus your attention elsewhere. There’s nothing. You’re stuck at the end of a cord that you have no control over. It’s incapacitating. You can’t snap out of it; you don’t have a means to thrust yourself back up to that platform. There’s only one thing for it… you have to climb the cord.

To climb back up from depression is no easy feat, imagine actually using your arms to climb a long rope. The tiredness attached to this condition is crippling and sometimes we can’t make the climb in one. It can take days, weeks, months or even years to get back to balance after a depressive episode.

People who take their own lives have cut the cord. It was too hard. I feel like that sometimes but with the right help and support I believe that even those that feel they are dangling in hopelessness can climb back up and enjoy the scenery again. It takes strength, support from others, sometimes medication and a healthy lifestyle. Self-love is also a big one.  

My daily battle is to keep stable, return to my platform enough times, and stop bouncing around long enough, for the cord to shorten and maintain its elasticity so I don’t get left dangling. I have help. A supportive friend and family network, professionals at my side and a lifestyle that helps keep me stable.

Writing this has also helped immensely. This is not my first Minds Anonymous piece and it won’t be my last. I hope reading this helps you understand a little about how my mind works and what people with bipolar experience.

Thank you for reading.