So… I’m pretty sure I’m at least mildly bipolar

I’ve never been diagnosed with any sort of anxiety disorder, or mood imbalance, or whatever you want to call the manic/depressive-ADHD-bipolar family of “issues.” I’ve always compensated well enough for my mood swings that there’s never been the need.

For the record, I’m STILL compensating well enough.

That said… I’m down now. Yesterday I was on the way down, and did an evening at BrainShare, which sucked the last of the mania out of me. This morning it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed after 9 hours of sleep. After a short errand run in the morning I was grumpy, depressed, and exhausted, so I took a two-hour nap.

Does this happen to everybody else, or is it just me? Last week was great — I was productive, and for lack of a better term I’ll say “manic.” This week I worry that I’ll struggle to stay awake, much less get everything done. Oh, I’ll prop myself up for my appearances at BrainShare just fine, but I have this sneaking suspicion that Thursday and Friday are going to get written off as a bad investment, or as “damaged in shipment,” or something like that.

This is one reason I keep a buffer.


34 thoughts on “So… I’m pretty sure I’m at least mildly bipolar”

  1. Do you ever get rapid mood cycling at all? That’s what makes me wonder if I’m not just one of the unusual unipolar depressives; some days, it’s like demo Olympic pingpong.

    1. Sometimes. It’s usually more like “moments of mania against a background of depression,” or “moments of depression against a background of mania.” It never feels like ping-pong. I think “polka dots.”

  2. I definitely have my down moments. As I’ve gotten older (I’m 37), I’ve found them to be pretty much situationally induced. For instance, I’ve spent the last 3 months fixing up my house for sale, so I can join wife and child out west (first time away from either). Just found out that I’ll have to have the roof replaced. No idea where the money’s coming from for that. As soon as the roofer left, I was suddenly falling asleep on my feet. Had to lay down. After two hours of light sleep (felt feverish), I came out of it and am now able to think clearer on things (it’ll work out. It always works out). The worst is, of course, having to spend even more time away from family. At least I have video conferencing at work so we can visit during the week.

    As for the weekends, I’ve canceled cable modem service at home and am restricted to 28k dial up. Only comic I check on the weekends is Schlock. It’s worth it.

  3. Well, I’m not diagnosed either, but the males in my family have a history of Bipolar and Manic Depressivness. I just came out of a down cylce that screwed up my sleep schedual and left me not caring enough to pass my classes this quarter. Last week I perked up just in time to ace my job interview.

    Eating alot of spagetti helped me. Pasta has anti-depressant chemicals in it.

  4. Judging by the comments so far, looks like you are the only one with this problem. Better start that meth habit. It’ll turn your teeth various shades of brown and green, but who cares, its fun!

      1. Well met! But…

        If he bakes a meth, he’ll have to clean it up.

        Best wishes, sir, for a rapid tactical regroup of your internal resources. Life is fun, and you are fortunate indeed, too much so to spend time in this temporary situation. I wish that I could take a seed of good cheer and place it directly in your brain; you deserve this. Consider it aimed at you, in any event.

        ===|==============/ Level Head

  5. Howard,

    Been there, still there. That’s why I have a mountain of DVDs in my living room. If I start sliding into useless mode I pop something in that will energize me.

    Since you’re so close, you should call me next time you get down. We’ll do a movie.


  6. You are a cartoonist, Howard. You are supposed to be crazy. 😉

    Seriously, I have mood swings quite a bit. I can go from a mania that prompts to accomplish various tasks to a severe depression where I just don’t care about anything and can’t stay awake to do much.

    I’d only worry about it if it is constant or doesn’t pass as quickly as you want it to.

  7. I wouldn’t worry too much. As has been said before, everyone has their mood swings.

    From my personal experience, I’ve had way too many friends get caught up in a sort of ‘psychological’ hypochondria – they learn a few symptoms of a disorder, and all of a sudden they’re convinced that they have depression, schitzophrenia, bipolarism, generalized anxiety, etc, etc.

    If you’ve been able to handle the swings, more power to you. Though, its my opinion that a sort of mania is very effective in producing large amounts of quality material in a short time – Buffer-fu, anyone?

    1. On the other hand I have been, on various occasions, diagnosed with:

      • Attention Deficit Disorder
      • Asperger’s Syndrome
      • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
      • Clinical Depression

      So I’m not a hypochondriac, I’m certified.


      1. Ah, it certainly wasn’t my intention to imply that there aren’t legitimate diagnoses from professionals. Instead, I only wanted to say that self diagnosis is often misguided if not completely false. In the long run, if you can overcome it on your own, then there really isn’t any point to self diagnosis other than a sort of dark curiousity.

  8. CRIPES!!! I just realized what is wrong with you!!! You have an alien fetus using your stomach as a womb. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT eat any cheese burgers.

    1. Well, that explains it. I had a cheeseburger last night.

      Have you noticed that “cheeseburger” and “chestburster” are remarkably similar words? I’m afraid the similarity may not end there…

      1. Oh, that reminds me of another thing. A friend of mine found that she was feeling especially depressed and tired when she tried doing a low-carb diet. (It was actually a “avoid common food allergens, and then add them back one-per-week to see if one’s having minor ill reactions to any of them” diet, but with both wheat and potatoes gone, there weren’t many carbs left.) The week that she got to put potatoes back in, her mood improved tremendously; she stopped being depressed, stopped being cranky, and was visibly much happier.

        I’ve no idea if this is affecting you or not, but … it could well actually be that cheeseburger.

        1. I had problems with being exhausted all the time. Turns out I’m allergic to milk, sensitive to wheat and an undiagnosed chemical sensitive asthmatic. If it’s something like that, might be why you feel better on the low-carb diet or have reactions after being somewhere that has “harmless” chemicals present. Maybe you should try keeping a food and location log to figure out if it’s related to what you eat or breathe? No real side effects and you can choose to still eat cheeseburgers or breathe paint fumes. After all, you can do anything you want if you’re willing to live with the consequences.

  9. I don’t know that I could say anything helpful on your situation, but if you’re wondering, you should just go get it checked out. Probably, though, you only want to get it checked out if you are willing to let the medical community change your life around to aleviate the mood swings. If you’d rather just have things are they are, then don’t even go. 🙂

    1. Probably, though, you only want to get it checked out if you are willing to let the medical community change your life around to aleviate the mood swings.

      I think it’s perfectly reasonable to have an attitude of “I’ll decide if I want the treatment after I figure out what symptoms they find.”

      For instance, my wife had a nasty bout of depression many years ago, and her doctors discovered that her thyroid gland wasn’t working. With that properly medicated, her emotions and her metabolism work properly, instead of putting her into a depressed state where she needs to sleep 16 hours a day. Yeah, I know that there are antidepressants where there are tradeoffs in how one’s brain works if one takes them — but there are also things like thyroid problems, where there’s nothing at all to recommend the unmedicated state, and where there’s something clearly wrong with how the body is working.

      1. I see what you mean – that makes perfect sense, especially in the case where there is a serious medical problem. I was more thinking of lower-grade problems with chemistry. I have a couple friends who are simply disinterested in altering their brain chemistry and would rather deal with their heads as-is.

        Not sure what I’d do if ever in that situation.

  10. Yeah, I get this sort of thing. I spend a week of working especially hard on something (whether due to imposed deadline or just due to getting up a large head of momentum and not wanting to stop), and then the next week the pendulum swings the other way and I get a lot less done.

    My therapist has a word for this: “normal”. 🙂

  11. I have years worth of observational evidence to support the fact that you do mood swings. The lower stress, happier lifestyle of the last few months has done lots to alleviate them though. But you already knew all that. 😉

  12. I’ve recently added Xanax to my medicinal cocktail. (Can I call it a cocktail if there are only two ingredients?)

    My latest down has been harsh — been going on strong now for at least a week. It began last week, when I started getting exercise. (4 days in a row!) And I’ve been eating pretty good, too. So much for the diet-and-exercise route to mental well being. I’m starting to think I’ll be a lot happier if I concede to being a lethargic glutton for the rest of my days.

    (My days will be shorter, too, but at least they’ll be full. Of, you know, cream filling.)

  13. I think Hypomania might be the best way to describe the nature of your problems.

    It’s rather common but not usually crippling. And combined with above-average intelligence and a good emotional support network it tends to make for sucessful people (because they’re able to make good on their grandiose manic ideas while being able to cope with the depressive periods).

  14. Yep. Sleep is one good way of getting through the depression. Alternatively, i find listening to loud rock music works for me.

    And chocolate. Don’t dismiss chocolate, it’s nature’s best antidepressant.

    Sometimes I just have to say “grrr, stupid brain chemicals” and work through it. Accomplishing something in spite of the depression often helps start the upswing forcibly.

    1. Force starting the upswing

      Amen on that.

      I tend to have minor bouts of depression and they usually coincide with large work loads. As a college student this can cause problems. I do have to say that the upswing that comes after finally bulling my way through one of these down periods is damn nice. I can’t always pull it off (sometimes rock music or sleep help a ton) but when I can I feel pretty damned good about myself.

  15. Happens to me alla time. I always have a good outlet for those blah times, when I need to do *something* but can’t get the gumption together for it.

    That’s right. I frag things.

    Way I see it, my muse needs to rest, so I let my – um, what’s the opposite of Muse? ** – out to play.

    However, I *do* have a mild ADHD condition so YMMV.

    ** No, not a Noid. Thanks for playing.

  16. I have mood swings too, and poor Howard, you can’t even blame them on “female hormones”!. Antidepressants did shite for me except me numb me out. I feel better when I eat lots of protein and low-(pasta-and-potatoes)-carbs. Nothing gets me through down times better than loud rock music and chocolate, as someone else already suggested!

    No, you’re not the only one. I think you’re actually the norm, given that most people aren’t as happy as you are, and thus accomplish less and feel worse. In my humble oinion.

  17. Not Bipolar…

    It doesn’t sound like you have bipolar disorder, because you’re not entering certain modes of thought symptomatic of the disease; i.e., it’s not that you believe you are inherently more or less valuable as a person or that you are more or less capable of worthwile deeds. You may, however, want to consider diagnosing for cyclothymic disorder (, which sounds right about on the money.

    Cyclothymic disorder is like bipolar’s little brother. 🙂

    – Cap’n Curry

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