Mindflowers: BP1 with Maddie Vandiver

Hi, I’m Maddie. I am a mother of one who enjoys anything outdoors, fashion, Chiefs football, and all things mental health (ED, BD1, OCD, GAD). As the mother of a little spunky girl, I never thought there would be a day that my body would be able to carry a life. Here’s why: 

While in college, I would party. Crazy, right? But I could really, really party. I’d be up all night without the need for a full night’s rest. I thought this was just the life of a college student, so I carried on: went to class, came home, and immediately started drinking. I’d catch myself wondering why I was always able to “out-party” my friends on those nights – I would shortly learn what was really going on.

One morning, after a night of being out late, I awoke to find myself feeling worse than hungover. My entire body was physically sore. So sore that I couldn’t walk, let alone get out of the bed. A quick call to my dad and he suggested someone take me to the emergency room.

After some questions and exams, it was evident that my body was experiencing rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is always triggered by a muscle injury, which I was almost certain was not the case for me. Of course, there are always other causes and this was the case with mine – it was myoglobin. Myoglobin, a byproduct of muscle breakdown, was found in my blood and urine. But why is my body breaking down out of seemingly nowhere? I received my diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa that day, and within the month I was sent off to The Renfrew Center of Florida to be treated residentially over the course of three or four months. 

It was here that I finally got the diagnosis I had been missing: Bipolar One Disorder. I was thrown diagnoses left and right, but this one made sense of it all. This was a very relieving moment for me with how my past few months, and even years, had been going; the excessive drinking, days of starvation, two-three hour workouts, and the multitude of other symptoms. It finally made sense – I was incredibly manic. Learning of my diagnosis made me really disappointed for a while, until it started to make sense to me through breakout groups and speaking with others who were also BD1. I am in no way ashamed of my diagnosis; I am proud to be this authentic. So, let’s talk about it.

I have lived with Bipolar 1 Disorder for almost half of my life, and it’s still something I’m unable to grip. Each day I wake without knowing which version of myself I will be. 

There are two main types of Bipolar Disorder (BD): Bipolar One, and Bipolar Two — distinguished by their differences in severity. For example, a BD1 person will experience a full manic episode, where a BD2 person will experience only a hypomanic episode. A hypomanic episode is a form of mania, just less severe. I want to talk about my life with mania. 

Mania is a period of abnormally elevated mood and high energy, usually accompanied by erratic behavior lasting at least seven days at a time. 

Hypomania is an elevated mood that does not reach full-blown mania, and only lasts a maximum of four days. As for me? I experience mania that lasts months at a time while also having hypomanic episodes…as well as mixed bipolar symptoms sprinkled in. This is where the high energy of mania and the misery of depression are not mutually exclusive symptoms. 

Co-occurrences like this are much more common than people realize. I can be boisterously happy only to collapse to misery minutes later- my brain switching right over, triggered or not. 

Being manic makes you feel on top of the world — fearless even — but during this journey your skin is crawling, you’re incredibly irritable, and you probably find yourself dabbling in self-destructive behaviors. I tend to make the most impulsive decisions when I am manic. I get tattoos (though I don’t regret a single one), drink excessively, abuse substances, and become very aggressive, which has resulted in me fighting. I will make rash decisions without a single thought of consequence.

There is yet another alleyway for these specially wired brains, and it’s called rapid cycling. This condition occurs when four or more distinct episodes of depression, mania, or hypomania occur during one year: it’s a frenzy that many individuals luckily do not have to face. 

Many people with rapid cycling describe the feeling as if someone is repeatedly flipping a switch in your brain. On any given day, I can experience this switch effect countless times; I will feel calm, then out of nowhere, I will begin to run through a vault of emotions. My mind is unknowingly trying to decide which emotion is right to pick.

I used to journal regularly so that I could keep track of my moods; some days, my findings were scary. So scary that I felt afraid of myself. And then on other days, I was/am impressed by how strong I can be. 

These different emotions I experience are so intense that it is as if they aren’t truly mine. My thoughts will race, I get overly enthusiastic or irritable, and then? Boom. The switch has flipped and there I am- lying on the floor crying with the inability to get up on my own. Though I do enjoy the euphoric feeling I have when manic, I’ve let it rip me to pieces, which has led to a love-hate relationship with my manic self. I say love because manic doesn’t always have to be negative; my mania is my muse and keeps me on my toes. 

I am 27 years old now, and I still have my battles. My Bipolar and Anorexia feed off of one another, and can create problems when left unchecked. For example, if I am manic, I won’t eat or sleep for days. This fuels my anorexia. On the other hand, my anorexia makes me weak, where my mania can come in and pick up the slack. 

I want people with BD to know that you can be your whole, unique self without having to compromise to whatever norms there are. Be free and express yourself however you deem best. Always take your medicine, that’s a quick way to end up hospitalized – believe me, I know. Stress is your worst enemy and alcohol can quickly become your second if you’re not careful. Know that you can always find ways to cope through exercising, support groups, therapy, and even finding yourself a sponsor. I see my therapist twice a month and my psychiatrist monthly. Most importantly: Take care of yourself so that you can take care of the others who aren’t able to.  

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