Hey guys! Welcome to today’s post! It’s currently 9:38am on this rainy, gloomy Thursday morning. Have a pretty chill day ahead. I was supposed to tour Stanford University with my friend Matt, who is currently a Stanford student. Because of the inclement weather, however, our plans have been postponed to next week. I plan on working out later today, as well as get some dance practice in. I’m training for a competition in February, so I need to whip myself back in shape!
So, onto today’s post– My Bipolar Tendencies. Bipolar manifests itself differently in different people. Today I want to share with you guys some ways in which bipolar has presented itself in my life and how the illness has affected my past (and present) behavior. They say that self awareness is key to combating the illness, so here I am, reflecting away!
The following are a list of common symptoms associated with bipolar, with emphasis on the manic/hypomanic phase. Underneath each symptom is a list of past/present behaviors that exemplify such symptoms. While some of these behaviors may be hilarious, crazy, or outright terrifying, just keep in mind that in all these cases, I was not in a proper state of mind. I was mentally ill.
Rapid, Excitable, Intrusive Speech
- The other day, I was at the psychiatrist’s office. She asked me how things were going with me, and immediately I started spewing out a million different things, to the point where she had to tell me to slow down with my talking and organize my thoughts.
- For most of college– my sophomore year in particular– I completely lacked a mental filter when talking with other people. For instance, I thought it was perfectly normal to ask people how many times a week they had sex! Why Belicia? Just, why? Oh, I know. Because I was manic!
Fast Thinking, Moving Quickly from Topic to Topic
- When I am manic, I oftentimes am unable to concentrate on one task at a time. The other day, I was writing an article for my website when, ten minutes in, my mind jumped to emailing my doctor. After that was done, I returned to writing, only to remember that I was to take the GRE in March, so I abruptly transitioned to studying for the math portion of the GRE, abandoning my writing project altogether. Herein lies the overlap between bipolar mania and ADHD.
Inflated Self-Esteem and Social Confidence
- Freshman year of college, during one of my manic episodes, I had a “British accent” phase, where I’d speak in a British accent to anyone and everyone, including to my own mother. I went down in GE Cluster 80A history when, during one of the lectures, I decided it would be funny to raise my hand every 10 minutes and speak in a British accent in front of my professors and peers. We had a guest lecturer that day, and the poor lady had no idea what was going on and why people were snickering and laughing every time I spoke! I received texts from all my friends in the class, who asked me what the hell I thought I was doing. The next day in discussion, my TA informed me that I was now “famous” in the class amongst students and professors alike. Thankfully, I didn’t get suspended for my outrageous behavior.
- One time, I was sitting in the Hedrick Study (a cafe near the dorms) with my then-best friend, when we got on the topic of asking guys out. I tried to get her out of her shell and dared her to ask out a cute guy standing in line for food. She didn’t want to do it, so I told her I’d do it instead. Except I didn’t find the guy attractive enough. So I decided to pick one of the best looking guys in the Study and ask him out instead. As my friend watched me in awe, I approached the guy and said, “Hi! I’m Belicia! I just wanted to say that you are really cute, and I was wondering if you’d want to go out with me sometime!” The guy replied that he was flattered, but he was actually gay. Lol. So I tried again with another guy, and it was successful! I ended up only going on one date with him, but no matter. The point is, I was so manic that day that I had the confidence to go up to a total stranger in public and ask him out. In retrospect, I am in awe of the person I was while manic, and I could never imagine doing such a thing in my present stable state. Oh, how I miss that crazy confidence…
- Other situations that illustrate my marked increase in social confidence during my manic state: dancing in the middle of the gym, dancing in the middle of the dining hall, wearing outrageous clothing (a Cheetah print onesie) to lecture, etc.
- One of the highlights of my freshman year was when I accosted a pediatric neurosurgeon on the middle of Bruin Walk. At that time, I was a hardcore pre-med student, and I had so many questions buzzing in my head about the field of medicine. One day, I was walking to my Chem 14A lecture, when I spotted an older man in a white suit walking the opposite direction. I faintly made out the words “Dr. Warwick Peacock, Neurosurgery” in blue print on the left upper corner of his coat. Upon seeing those words, my eyes lit up, and I turned on my heel, sped walked in the opposite direction and tapped on the man’s shoulder. He looked at me, startled. I introduced myself: “Hi, my name is Belicia! I am a first-year psychobiology student on the pre-med track, and forgive me for being so forward, but I noticed from your coat that you’re a neurosurgeon, and I was wondering if you could answer some of my questions about the field of medicine!” Thank honest to God that this man was as friendly as he was, because I could envision such an interaction being ill-received by many. He ended up answering a lot of my questions and sharing his story with me during that 10-minute walk up Bruin Walk. I even asked if I could shadow him in neurosurgery, and he said he would look into it. Later, in an email exchange, he told me that he would “never forget me”, and that I should write a book about my story. Low and behold, here I am, doing just that!
- It’s interesting how I essentially transformed overnight into a “social butterfly”, upon coming to college (such big life transitions and environmental change can trigger mania). This is the same girl who, two years prior, had to go to therapy for intense social anxiety! Crazy, right?!
- When I first got to UCLA, I envisioned myself being a pre-med student who’d earn a 4.0 GPA, whilst continuing competitive ballroom dance, questing to become the next World Champion ballroom dancer. Realistic? I think not.
- Speaking of world champion dancer… when I first started Latin ballroom dance, I truly, truly believed that I could becoming the next champion and go down in Dancesport history. I figured that with my gymnastics background and insane work ethic, I could in fact do it. And for a little while, I had the follow-through. I trained 6 hours a day, living and breathing dance during the latter half of high school. Little did I know that this behavior and goal was a reflection of not only my type A personality, but also the grandiose ambition that comes with bipolar.
Poor Judgment and Impulsive Behavior
- I’d oftentimes make a million different commitments (dance competitions, classes, extracurriculars) only to be unable to follow through when the depression hits
- Impulsively getting tattoos– for my most recent tattoo, I decided to get it the DAY OF, without thinking it through at all. Thankfully, I grew to fall in love with the aesthetic of the tattoo. But imagine if I ended up hating it!
- During my manic phases, I’d often find myself cutting my hair off, either at the hairdresser’s, or by myself at 4am inside the girl’s bathroom!
- I was very sexually active during my time in college (don’t tell my parents, lol). In retrospect, I am very very grateful I did not get an STD during my sexual escapades. Hypersexuality, by the way, is in fact one symptom of bipolar mania.
- I’ve never been great with money, but when manic, I’d completely spend away my parents’ money with reckless abandon. I remember dropping $2,000 for a Beverly Hills home, where I hosted my 21st birthday party. I told my dad I’d pay him back, but I don’t believe I ever did. Sorry, dad. I promise I will, when I become a famous sports psychologist!
- Oh man. How could I forget that one night when, manic as I was, I ran across the street to In-N-Out Burger at 1am, screaming and laughing my head off to the amusement of my friends, only to be rejected at the door by the security guard. Looking back, things could have ended much, much worse. The security guard could have called the freaking police!
- Towards the end of freshman year of college, I almost left UCLA to pursue a dance career. Manic decision.
- Two weeks into spring quarter of junior year (my last quarter at UCLA), I decided to graduate from UCLA a year early. Tacked on two classes, made it happen. Another manic decision in the books.
- I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve dropped or tacked on classes at the very last minute. It’s insane.
- I oftentimes act on how I “feel” in the moment, rather than thinking logically and making reasonable decisions. For example…
- During senior year of high school, we were receiving our college admissions’ decisions. A stressful time, indeed, which can trigger mania. I remember hearing back from UC San Diego– not even a UC I really wanted to go to. I was confident I would get in, but I really wanted to get in as a Regents’ Scholar, which is a scholarship awarded to the top 1% of California applicants. I DID get in as Regents’, but when I first opened my admissions decision email, I didn’t see anything that said I had been awarded the scholarship. I was distraught beyond belief. So much so, that I punished myself by jumping into the freezing cold local pool, in the pouring rain. If that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.
- There were many times in my life when, inspired in the moment to get in shape, I’d go on runs in the pouring rain at 1am. I’d always end up catching a cold at the end of the day.
Ruined Personal and Professional Relationships
- I got into my first relationship this past August. The relationship, which lasted 5 months, was tumultuous, to say the least. And I gotta say, looking back, much of the tumult was my fault. He did something to betray my trust, which caused a lot of trust issues on my part. But the behavior that ensued was absolutely unfair to him. The number of break-ups then make-ups I brought upon our relationship was ridiculous. I’d act on impulse, not thinking of the implications of my actions and how they would affect someone I loved. One day I’d be feeling insecure, so I’d break up with him. A minute later, I’d feel lonely, which prompted the make-up. That happened at least 5 times in the span of 5 months. Totally unfair to him, and for that I apologize profusely.
- During sophomore year of college, I got into a huge fight with my then-best friend. We were messaging each other, when suddenly, angry and fed up with the whole situation, I told her that I never wanted to speak to her again. I completely burned a bridge with someone I cared about, and in the process, I lost a dear friend.
- This next one is kind of hilarious. So during the end of freshman year of college, I ran into the UCLA gymnastics coach in the dining hall. A huge fan, I introduced myself to her and told her that I was caught in a crossroads between pursuing a career in medicine, and becoming a professional dancer. A former dancer herself, she told me that I have to give dancing a shot, lest I wanted to live with regret. Anyway, I forged a bond with her, and during sophomore year, she even asked me to lead a Latin dance workshop for the UCLA gymnastics team! What a great experience that was! Well, after that, things kind of went south in our relationship. I repeatedly texted her, even messaging her on Valentine’s Day to express my gratitude towards our friendship. Eventually, it got to the point where, fed up with my constant texts, she ended up ghosting me. I’ll never forget how, because of my mania, I ended up annoying the hell out of someone who could have been a great mentor and friend.
- A similar thing happened during fall quarter of junior year. It was 5am, the eve of my Psych 110 final exam. Manic as I was, I had spent the entire night studying. I remember being swept up by a sudden wave of inspiration, which prompted me to send a 1,248-word email to my professor expressing my gratitude towards him for such a wonderful quarter. Of course, he never replied.
Highly Productive Periods
- When I am manic, I can study and train for hours and hours with laser focus and determination. I can’t even describe it. It’s like an internal flame is powering me to do what the normal person cannot. My freshman year roommate commented on how “committed” I was to my studies– and she is an extremely accomplished person herself, what with getting into Yale and all.
- When manic, I can take on 5 classes each quarter and take on a million different extracurriculars, and do extremely well in everything!
- The other day, I was manic, which drove me to work out 3 times in one day. After the third workout, I threw up from sheer exhaustion.
- My most creative periods happen when I am manic. During these phases, I can churn out a 3,000 word article in less than an hour. It’s an incredible feeling that again, I cannot possibly describe.
- During my first quarter taking Chinese class, I was manic, which led me to become super inspired to learn the language. I went to every office hour and woke up at 5am every day to study for three hours before class. The following quarter, the depression hit me like a truck and I barely passed the class.
I call my manic phases periods of “inspiration”. Of course, these phases do not last forever, and I will inevitably come crashing down into the pits of depression. Such is the nature of bipolar disorder. I am by no means defined by my illness. But the illness definitely plays a major role in my life narrative. I’m happy to say that I am stable for the time being. As much as I miss my manias– the social confidence, the productivity, the creative energy– I think they are worth sacrificing if it means I can keep its evil twin, depression, at bay. I no longer long for mania. I long for stability. Here’s hoping that one day, I will be able to find my peace.