I know that my mind is a bit foggy right now so I will write now and probably return to improve this. I'm 22 years old with Bipolar Disorder and Panic Disorder. My onset of mental illness was very early. I don't recall a time when I had no symptoms - even if my symptoms changed over time.
I had my first severe panic attack at 7 years old. Spending all day in 1st grade was overwhelming for me and I felt, even though I loved to learn and was a favorite of my teachers, that I couldn't do it - even though I did. It wasn't social anxiety. It wasn't separation anxiety. I just felt like I could not be there and felt a need to flee. Severe anxiety was not my only childhood symptom. I was extremely angry and difficult to please. I have/had no history of abuse - the emotions were just overwhelming. I never bullied or hurt other people. I just complained, seemed distraught, and from ages 3-6, bit or scratched myself in secrecy when the anger seemed overwhelming. I loved (and love) my mother and family, but something was up. I was so difficult to please my mother says she never expected me to have the dark, goofball, sometimes wacky sense of humor I have until I was 7.
In the 1st grade we had "4th Grade buddies" come into our classroom a few times each week. I think the purpose was for the fourth graders to feel helpful and gain experience helping others, and for us to look up to older children. My buddy had a lisp which I thought was the darndest thing. I didn't treat her badly or think she was stupid, but I didn't get it and when she asked me for a pair of scissors it took me a good three minutes to figure out what she wanted. "OH, SCISSORS!" I exclaimed, relieved to solve the puzzle but frustrated with the obstacles of the day. After all, what did I do to deserve the "difficult" buddy? Later my mother asked about the day and I told her my story in vivid detail. She looked at me, smiled, and burst out laughing. I started laughing like crazy with her until tears came out of my eyes, joked about the situation, and started laughing again. She still remembers that as the first time I laughed with her and the start of my huge sense of humor. I will jump ahead a few years, but I'll leave you with a few small younger childhood details. I was well behaved in school and always got excellent grades, though teachers were concerned about my need for perfection at all times. I loved to read and write, taking every opportunity I could to write creatively. In family and home life I was highly imaginative and full of ideas my poor cousins were the victims of being a part of. If I decided we were putting on a play for the rest of the family, we WERE, I would "write" the entire thing, decide everyone's role, of course give myself the starring role, and become infuriated if everyone else wasn't (in my own opinion) up to par. I was 8-9 then.
I was put on Prozac at 10 years old for my temper and anxiety. I did not do well with Prozac and in all honesty hated it. I appeared more calm to others but felt I was missing a large part of myself and it messed with my thoughts in ways I can't describe. After giving it time, I went off Prozac and medications in general. Along with Irish, my family has Arab and Portuguese blood so us females tend to go through puberty early. I began menstruating and developing at 9 years old and my first major depression hit me by 11 years old. Seemingly excellent creative ideas stopped and I kept to myself more and more. I stayed in my room a lot and just cried or destroyed things. It was a struggle for anyone to get me to do things I loved, like go to the movies or go shopping. On Christmas, I asked if I had to go to the tree and open presents. Seeing people sounded unbearable and I felt I didn't deserve gifts. Soon, in complete secrecy and not for attention, agitation would sometimes come with the depression and I began self-harming. The self-hating racing thoughts, auditory hallucinations, and restless energy were too much for me. I'd use a a paper clip, safety pin, tack, or razor blade to hurt myself. I wasn't satisfied until I bled, felt physical pain, and my depressive thoughts went away for five seconds. Sometimes I cut too deep and bled for hours, but I didn't really care whether I lived or died. I fell asleep on my cartoon covered comforter once with a towel over my arm. I accepted I may never wake up and it brought a strange, morbid, comfort. Obviously I woke up but 10 years later, I still have that childhood scar. Around 12 I tried to commit suicide by eating aspirin and taking cold medicine. It didn't work. Depression passed, though it came back, and I spent most of my teenage years bopping between highly productive hypomanic and crazy manic states, mixed episodes, and severe depression.
I'll move on to more recent times and talk about what different episodes are like for me. Hypomania is good (unless it's irritable) - most people who have experienced it will tell you that. My senses become keener. Songs sound better and have special meaning for me. The weather is nice - obviously for and because of me. I hear faint sounds most people can't, like a TV very quiet and far away or a twig snapping outside. Sometimes just air hitting the sides of the window. I've had people think I was hearing things and then listen closely to realize "Wow, she really did hear that." I need less sleep. I start writing. I get many ideas. I never stop talking and if I do, I bounce my legs, fidget, appear to be zoning out while my thoughts race. Ideas flood my mind. I feel in touch with people.
If hypomania gets severe enough OR transitions into full blown mania, my thoughts will not shut up and begin overwhelming me. Sleep is nearly impossible. I begin to have mild auditory and visual hallucinations. I will hear music that is not there or what sounds like a muffled conversation, like a far away television, and can't make out what the voices are saying. Visual hallucinations aren't very intense, but usually a shadow walking or other non-existent movement in my peripheral vision. I have a talent for making money disappear. I can't relax knowing I have money I could be buying things with during those times. Shopping and spending becomes a mission and I'm not satisfied until all money is gone - and then I want more. The items, the shopping bags, give me a temporary high - VERY temporary I have to emphasize. No one moves fast enough for me or can keep up. I want to party and a lot of times others do to. The difference is they stop drinking...I don't. They call it a night and I don't know how. At my complete manic worst I have become delusional, very grandiose, had promiscuous sex, been hypersexual, sought and heavily abused alcohol, sought and abused drugs - even ones I never imagined myself taking, called people screaming and angry, been recklessly impulsive, and turned "the life of the party" into "complete and utter nightmare." The guilt when I come down is so severe, it becomes a major depression.
More to come on depression, mixed episodes, and rapid cycling.