bipolarisea – a disordered metaphor

Its name puts bipolar on the same axis as the earth. There’s a plumbline drop from north to south. The north pole is mania, the one people assume is the party of a lifetime. Halfway between it and the centre is hypomania – helium happiness and the difference between the two is what separates bipolar 1 from 2.

However, bipolar is not flat, anymore than the earth is.

Earth is a 3D thing, oblate spheroid, distorted by its own gravity and mostly covered by shifting water, partly covered by land in various flavours of stability. Those two poles exist, because we have decided that they are a thing. Points of reference. We don’t move between them by drilling through the earth’s core, we wander along a multitude of trajectories. The equator (which goes all the way around, of course) is euthymia, the ‘normal’ state of non-extreme moods.


You could compare bipolar to global weather systems, but I’m taking the simpler option – the sea. People (muggles, I mean) tend to see oceans as capricious and moody things, liable to change direction and attitude at the drop of the proverbial hat.


That’s a very superficial assumption. Calm, storms and everything in between the two states are caused and affected by all kinds of things, most of which are invisible to the naked eye.



It sparkles, but the main thing about mania is that it isn’t always a very merry mood, it can be a mean mania too and then that shiny sunlight is broken, glittering glass. It can be a perfect wave, but remember that water and waves operate on tension and motion. You can’t get a wave like that to lie down quietly, it has to break. Sometimes waves make it to the shore and crash, sometimes they fall apart in deep water.


A smaller wave that doesn’t hospitalise you – but it fragments in the end, like they all do.



It may appear fairly calm on the surface, but depression is neither quiet nor static. Imagine yourself sad. No, sadder, the most sadness you can possibly get your mind around. Now imagine that while you are feeling that, you are being sucked down by a vortex, so deep you can feel the oxygen begin to riot in your veins. And it can last for years.



Another fun format of depression is anhedonia, when the winds drop and you’re becalmed in the doldrums. It’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner stuff. Nothing shifts, nothing happens, you don’t enjoy anything. No-thing. Doing your absolutely very favourite thing ever just makes you despair, because you can’t enjoy anything.

Mixed states


Choppy seas … sometimes the sun shines and life doesn’t feel to bad, at others there’s no light, it’s cold and everything is bleak. The danger of mixed states lies in their energy. Those are the times for suicide watches, because depressed and suicidal people find the energy and motivation to carry out plans they couldn’t while only depressed. Chuck in agitation and anxiety along with mania and/or depression and hopefully you’ll understand that mixed states are bitches straight from hell.



Not all ships get totally wrecked, but psychosis is an indicator that it’s time to get the lifeboats sorted, or you could end up in concert with Celine Dion. Not everyone experiences it, it’s caused by a stress overload and can manifest as delusions and auditory and/or visual hallucinations. History has tended to file psychosis under madness, visionary or both. It is neither. In fact, psychosis is nothing like a badger.

Seahells on the Seasore

Manic depressives are seafarers. It’s plain (ish) sailing for some, temporary for others. And then there are the bipolar ancient mariners – our ships are wrecked. When we surf, we fall every time. When we dive, we always get the bends. And you wouldn’t believe how many sea miles we accrue.

Don’t shoot the albatross.



Published by


battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

14 thoughts on “bipolarisea – a disordered metaphor”

  1. good summary! Then there is the in between when we CAN findeth sea shells on the sea shore and life just seems good, even though we cringe, knowing that the ocean is moving underneath (cue Jaws music)

    Thanks for writing! very good analogy!(ies)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow. Thank you for this. You’ve managed to put into words what I experience but could not relay verbally. Still learning the ins & out of being Bipolar II…treacherous by times yet always useful information.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliant post. Maybe this is why I have wanted an albatross necklace since I read that poem in school.

    I try to explain mixed episodes to people. They don’t get how suicidal one can get in a mixed episode. I was having one, and my brain was shouting that I had to jump off of my balcony. Then it would alternate that I had to take all my pills with all my alcohol. My brain would not stop. I took my dog to the dog park in the middle of the night and sobbed and called a friend to take me to the psych ward. My dog saved my life, I think (I live alone). He helped me to get away from the things that I could use to hurt myself. I recommend all bipolar people go out and adopt the nearest pit bull for this reason. Not kidding.

    Thanks for such a spot-on post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much indeed. I completely agree about dogs; I have 2 and I also don’t think I’d be here without them. And I’m in the process of working all this stuff out, in terms of recognising wtf is going on – so it makes sense to make notes about it here. Thanks again :)


  4. Simply f*cking brilliant. You have captured the full range, all summed up nicely with illusion to a poet I fell in love with long before I understood that he (or I) suffered from bipolar disorder.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You are fucking brilliant. This post blew me away. This is the perfect, absolute PERFECT, way to describe bipolar I and bipolar II. This post needs to be published. It needs to go into pamphlets so ordinary folk will understand, it needs to go into Bipolar for Dummies manual for when you’re first diagnosed, it needs to go into medical journals so the professionals can drop their medical speak and explain the illness in a relatable manner. It needs to be distributed to every support group, hospital, college and university. YOU my friend, are a genius

    Liked by 2 people

comment or the dragon will toast you

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s