The Manic Urge to Purge from Bp Magazine

I love writing for Bp Magazine. Here is a reprint of an article I wrote for the hard copy of the magazine.

 

When I’m in an agitated hypomanic state, the desire to get rid of items in my house is strong. But when the mood episode is over regret is bound to follow.

bipolar-mania-urge-purge-symptom1

 

 by Julie A. Fast

 

If you go into my mom’s garage you may see a bag full of dishes and clothes. There may be noodles, rice, and a few cans of food in another bag. You might see a tub filled with jewelry supplies and crochet yarn.

It looks like my mom is getting ready for a garage sale. But she’s not.

Can you guess what is going on here?

It’s my mania. Or hypomania, as I have bipolar II. When I get into an agitated hypomania, the urge to get rid of items in my house is strong. It feels overwhelming to have so much stuff in my life. All of my possessions are closing in on me, so out they go.

My mania tells me there is too much food in the fridge and freezer. Do I really need more than two plates or two forks and knives? Will I ever cook the noodles? What about all of the wine glasses?  My mania tells me I’ll feel so much better when I have a minimalist kitchen. Depending on the strength of the agitation, I can clear out my kitchen in one night and then mop the floor. (Why doesn’t this happen when I actually do need to clean!)

Then my mania ends and I realize I’ve given away items I really need—dishes that are actually used and jewelry supplies that would be very expensive to replace. Clothes, shoes, CDs, and food!

 

Why does this happen?

It’s a natural symptom of my hypomania. Mania creates feelings that feel real—it’s that simple. It’s not like I’m confused; I don’t even question if I’m doing the right thing. Mania tells me what to do and I do it. My desire to get rid of everything is chemical, manufactured by my bipolar brain.

Here is where my mom and sister-in-law Ellen come in. We have a deal. When this mania hits me and I feel compelled to pack up all the stuff that’s crowding me, I give the bags to them and my mom stores them in her garage. Eventually, I go in my kitchen and think, “Where are all of my darn glasses! Did I lend someone my glasses?” My mom tells me, “They’re in the garage in a bag. Where we always put them.”

Life is different now. After years of giving in to this, I’ve learned what is real and what is driven by my mania. I don’t let myself do the kitchen purge completely! When the desire to get rid of my jewelry supplies shows up, I say to myself, “This is mania, Julie. Your thoughts aren’t real. Leave the stuff alone—or, let yourself pack it up and ask your mom or Ellen to take it from the house. But don’t give anything away right now. If you still feel this way in a month, then you can give it away.”

I have found that the only way to deal with my purging is to manage my mania. We can all learn to recognize the signs that our mania is starting and then have a plan and get help. For me, I know that even the smallest desire to put things in bags and give them away is a sign I’m in a mood swing. I have to focus on managing what’s in my head, not what’s in my kitchen.

I know that even the smallest desire to put things in bags and give them away is a sign I’m in a mood swing. I have to focus on managing what’s in my head, not what’s in my kitchen.

If a person with bipolar disorder doesn’t learn to manage the smaller and often humorous symptoms of a manic state, larger and far more disastrous symptoms can take over—such as wanting to get rid of everything, including relationships, work, and even where you live. This is how I ended up going to China by myself a few months before I was finally diagnosed!

I’d rather make decisions from a place of stability, not as a result of mania.

A few years ago, Ellen met me for karaoke wearing a really nice leopard velvet scarf with a black feather trim. I looked at the scarf and said, “Wait a minute! I made that scarf!” She said, “I know. You gave it away and I gave it a new home!” I said, “Can I borrow it?” We had a good laugh.

Julie

PS: Mania has a small treatment window. As you can see from the great comments below, if we don’t have a plan in place, we may through our furniture out on the street during a mood swing! We can prevent mania and save our family treasures!

 

Printed as “Fast Talk: The Urge to Purge”   Fall, 2013

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A note from Julie: I highly recommend Bp Magazine for Bipolar Disorder. It has four beautiful hard copy magazines that are filled with research, hope and some really great writing!  There is an electronic copy as well! The cost is reasonable and I can tell you from personal experience that the magazine puts this money back into the community by hiring writers who have bipolar disorder. Like myself! Please subscribe to this wonderful magazine and if possible, send a copy to your doctor’s office! 

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