Does it ever feel safe to be happy?

I know when ever I experience a manic episode, I feel on top of the world.. but there’s this small part of me that knows that it isn’t real. I was diagnosed in the last 6 months with bipolar, but even before that, I knew I wasn’t genuinely happy. Can everyone tell they aren’t really happy during these episodes, and that it will all come crashing down? It’s like I know everything will be miserable again, I just really don’t care.
In contrast, when I really am happy, I’m scared. I have this hesitation, like I’m afraid to embrace it. I used to love life, I’m a very passionate person (this seems to be common with bipolars, from what I’ve seen), I love animals, my husband, bright colors… but it’s so hard to love all of these things when I’m so terrified that everything will just come to a screeching halt.

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I identified with this question so closely, I felt as though I was asking it. So, I decided to get multiple answers on this one. I sent it to a few of our authors and here is what they had to say …

AMY – Uh, yeah. in fact, this most recent episode, I was completely rational about … even though I supposedly wasn’t bipolar.
It’s to the point where it’s happened SO many times that my mom even knew. And interestingly, I had/have a little of everything going on … a mixed state plus true happiness.

But I felt it couldn’t last. Because it never does. What’s even weirder is that, since it Is lasting, even with all the crap i’m dealing with w/myself and my daughter … I’m still waiting, and I’ve gotten to the point of ideation … playing out scenarios in my head of things that can (but probably Never would) go wrong …because the pain is what feels familiar.E ven when hypo, I’m smart enough to be aware, whether I’ll admit it at that time or not … and so there’s this whole self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if I want to be happy … and I Should be, and am, I still feel the meed to destroy things that would make me happy. Because I Swear, I don’t know if I Can be happy.

RODNEY – I know for myself I have come to the point where if I am just happy I just blame it on the bipolar instead of enjoying the day. I don’t so much know that I am just manic as assume that I am regardless of why I am having a good day. I think I do this out of the ever-present realization that even though I am in a good place in my head the bottom will fall out and I will end up in the well again. My therapist tells me to just enjoy the day but it feels like trying to enjoy an ice cream cone just before getting a root canal. You know the ice cream is good but you also know what will be coming shortly thereafter and it ends up making the good taste fade into ashes.

I understand what you mean about it being hard to love sometimes when you feel like it will all come to a screeching halt soon. For myself I just try to squeeze as much love into those days as I can and when the bad days come I try to do the same thing I do on the good days, only in reverse. I keep reminding myself that this is just the bipolar and the good days will return and my passions will reemerge. Easier said than done but I sure try to do it and occasionally succeed.

SAMMI –  I can’t always tell the difference between mania and true happiness… I know I ‘should’ be able to, but when i am manic, I think everything is wonderful… Except, of course, when my mania leads to freak outs and extreme anxiety… THEN I try to remind myself what’s truly going on… When I’m truly ‘happy’, I’m afraid to admit that I’m stable because I know the other shoe is waiting to drop… But, you see, i’m not stable very often, so i don’t really know what that’s like for me… So, yes, I am very hesitant when I am happy… Even when I’m manic, I get hesitant because I know it’s only a matter of time til the depression hits…

CHRISTI – I used to feel that way often.  I couldn’t really tell if I was genuinely happy or if it was the hypomania that was making me feel that way.  After getting my meds worked out and working with my therapist, I was able to stabilize my moods.  Once my moods were stabilized for some time, I then began to feel the difference between genuine happiness and the hypomania happiness.  The genuine happiness, to me, felt calm and peaceful.  It didn’t feel rushed or overwhelming like the happiness I felt when I was hypo.  I would wake up the next morning without a struggle or feeling like someone came into my room last night and sucked all the life out of me.  I woke up with ease and with energy, but not with a thousand thoughts or the feeling of being ready to take on the world.   After experiencing the genuine happiness, I could absolutely tell the difference and learn to let myself be happy.  However, until I had experienced the genuine happiness, I always wondered (each and every time I was hypo) if this was the real thing.  And I hoped.  I hoped it was the real thing, but was always disappointed.  I guess for me I had to wait it out and wait for the genuine, real deal to come along to find out how different the fake, hypo was.  But now that I know, I don’t let the fake hypo happy fool me and I don’t trust it.

SHARI – On being happy….well, honestly, I can’t tell if I am in hypomania or really, truly happy from being on an even keel and stable.  I do not like this and it throws me every single time.  I think that people who have Bipolar Disorder can be happy but at times…well….it’s just that….confusing.

I have been “happy” the last three days but I know it won’t last.  It never does.  I know that my shift in mood is bound to happen within the next week.

I have learned to take my “happy” days as they come and live those days to the fullest until the next shift in mood happens.  Usually, I do a lot of cleaning, keep up all the laundry including mattress pads, sheets, and blankets.  I do a lot of walking and exercising.  And I will be honest…during those times….my husband and I tend to be more intimate.  However, I am always waiting for the next shoe to drop wondering when my next shift in mood downward will be.  I hate that feeling but it’s always there.

I think a lot of patients with Bipolar Disorder suffer with the happy question.  It’s hard to tell.  I have had this disease as diagnosed for over 21 years and I still can’t tell.  I do think that we need to be aware of “triggers” that tend to throw us off and send us reeling.  My youngest son’s Bipolar Disorder is a trigger for me.

So…yeah….I am happy right now for the time being.  But I also know what my immediate future is and that sucks!

Needless to say, you are not alone with these thoughts. We all doubt our happiness as if it’s too good to be true. What I’ve learned, however, is to be aware of the difference between “Happy” and “TOO Happy”. And also, regardless of which cycle you are in, your feelings are your feelings. If you’re happy at the moment, you are INDEED Happy. It might not last forever, but enjoy it when it’s there.

2 thoughts on “Does it ever feel safe to be happy?

  1. Thank you so much. It really is nice just to see that you all feel the same way, and that I am not alone. I had an interesting occurance just two weeks ago… I was able to see through some blessing that I was hypomanic. Racing thoughts, go-go-go, missing out on sleep, but not missing it during the day… I don’t know which part it was exactly, but SOMETHING made me e-mail my psychiatrist and just ask. He switched my medication immediately, and my husband and I saw a change in about a week. Maybe it was that I asked the question of you guys already, so I was already wondering.. long story short.. it never hurts to ask. I was able to stop it before I seriously messed up my marriage or job, as that was the direction I was headed. You all are absolutely wonderful. I ran across this site and became a little emotional while reading through it. There are people that go through the same thing as me! While I would never wish bipolar upon someone else, how nice to see in words the things that go through my head and heart on a day to day basis. Many, many, many thanks from myself and my husband!!

  2. I must be emotional today because I kinda teared up reading this. I’m glad it helped you to know that we get it. Anytime you have questions let us know. You’d be surprised how many of us experience much of the same stuff!

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