Friday, October 14, 2011

The Trouble with Bipolar Blackouts and Amnesia

I have come to realize that there are some portions of my life that I simply cannot remember. And that no matter how hard I try to fill in those gaps of lost time I will never succeed. I can lose spans of time of as little as a few hours or as much as up to a whole day. Stress seems to be the most likely trigger, rather it's stress of rapid cycling or external stress.

Blackouts are usually associated with alcohol. Then there are such things as blackouts from bipolar. I can disassociate from reality completely sober all the while functioning completely normal. You would never know my brain has dragged me into another place out of reality.

Most occasions I come back normal. Awoken unharmed with all my responsibilities successfully completed. But sometimes I'm at the mercy of my psychosis. I play a cat and mouse game. A follow the leader game. As if driven or lead by some strange force. Sometimes I awake after wandering off and in those times by God's grace I come to and am able to find my way home unharmed. I once awoke over 40 miles from my home with no recollection of why I travelled that distance. Another time over 130 miles away. Almost in another state. If there were any intentions I have yet to discover why, but for now it seems I just got into my vehicle and drove.

Then there those blackouts where I become another person. As if someone else takes over. I'm a rapid cycler with my bipolar. Here lately I've had trouble with mixed episodes. In my counseling sessions the only conclusions we could come up with is that my blackouts are defense mechanisms. A way for my brain to protect me either from external stressors or internal stressors. But these blackouts are not so protective when comes to societies norms. I tend to awake only to find myself in legal trouble. I awake to find myself in jail.

These are some of the parts of bipolar that aren't fair. The parts that make you angry. The times when you are innocent yet you are found guilty. The real you that would never have done what you did.

Memory, attention and concentration can all be disrupted by the same neurotransmitter disturbances that cause mood swings. Of course it just as much undermines our ability to study, to work, and even interferes with our personal relationships.

Many people who deal bipolar are extremely bright, so memory or other thinking problems can be extremely frustrating and confusing. Coming out of a blackout state is accompanied with fogginess, blurred vision difficulty thinking and for me difficulty speaking. It's the closest thing to awaking from the dead.

Bipolar affects various aspects of memory. One aspect of memory that is not lost is semantic memory; long term memory for facts. Another is procedural memory; remembering how to do things. But these acute moments of temporary amnesia can be the most damaging. They tend to occur in my mixed states. Time is lost as if it never happened.

Sometimes bipolar is manageable for me. I can remain stable for some time. But for months now I have been having trouble finding stability. But when it's not manageable, it's scary. My mood can reach an ultimate high, a manic, add everything goes so fast I practically feel dizzy. My thoughts are so imaginative that I put myself in various situations. When I'm low, I am slowed and numb. I am without hope or worth. I am unable to process my thoughts the same way I would ordinarily do it. And sometimes, I have a mixture of all the above.

I am the one who is shaded gray in a conversation that others want to keep black and white.
I'm the victim.
I'm the offender.

There is a nausea that comes with facing the silence that you just came out of. Like getting sea legs. Like re-entering Earth as an astronaut with the gravitational force standing like an elephant on my chest. Like walking out of a dark, quiet movie into the bright loud sunshine. It's a shock. It's foundering. It's squirming.

All of a sudden you're hit with reality along with a void in time. So many questions are to be answered. Much like a court case you need a debriefing, but that is the last thing you get. "What has happened to me out there in the noisy, fast-paced world?" More precisely, "What did I do?" "Where have I been?"

The noise echoes in my head, trapped, reverberating off the inner lining of my temples. It's loud. It's stress. It's a bunch of should haves and could haves and what-if's. But every time they are pointless because every time the blackouts arrive unannounced. They leave just as they came.

Is it any wonder we humans prefer self-medication? Is it any wonder we prefer blindfolds and earplugs and informative solutions? Is it any wonder we prefer endless parties, endless highs, endless escapes? Alone is scary. But the more we ignore ourselves the more we become our own stranger, and then, then we are even less likely to listen at all.

 There is an irony to the blackouts of bipolar. They are one of the many ironic blessings of this disorder. In spite of any consequences, coming out of the dark the light is so much more brighter. We don't just remember who we really are. We see who we aren't.

Tragedy has a way of both numbing and awakening us. We make peace with the mere illusions of our control.

"There really is no protection from life. But why all the believing there is? Why all the acting as if?"-- Sabrina Ward Harrison

Many people take freedom for granted; I promise you, I do not. Yet, am I truly free? Do I really believe that? I've been jailed before. (More than once) The cops know me in my town. I currently struggle with bipolar that seems to progress as I age. I currently deal with Parkinson's. But I still fear a past that haunts me. And I fear the future, unsure what kind of approval I'll receive. I fear inevitable depression of suicidal ideations. I fear inevitable manias. I fear future blackouts and loss time with unexplained behavior.

Except....we do not need to live as slaves to fear. I choose to follow Christ, and because I know he loves and forgives me, I can be free from worry, free from the need for approval, and free from the stigma that society places on me. I am free from my past, and free to face the future with the hope of second chances.

I consider God's love, I realize I've been free all along.


  1. My ex- wife goes through the identical same thing as you do and it is very scary cause when she blacks out she is very violent I always forgive her for that its the emotional pain she puts me through she constantly leaves me and then comes crying back I don't kno how to handle that its way to much on me it makes me insane. She knows I'm always there for her through her good and bad times but I love her so much that I did studies on her to try and make it work I love her more then life itself and I justified her behavior for years but like I said its really making me crazy and I hate to not take her back cause I kno in reality she would never do those things to me it hurts me when I see her struggling with this cause she doesn't mean to do it

  2. Hi Ray, I gotta tell you that you are a special bird as most dont realize we have no control when we are what I refer to as the "Hole" Im having a hard time accepting the whole thing fo various reasons. I too behave like an animal and infact lost everyone in my life due to not so girl like behavior. LOOL However, I acrually stayed inthe blackout for almost 4 yrs and actually function and remember almost nothing of it. I am an lawyer and completed many jury trials.. and won.. without any recollection. Sometimes someone might say something and it brings up a memory but sometimes its just not there. I had severla horrible life situations comeup and I just checked out. Ive never heard of anyone blacking out for that long. However, I sure wish I would have had someone like you that knew me well enough to know I wouldnt hurt anyone . Thats not me. I doubt Id be ashamed when I am on my game if I was that type of person. I have these mini black outs when I get stressed, with or without medicine hence why Im haveing a hard time believing the dianoise. Also, I dont go down at all. If Im rapid cycling its so fast I never get depressed. I get sad at appropriate things but certainly am just manic. Funnt they called it high strung years ago. In closing, i wanted you to know your right. She doesnt mean it. I lost the love of my life over my anger during the blackout. 10 Yr relationshiop. Just cool to see you noticed and cared .

  3. I have been married to a man for 25 years he just recently got diagnosed with bipolar. The years have been hard but I love my husband very much.He had been incarcerated for 7 years. HE has done things that I never thought a reasonable person would ever do the same breath is one of the best loving people I've ever come across. I've seen a man bed for months at a time not able to talk. and I've seen his highs thinking he's Superman invincible. The past three year have been the worst that's when i had made my mind up he needed help or i was gone. He had finally got help. so needless to say he was diagnosed with biplor with schizo affectts
    Finally got him on a good medication regimen. after 3 years of diagnosis. Doc said he had most likely been living with it since his 20's. We meet in our teens. Now i am so worried what if something happens to me what will become of him. I pray for all of his brother and sisters of this bipoler war that all of you live with. I could not imagine the war. All though i have been diagnosed with Ptsd , depression, and insomnia. I still hope that everyone with bipoler have a good qulity of life. All my prayers out to all of you. Wish me luck now we have a son in his 20's showing the sa
    me signs the only different sign is blackouts and hearing things that are not there and his temper is uncontrolable Is possible he could have received this from his dad . Any feed back can only help

  4. You are beautiful...enjoyed this post. Been suffering the blackouts since I returned from a trip to California recently. Incredibly difficult. Thank you.

  5. This literally brought me to tears because I am dealing with those feelings. This was so well needed.

  6. I have recently been dealing with bi polar blackouts, I've been bi polar much longer than that, as well as dealing with a stress disorder. I can relate, as I've awoken in a jail cell completely confused, its not a great feeling I must say. I have been working with a psychologist, but I often wonder lately, at 40 years old, is this a disability? I'm currently unemployed, but I do wonder how effective I can be in the workplace?. Do I seek out disability?. I haven't a clue.

    1. Yes, it is a diagnosed disability.

  7. Thank you for helping me understand something I don't have to deal with but need to care about if I am to be a true daughter of God.

  8. Thank you for helping me understand something I don't have to deal with but need to care about if I am to be a true daughter of God.

  9. Thank you for your story. Mental illness runs in my family very deep and I started showing signs that was something wrong very early in my life (by 7 years of age). Lately I have been obsessing about my life, the history of various kinds of abuse, bad choices I have made and trying to make sense of this all. I feel helpless to put all the pieces together. I also follow Christ and I have great hope, however recent events challenge that, and I feel hopeless. Sometimes I would rather die than put my husband through anymore, all the well knowing that I may only get worse as I get older. He already won't leave me alone except to go to the store. I don't even know what to pray...I have no one else in my life, the have all fallen away....

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  11. You didn't mention if you were taking your medications as prescribed.

  12. I'm so glad I found this article, glad I'm not the only one going through this, I've had a few episodes but the worst was a few days ago, I was texting my girlfriend and all of a sudden it just hit me, I started saying nasty things to her that normally I wouldn't say, I have no recollection of the entire night, can't even remember stepping in the shower, the next morning I awoke like everything was normal, wasn't even aware of the nasty texts, I sent her the normal good morning my love text as I usually do, to my surprise she told me to check my history, I was shocked to read through it, long story short, after a few days of explaining what happened she still doubts people can just blackout, she acussed me of heavy drinking that night, it really sucks going through this.

  13. I have constant rapid cycling. I can become very ill. My moods are often in
    a mixed state. This is a very painful place to be. I find it hard to live.
    However, being nasty, cruel or violent to other people is NEVER ok.

    Bipolar can't be used as an excuse. You feel mad? You deal with it like I suffer and you feel that that pain. It sucks and then you move on
    to the next mood! Other people do not need to be hurt and you can't use
    the bipolar label for that.

    Abuse is abuse and is something quite different.

    1. When you are diagnosed with "Bipolar Mania and PTSD, it can cause violent behaviors when your in an unfamiliar place and it brings back old memories. One night I came home with my boyfriend and he accidently slammed the door, I looked at him and his face morphed to my ex that used to abused me (I was drinking but it was maybe 4 beers not enough for me but enough to do that!) I became violent, called his name, cried and then it all just went away just as fast as it came. Not all people are strong minded like you and EVERYONE is different!

    2. These black outs I go through is very disturbed and it all started happening when I left an abusive relationship after an decade. I left and life was getting very good to me. I was no longer in a vile relationship that could of had me dead any day. So now going out, making friends, working and school just a normal life I never had I finally got it at 21, oh so happy. My black outs started occuring when I was happy,drinking,outside and sounds. It's so scary I've done from running into a mack truck and going to a bar, morphed faces that turns into my ex and I start going off the wall, and fist punching a random person face in. It feels like a demon or an entity that is just roaming through town and just picked my Lithium medicated, vulnerable mind. And took my whole body over. It's just absolutely no way I do the shit I do.

    3. Your comment "abuse is abuse" is quite offensive and I don't think many sufferers use Bipolar as an "excuse". Ive only experienced a few blackout episodes and I'm very thankful. However my most recent could be considered abusive. A week prior I was let go from a job I was very proud of. Prior to being let go I had been manic/hypomanic for some time. As you can imagine I was devastated and immediately became severely depressed. Leaving a professional event with my husband I blacked out. The next morning I woke to bruises all over my body and two swollen ankles. I felt like I was still a little out of it. I first thought I had been in an accident. I later learned that for some reason I attacked by husband (we have no history of violence) and bit his finger down to the bone. My parents and husband said they had never seen me this way before. I am still unclear of all of the events (mostly because I am too embarrassed to ask) but apparently an uber driver, my husbands coworker, my parents, a neighbor and my best friend were all involved. The last thing I remember is getting on the interstate. I thank God I was not driving. That blackout cost me more than my dignity. I failed to meet my attorney the morning I woke regarding my severance package issues and panicked. I signed the agreement fearing further stress, embarrassment and financial issues. Lucky for me I have an amazing husband whose only concern is for my happiness and wellbeing. He would NEVER consider me an abusers or using my illness as an excuse.

  14. I have been dealing with bipolar type 1 since I was 12 but my parents refused to put me on meds. So when I turned 27 I just could not deal with it anymore so I got help but ended up getting that help in a psych ward. Since then I have been hospitalized 4 more times for violent black outs. I get abusive to my husband trying to attack with hammers and any other big object that I can find. But he has always stuck by my side thank god. And he says hes never going to go anywhere......I am so lucky to have him.

  15. Thank you for sharing your experience. I was misdiagnosed for a few years. I knew I had the symptoms for bipolar disorder, but the doctors kept telling me it was hormones and effects from PTSD with depression. I was put on the wrong meds and continued to have problems, finally I got moved and got a new doctor and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I keep having to have my meds changed, because I build a tolerance. Recently, I began experiencing blackouts. I got angry and broke my hand, I cannot remember how, although I was later told how. Last night, I had another blackout and do not remember the rest of the night. I have also felt like another person has taken over, like you talked about. I have been under a lot of stress lately and think that because I overthink things, this could be a trigger for me. I feel really bad for my husband, when I do have the anger going on or a personality shift, I have been told I have been really mean and just say hateful stuff. He says sometimes it becomes to much for him. We are going to get counseling soon. I am hoping it helps, because I do not want him walking on eggshells or guessing who is coming down the stairs in the morning or anything like that. Again thank you for sharing your story, I am glad there are other people out there that experience what I am experiencing and I am not alone.

  16. I cried,reading it. Thank you for writing .

  17. Thank you very much. I had amnesia for a week. It is horrible, because I cannot solve it. You are a talented writer and I wish you the best

  18. Im in the depths of despair I had a blackout Sunday night just passed. Later to find out I a female assaulted two blokes this same night, in the same way I was attacked and choked by my ex 14 years ago, and told that I was weak and pathetic, when I cried to him "why are you doing this?. During the same day of the blackout it was the very first time I have been back to fellowship with other Christians after walking away from church for about 7 years now. After the service, I prayed God what is it about me that grieves you the most, so I can change and follow you. That very night one of my also strayed away from the faith friends came over and we had several drinks. I dont know why I did I wish I hadn't now and just after acquiring the revelation too, that it is time to stop drinking completely, but thought just one last time, than everything just went blank. She called a couple of guys I did not know who they were and flipped out (told by others what i did) cause I have no recollection and now this feeling is inside and I cant shake it, that there is something very malevolent about me a dark seed and how could God want anything to do with me after I broke my promise, assaulted two people and in-front of my teenage children. I have tried to make amends to those who were involved. But I dont even have the words to describe the guilt and shame I feel, I was in the kingdom of darkness behaving in that way so how can I be in the kingdom of light? I hate having Bipolar its a curse.

  19. I have started having blackouts after one drink. When I was told what happened I didn't believe them. I was in a very abusive relationshipfor years (twenty broken bones and 5 concussions) and I was also raped. In these blackouts, evidently, I thought I was being attacked but I was the one doing the attacking.I never even fought back when I was abused so badly. Then I met a wonderful man and all of a sudden I am a abuser. I am very scared. Even if I don't drink, my memory is really bad. I have years that I can't recall for. I see a psychiatrist and am diagnosed bipolar 1, PTSD and General anxiety disorder. It's hard to know that after everything I went thru, I did the same to someone else. I saw the aftermath but didn't remember a thing. I have nightmares almost daily and flashbacks daily as well to the point I locked myself in the bathroom at a grocery store for hours because I thought my rapist was chasing after me.I used to work 3 jobs, have energy and was normal but always had issues. Now, I am either awake for days on end, talking so fast that No one u derstands me, shaking on the inside OR I cant get out of bed, suicidal thoughts, some attempts, cant keep a job, my body always hurts and I have a sadness that is crippling. I am on fisability now, got it 1st time I applied but feel guilty for being on it. All I want is to be a normal wife, mom and just be able to do basic functions like wake up, Take a shower and play with my kids. I have dealt with addiction and have gotten help with that but I feel like the person I was and once hated, is gone forever and I want that person back. Tired of living in shame and humiliation. I have been made fun of and mocked.many times for my problems so now I keep a smile on my face and you would think I am the most confident person in the world. I side, I am screaming and so insecure I think subconsciously I deserve everythi g I ever received. Will this be my life forever?

  20. Healing is possible when you have bipolar disorder, no matter how long you have had it. I have found that baby steps are what keeps us going. Try to think of it like with each bite of healing food and with each supplement you take, you are that much closer to recovery.
    Rehab center Indianapolis



Where my inspiration comes from

A Recycled-Dad with Bipolar & Parkinson's, reflections on fathering and family life and other stuff thrown in'll love my Soap Box Rants

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Why I call myself a Recycled Dad

I call myself a Recycled Dad because of the struggles with remarriage and being a step-parent and weekend dad. This is also about my life living with bipolar and how it affects me personally, my family and my job. It also reflects on the grace God has poured out on me throughout recovery from alcohol and an eating disorder. Recycled Dad is about my reflections on the wisdom God teaches daily on fatherhood and being a better husband in spite of being bipolar.

Please feel free to leave comments. I welcome them