*The only research put into the following, was life experience.
We use that word a LOT. If the weather makes a quick change, it’s bipolar. If someone’s attitude changes, they’re being bipolar.
We use this word so often, it almost seems as if we are belittling people who actually suffer from bipolar disorder.
But in truth, like in so many cases, we just don’t really understand it.
I asked someone I know, “If you didn’t know me, and someone asked you what bipolar disorder is, what would you say to them?”
They responded, “I would probably use google to come up with a more accurate answer. Without google I would say they have mood swings and can’t control them. And you have to be more aware of the things you say and how you say them.”
Depending on your disorder, you experience different things.
The National Institute of Mental Health describes bipolar disorder and its different forms as the following:
* Bipolar I Disorder— defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depression and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.
* Bipolar II Disorder— defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes described above.
* Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia)— defined by numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms as well numerous periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.
* Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders— defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the three categories listed above.
But a clinical definition doesn’t exactly communicate the daily struggle of a bipolar patient.
By most doctors’ descriptions I fall into Bipolar II. I have manic and depressive episodes but not the kind that hospitalize me or prevent me from functioning in everyday society.
Often, when I try to explain what I go through everybody assumes that I’m crazy, or using it as an excuse. Some act like every time I’m irritated I’m having a meltdown, or they act like I’m making it up entirely. The reactions vary.
I have found that in my case I prefer to be open about my disorder. I try to not be ashamed of who I am.
I generally find that the best way to explain “bipolar” is to share examples.
As previously noted, bipolar disorder often involves depressive episodes and manic episodes.
During a depressive phase, I’m generally lethargic, sleepy, not motivated to do anything, and downright lazy. I’ll avoid social situations. I can barely get out of bed for work most days.
I don’t necessarily feel sad.
I’m just tired.
I feel a lot of anxiety regarding social activity. So that, in addition to bipolar disorder, makes it hard to go out during a depressive phase.
I spend a lot of those nights with my Netflix, my dog, and my bed.
Of course, sometimes during those times I feel lonely and sadness catches up with me. But the majority of it I just feel… blah.
This can go on for a few days, a few weeks, maybe a couple months.
The manic phases are the wild cards.
The only true common denominator between manic phases is that everything is a little more extreme.
Through one manic phase, I might be super energetic and productive. I cook. I clean. I craft. I’m generally cheerful and friendly, almost happy-go-lucky.
Then there are the tough manic phases.
The most recent example I could give you, involved an extreme fit of rage.
It started out on a Thursday. I found myself extremely bitter and irritated. Almost irrationally so.
I had asked my sister if being 30 minutes late would leave much game left, so that I could watch my nephew play football.
She told me, in so many words, that it wouldn’t. I interpreted this as, don’t come.
I went home after work. My father was gone, at the game. He didn’t come home for more than 2 hours.
Indicating to me, that I could have made it and it wouldn’t have been a waste of time.
Most people might be irritated, but eventually blow it off.
But I was so upset, I couldn’t speak to my dad without wanting to scream and yell.
I came down from the ledge eventually.
But, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hold a grudge.
That Sunday when he suggested we all go out to eat after the next game, I made a bitter remark.
We eventually moved past that, too.
With Halloween coming up, it was a busy week.
Between making costumes and baking, I was exhausted. There wasn’t time for a lot of emotion. I was mostly in good spirits.
Thursday rolled around. Game day.
I called my dad. Asked if we were still on for this dinner thing.
He said no. He didn’t feel good. Left work early.
Got it. So I registered it as, not going to the game. I can head straight home from work.
Great! I was, literally, running low on gas anyway.
I came home. No cars in the driveway. Maybe my parents went out? My dad had been having some dizzy spells. So I called to check and make sure things were okay.
Things were fine. They were at the game.
I hung up. I immediately felt so ENRAGED. I could barely contain myself.
90% of me was searching for things to destroy. I could barely hold in all my anger. I was losing it. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, I wanted to break things so badly.
The remaining 10% of me was reasoning with the other 90%. That small portion of me was trying to keep me from causing permanent damage, from making a mess that I couldn’t clean up.
But that 90% was SO STRONG. I did destroy some jack-o-lanterns. And I knocked over some things.
Honestly, minimal damage.
I yelled so loud, in an empty house, that my dog (who is precious to me) was huddled in a corner, terrified.
I went for a power walk, hoping that loud music on my iPod and exercise would calm me down.
It didn’t entirely resolve my anger. But the ratio of rage to reason became more even.
And when my parents came home, they didn’t understand. They didn’t try to. And the rage threatened to come back and overwhelm me again.
But at that point I was too emotionally exhausted to be that angry.
So I picked up my messes. I didn’t speak to anyone. And I went to bed, not knowing if tomorrow I would feel these extreme emotions. Or feel nothing.
And the whole time this was happening , maybe a total of three hours, I wanted to talk to someone. I wanted someone to understand that overwhelming feeling and the utter loss of control.
But I couldn’t explain. Because my friends aren’t bipolar. They’d think I was crazy.
And that’s when I decided that it’s not fair. We live in this new world of “tolerance”. But I still have to “hide my crazy”.
I felt that I needed to explain myself. Not because I want people to feel guilty. Not because I want to apologize for something out of my control.
But because I don’t want other people dealing with bipolar disorder to think that they have to hide.
Because if you’re going to use “bipolar” to describe something, I want you to understand the word you’re using.
Because you can’t see bipolar. You can’t simulate bipolar. Even reading this, you’re not going to fully grasp the struggle.
But at least someone took the time to try to explain.No more hiding.
I am SO bipolar