bipolar disorder

What It Is Like To Have Bipolar Disorder

Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I had no idea what it truly was. I pretty much fed into the stigma and stereotypes surrounding the illness. I thought people with the disorder were “crazy” and “unstable”. I thought it meant severe Jekyll/Hyde mood swings where one second a person was calm, the next they were angry and screaming, the next crying and sobbing. When I was diagnosed, I was devastated. I had pretty much accepted my depression, but this was different. This meant something was really, truly, wrong with me.

I’ve since come to accept it and realize that I can thrive if I have the right medication and support system. I still have dark days and hard days but I think that I’m quite “high functioning”. I go to work. I clean my apartment. I see friends. I maintain a blog (lately). I volunteer.

But that doesn’t mean I am not struggling inside. So what does it feel like?

What bipolar disorder means to me (not a true psychiatric definition):

Periods of extreme moods. Depression and mania. That can last days, weeks, months. Not minutes.

The depression: feelings of despair, hopelessness, anxiety, self-hatred, low self-esteem, lethargy, lack of appetite, lack of motivation, withdrawal from people and activities, dreading a new day. Watching hours of Netflix to distract myself from my thoughts. Needing to be on the phone while I walk so I don’t have to be alone with my thoughts. Eating pizza pockets because even the idea of grocery shopping makes me anxious.

The mania: Hyper, lots of energy, barely sleeping, talking very fast, racing thoughts, overly ambitious, reckless and impulsive spending, grandiose ideas, irritability. Like that time I donated almost a month’s rent in a charity auction. Or stayed up all night writing a book. Or reacted badly to conversations and alienated people. Or when I couldn’t control what I said.

I’ve only had two full-on manic episodes, which is quite common. More frequent depressive episodes are more likely for me.

It’s tough. It can be scary. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t work and accomplish great things. I just need the right tools. But I’m one of the lucky ones. Medication or therapy doesn’t always work for people. Some people have less support or are isolated. That’s why I’m trying to find those people and let them know that they have me in their corner. And hopefully you too!

This was a bit of a disorganized post but I just wanted to paint a better picture for those who are unfamiliar.

Let me know if you have any questions!

54 comments on “What It Is Like To Have Bipolar Disorder

  1. Pretty much how I’d started too. My first post says something like this. And now I’m the one with no support except for other bloggers probably. 🙂 Sucks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. http://wp.me/p3QOAi-2
    That’s really sweet of you. Thanks… and do take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great post! I didn’t find it disorganized at all. I have been in check with my bipolar for many years now. That doesn’t mean I have not had my shares of “ups and downs”. It does mean that I am on medication and have learned the signs so that I can be prepared for depression or mania when it comes. Thanks for sharing this and I look forward to following you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like what you say and how you say it. And how your site looks. You have a lot of talent.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can relate to needing to be on the phone while walking, and watching netflix to drown out thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s very nice what you are trying to do. I’m extremely jaded, I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 36/37 even though the Doctors believe I have been Bipolar since 12/13. I drank for half of my life and lost a lot, medications do not work on me and I have had one round of ECT. I also have Conversion Disorder. I’ve been committed several times since the age of 17. I cringe when I read or hear “high functioning” attached to anything. It puts unreal expectations on the rest of the group whether it has to with Mental Illness, Autism or Alcoholics. That being said keep blogging!!!!

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  7. Disorganized, isn’t that how we think? Well at least I do, down or up, my mind is constantly working like a pinball making, bouncing from one idea to another. I found your post acurate and relatable. Keep writing your feelings out, keep bringing knowledge and hope to others who have less or none.

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    • Thank you! I just get stressed out sometimes trying to make my blog posts “perfect” which I know is silly. I work in marketing so I guess I feel the pressure to make something that is “engaging” and will generate a result (more followers, etc). I am glad you found it relatable!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for sharing Bev. It’s so brave of you to put it all out in the open. Ever since my brother’s bipolar diagnosis 2 years ago when a manic episode brought him to the psychiatric ward, I’ve been learning a lot about the disorder. It’s really nothing like the popular portrayal (much like many, many other diseases).

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  9. Thanks for sharing Bev. It’s so brave of you to put it all out in the open. Ever since my brother’s bipolar diagnosis 2 years ago when a manic episode brought him to the psychiatric ward, I’ve been learning a lot about the disorder. It’s really nothing like the popular portrayal (much like many, many other diseases).

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    • Thanks for your comment, Eric! That sounds so similar to my situation (I had a manic episode and stayed a week at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto). It’s actually so different than I thought it was. Some television shows have done a good job of portraying it though (especially Degrassi).

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  10. Pingback: World Mental Health Day – Living with Anxiety | From Outside The Mall

  11. warriorprincesscait

    Love this. I have written similar articles on my blog and also suffer from bipolar.
    I think I will enjoy keeping up with your story and would love it you follow along with me! Bipolar is the pits sometimes, but it does get better with, like you said, proper treatment, therapy and support

    http://www.caitthewarriorprincess.wordpress.com

    Like

  12. It wasn’t a disorganized post. I really like how you describe the illness so anyone can understand easily. Because you know, sometimes its a bit hard to describe something that has a stigma. Btw, I just started writing a blog to pour out my racing thoughts. Could you follow me back? It would be nice to share something in common and give supports to each others. Thank you and keep up your good writing! Xx

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  13. You’re experience sounds so similar to mine. I wanted so bad for my depression to just be depression. I did not want bipolar, but that is what I have and I am able to work with it now. I have family who have bipolar too and they have had many more issues with it than I have so I feel very lucky that mine stabilized so quickly. It sounds like you have been able to stabilize things, so that’s great!

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  14. Pingback: What It Is Like To Have Bipolar Disorder – SQUIRRELS AT A RAVE

  15. I think this is a good view into the illness. I think it is important that like autism, bipolar is on a spectrum. Of course there are three documented types, but I believe it’s a very individualized disease. I have had weeks of being suicidal and then weeks of being overly productive and excited to be alive. I think the hardest thing for me is not being my disease, but simply having it. I get so wrapped up in letting it define me. Great post!

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  16. Thank you. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Especially about bipolar depression. If you get a chance, read mine. I know what riding the rollercoastet is like!

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  17. I was exactly the same when I found out I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I thought my life my ruined. There were many nights I cried myself to sleep, wishing I didn’t have it. Now, I am a huge advocate for it and speak openly about my illness. I try to reduce the amount of stigma around the disorder and make people a bit more open about it.

    Like

  18. jacqueline

    I am diagnosed with bipolar disorder too. Except diagnosed at a young age so I didn’t exactly know what it meant. I’m currently writing a book actually and the main character is bipolar and it follows her through her recovery process and journey to wellness. It’d be really cool if you wanted to check out my blog http://jacquelinewritesblog.wordpress.com

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  19. Here is one add for my point of view and experience:

    “The depression: feelings of despair, hopelessness, anxiety, self-hatred, low self-esteem, lethargy, lack of appetite, lack of motivation, withdrawal…”

    And at that time of being depressed it is certain that this is not an illness. It is either normal for everyone so don’t fuss anyone about it, or it is my fault for being it so not ill and can’t be solved with a doctor. It’s very hard to see that you’re depressed and that is the great thing of experience.

    Thank you for writing about it.

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  20. Thank you for post. I loved how you wrote it. I love how you want to be there for others. I do need others actually. Unfortunately, I am one of those people that do isolate too much and I do not have a good support system but I have learned to survive mostly by myself. Thank you for your post. We all need to support each other. You are a very gifted writer.

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  21. pershastypo

    Like your post. Have been diagnosed bipolar early on this year. I hope to start blogging about my experiences.

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  22. I am so glad you are sharing your experiences with others and being a great example of how a diagnosis does not mean you can’t have a good life. My husband has bipolar so I blog from the other side. lol Keep up the great work and I wish you the best.

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  23. I have bipolar 2 with a lot of depression and Bouts of hypomania. I kinda like the hypomania. I’m productive then. But I’m a good girl and take my meds though sometimes things will set it off. This can be a life event, like my father’s death, or many different medications. No fun .

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  24. I have a question. Do you still feel like yourself on medication? I was recently diagnosed in the middle of 2015 and was extremely over medicated. Now I’m not on any meds (haven’t been since the middle of 2016) and I’m doing fine but I am so tired of manic episodes. I’ve already had 2 since the middle of last year.

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    • I’m not sure. I am currently playing around with my meds (with medical supervision) to figure out a new dose because I was overly medicated before and it wasn’t working so well. I feel like myself but I get really, really tired, especially in the mornings. I am sure there is a medication out there that could help you, if that’s the course you want to take. It just might take a bit to figure out.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. That’s true and I am willing to be more open about it now than I was last year. I just fear being stripped of my personality and/or energy (I’m generally on the hyper side). Thanks for replying.

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  26. susanhenschen

    I was diagnosed about 3 months ago with bipolar. Before that, it was anxiety/depression (more so on the depression side). I quite agree with your post on what it’s like!

    Like

  27. Hi there 🙂 I will be seeing a doc and doing a follow up with an organization about biploar disorder. Wish me luck?

    Like

  28. I don’t know if you chart your moods at all, but I noticed with my bipolar mother, especially in her later years of life (60’s and on) that she definitely had cycles around the annual calendar. She would be manic in early May (probably because of the longer daylight), and by August, she would be depressed. Because I lived so far from her, and she refused to speak about her illness, I wasn’t more aware. But I chatted with someone about this once, and they believed that seasons, daylight hours, perhaps weather patterns (barometric pressure changes), and lunar cycles can affect moods. My own son deals with anxiety and he definitely cycles with the moon. I am somewhat affected by daylight and sun, feeling better with light and sun, and dealing with occasional mild depression with dark long nights (used to be much more severe). Energy healing has helped me quite a bit. It’s the only thing I know that has the potential to create change/ healing with mental illnesses. Just wish I’d discovered it sooner to help my mom.

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  29. violetannie63

    I have a dear friend who has bipolar. It is heartbreaking to watch her go through an “episode”, especially when I know she thinks it means I will stop being her friend because I can’t “deal with it”. It’s such an isolating illness. I have learnt that the best I can do for her is always be there, no matter what, and no matter how uncomfortable it might make me. HER discomfort is a thousand times worse than mine. She has been hospitalised a few times and has had many battles with getting medication right, but is doing so much better now. I have to keep reminding her that she is NOT her illness and that it doesn’t have to define her. There is so much stigma attached to bipolar and half the battle is getting her to accept she has it and not fight it or pretend that it will go away. I am the only one who knows she has it – she is embarrassed and feels almost guilty for having it. It’s very sad. I wish you all the luck in the world – thank you for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

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