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!