I have a bit of a confession to make, as this is something I haven’t had the guts/purpose to talk about on this blog before. I’m bipolar. Although, I struggle with that because I am not bipolar. I am many many things, but bipolar is a condition and not who I am. It is something I often suffer from. It it something I have to deal with. It is part of me, but it is not me. I want to talk about it though because it is important to get it out there. I know I am not alone and I would like, more than anything, for people who suffer with mental diseases and disorders to band together.
And more than that, I want people to understand what it can be like to live with a parent who is bipolar. Not the story you read about the mother who flew off the handle. Not the father who would disappear for weeks at a time. But the mother with bipolar who has been striving for “normal”. The mother who is constantly working to be stable. The mother who has found the happy medium.
What does bipolar mean to me?
It means keeping constant awareness of my moods, my thoughts, my feelings, and most particularly my spontaneity. It means making sure I am keeping a consistent regiment of meds and/or therapy…whatever is working for the time being. It’s all about being aware.
To be more specific, I regularly deal with depression and anxiety. Lucky for me, mania is not something I have to deal with often at this point in my life.
Today I’d like to cover some common myths about bipolar/depression/anxiety.
1. You have constant mood swings.
Bipolar is not mood swings, trust me. It is much more than that. So when you meet someone whose best friend is happy one minute and irate the next, it does not mean he/she is bipolar. People with bipolar typically have a manic and depressive cycles lasting weeks or months at a time.
2. You cycle constantly.
Having bipolar does not mean that you are either depressed or manic. Many people with bipolar often toe the line between for long stretches of time. Some people may find help with therapy or drugs, and some may just be “lucky” enough to feel normal for a stretch of time.
3. You can ‘snap out of it’
If I only had a penny for every time I’d been told to “snap out of it”.. This goes for anyone suffering from anything. I cannot snap out of the flu any easier than I can snap out of depression. Believe me I have begged and pleaded to just let the depression end, and it just does not work that way. I have tried every diet, every exercise…it just does not work that way. So, the next time someone confides in you that they feel depressed…please do NOT tell them to just snap out of it.
4. A Manic Episode is fun or happy
Sorry, not so. Manic episodes can be exhilarating, but they’re exhausting. Imagine having the best idea of your life. An idea that can make you millions…no billions of dollars. It’s exciting and all you want to do is get this idea going. You work for hours and days on end. Exhaustion doesn’t set in. You don’t get hungry. And then you crash. And you realize you’ve just spent days on an idea that sucks.
It’s like being on an IV of caffeine and you still cannot move fast enough. You can’t talk quickly enough, yet you still try to slow down because you know you sound insane. Your ideas are flying so quickly through your head that you don’t even have time to consider each one. It’s a constant and quick ride that you have very little control over.
I cannot speak for everyone, obviously, but that is what mania feels like to me.
5. Meds will fix everything/Meds will hurt everyone.
Medication for bipolar is not the end all be all. There is not one medication that will make everyone happy and serene. Every person needs to find a doctor and find a regimen that will work for them – and that may or may not involve medication. Meds will not fix bipolar alone, and meds are not required for someone who is bipolar to live a stable life.
6. People with bipolar should just…
I cannot express how many times I’ve heard/read “I have bad days but I just get up and go about my life”. That’s not bipolar…that’s not depression. If you think that you are depressed but you just put mind over matter to ‘get over it’…sorry, that’s not depression. I’ve gone through weeks and months just doing the daily grind and getting through it, and that’s not depression. Depression is more and depression is worse. There is no quick and easy solution for depression.
Other things not to say:
1. My cousin/hair dresser/random person I know has bipolar, and this is what they do.
– It’s not that I don’t care what they did, but I’ve learned that chances are, other people only know a fraction of what was actually done.
2. Aren’t you worried that you kids will be bipolar too?
– Yes!!! Of course I’m constantly worried that something bad will happen to my kids and that they may have to suffer too. Thanks for reminding me…?
3. Bipolar isn’t a real illness.
– Just shut up. I can’t even respond to this, sorry.
Things to say to someone who has come out to you.
(please bear in mind this is no all-inclusive, nor will everyone agree)
– I know this was hard for you to tell me and I’m glad you feel comfortable enough to let me be there for you.
– Let me know how I can help you/support you/be there for you.
– I’m ready to listen whenever you need me.
I’d like to include a short history just so anyone reading this can know where I am coming from and what my history is. I hesitate in sharing this because it’s quite personal, but I share it hoping that it will help someone.
I was first diagnosed with major depression at the age of 12 and later was diagnosed as bipolar at the age of 16. I spent the better part of a year in psychiatric hospitals (it took quite a few before the right one was found). Since that point I have nearly constantly been on a regimen of mood stabilizers and/or antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds. As has been possible, I’ve seen a therapist. I’ve tried many many many different medications and “cocktails” to find the right fit. It’s a constant battle that I will continue to fight.
I’m now 29. I can’t say that I have it all together or that my struggle is over. I’ve made the mistake many times of thinking that I am cured or better or just doubting the diagnosis in general. I have good days and bad. I have days where I can feel myself slipping and I know to take action. I have days where I feel…normal. I still see a doctor, a therapist, take meds, have a good routine. It’s all about finding what works for you.
Please feel free to contact me if you just need someone to talk to or if you have any questions erin (at) royalbaloo (dot) com
I have a lot more to say on this topic, so I do anticipate more posts on this topic. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments or email, and I’ll do my best to answer. I’m not a professional, though I do have a B.S. in Psychology and I heavily studied abnormal psych while in college.
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