Bipolar, Like Me.
You know the saying that life’s just a ride? Well no group of people can relate to that more than manic-depressives. The same way that no two snowflakes are identical, no two brains are. So even though about 1 out of every 100 adults lives with my disorder, there isn’t really anyone who is bipolar like me. The more I learn about it and attempt to clue my friends in on what my life is like, the more it becomes apparent that most people are ignorant to their own mental state, let alone that of others.
Facts & Typical Traits
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s characterized by periods of mania and depression. In simpler terms, highs and lows. In between those periods, or episodes, there are periods of stability. Biological predisposition can heighten your chances, and the disorder can be inherited. In my case my mother and her mother both live with it. I’ve basically had a 50% chance since birth, and I honestly question having children. While not curable, bipolar is highly manageable if you’re honest about your symptoms and needs. Every case is different.
Me & Mine
For the longest time, I insisted that I only had anxiety – one of the most socially accepted forms of mental illness. I was in denial and chose to ignore my symptoms, which caused me to make decisions that I would later regret. If there weren’t direct consequences, there was always a moment to shake my head at in hindsight. Of all the stupid shit I can do while spiraling out of control, wasting time is what I hate most. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been intelligent and talented. Bipolar disorder has changed none of that, but it has thrown me for a few loops. When in college, my school work would suffer. Since graduating, my personal projects have taken hits. After periodically letting myself down for about 2 years, I decided it was time to intervene.
Living with bipolar disorder has made me almost hyper aware of my emotions. I now watch out for potentially harmful patterns. This means monitoring my sleep and spending, making sure I eat well, watching how much I’m drinking & indulging in ganja. I am required to care for myself in a way that most people my age probably should, but definitely don’t have to. It’s a lot of responsibility that I honestly don’t want. However, it’s my best chance at the future I deserve. At this point, I honestly believe I am meant to experience life differently. My disorder allows me to feel more deeply than the average (wo)man. I have access to creative ideation and wide a range of emotion that I’m determined to make benefit me in my art.
Meds & Treatment
After a bad experience with an antidepressant, I was very reluctant to trust prescription medication as a viable treatment for my case of mental illness. It took a period of anxiousness and depression, triggered by unemployment, to make me open up to medical intervention. When I finally went to seek treatment, I was given a mood stabilizer. Which seemed so fucking dramatic to me, until I acknowledge that I really do have trouble maintaining a stable mood in times of distress. The medication I am currently taking works by regulating glutamine levels in my brain. Too much glutamine can trigger mania, it’s all very chemical and science-y. It’s allowing me to remain productive and positive through situations that could otherwise be upsetting. My psych practitioner told me the goal with this medicine is to maintain a slightly elevated mood, while I do other things to improve how I handle situations. She recommends I keep a clean diet and become a yogi, saying that practicing yoga has helped some people stop needing medication.
Stigma & Awareness
I believe the only way to counteract the stigma wrongful associated with mental illness is to be forthright and honest about it’s presence. True, there are people suffering mentally that have tendencies that can bring harm to others, but I don’t see anyone grouping and demonizing the many “sane” individuals who hurt others with intention. Slowly society is changing, it wasn’t so long ago that parents with special needs or mentally disabled children were shamed by society. Now we host Special Olympic games and information on the autistic spectrum is widely available.
Maria Bamford, Russell Brand, Stephen Fry, Nina Simone and Frank Sinatra are a few artists I look up to who also live with bipolar disorder. The list goes on. On the flip side, so does Ron Artest, which explains his erratic decisions, like fighting and naming himself Metta World Peace. Robin Williams lived with it until his depressive symptoms eventually drove him to suicide. Substance abused, a common trait worsened by disorder, caused Amy Winehouse’s demise. So there’s while there’s definitely a way to be bipolar and brilliantly successful, there’s also a need to be careful.
The computer at your office that functions the way you need it to most of the time and occasionally malfunctions is NOT bipolar. The constantly changing weather in your town is NOT bipolar. Your friend who seemingly cannot make up their mind and has flaked on you, again, MAY very well be bipolar; or indecisive, or anxious or busy. Hell, in any case, that person deserves understanding and not bullshit labels from someone who isn’t a psychologist. So, stop being a dick (: