Things About Bipolar Disorder Nobody Talks About

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People with bipolar disorder in the International Bipolar Disorder community share things people don’t often say about bipolar disorder.

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The Vows to My Husband Were Also Vows to My Mental Health

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When I was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression at 15, I started to think about my future. Being overwhelmed with a new diagnosis, I spent a lot of time wondering how my life would play out. All my dreams suddenly became just out of reach, and I felt limited.

As I grew, I got used to my diagnosis. I started yoga, meditation and therapy. I even tried medication a few times. It seemed for a while that my mental illness was controlled, but when my junior year of college came about, things got rough.

I began to feel like a failure again. I felt as though my world was crumbling around me, and the things I expected from myself suddenly became unobtainable because of my worsening illness.

Bipolar disorder became a new aspect of my life that I had never expected. Around the time my mental health worsened, I met someone who brightened the darkness. I met a man who had been through similar struggles, someone to share my heart with. At first, things were scary. I didn’t want to ruin the beautiful new feeling of love, but I also loved this man so much that I wanted to share these parts of my life with him.

At first, I felt as though I needed to tell him about my mental health as a sort of warning, letting him know eventually things would get dark. Luckily, this man was more than understanding. He did not take this as a warning. He took this information and turned it into a challenge for us to face together.

No one has ever asked if I had taken my meds just because they want to be sure I’ll be OK that day. He asks if I’m getting enough sleep. He makes sure I have enough candles and bubble bath so I can meditate a few times a month. He buys me stress relief coloring books to take with me wherever I may need to use them.

I can’t count how many days we have spent on the couch in our PJs despite having had plans that day. My depression prevents me from keeping many plans, but he understands.

Several times, he has held me so tight I couldn’t move as I cried on the bathroom floor. He has held my hand and stared into my eyes. He says, “It’s only temporary,” in an attempt to remind me that the pain will end.

I never expected this this kind of support.

Many years ago, I unsuccessfully attempted to take my own life. Around the time I met my husband, I was starting down that same path. If not for the incredible fate that led us to one another, I don’t know if I’d be here to write this today.

A groom and a bride embracing underneath her veil as they stand on the beach.

On Christmas Eve, I vowed my life to this man. In my vows, I promised to take care of my mental health because I know how important it is to both of us. As I looked into his eyes that day, I saw our entire future. The crying, the laughing, the nights spent binge-watching episodes of “Stranger Things,” Season 5 and the heartfelt moments that made me fall so deeply for him in the first place.

I also saw my past. The suicide attempts, the notes and the panic attacks. They all faded away and were replaced with new memories. Our wedding was a promise that no matter how bad things get, I will always have someone standing beside me to make sure my brain is as healthy as my body.

The importance of all of this is to remember that one day, it does get better. I am the happiest now that I have been in years. Sure, it took a long time to get here, but the day came. Eventually, I’ll probably be stuck in another rut, but the important thing is I found the one to dig me out of that hole, and you will too.

Marriage for me is a dedication to my entire self. The fact that another human being has seen me at my worst, screaming. “I want to die,” and still wants to spend their entire life with me is mind-boggling. I never thought I’d get married because I felt like a burden. Now, I see I am worth something to someone. This is my happiness.

Whether that person is your your best friend in college, your therapist, your family or your husband, that person will come along for you eventually if they haven’t already. You just have to be patient and hold on until that day comes. I promise it will.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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When Someone Says 'You Don't Seem Bipolar’

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If you have bipolar disorder, then you’ve likely heard a few comments along the lines of “but you don’t seem bipolar.” Most frequently, in my own life, I’ve heard it while getting to know a new romantic interest or when I “come out of the bipolar closet” to a newly close friend.

It’s hard not to be offended. Initially, all I could feel was invalidated, doubted, insulted or a mixture of all three. After all, the first thing that popped into my head was to say, “OK, so what does bipolar ‘seem’ to be? How exactly does one ‘seem’ bipolar?” I never actually said it, but there’s approximately a 150 percent chance that my face said it for me.

Often, the person saying you or I don’t seem like someone with bipolar disorder simply doesn’t have much experience with the condition. It’s been explained to me that they thought bipolar disorder meant moody, angry, violent or constantly on the edge of suicide. Without a doubt, a person with bipolar disorder may be those things, but so may anyone else.

That’s the part that excites me now when I’m told my condition isn’t obvious: getting to explain how, for the most part, we’re like anyone else. I have the opportunity to explain how each one of us is different and how the majority of us may walk right by on the street and you’d never know we have bipolar disorder.

I now understand that while the invalidation and implied judgment can still sting, it can also be viewed as a perfect opportunity. On some level, it could still be seen as an insult, but on the flip side, there’s a hidden compliment: You’re a positive reflection of bipolar disorder, someone with the potential to change the stigma.

So get out there and show the world what it is to “seem bipolar.”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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The Truth About Being 'Productive' During Hypomania

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It’s noon, and I’ve almost smoked an entire pack of cigarettes. It’s noon, and I’ve drank a whole pot of coffee. It’s noon, and I have the energy to dance the day away. It’s noon, and I’m already crying.

I woke up today at 5 a.m. to take my boyfriend to work. I didn’t sleep a bit last night. I remember looking at the clock at 10:20 p.m., 11:40 p.m., 12:30 a.m., 3:30 a.m. and so on. I didn’t sleep a wink. Yet, here I am wide awake, unable to take a nap.

This is my first time experiencing hypomania while knowing what it is. I’m not just “normal” or “not depressed” now. No, I’m aware of a state of being that is not from me, but from my mental illness. It’s in control. It has me in tears.

I made a mental list of everything I should accomplish today. Instead, I painted a tree branch I found pink and haven’t done anything since. I’ll admit it. I’m feeling sorry for myself. I look at my day planner, lying on the ground covered in ash from my cigarettes. I want to cry.

The worst part about hypomania is wanting to be productive, having all sorts of grand ideas and then not being able to act on them at all. I can’t do a damn thing. I’m stuck.

I can’t get myself to start cleaning. I can barely get myself to write. This is hell. This is torture. This is making me wish I was depressed again so that way I’d at least feel my laziness were justified.

I can’t process enough information to even write a grocery list. My head hurts because it’s going so quickly. The noises outside have me wanting to curl up into a ball and panic. I don’t know where to go from here.

I was excited for hypomania. I was happy I wouldn’t be depressed, and I could get things done. Yet, as time goes on, I find myself irritated, sad and disappointed. The only time I feel “normal” is when I’m with my boyfriend. I’m distracted, engaged in doing things or able to finally calm down enough to take a nap.

I don’t want to be only functional when I’m with someone else. I don’t want to have to rely on someone else to get through my day. Yet, what if it’s getting to that point? What if I’m getting to a point where I can’t leave my apartment without someone?

I want a job again. I want to feel proud of myself, but I can’t trust myself. I don’t know from one day to the next whether or not I’ll be able to function properly. This is killing me. I want to hide away from the world.

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Will You Still Love Me With My Bipolar?

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What is it like to love somebody who has bipolar disorder? What specific challenges does it involve? Is it possible for it to work, or is it too much of a risk? And is it really worth it?

Firstly, love isn’t always a choice. Sometimes we can’t help but love and care for family and friends, and often we don’t choose who we fall for romantically. And love is never easy: there are always obstacles, challenges and difficulties. Love is for better and for worse, in sickness and health, and some loves last for all eternity while others burn out leaving only hurt and memories behind.

Any kind of love is a risk. You risk both your own heart and feelings and those of the other person — something that may be even more dangerous for an already fragile and vulnerable person. And something possibly unknown and scary to you. And I’m not just talking about romantic and intimate relationships. I’m talking best friends, family, other friends and even colleagues and people we are regularly in contact with.

Well, here’s the thing. I’m not going to deny the issues. Bipolar disorder can be darn hard work! The constant worry, the reliance and sometimes over-reliance on you, the pressure on you to try and help us stay well. The amount of help we may need if we breakdown or become extremely unwell. The unreasonable things we may attempt to involve you in when we are manic or the hurt you may feel when we isolate ourselves. Then there are the ridiculous things you may need to protect us from and the guilt you may feel when you become involved in a distressing episode or hospital admission. And perhaps worst of all it must hurt like hell to watch someone you care about inflict serious harm upon themselves.

But here comes my defense. People with bipolar disorder have a great deal to give. We are kind, we feel things more deeply than anyone else, we take you exactly as you are. There is nothing we hate more than feeling we have hurt someone else. We see beauty in the smallest of things, and we share that with you. We are funny, and we may be slightly wild. You will never get bored of us. We have been through hell several times, so we are pretty much unshockable. You can tell us anything and we won’t judge you. We will also never break your trust as we know too well how that feels. We can love you at your best and your worst, and we will stand by through anything whether or not you are right or wrong. And though it may feel like it at times we don’t actually expect you to “fix” us and we do know you can’t always help. And that’s OK too.

We love you for who you are, and we just want you to love us. The bipolar is a part of us and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Yes, it can be so hard to live with. But people with bipolar have so much love to give, and I do believe that despite the challenges it is possible to love us back. After all, there is no limit on the love we can give or receive.

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10 Bipolar Basics for the Newly Diagnosed

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If you have recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, there are a few basics you should know. You’ll likely find them out on your own, but it might take a while.

So here are some tips to help you on your journey:

1. Being bipolar isn’t necessarily a tragedy. It’s a chronic illness. At times it’s better, at others, worse. It’s not a death sentence and it’s treatable. You can still live a full and satisfying life.

2. You will need help. To live with bipolar disorder, you need a support system. Unfortunately, your friends and family may not be all that supportive. Fortunately, there are online support groups. But the most important parts of your support system – at least at first – are your psychiatrist and your psychotherapist. I recommend having one of each. Psychiatrist for medication and therapist for talk therapy.

3. You will most likely need medication. And the odds are good you might need them for the rest of your life. Don’t panic. After all, diabetics need insulin, usually for life. You may hate taking pills. You may hate the idea of being dependent on them. You may hate the fact they remind you of your brain’s difficulty functioning. But realize meds will make your brain’s functioning less difficult. They are worth the hassle.

4. Everyone is different. Everyone’s symptoms are slightly different. Everyone’s medications are slightly different. Everyone’s reactions to their medications are slightly different. A support group can help you with general information, but it cannot tell you what is ultimately best for you. Your particular symptoms and your unique version of bipolar disorder may well require different medications in different amounts than your friends. And you may have different reactions to them. Some have no effect at all on one person, but are lifesavers for another.

5. Getting better takes time. Once you have your diagnosis and your medication, don’t expect to feel better quickly. It takes time. Then your doctor may assess how well the medication is working and change the dose or even the medication itself. Then you may go through another six weeks of waiting for the new dose or drug to take effect. Each case of bipolar disorder requires a medication regimen tailored specifically to the individual.

6. There are several different types of bipolar disorder. The two main types are called type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is the classical bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depression. Type 2, a more recently identified version of the disorder, often manifests as mostly depression, possibly with hypomania, a less severe version of the ups that accompany bipolar 1. Other forms of bipolar disorder are rapid cycling, in which one’s mood states alter quickly, even within a few hours. Another part of bipolar disorder is called a mixed state. Mixed states occur when a person experiences both extremes of emotion at the same time – for instance, depression and irritability, or fatigue despite racing thoughts.

7. The odds are that you already know someone with bipolar disorder. One in five Americans will have a psychiatric illness in a given year. But because we don’t talk about it, sometimes no one ever knows. When bipolar disorder is treated properly, a person with the illness can maintain function in society and choose whether or not to share the diagnosis with friends and coworkers. Many people choose not to because of the stigma surrounding mental illness. It’s a valid choice, but it can cut the affected person off from possible support and understanding from others.

8. Relationships can be difficult, but are not impossible. Relationships are difficult for everyone. People with bipolar disorder have relationships that are difficult, too. The disorder may make relationships even more difficult, especially when a loved one does not understand the symptoms, medication, mood swings, anxiety, fatigue and other facets of bipolar disorder. The best cure for this is education. Sometimes it may not be possible for a relationship to survive bipolar disorder, just as a relationship may not survive trauma, grief, addiction, infertility, incompatibility, meddling relatives, infidelity, parenting or a host of other conditions. It may be better to look at all the circumstances surrounding a troubled relationship rather than automatically blame bipolar disorder for difficulties.

9. Learn all you can. Because bipolar disorder is so misunderstood by the public, because it manifests differently in nearly every case, because a person can be actively struggling or in remission, because a person may have any of the different types of bipolar disorder, because everyone is different – the need to educate yourself and probably those around you is essential. The more you know, the less you’ll panic when a symptom you haven’t experienced before suddenly hits. Rely on reputable sources. Medical, psychiatric or psychological websites are usually the best. Support groups can offer much information, but the people in a support group may not be any more well-informed than you are. And beware of people selling “miracle cures” that can lure a person away from needed medication and other services.

10. Keep trying. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. It’s difficult. It’s painful. It’s confusing. But bipolar disorder is something you can live with and even something you can rise above. The secret is to keep trying. Keep seeking out therapy and friends who support you. Keep taking your medication even if you don’t want to. (Stopping your medication without advice from your doctor can be dangerous, so please don’t try that.) Be stubborn. When you feel like giving up, tell yourself maybe things will get a little better in the morning. Hang in there. You may not realize it, but there are people who need you in the world.

Do you have any other tips for the newly diagnosed? Please share them in the comments section.

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