I, like many others, have bipolar disorder. Specifically I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type II. I don’t talk about it much as I’ve found most people are uncomfortable discussing the subject. I’d like to attempt to explain what it feels like to live with this condition. First though a preface on what bipolar disorder is.
People, like myself, who suffer from bipolar disorder experience a wide swing in moods over a length of time. Specifically swinging back and forth from depression to a type of heightened mood known as mania or hypomania depending on the severity of the episode (hypomania being the less severe of the two). The mania/hypomania can express itself through in many ways including increased irritability, euphoria, rapid speech, an inrease in energy, the need for less sleep, and racing thoughts. There is enough information on depression out there so i believe i will skip the explanation of it.That Iis a nice clinical explanation of the symptoms but… How do I feel?
My trip to Depression doesn’t happen In an instant, but it isn’t necessarily slow either. I’ve noted, in myself at least, it takes anywhere from 6 hours to a few days to slip into a depressive state. I’ve learned over the years to recognize the feelings in myself which in turn has led to me being able to exert a modicum of control over it. Even at 31 though I’ve not completely conquered it and sometimes it sneaks up on me and kicks me square in the balls before I recognize it and by then it’s too late.
When I’m in a depressive state the things that interest me no longer interest me. Music, family, writing, film, photography, sex, games, etc… It all seems pointless. I begin to question whether anything I do is worth it. Plans that have been coming along nicely grind to a halt. If I had something to do it is canceled, even things that are pleasurable. I begin to feel like no one cares for me, my friends aren’t my friends, my family hates me, I hate myself. It has been so severe that I’ve not gotten out of bed for weeks, except to use the restroom. I’ve been very close to suicide on several occasions, even so far as thinking through the method. Fortunately I haven’t reached that level of despair in a couple of years. The worst, after I come out of it, is the neglect that I put my wife and children through. When I’m depressed I don’t play with them or spend quality time; I barely even talk to them. I sleep, cry, and my energy is hardly enough to walk, it seems at the time anyways. All the joy in the world is gone. Over the years I’ve been able to develop quite the acting chops; when I’m faced with a situation where I must go in public despite the depression I put on a show. I smile, laugh, and function. Inside I feel like dying.
Then there are the manic episodes. At the beginning of the upswing I become super dad to my children. We play, invent new games and songs; we take special trips to new places and I teach them new things. I take care of what needs done around the house. I play music, I interact with friends and family, I try new things like drawing, or other art forms that pique my interest. Then the full blown Mania or Hypomania hits.
I spend money recklessly. I make horrible, impulsive decisions including, but not limited to, walking miles in the middle of the night, driving recklessly (When by myself), staying up all night when I have to care for the kids in the morning, starting big unrealistic projects that can’t be finished in a day then destroying whatever I’ve worked on when I don’t get as far as I’d like, and generally pushing the envelope. I stole a car once while manic (Years ago), I used to drink an excessive amount; I nearly went the way of some famous musicians a couple of times. Sometimes the mania manifests itself in extreme irritability to the point I’ve yelled at my family members. I’ve quit jobs quite sure that I can make a living off of whatever I feel invincible at during the moment. I quit my medication and quit going to therapy because, after all, if I feel this good I must be better, right? I sleep very little. It comes with a slew of problems; it’s harder for me to recognize my manic phases coming on for some reason.
Then there are the in between times. The times where I feel “normal”. These are blessings. My true self comes out. I’m polite, interested in life as it happens, not what it can be or what it isn’t. I have unconditional love for my family. If my children misbehave I don’t raise my voice. I respond with compassion and explanations on how to better themselves and build a stronger family. My wife and I can just be, no judgements from either side, just love. I sleep normally, I work normally, I approach my hobbies in a normal, non obsessive manner. I can breath. I can think. I can tackle the problems presented by my depressive and manic selves. I sometimes think bipolar should be called tripolar; I feel like three different people.
I’m sharing this because I’m tired of hiding it. Most people that know me know a guy who always has a smile on his face (is a bit weird maybe haha) but otherwise completely normal. A normal life is pretty difficult, if not impossible. I can’t hold a job, I can’t keep to a routine, I can’t even love the way I’d like to in a consistent manner. I look at others who have some semblance of normality in their life and wish and pray for it. I’m getting better but I can’t help but ask…
How long will it take?