People experience bipolar disorder in very different ways. Many associate bipolar disorder with moodiness, and I can understand why that is. But my mood actually remains quite stable for the most part. I’m not what’s known as a rapid cycler… switching from one mood to another from day to day or from hour to hour. Roommates that have lived with me, people that have worked with me, friends that have known me well all describe me as even-tempered by nature. It is possible to have a personality, and then have a brain disorder on top of that personality.
I’ve heard total bitches described as bipolar. And that’s just not fair. They are just total bitches. Not that you can’t be a total bitch and bipolar at the same time. That happens too. But they don’t necessarily go hand in hand. One thing I have noticed about myself and all bipolar people that I have known or worked with is that we feel things quite deeply. Things strike us at our core.
I know several people diagnosed with bipolar disorder who are the sweetest, most empathetic people around. They are kind natured, empathetic and super sensitive. The kind of people who make really great best friends because they truly understand and care about what you are going through…they’re right there with you emotionally as you’re going through it.
Although to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder you have to have had at least one manic episode and one depressive episode, most bipolar people tend to lean much more toward one side of the pole than the other. I definitely lean more toward the depressive side. I have had three manic episodes in my life. Each one spaced almost exactly 10 years apart. One in my early 20’s, one in my early 30’s and one in my early 40’s. But I have dealt with a lot of depression. Like bad depression. Like I don’t want to live any more kind of depression.
Most people don’t know this about me. Even some of my closer friends. Because even when depressed, I remain surprisingly even tempered….and too depressed to tell anybody about how I feel.
Bipolar depression is very hard to treat, because most anti-depressant drugs cause manic episodes in bipolar people, which is what happened when I had post partum depression after the birth of my second daughter. I was devastatingly depressed and was put on antidepressants, which sent me into a terrible manic episode. There are antidepressants that can be prescribed, but they usually have to be prescribed with a mood stabilizer. And many depressed bipolar people don’t find the anti-depressants to be very effective.
Treatment for bipolar disorder has come a long way, however, and medications keep getting better and better year after year. Lithium was once the only medication available, and now there are tons of options. Everyone’s personal chemistry is different and a medication regime that works well for one may not work at all for another.
I have difficulty with all medication, because each and every medication has side effects. And for whatever reason…whatever the side effects happen to be, I tend to get them three fold. My system is extremely sensitive to chemicals, whether they be food dyes in food or ingredients in medication. This has made treating my illness quite hard, and has caused me to turn to all kinds of alternative treatments.
Nothing cures bipolar disorder, but many things help to manage it. Decreasing stress and learning ways to provide myself excellent self-care have helped me tremendously. Nothing calms my thought filled mind like sitting in a super hot sauna. Regular exercise helps balance endorphins. Diet and nutrition are key factors in helping me feel my best. Certain vitamins and supplements really do a brain good. Fish oil is being found to be quite magical for many types of brain issues. I could go on and on about the many tricks and tips I’ve found that help me to feel my best.
Although a mental illness can reek havoc on an individual and on a family, I have grown to know that you can have a mental illness, and, at the same time, be emotionally happy and well. I have faith that this is a possibility for everyone. I have worked with people who have very serious psychotic disorders who lead very productive and joy filled lives. When I’m having a bad day I have learned that I can ride my faith to wellness.
Faith is the trusty white steed that gets me there.