Inside the Mind of Someone Living with Bipolar Disorder
My first diagnosis was ADHD, then Depression, then Chronic Depression until finally after over four years bouncing from psychiatrist to psychiatrist a diagnosis was finally agreed on: Bipolar 1 disorder.
When I first heard the diagnosis I freaked out. I knew nothing of this disease, I thought it meant I was crazy, maybe they were even going to lock me up. Luckily I’ve had it explained to me in depth several times, and pulling from my own personal experience I’d like to try and explain it to you.
Bipolar disorder can be split into two different parts: mania and depression.
Depression is not something I care to explain in gross detail because I feel like it should be self-explanatory by now. Statistics show over 50% of Americans have been on antidepressants, which means everyone knows, to some degree, what depression feels like.
My experience is that I become a hopeless husk of a person. I stay in bed for as long as possible, avoiding human contact in case others see the same dirt-encased human I see when I look in the mirror.
I would go long periods of times, sometimes days, without eating or showering. And of course there were the suicidal thoughts, always present, hanging above my head like an anvil in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. These depressive episodes would last months, which means I got almost no time as a functioning human being. This also made the trip to and from mania quite jolting to say the least.
Then there’s the mania. I lived for these episodes. I was invincible, the smartest, happiest, funniest guy in the room, bar none. I would talk faster, be more open with people, smile more, it was like being buzzed right before being drunk. Unfortunately, I would also take jokes too far, strain relationships, and spend money I didn’t really have.
When I was alone I would have strong anxiety and panic attacks, as if I was getting a small reminder that I wasn’t Superman, and if I was super-powered everything was my kryptonite. I wouldn’t sleep, I’d either eat everything or nothing, and there was no moderation for anything else.
Now combine these two polar opposite states of being into one person. That’s bipolar disorder. Depression is a terrifying disease that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and mania is a force of nature that can destroy a person. Switching off between these two is scary. Sometimes I went to sleep with the full knowledge I could wake up with this stark new personality.
The shock of switching between the two was pretty terrible as well. I would feel the weight of the world crushing down on my chest, and then the next minute I’d feel like I could take on the whole world with my hands tied behind my back.
I did whatever I saw necessary to slow down the mania or the depression, even if in the long run it hurt me.
Why write this? Everything I’ve typed here is available on google. What am I contributing to the conversation by throwing in my own voice?
I’m writing this because I’m scared to write this. Scared to say I have a mental illness, scared to say I’m bipolar, that I’m not always in control. I think myself and many others are at a crossroad.
We can keep whispering in the hallways that mental illness needs to stop being stigmatized, or we can stand up and shout it from the rooftops.
Some may think I’m doing this for attention, and sure why not!
Look at me, the man with bipolar disorder mostly functioning like an adult human. Judge me, criticize me, and say my illness is nothing, odds are, it’s already been said to me.
What I wrote above, that is a small window into how I view the world every day and if I can get one person to read that and think, “We need to take better care of people like this,” then I have fulfilled the purpose of this article.