Often times people ask me what bipolar disorder entails exactly and how it’s different from any other mood disorder or other mental illness. I usually fumble around with my words until I can think of a good response. I never have the right answers at the top of my head because I want to be as medically and scientifically as accurate as possible, all while giving an answer that sounds like me and is relatable to my own experience with bipolar. So I have put some questions below on some general questions you may have in regard to bipolar and my best response to each of them! If you have any more thoughts or questions, feel free to comment!
What exactly is bipolar disorder and how does it differentiate from depression?
Bipolar broken down means “two poles” as in two opposite ends of one another. Another term for bipolar disorder is circular insanity, which means alternation between manic and depressive states. On one side of the spectrum, you have mania, where you can have elated sense of self, increased activity or restlessness, spending money in excess, increased sexual or provocative behavior, increased likelihood of abusing drugs or alcohol or sedatives, poor concentration, euphoria, racing thoughts, irritability, along with denial of anything being wrong when experiencing these thoughts, feelings, or actions. On the other spectrum, we have depression which can be described as morbid sadness, feeling empty, fatigue, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, excessive sleep, difficulty concentrating and remembering things, and even suicidal thoughts. The main difference between bipolar disorder and depression is that with depression, you mainly feel depressive symptoms, while with bipolar disorder you cycle between manic and depressive states.
Are you more manic or depressed? How do your cycles work?
I, personally, am more depressed than manic, especially since I am bipolar II, not bipolar I. A brief explanation of differences between bipolar I and II is that bipolar I is more severe than bipolar II. There are two stages of mania: there is mania and hypo-mania, which is a less severe form of mania consisting of about half the symptoms that I stated previously for a manic state. Since my manic states are less severe than most, my hypo-manic states are relatively short, usually about 2-4 weeks, depending on life circumstances, and then transition into depressive states that can last 5-7 weeks.
Do meds work? What do you take?
Simple answer: yes, meds do work! I am not sure if it is what inside of the meds that work or if it’s a really strong placebo effect that makes me think my antidepressants, anti-psychotics, and mood stabilizers work. Either way, I do notice an extreme difference in my behavior and thoughts with and without meds. Even if I were to forget to take my meds for a day or two, there has been enough consistency in me taking them to not notice much or any difference in my mood swings for those one or two days. However, I have been known to go on binges where I say, “Fuck meds, I’m normal” and go without for a week or two at a time. Once those pills stop pumping through my veins, around day 5 I notice myself in a hypo-manic state of mind, a feel good euphoria, if you will. But around day 9, my depression is back in full force and then it takes about a month of consistently taking my meds to get back to “normal”.
As far as what I take, this is my current concoction:
Prozac 40mg – an anti-depressant
Abilify ?mg – an anti-psychotic
Lithium 450mg – mood stabilizer
Propranolol 40 mg ? Maybe I don’t remember – It’s a heart medication that controls the psychotic medication induced tremor that I have in my hands
Dasetta – hormonal birth control so I don’t get pregnant when I get manic and sleep around with random guys
I take more for my stomach because I have been vomiting blood and need an endoscopy to figure out why I am, but in the meantime we are trying to figure out if it may be due to lithium toxicity.
I also take meds orally and by catheter to my bladder for my bladder disease, all names that I forgot and are irrelevant to my bipolar journey.
What is the worst thing that you have done while hypo-manic or depressed?
Hypo-manic, the worst thing I did was probably buying my 2017 Kia Sportage (I named her Lana after Lana del Rey because she is queen) when not even a year earlier, I bought a 2016 Volkswagen Jetta (whom I named Kiki, after Drake’s song “In my Feelings” came out) and I took the negative equity of my Jetta and put it on top of my loan for the Sportage. Nearly $35,000 later, here I am stuck with this car for the next seven years til she’s paid off. Now that I think about it, every car I have bought has been on impulse. I bought my 2000 Honda CR-V at 17 for $5,000. Named him Julio after the little Mexican neighbor boy in the show “Mad Men”. After my transmission went out in the Honda after nine months, I bought Tyrome, my black beauty, my 2007 Jeep Compass Rallye with a 13.49% interest rate when I was 18 1/2 years old. After I hit it enough times and enough people hit me, I impulse bought Kiki and the rest is history.
As for the worst thing that I had done while being suicidal and depressed was sending a video of me cutting my arms on purpose to Diego, my ex-fiance, or cheating on my ex-fiance, before we got engaged. That’s a blog post for a different time. I won’t say I regret them, but I have learned a lot from them. The most important lesson that this disorder has taught me is that bipolar is a reason, not an excuse. Meaning, you can’t use bipolar as an excuse for poor word choice or actions, there is a reason behind everything, but you can’t blame everything upon the disorder itself, you only have yourself to blame.
How has a professional diagnosis changed your perception of Bipolar disorder?
It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with bipolar that I realized I had any of the symptoms. I just thought that my symptoms just merged with my major depression. It wasn’t until I told my therapist about the excessive crying spells that she said she had been tracking my mood changes and thought that I might have the less severe form of bipolar disorder, but I needed my doctor to diagnose me. This came at a time, when my mom was still heavily drinking and we thought she might have schizophrenia, but couldn’t be diagnosed, so my illness was put on the back burner. I switched my primary physician to whom my mother was seeing so I could also be treated for my mental illness through her and she would have knowledge of my family mental health history. In the first visit, she was able to diagnose and medicate me for bipolar II disorder. I knew virtually nothing about it besides my good friend having borderline personality disorder, which just seemed at the time to be a more severe form of bipolar. In my early days, I made charts of my moods to track them and I even color coded them! It was very helpful to understand what I was feeling and was able to pinpoint them to a trigger and notice a correlation to a trigger and a change in mood. But recently, I have realized that mood changes can and will happen just because I am bipolar and there doesn’t have to be a trigger behind it.
My advice to anyone who has a mental illness or mood disorder or assumes they do is to get diagnosed by a professional. If you don’t have the funds for it, save up, borrow money, crowd source, etc. just find a way to get to a therapist or doctor because there are resources that can help and make you feel worthy again ❤
Do you care what others think of you if they know you’re bipolar?
Simple answer: yes. I know I shouldn’t, but I let things like that get to me. I am very public with my bipolar disorder, especially on dates, I let people know that I have it in fear of being rejected for it later on in life and becoming attached to that person. I try to publicize it to co-workers and potential friends because I tend not to ask for help when I need it, I can go from very clingy to very distant in just a moment, I am not any good at basic small talk, although that could just be habit of an introvert, that I’m not sure of. I try to be as sociable and talkative as possible around new people to create a sense of normalcy, but my bipolar gets in the way so if I have one “off” day, people will ask what’s wrong, so I say what I have, and then they either disassociate with me, or judge me forever. Those are not people I keep around.
There are co-workers I have had who could tell something was “wrong” with me, but I was never close enough to them to share my disorder with them, so they judged from afar and that always hurt the worst; I want to be liked and I crave it, so when I am not, it hurts. Not like they really matter because they aren’t worth my breath, but I am still affected by how others have treated me, or even retroactively treated me to this day.
I will have to make another AMA like this because I think this one got a little wordy, but was very enjoyable to write! Ask any questions and I’ll include it in my next post!
Til Next Time,