What is Bipolar:
Bipolar disorder is simply a disorder of extreme highs and lows in mood. The highest extreme is called mania. During episodes of mania sufferers can experience agitation, eupohoria, disorientation, and hallucinations. These episodes can be particularly dangerous for those who experience the delusional thoughts of having super-human strength or abilities. On the other end of the bipolar spectrum is depression- extreme depression. These moods can fluctuate quickly or gradually with little or no warning.
How has it Affected Me:
For me, my diagnosis was that of “mild” manageable mixed mood bipolar disorder. Meaning I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that causes me to experience both hypomania (a less severe form of mania) and depression at the same damn time. How is it possible to be sad and ecstatic at the same time? I asked that question a lot after my diagnosis. I already knew the answer though. I am well aware of what it is like to be happy, overjoyed, excited, with lots of positive energy and then, out of nowhere, one minor thing will happen and I will burst into tears and feel such a low that I am launched into a wave of depression that can last from hours to days.
As I grew into my womanhood (pre-diagnosis) I had such a hard time deciphering between what was normal emotional response, and what was hormonally driven. It seemed that my emotions were always fragile- like I was experiencing PMS all month long. Can you imagine how confusing that is? I have explained about two of the three main phases of Bi-polar disorder-mania and depression. Between the two of these is a states called hypomania; It is a state of heightened excitement much like mania, however it is much less severe. There are no delusions or hallucinations in hypomania. In my personal experience, hypomania is like a natural high.
It is during hypomania that I found I was MOST CREATIVE, I was able to spit out poetry and short stories like a Laureate. It was during these times that I was able to perform any task at peak production. It was like taking a drug that had you amped up all the time-except it was naturally occurring.
The down side of of Hypomania:
Honestly for me there aren’t many negatives about being in a state of heightened awareness. However, I will admit that during these times I can easily stay awake for days surviving on only a few hours of sleep a night.bMany nights I have lain in bed, completely still wishing I could catch my proper amount of sleep. Its not the hypomania that is so horrible though, it’s the crash that follows. Neither the mind nor body were designed to operate at full capacity without adequate amounts of sleep. So when I have missed my rest, it causes me to have extreme fatigue, brain fog, major irritability, emotional irrationability, and ultimately- depression.
Also, during hypomania, the impulsivity ramps up. Its during this phase that many people gamble away bill money, use illicit drugs, or engage in casual and risky sex acts. Engaging in such behavior during mania can cause deep remorse and lead Bipolar suffers to experiences such extreme guilt that they become depressed. Hopefully you can start to see how this cycle of highs and lows can be vicious and perpetual.
The problem with medication:
Eeenie-Meenie, Miney-Mo, Up real high, then down real low. Pick your poison, see how it goes…
Move over SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)! Typical antidepressants do not work effectively against bipolar disorder. They only treat one portion of the equation and if used alone they can make bipolar worse. Typical and atypical antipsychotics are used to stabilize the imbalance that causes moods to fluctuate. The problem that I’ve seen with medication is that it does a wonderful job of suppressing the mania/hypomania. What that equates to however is being in a near zombie like state- flat effect. On one such medication, I slept like a baby, but most days I was so groggy that I felt like I was drugged or drunk.
The worst part about that and most other bipolar medications is that the common side effect is weight gain. I’ve done lots of research and talked to my doctors, and the general consensus is that I can be either Fat or Crazy! My choice. For the moment, I chose to be Fat. Over a period of months however, I became tired of the seemingly endless weight gain. I become most frustrated by the loss of my natural high. Those around me encouraged me, who initially encouraged me to remain on meds, later began to see how I struggled with maintaining adequate energy levels. Their ideas about my medication changed drastically.
The problem with meds, is that they do help with the mood fluctuations- but who want to lose their natural high and creative edge. So then patients enter the medication carousel. Numerous attempts can be made whilst trying to find a medication that offers the benefits of mood stabilization, without the major side effects. As one nurse told me, most people with bipolar don’t even take their prescribed medication because they aren’t willing to lose their natural high- even if that means dealing with the depression.
Putting the pieces together:
There are several types of bipolar disorders each spanning a broad range of severity. I don’t condone going against doctors orders. However, I believe that any person dealing with any disorder should consider the pros and cons of medication usage. If someone suffer from bipolar in its fullest most debilitating severity then- by all means- TAKE YO MEDICINCE. For the rest of us, we have to negotiate between choices like “FAT or CRAZY,” “ENERGETIC or ZOMBIE” “CREATIVITY or FLAT EFFECT.”
I wish you well in your decision making, and for those of you who may be dealing with someone who you suspect has bipolar disorder, PATIENCE is the word of the day.