Summer of 2016 I decided to take charge of my physical and mental health. I began seeing a therapist (again). Later I would be diagnosed with Bipolar Type Two. Quite frankly it didn’t come as a shock to me, as I already knew a bit about the disorder. My dad suffers from Bipolar Type One. These disorders are thought to have some genetic factors – which explains me. Thanks dad.
Bipolar Disorder has a couple different forms (See here for the distinctions). Bipolar Type II is comprised of depression and hypomania. Hypomania is similar to mania, but less intense. It’s usually characterized by similar tendencies. For me it’s a lot of risk taking, spending money I don’t have, grandiosity, over confidence, fleeting thoughts, less sleep, and more sex. I have to be honest with you, I love hypomania. Feeling on top of the world is wonderful. And compared to the depressive states I’d take it any day. What I don’t like about hypomania is dealing with the later consequences. Regretting one night stands. Paying off my credit cards for months because I spent too much. Over filling my schedule. Yada yada yada… What’s good about the “milder form” of bipolar disorder is that hypomania usually doesn’t interfere with life. We can go about our days, we can mend our mistakes, and keep our jobs. It doesn’t last long either, at least not for me.
But there’s another episode, and this one fucking sucks.
Depression can last for days, months or years. When I’m in it, I go numb. I feel empty. I’m turned off. My body feels heavy. My chest feels tight. I get frequent headaches. Some other symptoms are
- Diminished pleasure
- Reoccurred thoughts of death
- Irrational guilt
During the depressive states I feel like a walking zombie. It’s written all over my face that I’m not okay. I blame “tiredness” for my actions. Sometimes I come off as mean, non responsive, or crabby. But I’m just fighting off monsters my mind and trying to make it to the next day. Or I’m letting the monsters take hold of me and lying down until it passes. It’s during these periods when my life is interrupted. Maybe I call into work, or cancel plans. Maybe I skip my homework and binge watch something on Netflix to avoid real life. Perhaps I’m on the floor staring at a wall and ignoring the people who love me the most. I’m pushing away people and feelings. When I’m here I can’t fathom explaining to someone what’s going on. The words don’t come out but something from inside my body screams “you need help.” Still, nothing escapes my lips. Depressive states are hell on earth. It feels like a never ending void. I can feel when I’m falling into them, sometimes I fight it but mostly I let it sweep me under the water and I wait for a chance to breathe again. Once I’m out, I finally feel free but only temporarily. Because I know it will come back for me soon enough.
Medication for Bipolar Disorder is tricky. I’ve gone through 5 medications all with unwelcoming side effects. Finding a medication for bipolar disorder that actually works differs from person to person. And usually it’s a number of different prescriptions. It’s like trying to make the perfect potion, all you need is one concoction to make it all good, but if you fuck it up it just won’t work. For now, I’m letting go of that idea. I am trying to manage without medication.
Managing it on my own includes the following: A healthy diet, physical activity, ongoing therapy, avoiding triggers, recording moods daily, writing and constant self-reflection, and reaching out for help when need be.
The trick is figuring out how to live in harmony with whatever mental illness you have. And I’m in the process of figuring that out.