I’ve always felt out of control. “How do people live like this” and “is this what life really always feels like” are things I often would think to myself when I stuck in a spiraling state of depression. On the flip side when I was in what I now know as hypo mania I would think “I am on top of the world, life is amazing and so am I therefore I will do AMAZING things!” I would act fearless, confident and a little insane.
It was the summer of 2016 when I finally decided to take charge of my physical and mental health. I began seeing a therapist (this was my second attempt to do so), and I also began seeing a psychiatrist. It was during my second meeting with my psychiatrist that she told me I might have Bipolar Type Two. Quite frankly this didn’t come as a shock to me, as I already knew a bit about the disorder as my dad suffers from Bipolar Type One. These disorders are thought to have some genetic factors – which explains me.
Let me give you a brief overview of Bipolar Type One. It’s comprised of Depressive and Manic states of being. Mania is an episode of manic, characterized by high energy, being highly distracted, impulsiveness, irrationality, etc and often disrupts daily activities.
What’s different about Bipolar Type Two is that it’s 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, lack of need for sleep, and 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 hypomania any day. What I don’t like about hypomania is dealing with the consequences later. For example, hating the impulsive tattoos I’ve gotten. The holes in my face and body from when I irrationally ran to the shop to get piercings (I’ve had 17!). Regretting one night stands. Paying off my credit cards for months because I went on a spending spree. Yada yada yada. What’s good about having 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 lease for me. What’s bad about having this form of bipolar disorder is the immense amount of time we spend in the other state – depression.
Bipolar Type Two patients generally have more depressive episodes than hypomanic. Now that doesn’t go for everyone and I am in no way a psychiatrist, but it certainly resonated with me. This state can last for days months or years. When I’m in it, I try to go numb. I feel empty. 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. Many people think I’m just mean or non responsive. I’m just easily irritable. Really I’m just fighting monsters within my mind and trying to make it to the next day. 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 them away, as well as pushing all feelings away. During this period I can’t fathom explaining to someone what’s wrong. The words don’t come out and my body screams “you need help” but nothing will ever escape 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. Until then I enjoy feeling normal, and I often wonder,
“when will I win the battle for good?”
Medication for Bipolar Disorder is tricky. For me, and anti depressant would be nice because most of my time is spent feeling down. However, with bipolar disorder it’s unlikely anyone will prescribe you that unless you’re on a mood stabilizer. This is because anti depressant can help your depression, but also increase the risk of hypomania or mania. My psychiatrist described it as spraining an ankle, once you do it it’ll be easier to sprain it again in the future. Thus, the more often I experience hypomania the more like I will experience it again and the more likely it will be for hypomania to turn into mania. So, no anti depressants for me. 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 mixed drink, all you need is one concoction to make you feel normal – I mean other than swallowing a handful of pills every day. For now, I’m letting go of the idea. I am trying to manage without medication. This looks like a healthy diet, physical activity, ongoing therapy, avoiding triggers, and reaching out for help when need be.
Bipolar Type Two will always be a part of me and my life. The trick is figuring out how to live with it in harmony, how to make it my friend and hold it compassionately in my arms. I am so close to this kind self-love, I can feel it.