Bipolar is different for every person. Their triggers are different, their cycles are different and the symptoms they experience each episode is different.
Anon has been struggling with Bipolar for six years (although it feels much longer!) and Gog is her full-time carer.
Here is a brief description about what my (Anon’s) Bipolar is like:
- Stability – I am not often stable, and when I am it is usually for less than a week. We recently worked out that in the last 18 months I have been stable for 3.5 weeks.
When I am stable, I can do things. I have energy, a positive outlook and am actually quite independant. I can cook, I can clean and I can care for my animals. I still struggle a lot with anxiety, especially anxiety in social situations (this can include things like talking to a cashier when paying for shopping) and over health issues, but I am much improved.
- Depressive episodes – these tend to last longer than my manic episodes, and they tend to start off fairly mild and increase in severity. In the beginning we will notice that I am sleeping slightly more, and that I get ‘sad’ easily.
As it develops I need more and more sleep (16 hours a day is not unusual) and struggle with even the simplest of tasks. Trying to choose what to eat can result in major meltdowns, and taking a shower feels like climbing Everest. I begin to think everyone would be better off without me, and suicide seems like the only viable option.
My depressive episodes tend to last between three to nine months.
Gog says: When depression takes hold of Anon it makes our lives incredibly difficult. Anon becomes an entirely different person; she withdraws from the world, she can’t make any decision no matter how easy it is, and the smallest of tasks are impossible. She gets into massive funks where she completely shuts down; she can’t maintain eye contact, she can’t talk and she is unreachable. I have to watch her 24/7, which makes sleeping both difficult and terrifying. I can’t even trust her to shower alone, as there are plenty of things in the bathroom that she could use for self-destruction.
- Manic episodes – my manic episodes don’t tend to last as long as my lows, and unlike my depressive episodes there is usually a pretty clear trigger. Triggers can include celebrations such as Birthdays and Christmas or any event that causes me to miss a little sleep…illness, late nights, you name it!
Just like in a low, my mania starts off mildly. I will feel happy and think to myself “omg, I think I am stable!” Over the next few days my need to sleep will decrease, and I will become more energetic and productive. My thoughts will began to speed and I will jump from one thing to another. I will start splashing the cash on anything and everything, and I am so irritable I will bite Gog’s head off if I think he looks at me the wrong way.
Pretty soon I will only be sleeping a few hours a night, I will be trying to start crazy adventures (moving house, going on an unplanned holiday at 4am, enrolling at university or starting a business endeavour I have no knowledge about) and will be suffering from psychosis. This is the state when I am at my most dangerous to others, and I can also (accidentally) endanger myself.
My manias can last anywhere between two weeks and four months. I don’t have anywhere near as many manic episodes as I do depressive episodes.
Gog says: Manic episodes can be just as dangerous as low episodes but are much harder to identify early on. Managing sleep is easier said than done, especially when medications that affect sleep are introduced and doses are changed. Once a manic gets into full swing there is no mistaking it; excruciating boredom, desperation to spend money and a constant go-go-go attitude are hard for me to keep up with. Then there’s the lack of sleep – how can I watch Anon 24/7 when she needs 2 hours sleep and I need 8?! When psychotic symptoms hit I know I’m in for a long and bumpy ride…
I tend to bounce straight from one mood episode to another, with no stability in between. Depressive episodes tend to last a long time, and when triggered a manic episode is always followed by a fall into depression.
We are writing this blog to try and educate people about how big an impact Bipolar disorder can have on people’s lives, be that the person suffering from Bipolar, their carers or even friends and family. We hope to add more information about Bipolar disorder to our blog, alongside resources we have found helpful and will also share the day-to-day struggles of our lives.