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Happy World Bipolar Day

Bipolar is a mood disorder characterised by periods of intense mood episodes.

Generally Bipolar mood swings last several months at a time, and rapid cycling Bipolar is characterised as someone who has 4 or more mood swings in one year. The idea that people with bipolar are constantly up and down, with moods changing many times a day, is generally untrue and more associated with other conditions, eg Borderline Personality Disorder.

The mood episodes caused by bipolar disorder are not ‘just’ feeling happy and sad, although that is a common mistake.

People with bipolar 2 have episodes of major depression and hypomania. People with Bipolar 1 have episodes of major depression, hypomania and mania.

Some people only experience mood episodes when they have experienced a ‘trigger’, whereas other people can recognise triggers that cause episodes, but are also hit out the blue. Common triggers for mood episodes are:

  • Late nights (eg. going out to a party)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Bright lights (eg shopping centres) or busy city centres
  • Chaotic life events, from losing a loved one to Christmas
  • Physical illness

What do these feel like, if they aren’t just being happy / sad?

Major Depression

This is far, far more than feeling sad. It’s having no energy to do anything, and spending days in bed because you can’t force yourself to get up, eat or shower. It’s feeling entirely hopeless, thinking there is nothing to live for, and everybody would be better off if you were dead.

It’s crying for hours every day, or feeling too empty and disconnected to cry, and so you just lie and stare up at the ceiling, wondering if you’re already dead. 

It’s planning how you would kill yourself, to the very last detail. It’s trying to kill yourself.

Hypomania

Hypomania is feeling a rush of energy, confidence, creativity and power. It’s thinking you are the best at everything, and that everything you think or say is amazing. It’s not sleeping for nights on end. It’s getting frustrated when people don’t agree with your outlandish ideas.

Some people experience a feeling of elation with hypomania, whilst others feel incredibly irritated. Hypomania often includes visible changes, such as talking super fast, darting from one subject to another, and being unable to sit still.

Mania

Mania is the same as hypomania, but cranked up. People can usually continue a ‘normal’ routine with hypomania (eg. going shopping, to school, work etc), albeit with difficulty, but mania will smash that routine to pieces.

When I am manic, my sleep is reduced to practically nothing. I will sleep 3-4 hours a night, for weeks on end. My appetite will be non-existent, I can’t concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds at a time, and I’ll think all my ideas are genius. I’ll go on huge spending sprees (or would if my partner didn’t take control of spends!!), and instead of buying things I want / need, I’ll buy things that are most expensive. Before we knew how to deal with manic episodes, I would often leave us virtually penniless. I try get jobs, create my own business, sign up to university. Before I experienced psychosis outside of a mood episode, manic episodes were also when I would hallucinate.

Bipolar disorder is a very individualistic illness, it can vary so much from person to person.

Some people with bipolar experience a mood swing every few years, and are able to lead fairly ‘normal’ lives. Others swing from one episode to another, and are ravaged by the illness.

Treatment generally relies on medication, at least in the UK, although a two-pronged attack of medication and behavioural therapies works best. Medications range from mood stabilisers (including anti-epileptic drugs) to anti-psychotics and anti-depressants. There is controversy on whether or not ADs actually help those with bipolar.

Different medications work for different people, and all carry a range of potential side effects. For some people with treatment resistant bipolar disorder, they will try a vast number of medications with barely any improvement in their illness.

Bipolar disorder is an incredibly hard illness to live with, and today is dedicated to spreading awareness and smashing stigma.

Please excuse if this post is crappily written, I’m living off very minimal sleep for the past week, am full of cold and have had a rough day for seizures.

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Happy World Bipolar Day!

Yay, let’s celebrate living with an illness that sucks!

Nah, I know that’s not at all what this day is about…it’s about spreading hope, furthering understanding and decreasing stigma 😉

For World Bipolar Day I thought I’d come up with my own list of ‘things not to say to someone with a severe mental illness’

1) Snap out of it!

This is one of THE worst things you can say to someone who is suffering, be it Bipolar, Schizophrenia, anxiety or any mental illness.

When you have a mental illness, you CANNOT just snap out of it. Can you honestly imagine telling someone with diabetes, or cancer, to snap out of it? It wouldn’t be possible, would it? And most importantly, it wouldn’t help.

It’s exactly the same for those with mental health problems!

2) You are lucky – think how many people are worse off than you in the world

Yeah, I’m pretty sure we’re all aware of this…

What YOU don’t seem to be aware of though, is that we don’t choose to be this way, to have these illnesses.

We’re not lazy and we’re most certainly not lucky – I can say from the heart, having Bipolar has ruined my life, and every day is a huge struggle. Thinking about people who have it ‘worse off’ than me (how are you gauging this, by the way?) doesn’t help – it just makes me hate myself for being so pathetic and selfish.

3) I know how you feel

I hate this.

And the most annoying thing is, I can see that the people who tell me this are honestly trying to help, they’re trying to make me feel better and say ‘look I understand, you’re not alone’ – but the thing is, they DON’T understand!

I’ve had a family member tell me “yeah I’ve been depressed for a few days before, I know how hard it is, but I just picked myself back up. That’s what people do!” – NOT HELPFUL!

My mum, bless her, told me that she knows what I feel like when I’m manic to a small extent, because her migraine pills make her feel energetic, and she laughs and talks a lot…I really appreciate the effort, and the fact she said to a small extent, but it’s just not the same.

I have had so many people tell me they ‘know how I feel’ about all sorts of symptoms…they’ve felt anxious once when they were waiting for exam results so they totally get it, or they felt sad once when they were too sick to go to a concert they’d been really looking forward to…none of them had Bipolar, none of them had experienced true depression, mania or anxiety, and quite frankly none of them understood.

Instead of everyone saying “I know how you feel”, I’d like it much more if they said “I can’t imagine how difficult it is, but it sounds like it really sucks!”

4) Taking medication for a mental health problem is a sign of weakness

Yep, I’ve had a friend actually say this to me, right after I was newly diagnosed with Bipolar.

I’d just like to say: f**k you!

And more eloquently – would you say a diabetic person needing insulin was weak? Would you say someone suffering a migraine and taking pain relief was weak?

I know for a fact the person who said this to me relies on inhalers for asthma – aren’t they automatically weak, then?! Oh no wait I forgot – you’re apparently only weak if you have a mental health problem, not a physical one!

5) Maybe you should try leaving the house more, or get a job

Yeah…just no.

Getting a job is out of the question – you try being this ill and living, never mind working.

And getting out the house more – are you kidding? I can barely even muster up the energy to go to the toilet, and I don’t have to worry about the outside world spying on me or plotting against me when going to the loo – well, not much anyway.

Because it’s easy for everyone else to leave the house, people don’t seem to understand that for me it is massively stressful and more effort than I can handle. If my body is screaming out for me to stay inside and cuddle under blankets, it is helpful for me to listen to it…

Back when I followed my social worker’s advice, I did used to force myself out into the world when I was severely depressed. I had numerous days where I’d get back home after spending a stressful day out, trying to act ‘normal’, and I’d just burst into tears as soon as I walked through the door. I’d slump against a wall and just cry so hard I couldn’t breathe.

It. Doesn’t. Help!

Finally I’d like to leave you with this, which is much better than everything I’ve just written – I shoulda just posted this haha XD

robothugs

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Days go on and on

I am tired of all the days being the same old shit.

I want to give up.

Every day is exhausting, every day is miserable, every day is a struggle.

My life is shit, and I’m ruining my partner’s life too.

Today I had several moments of enjoying myself…I had a great walk with our youngest dog, I actually enjoyed it start to finish. But it’s never enough. An hours’ happiness amongst a full day of misery isn’t enough.

I’ll keep going. There’s nothing else to do but keep going, even though I’m dragging my partner down too…why am I living for him when all I do is make him miserable?

Every day is the same.

Oh hey look, it’s officially World Bipolar Day. Yay…