But, don’t worry. You can’t catch it.
Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disorder (also called Manic Depressive Disorder), that causes my moods to swing between really high and really low, to a degree that interferes with my daily functioning and quality of life.
You might be thinking, “But everyone has their ups and downs.” For you, a high mood might entail a lot of laughter at a party, island hopping while on a vacation, or even the rush of winning at the slot machines.
My high is manic. It is actually like being high and can feel quite wonderful. Euphoric even. It includes the aforementioned ups, but it goes way beyond that to obsessive-compulsive behaviors – like racing thoughts, the inability to stop thinking or to control the images in my mind, and irresponsibly impulsive spending, promiscuity, rapid rambling speech, little to no sleep, and illusions of grandeur.
Having bipolar disorder feels kind of like surfing. When I’m in a manic state it is fast, wild, and an adrenaline rush. But not something that can be sustained or controlled.
But my depression lasts from several weeks to several months and involves isolation, self-neglect, and suicidal thoughts. As low as I have ever been, I have gone lower. I’ve learned that suicidal people don’t want to die; we just want our pain to stop. We just run out of steam . . . and hope.
The crash of depression.
The most difficult thing about being bipolar?
The loneliness. My racing, tormented mind. Being dismissed. Not having someone in my life that is brave or patient enough to love me.
Bipolars require medication. Usually an anti-depressant coupled with a mood stabilizer. But other drugs work too. And the right one can change your life. I’ve had some bad reactions and side effects and have been unmedicated for quite some time. So my time between the surfing and the crashing consists of a constant struggle just to function and “stay even”. It means endless and exhausting paddling.
This disorder often manifests in destructive or violent behavior. The social stigma of bipolar violence stems primarily from the behaviors of those untreated and unmedicated. Just as with any disease, there are degrees of affliction and degrees of management.
Between my mania and depression lives an aggravated state that I call, “EXTREMELY ANNOYED”. I wrestle with it everyday. It can be brought on by many things; loud sounds, harsh smells, bright or flashing lights, pushy or bossy personalities, unexpected circumstances or disruptions, or even minor pain. Sometimes I just awaken annoyed with myself. Honestly.
When I’m triggered, it feels like an intense frustration that begins to build and build. If I do nothing, it will escalate, until it finally explodes into a loud exchange or outburst.
But I don’t do nothing.
I’ve learned that when my brain REACTS, I need to RECOGNIZE my prickly feelings, and RESPOND. I can’t control what people around me say or do. I can only control the way I respond to them. So I’ve learned a few tricks to navigating these bipolar waters; like breathing, visualization, distancing myself from someone, or if necessary, removing myself from an environment or situtation.
So, why haven’t I talked about my bipolar disorder before this?
Because talking comes at a cost. I’ve been prejudged, discounted, and dismissed.
I’ve been embarrassed because of the social stigma and ridicule; like when I hear someone say, “She went bipolar on me.”
Admitting it, has cost me a date or two and a few friendships. People are scared by what they don’t understand.
And because people don’t understand what they can’t see and sometimes say stupid things; like I look so normal that I must be mistaken. I guess I don’t act crazy enough. Ha ha. And if they should get a glimpse? They run. Fast and far.
And why am I talking about it NOW?
Because in the U.S., six million people have it. And 1 out of every 5 bipolars will successfully commit suicide.
Because people who have it hide and suffer silently.
Because there is hope. Although there is no cure, the right medication and treatment can help us function better in our lives, and most importantly, prevent self-injury and suicide.
And because at this age, I just own who I am. It is what it is. But being bipolar isn’t who I am; it’s what I have. I am a fairly intelligent person who is not only funny, but also kind and compassionate. I’m a woman, writer, and a good friend, who happens to have bipolar disorder.
There are many celebrities and incredibly artistic people who have come out as bipolars.
“Creativity is closely associated with bipolar disorder. This condition is unique. Many famous historical figures and artists have had this. Yet they have led a full life and contributed so much to the society and world at large. See, you have a gift. People with bipolar disorder are very very sensitive. Much more than ordinary people. They are able to experience emotions in a very deep and intense way. It gives them a very different perspective of the world. It is not that they lose touch with reality. But the feelings of extreme intensity are manifested in creative things. They pour their emotions into either writing or whatever field they have chosen.” ―Preeti Shenoy, Life is What You Make It
This is the face of bipolar.
Me, Julia Kovach.
And here are a few of my famous friends who also suffer with bipolar disorder.*
*Information gathered from Google states that all of the above individuals were diagnosed, are self-confessing, or are believed to have suffered from bipolar disorder before it was medically recognized. **All images from Google. Copyrights to their rightful owners.