How does a “typical day” consolidate with the daily reality of living with Bipolar Disorder? The answer is simple. There is no typical day.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines Bipolar Disorder as a group of brain disorders that cause extreme fluctuation in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function.
I’m not a health care professional. I’m someone who has lived with Bipolar 2 Disorder for many years and has gleaned, albeit minimally, from the peaks and precipices of this condition. Each person’s narrative is unique. This is mine.
My Experience with Bipolar 2 Disorder
Living with Bipolar 2 Disorder, I am exposed to an immense palette suffused with feelings, reactions, and sensations. They could be euphoric, depressive, or even both. I feel them in my body like live wires. Is what I am feeling based on something that just happened? For example, my car just got fixed. Am I so happy that I forgot about the things I was supposed to do? Or if I find out that the pizza I ordered doesn’t have anchovies, do I get so disappointed that I want to cry or mope for the next four days? Or is it just my emotions being involved? Keeping my feelings in check, and trying to make sense of them, can be exhausting. If my friends are happy, I am ecstatic, or if they are disappointed, I feel the world has no more meaning for me. I get extremely happy or extremely sad. It’s all about extremes. What I want is to be in control of my emotions, and not let them control me.
When I am experiencing a high mood, known as hypomania, I am the star of the show. I feel like Superman. I am efficient and witty. I can fix everything. I want to go to Las Vegas and I don’t care if I spend my entire paycheck. I feel I can learn Chinese, Hebrew, and quantum physics, all in one month. Who needs sleep? I love life and everything is wonderful. In fact, it would be wonderful if I was in that mood all the time.
The truth is that whenever I am in hypomania, I already know that right afterwards, my mood is going to nosedive deep into the abyss. When I feel down and depressed, I lose all my energy, my drive, my hope. I feel a dark cloud hovering over me. I feel heavy. People avoid me. The loneliness makes my whole body and mind hurt.
When I was initially diagnosed, I had very little faith and trust in it. I didn’t believe that I had a problem. I assumed that I did not need any help of any kind. But when I started feeling suicidal ideations, I realized I needed to take my treatment seriously. With medical treatment and the support of my family, friends, and persons from my synagogue, I now know what actions to take. For example, I stop what I’m doing at that moment, and step outside, mentally and physically, if possible, or do something I love to do. The point is to move. It may not be the perfect cure, but it helps and prevents me from sinking lower into deeper and potentially more dangerous realms of depression. Every day, I rely on my Jewish faith to help me gain control of my emotions.
How You Can Help
Many people ask me what they can do to further understand this condition, and my answer is to be aware of the triggers. Becoming familiar with potential triggers will help prevent further problems. Again, I can only speak for myself, but these are some of my triggers.
- Why don’t you snap out of it? This is offensive because it invalidates what I am feeling.
- You’re so touchy, you’re too sensitive.
- You take everything so personally. Say it only if you’re being honest and really care.
- What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Keep in mind that depression and suicide often go hand in hand.
- But you act so normal!
- Did you take your pills? Say it only if you are honest and really are concerned.
- Everybody is a little bipolar sometimes or we’re all a little crazy sometimes. Saying this is cruel and insulting.
- Have you tried praying it away? Please don’t say this unless you intend to invite me over to your church or synagogue.
- Happiness is just a choice. It’s a choice, not JUST a choice.
- How can you be depressed? You have everything you need!
Treating someone living with bipolar disorder with honesty, sincerity and respect is the best thing you can do to help.