A day in the life of bipolar

“Have you ever thought you might have bipolar disorder?”

I shrugged off this question from my therapist, “no, I really don’t think I do.”

But her question lingered in my mind after I left the appointment, and bled into my conversations with a close friend who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

A week later, I sat with my therapist again.

“So… I did some reading about bipolar.”

She smiled and nodded knowingly, “and what do you think?”

“I think maybe I could have it.”

I spent the next couple months reading about and discussing bipolar with my friend, my therapist, my doctor, and my parents. The more I understood the disorder, the more I felt I understood myself. Things about me, things I’d never told anyone, began to make sense. And as I opened up to my friend about those things, I found she’d experienced many of the same things. And she had a name for them. “Mania.”

I described to my therapist different experiences in my life that didn’t connect for me. Times when I felt someone else was driving, when I behaved in a way that was contrary to my personality and comfort zone. My therapist helped me determine what hypo-mania looked like, and showed me that I had experienced it.

Hypo-mania is a less extreme form of mania, and is experienced by people with bipolar II disorder. Bipolar I is characterized by episodes of full mania.

My therapist believed, and I agreed, that I suffer from bipolar II.

Thankfully my doctor agreed as well. Instead of making me wait for my psychiatric evaluation (a six month wait) to be medicated, she started me on prescriptions she was comfortable administering for bipolar II disorder.

In April my psychiatrist confirmed the diagnosis and took over administering my medications.

It wasn’t until I was medicated that I really knew what it feels like to have bipolar. I never knew anything different until now.

My life used to feel like hollywood. Everything was larger than life; over dramatized. The smallest bump in the road was earth shattering. A single moment of happiness was exhilarating. I often felt emotions high enough to surpass a child unable to sleep on Christmas Eve. And emotions deep enough to rival the angstiest teenager.

On medication, the best way I can describe my emotions is “even.” I feel them, but they’re just there. They don’t over power me, they don’t shout at me and drown everything else out. Instead they drift along so I can experience them in my heart, then move on.

My depression has never been better managed now that it’s being treated as bipolar. And while I can still feel the whisperings of hypo-mania longing to burst out of me, it stays subdued, like a wild animal sedated.

I admit I sometimes miss hypo-mania. I wonder if my arthritis would be easier to manage if I had the high energy of hypo-mania to combat it. But ultimately my manic episodes harmed me more than helped me. My life’s greatest disappointments were a result of manic episodes. My worst and longest episode had the greatest impact on my life than any other mistake I’ve ever made, and still effects me to this day. It won’t be easy to resolve.

But mania also pushed me beyond my anxiety into trying things I never would have tried on my own. As with my other mental illnesses, there is beauty in bipolar that I’m grateful to experience.

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