Life with Bipolar Disorder

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As World Bipolar day is approaching, I thought I’d write a blog on my experience with bipolar. 

I was diagnosed with Bipolar in 2018. This wasn’t an unexpected diagnosis for me as I already knew I had Borderline Personality Disorder, but many of my symptoms fit with Bipolar as well. I also wasn’t new to the disorder as my partner has been living with it since he was a teenager, and was diagnosed not long after we began dating. 

Bipolar (which used to be known as manic depression) is a severe mental health condition characterised by significant episodes of mood swings including manic highs and depressive lows. These are uncontrollable episodes widely believed to be the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. The chemicals responsible for controlling the brain’s functions are called neurotransmitters, and include noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. Bipolar is the fourth most-common mental health problem worldwide after depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. 

Living through a manic period is exciting, exhilarating and utterly exhausting. Your mind is continually ticking, and your body follows, whether it be walking around, bouncing your leg, tapping your fingers etc. You have a million ideas of things to do, and you spend money like you’re as rich as Jeff Bezos. 

The manic highs usually end in a depressive crash. You’re so wiped out from only sleeping for just a couple of hours a night, that you could sleep for a month just to get back the sleep you’ve missed. The depression you feel leaves you feeling empty, worthless and often embarrassed by your manic behaviour, leading to self loathing and low self esteem, believing people don’t like you and are secretly discussing how awful you are. You feel like there is no point in life. Why bother getting up and showered or dressed? You don’t have the energy to do it either. It’s zapped everything you have. 

Treatment of Bipolar is usually with mood stabilisers and antipsychotics to prevent or reduce the mania symptoms. It is not usually advised to give antidepressants to someone with bipolar as they may induce or exacerbate mania symptoms. 

This means that no matter how deep that pit of depression is, they will only be able send down a 2ft rope ladder and expect you to climb out of it. Antidepressants may make you grow wings and fly too high. Then when the meds kick in to stop the high, you crash land right to the bottom of that pit again, with the 2ft ladder dangling above your reach. 

It is really important to keep taking your medication prescribed by the psychiatrist, no matter how good you feel, as mania can lead some people to think that they no longer need their meds as they feel so good. This is a symptom of the Bipolar and if your loved one stops their meds, it’s worth speaking with them and their mental health team. 

It takes a good support network to manage bipolar and ensure that adequate support is in place. Your healthcare provider should be able to help you draw up a care plan. This can include things like make sure you/your loved one take the prescribed medication, getting to therapy appts, finding local groups & resources etc. 

While there is no cure for bipolar, there are medication and therapies that can help to manage the symptoms. If you’re worried about yourself or someone you love, please contact your GP or BipolarUK for more information. If you are in crisis please call 999 or attend A&E.

More in-depth info about Bipolar can be found on the BipolarUK website – https://www.bipolaruk.org

To see my previous blog focusing on ‘Mania & Me’ please click here – https://motherwellcheshirecio.com/2020/04/26/mania-me/