Living with Bipolar disorder
What do Stephen Fry, Kurt Cobain, Vincent Van Gogh and I have in common? We all have or have had bipolar disorder. Bipolar is a mood disorder that affects about 1 in 100 people with people generally being diagnosed in late teens or early twenties. There are two kinds of bipolar; type I is the less common, more severe disorder with individuals having longer ‘highs’ causing more psychotic behaviour. Type II is less severe with fewer psychotic episodes (if any) but does still impact on day to day life. In April this year, I was diagnosed with type II, and as I am more experienced with it, I will focus on that. Bipolar causes mood swings from highs or ‘mania’ to lows known as ‘depression’. The exact cause of the disorder is not fully known but there does seem to be a genetic predisposition with hormones possibly being a factor and environmental issues being less of a factor. Bipolar has been linked with creativity.
When I was first diagnosed, my world kind of came crashing down. At the age of 20, in my first month of university on the other side of the world to my family, I had been living with depression and anxiety for 6 years. I had always hoped to get over the depression and live a normal life. When I found out that I was going to have to struggle with depression on and off for the rest of my life, it was kind of heart breaking. Seven months down the track, I’m on new medication, don’t drink if I’m depressed or manic and have absolutely learnt to know my limits when it comes to pushing myself stress-wise. I see a psychiatrist and a counsellor.
Having the disorder does not mean I can’t accomplish anything I want, it just means I have to go at a slower pace, not party every night and occasionally cancel a plan to spend some time recuperating. My family have not seen me since I was diagnosed but my Mum seems to think I’m a lot better. As far as I’m concerned, bipolar just causes me to feel things more deeply and become more passionate about small things; it’s not a bad thing. The main point for my article is to raise awareness of the disorder. If you come across someone with bipolar, chances are you won’t realise unless you live with them or they tell you and when you do find out. It shouldn’t change your opinion of them. On the other hand, if you suspect you might have bipolar disorder or any mental illness, don’t be afraid to go to a doctor and find out. It is much better to know and get treatment than to live undiagnosed for the rest of your life.