GUEST BLOGGER – Raw, real and heartfelt. This week’s guest blogger is all that and more, and I was once again reminded that everyone has their own story to tell, even when living with the same illness…
I always joke and say that I am Bipolar 1.5 because I have experienced both full-blown mania and hypomania, but I struggle with very long and intense episodes of depression, which would set me within the Bipolar 2 category.
I was diagnosed when I was 22, on my year of studying abroad.
I was already receiving treatment for depression, and I have always had mood swings, but my first episode of mania didn’t appear until I was 22. Because I was already under the care of a psychiatrist, I described my new symptoms to him (he also recognized my mania) and then I started treatment.
My diagnosis helped me understand what was going on, and I am forever grateful to my doctor from abroad, he saved my life. There was a lot of damage caused because of my first episode of mania, but fortunately, I was diagnosed quickly enough and received treatment, which prevented my actions causing further damage.
In terms of medication, I tried many mood stabilizing meds until I found that Lamictal works for me. I continued my antidepressant medication at a lower dose, to keep my depression at bay.
I receive talking therapy, but not as often as I should. It is quite hard to access therapy, the waiting lists are never-ending, and unless you are in crisis it is considered that you can deal with it.
My first manic episode was such a surreal experience. I experienced everything at high intensity, I had never-ending energy, I was buzzing with creativity, ideas, I was writing a lot, talking to strangers, I would run 8 km daily…and then delusions started, like the delusion that I had financial power and could afford to spend as much as I wanted. I had this feeling of being all-powerful and invincible, thinking that nothing bad could happen to me, that nothing could affect me in any way.
Hypomania is more like being elated, creative, positive. It can manifest in a negative way sometimes, with horrible mood swings, anger, and dysphoria. I have experienced both types of hypomania many times now.
Hypomania for me only lasts between 3 to 5 days, while mania can go on for weeks and months. Depression also lasts long periods of time, sometimes up to 6 months, with little bursts of hypomania in between.
When I am manic I am so wild that it shows on my face.I swear that you can see it in my eyes, like those wild eyes…hard to explain, but I can act quite bizarrely, talk too much, put on too much make-up, wear clothes I usually wouldn’t wear and so on. Hypomania is tamer, the energy is there, but I don’t do such bizarre things. Hypomania makes me faster, and angrier.
Depression is the worst. I have no energy, I sleep for days, my appetite is all over the place, I sometimes feel like I can’t think. I am exhausted and cannot concentrate, cannot relax, cannot distract myself. I have no motivation. To add to it, my anxiety spikes and doesn’t let my mind rest, so I am torn in between these 2 disorders.
I have to take time off my work and studies during these episodes. I am high functioning, meaning that I am still able to tackle tasks and work, but it is exhausting and it is jeopardizing my recovery, so I have learned that I have to take time off, as hard as that is for me.
Depression is what I struggle with most. In one year I probably have 2 episodes of mania/hypomania and 4-6 episodes of depression. Sometimes there is no remission, so I am continuously in an episode…for an entire year maybe. There is no rhyme nor reason for how my moods will change. It is always a surprise.
My dad has bipolar, and on my mom’s side, a lot of relatives struggle with substance abuse. I have experienced the stigma attached to mental illness, so am fully aware of it’s effect and how it can tear one apart.
I’ve experienced stigma from ex-partners. I’ve been talked about behind my back and had so many bad things said about me. Even so, I continue to be open about my illness, because it does not define me, and all that gossip is nothing but ignorance. I want to keep educating people.
I consider myself to be doing well despite all of the challenges. I have good insight into my illness, I am proactive, I have learned to recognize the signs and symptoms early and I can get help before I reach a crisis.
I know there will be slips and falls, but I also know that there will be so many beautiful moments.
I have experienced so much because of bipolar, I let it be my teacher. It is a cruel teacher, but I consider that if I can battle this and stay alive, I can conquer anything I put my mind to.
By guest blogger, a brave young lady from Romania.