The first time I went to the doctor concerning my “moods” I was 15. I had bloodwork done to see if I was anemic. I was not. The second time, when I was 16, I was told that it had to do with my menstrual cycle. I was then placed on birth control pills to help regulate my system. This didn’t work. My mental health was finally taken seriously when I was placed on a 72 hour suicide hold at the hospital – in the mental health ward. From there I was diagnosed as bipolar-depressive. However, this is just an initial diagnosis.
Bipolar disorder is defined as a disorder where you feel intense alternating feelings of mania (super-high) or depression (super-low). It is a real chemical imbalance mental condition that people are forced to live with everyday; not some “Hot and Cold” Katy Perry song. It affects your relationships with people, and your relationship with yourself.
In today’s society, mental health is better dealt with, but there is still some stigma surrounding it. I’ve noticed that bipolar disorder still has a lot of stigma around it, simply because those with bipolar disorder are “harder to handle”. We may be considered high maintenance, but imagine having a little voice in the back of your head constantly tell you that you’re not good enough, that you’ll feel better after one more drink, that everyone hates you, or that money doesn’t matter because you’re going to die anyways so might as well spend it all. However, things get better. As cliche as it is, it does. We develop coping mechanisms, get our medication sorted, and learn to fall back in love with life.
A statement from an anonymous source perfectly describes living with bipolar disorder:
“The first time I was told [that] my psychiatrist thought I had bipolar [disorder] instead of depression, I felt a lot of relief because it made a lot more sense. It was sort of comforting! It was also pretty scary, to have to come to terms with what was actually happening. I was scared of how those who knew, would see me. Now that it’s been about a year since finding out, I’ve realized that it’s not as bad as I originally thought. Surrounding myself with people who understand the differentiation between me and my illness is a huge contributor to my growth. I also started to notice that there were ways to work around it, it just takes time. A lot of people also often misattribute the ways I work around being bipolar, I have a hard time with that. Every day is different. However, I’ve grown pretty resilient and I have some pretty funny stories because of it. So I guess the cloud above my head has a bit of a silver lining.”
If someone you know has bipolar disorder, the best thing you can do is be there for them. Don’t push them, don’t blame them for things they can’t control like bits of depression and anxiety; just be there. Listen to them, do your research to try and understand them. Patience is also key. If you fear the one you love is acting a little to recklessly or is being abnormal due to depression, urge them to seek help. All mental illnesses are treatable by medication, and although that is not the most desirable route it may be the most necessary.
If you have bipolar disorder, just know that you’re not alone in your confusing mood swirl of ups and downs. If you feel like spending money, try to find free things for you and your friends to do. If you feel like being sexually reckless, delete your Tinder and have a girls/guys night. If you feel like binge drinking or indulging in drug abuse, have a bubble bath and call your mom, see how she’s doing. There’s always an alternative to manic behaviour, just as there is to depressive. Push yourself to be the best you, but don’t wear yourself thin. Dealing with bipolar disorder is a thin line, but you can walk it. It’s okay if you sway a certain way or fall from time to time; you’re only human.
Being human isn’t easy. We have ups and downs, we make mistakes, we learn, we love. Living with bipolar disorder isn’t easy. We have higher ups and lower downs, we feel anxious, we get reckless. But we still learn, and we still love. It will take a while, it’ll take longer than you may think in some cases. But I can promise you one thing, you’ll learn to fall back in love with life.