What do you think of when you hear the word “bipolar?”
Is it someone who is extremely emotionally unstable?
Do you think of violent behaviors?
Maybe the weather in Utah?
I think of me.
Yep. I have bipolar disorder (I know, in my last post, I said I have depression. Which, obviously I do. This bipolar diagnosis is a recent diagnosis, which makes so much more sense with what has been going on with me lately).
Receiving a diagnosis is a surreal experience. I’ve questioned this a lot. Was I giving accurate answers? Was I overthinking everything? When I have my “highs,” are they really highs, or do they just seem like it compared to my depression? I don’t really want a bipolar diagnosis. But then I think, “Why? What’s so different about a bipolar diagnosis than a depression diagnosis?” Being bipolar doesn’t define who I am. It’s just an explanation of what’s going on inside my brain.
I consider myself blessed that I don’t have an extreme case of it. Mine is actually fairly mild. I have what is called rapid cycling Bipolar II Disorder. Essentially, this means that my highs aren’t extremely severe. I don’t have full-on manic episodes. I have hypomanic episodes, which means that I can still function normally, except for the fact that I’m in a more hyperactive state than is normal. It feels like I would imagine being high on drugs would feel like… not that I would actually know, because I’m a good girl and have never done drugs. The rapid cycling part is more of a description of the disorder. I don’t stay either depressed or high for an extremely long period of time. I switch back and forth very quickly.
Let me try to explain what it’s like to have a high. First of all, my highs come out of nowhere. I could be sitting in my apartment, and then suddenly, I get a crazy spurt of energy. It feels like I just want to run around everywhere. I can feel my eyes getting a wild look in them. If I look in a mirror, I actually do have somewhat of a wild look. But I’m smiling, and I can’t stop. It’s my biggest smile. I can’t really control what I say. I literally can’t even think about what’s going to come out of my mouth. I feel extremely impulsive, although I’m lucky enough to be able to control my impulses (Many people with the disorder get into dangerous situations because of their impulsiveness). I also have the hardest time focusing. I will find myself looking around the room, randomly trying to find everything that is the color yellow, or some other random thing. Don’t ask me why. I know it’s weird. I just can’t make myself focus. My roommates can tell the exact second it hits me. One look at me, and they say, “Uh-oh. You’re in a mood!” I never know how long the mood will last.
Each cycle, with either the depressive or hypomanic symptoms, is different. Sometimes it’s a few hours, sometimes it’s a few days. I’ve had them for weeks at a time. During a cycle, I can also have normal moments, moments where I feel 100% like my old self. It’s during these moments that I question my diagnosis the most. I feel like because I’m normal, I’m not really bipolar. I even question having depression at times. But without fail, each time I think that, soon enough I will have another episode of either depression or hypomania.
Let me explain what it’s like to have depression. Just like my hypomania, it can literally come out of nowhere. A strategy from my therapy I have been trying to apply is to think about the negative thought that caused this spurt of depression. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes I can’t figure out for the life of me what triggered it this time. One trigger I have noticed multiple times is change. So are feelings of loneliness (even though I’m never lonely. I live with 5 other girls!). I suddenly lack all energy and motivation. I want to just curl up in a ball and do nothing. I have crying spells, and if you know me, you know that I never cry! I become very quiet, which is again, not at all like me. I don’t want to go out and socialize, which actually makes things worse for me, because I’m an extrovert. I get my energy from being around people. When I’m depressed, I don’t feel like eating anything. I want to sleep all the time. My roommates describe me as a zombie when I’m in my depressive moods.
Going back and forth with these two different emotions has been extremely exhausting. I never know what I’m going to feel like. I’m trying to apply strategies that I’ve learned in therapy, and they do help, but they don’t take it away. They just make it more bearable, which I’m grateful for. At times, I do wish that I didn’t have to deal with this. However, looking deeper, I’m grateful for this challenge. I know that my Heavenly Father won’t give me anything I can’t handle, and that when something does become hard, He will give me the strength to endure it. I’ve learned so much from this struggle already, and I’m sure I’ll learn so much more!