7 Women on What It’s Really Like to Live With Bipolar Disorder
“I suffer from grand delusions and an uninhibited quality that makes everything in life glitter with an indescribable sheen.”
Bipolar disorder is a serious condition that affects approximately 4.4 percent of people living in the US at an age in accordance with the National Institutes of Mental Health. However, the condition — which is defined by the extreme fluctuations in the levels of depression and manic episodes, is still obscured by stigma. Seven women in this article discuss what it’s like to live with bipolar affects them, and help eliminate many of the myths and misinformation about the condition.
“I have a mood disorder that I’m trying to figure out how to navigate every day.”
I have a bipolar disorder of type II. I have to live my every day as it comes. On some days, I feel like I am like I’m in the best shape of my life and some days I’d rather lie in bed all day, or be extremely moody. In general, my mood is steady however, there are times that are debilitating. As with many others, experience triggers that are able to make my day turn around. But, most times I don’t even realize what triggers I have until they occur and at that point, it’s often too late to fix it. When I’m in an emotional episode I am not aware that I’ve lost emotional control until into the incident and I’m too far gone to change my mind. Typically, my mood escalates until I’m at the peak and really angry, but once I come to and realize what’s happening, I spiral downward and get extremely sad and self-deprecating–asking myself questions like ‘why me?’
I’ve been in intensive care twice in my lifetime. The inpatient clinic I was located in Santa Fe six years ago saved my life. Since then, I go to sessions with a psychiatrist and therapy frequently. Finding the right therapist and psychiatrist is crucial. There must be a synergy that is in place for it to be successful. I’ve tried a variety of psychiatrists many times trying to find the most suitable one, but luckily I’ve been with my therapist for almost six years (she’s a true keeper). I also try exercising (running or kickboxing is my top choice). Meditation is also beneficial for me. I recently read 10 percent Happier by Dan Harris and it changed my outlook on life and meditation. Simply finding things that calm me and make me feel happy like cooking and reading is very important to me.
One myth I’d like to dispel is that those who suffer from bipolar disorder aren’t insane. People tend to refer to angry people as “bipolar” and throw that phrase around like it’s not even a thing. I’m not angry I’m just a victim of an emotional disorder that is trying to determine how to manage each day. I’m still a work-in-progress and will always be since there’s any “cure” for bipolar (or any mood disorder, in fact) however I’m doing to do my best. –Kaity C.
“I wish people would have more patience and empathy”
My moods change certainly But isn’t everyone affected by mood swings? Do my moods seem to be more intense? Maybe. I’ve experienced quite intense responses to hormone changes, for instance, my menstrual cycles. Sometimes they trigger extreme depression and anxiety. I’ve experienced extreme anxiety from jobs I’ve had in the past, but not so much from other jobs. Sometimes I’m not sure whether my moods are the result of mental illness or from the many other situations that life can bring. This is one reason why psychiatric therapy is so challenging. It’s difficult to determine. I’d say that every day, I’m doing well!
I’m very responsive to medications (or at least have I since being diagnosed, in 1996, which was almost 26 years ago) So mood swings which can be classified as depression or manic occur very rarely. I’ve had only two episodes of extreme severity, however, they both disrupted (or altered) the course of my existence. When I’m depressed I’m mostly soaring (a term used in the medical field) term)–I believe that I’m all-powerful and a part of Jesus and that I’m a highly skilled mathematician. I am plagued by great delusions and an uncontrollable quality that makes all things in my life shimmer with an incredible sheen. The issue is that the mania is followed by a deep depression (for me personally) I must escape from the reality and discover how to be able to function normally again. What can I do to get my meds back? How to recover.
I would like people to be able to look at any person suffering from any condition and show more understanding and compassion. The person suffering is experiencing some sort of adversity and they require assistance, not to be angry or at worst be left out. I believe that’s the most important and bigger issue, which is that the condition is difficult to recognize and is often hard for those near or within the vicinity of the sufferer to recognize.” Jaime Lowe is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine and the author of Mental The Lithium Effect: Love, Lithium and Losing My Mind
“I see manic symptoms being praised in our work culture.”
I’m 31 years old and was diagnosed with bipolar spectrum at 28. I have Cyclothymia which is a milder version of bipolar. I worked for tech startups for over 10 years, and my erratic behavior earned me a lot of appreciation and a promotion in the extremely stressful, 24-hour workplace. For instance, my capability to become angry at failures in business showed how serious I took my work and allowed me to establish a sense of camaraderie with my colleagues. In the beginning, for 5 years of my career, I did not seem to be able to feel the suffering. The excitement of success blinded me to the physical pains I experienced. After my first setback, the pain took over. I was unable to rebound after being demoted. I had a difficult time working under a new leader and my negative attitude prevented me from being successful in the workplace. The feeling of being in failure was overwhelming.
Following a hypomanic attack (a milder manic phase) I felt completely worthless which prevented me from getting up. Anxiety and constant worry made my stomach feel as if it was about to collapse. Insufficient sleep and poor nutrition made my mind hazy and I was unable to think clearly. I had to alter my life and get off of my current career in order to heal. After undergoing these changes, and a variety of kinds of treatment, my symptoms are well controlled at the moment. I have seen symptoms of manic-like excessive thinking and racing thoughts. and hyper-productivity is lauded in our workplace culture but without any consideration for the suffering and pain that accompany these symptoms. I’m sure that many people are afraid to tackle these issues for fear of becoming less effective and “losing their edge.” Natalie Walton, blogger for “Low-Stress Living.”
“I’m no longer the emotional equivalent of earthquakes and monsoons.”
My current diagnosis categorizes my condition to be “bipolar type 1, in remission.” Therefore, while my mood (like the majority of people’s moods) fluctuates at the very least some degree throughout the day according to external conditions and my own physiological state, I don’t have the extremes of mood I did in the past when my bipolar disorder was less effectively controlled. Actually, I haven’t experienced a major bout that involved mania or depression in about an entire decade. I’m likely to experience a wider variety of lows and highs than those who don’t have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and the changes in my mood may occur rapidly, but these days I’m pretty accustomed to the changes. It’s not the same as monsoons and earthquakes. Now it’s more like regular fluctuations in weather.
Bipolar in me (and in fact, for many women who are over 40) is often expressed more in the form of a persistent feeling of blues, anxiety, and tension. This differs from isolated, diagnostically specific clinically acute depression or mania. To achieve (and keep) well-being, therapy can be extremely beneficial to me, and it’s considered to be a crucial part of treatment for many people suffering from mental health problems. There is a wide range of approaches to talk therapy that I use; I am working with an EMDR Therapist who is skilled in my specific areas of concern. In addition, I employ several evidence-based treatments, such as exercises, light therapy, and mediation. Volunteering, working, and interacting with the communities are all essential elements of my recovery, and for others, too. It all sounds difficult and time-consuming, I’m sure, but they are just a few minor adjustments that work in tandem to make bipolar symptoms manageable.
I would like people to understand that bipolar disorder is not an end-all-be-all or death sentence. Our brains and bodies and our mental and emotional state, are ever-shifting, always changing There is always you can take care of yourself. look after our bodies and minds. As we possess the capacity to suffer from disorder and disorder, we also have the ability to find balance, health, and health. -Marya Hornbacher, author of Marya Hornbacher Author of Madness The Bipolar Life Bipolar life
“Our brains get sick just like other parts of our bodies get sick and need treatment.”
My day-to-day life is extremely steady. I suffer from bipolar type 1 which means that a hypomania-like mood can develop into manic episodes that can rapidly lead to psychosis, and need hospitalization. Recently, I experienced the longest time of stability between March 2010 and the autumn of 2017. Since I’m dedicated to my medication and taking care to protect my sleep (my two major triggers) I’m capable of experiencing long-term stability. But, even with the most proactive recovery program traumas can trigger people into mania as I witnessed in the past when I lost a loved one suddenly to a heart attack.
My manic episodes usually begin with me feeling like I’m doing a great job both at work and at home but in reality, there are just thoughts running through my head in a way that I’m not able to keep up. When I’m in a mania I’m convinced that I’m living every major story that is going on at the moment in news. This latest episode took place at the time that the Houston floods. I believed that our home was inundated and that we had to relocate up to higher levels. Additionally, my thoughts become chaotic and I’m no longer capable of understanding my situation when the psychosis begins to take over. It’s frightening to lose control of the thoughts that are running through your head but having been through it five times I am confident that it’s not going to be a permanent condition and that when I’m admitted to the hospital and get the correct medication, I’ll be fine. My aim is obviously to avoid hospitalization and stay fit, but there are things that cannot be controlled by me for example, the loss of loved ones.
When I was first diagnosed, I was convinced that I might never have children. However, the truth is that, with the right support, I was able to get two gorgeous, wonderful children. My husband and I are believers in being honest to our children regarding my health issues and, as a result of my role as a leader of the Mental Health Awareness non-profit I’ve been discussing the mental illness of my children over the last five years (they’re currently 7 and nine). I believe that the sooner we can discuss mental health issues and mental illness, the sooner they’ll realize that mental health concerns need to be treated the same as physical ailments. The brain gets sick, similar to other areas of our bodies. They get sick and require treatment. This is how we can create an open and accepting society. Jennifer Marshall is the co-founder of This Is My Brave and its executive director. This is My Brave
“None of us asked to be bipolar.”
On a daily basis, I have to contend with bipolar symptoms as well as medication adverse effects. On the side of bipolar, there are mood issues that I have to take note of. For instance, I’m usually experiencing a mood swing when symptoms of depression and hypomania are evident simultaneously. This means that I’m prone to fall into depression-like symptoms, where I grieve and hug myself, but maintain a lot of energy that I need to burn. This I manage to do through constant self-talk. I simply cannot stop.
In terms of the adverse consequences, currently the medication I’m taking has been causing me to feel anxious somewhat. I struggle with this along with bipolar symptoms, and it’s extremely challenging. I’ve found that my personal methods of coping are vital to getting out of the daily grind. Learning the skills offered by cognitive behavioral therapy I consider to be extremely beneficial for those suffering from mental illness. For me, the use of a medication cocktail is vital to my health.
I wish people understand those with appropriately-treated bipolar disorder are not violent, unpredictable, or unreliable. We are just like everyone else, only with serious health issues. I wish that people knew that this is an illness condition of the brain, not a result of a personal flaw. If it were merely the case of trying to figure to get rid of the disease or working hard and putting in the effort, we wouldn’t be suffering and suffering the way we are. We didn’t ask to be bipolar. None would ever want an illness of the brain however, we do. However, we’re loved, beautiful and unique. Natasha Tracy is the author of Lost Marbles: Perspectives on My Life with Depression & Bipolar
“It’s not the thing that is what defines me. I’m just afflicted because of it.”
I suffer from late-onset bipolar type II and was diagnosed in my 40s. My family has a family history of bipolar I and II within my extended family. Every person has been hospitalized or institutionalized. My levels are ridiculously high, however, the lows can be deadly. Things you do when you’re high aren’t great, but they’re certainly fun (you get a lot of sex, do lots of work completed and drink plenty) however, when you’re down, you’re horrified at the actions you took while your high was. There’s been a handful of suicide attempts, usually triggered due to financial pressure. Alcohol drinking didn’t help at all. The combination of my depression and alcohol left me feeling depressed and unable to move. I was ashamed and scared that I wouldn’t be able to continue and that I would be able to be a victim. In my time, I’ve spent four days in a mental facility four times. However, they do not help you. They help stabilize you and then let you go, without any guidance regarding how to continue in your new life.
If you know someone who is suffering from bipolar disorder, I recommend you see a therapist as well as a psychiatrist. Get those two experts in contact. Take note of your close friends. If they’re good friends they’ll inform you of something that’s distinct about you. Be aware of your family’s background. What I’m struggling to come to accept is that the medical condition is what I have. issue. It’s not my identity. I’m not bipolar. I am just a victim of it. If you don’t, it gives plenty of power.” Anonymous