It was the summer of 2016 when I finally decided to take charge of my physical and mental health. I began seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Quite frankly this didn’t come as a shock to me, as I already knew a bit about the disorder as my dad suffers from Bipolar I. These disorders are thought to have some genetic factors – which explains me.
Let me give you a brief overview of Bipolar I. It’s comprised of Depressive and Manic states of being. Mania is an episode of manic, characterized by high energy, being highly distracted, impulsiveness, irrationality, etc and often disrupts daily activities.
Here’s different about Bipolar II, there’s no mania. Rather a “milder” form called hypomania. Hypomania is less intense. It’s usually characterized by similar tendencies. For me it’s a lot of risk taking, spending money I don’t have, grandiosity, over confidence, fleeting thoughts, lack of need for sleep, and sex. I have to be honest with you, I love hypomania. Feeling on top of the world is wonderful. And compared to the depressive states I’d take hypomania any day. What I don’t like about it is dealing with the consequences later. For example, hating the impulsive tattoos I’ve gotten. The holes in my face and body from when I irrationally ran to the shop to get piercings (I’ve had 17!). Regretting one night stands. Paying off my credit cards for months because I went on a spending spree. Yada yada yada.
What’s bad about having this form of bipolar disorder is the immense amount of time we spend in the other state – depression. Bipolar II patients generally have more depressive episodes than hypomanic. Now that doesn’t go for everyone and I am in no way a psychiatrist, but it certainly resonated with me. This state can last for days months or years. When I’m in it, I try to go numb. I feel empty. My body feels heavy. My chest feels tight. I get frequent headaches. Some other symptoms are
- Diminished pleasure
- Reoccurred thoughts of death
- Irrational guilt
During the Depressive states I feel like a walking zombie. It’s written all over my face that I’m not okay. I blame “tiredness” for my inaction. Many people think I’m just mean or non responsive. I’m easily irritable. Really I’m just fighting monsters in my mind and trying to make it to the next day. Sometimes depression can really interfere with daily life. I call into work, cancel plans, skip my responsibilities and binge watch something on Netflix to avoid real life. Perhaps I’m on the floor staring at a wall and ignoring the people who love me the most. I’m pushing them away, as well as pushing all feelings away.
During this period I can’t fathom explaining to someone what’s wrong. The words don’t come out and my body screams “you need help” but nothing will ever escape my lips. Depressive states are hell on earth. It feels like a never ending void. I can feel when I’m falling into them, sometimes I fight it but mostly I let it sweep me under the water and I wait for a chance to breathe again. Once I’m out, I finally feel free but only temporarily. Because I know it will come back for me soon enough. Until then I enjoy feeling normal, and I often wonder,
“when will I win the battle for good?”
Medication for Bipolar Disorder is tricky. For me, and anti depressant would be nice because most of my time is spent feeling down. However, with bipolar disorder it’s unlikely anyone will prescribe you that unless you’re on a mood stabilizer. I’ve gone through 5 medications all with unwelcoming side effects. As of now, I don’t take anything – I’m just trying to manage with therapy, mindfulness, diet and exercise.
Bipolar II will always be a part of me and my life. The trick is figuring out how to live in harmony with it.
I think I can do it.