What Is It Like To Be Bipolar?
“What are you, bipolar or something?” That question can sometimes be thrown around a bit too lightly. When someone says that, they usually don’t really mean it. How could they? Most people don’t really know what it’s like to have bipolar disorder. But those who suffer from it know that bipolar disorder is an all-too-serious condition. It’s not something to be taken lightly.
But how can you make others understand that? They can’t experience what it’s like, so you have to explain it to them. That’s a challenge, and you shouldn’t have to figure out how to solve it on your own. Luckily, you don’t have to. We’re here to help you with some talking points you can filter through your own experiences with being bipolar so that others can better understand it.
There Are Different Types of Bipolar
When most people hear the words “on the spectrum,” they think of autism, but it’s far from the only disorder with a spectrum. Bipolar is another one.
Bipolar I involves manic or mixed episodes that either last a week or more or are severe to the point that hospitalization is required. Bipolar II involves hypomanic episodes in addition to depressive episodes, but not full manic or mixed episodes. Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS) is when your symptoms don’t fit neatly under the descriptions of type I or II. Cyclothymia is when someone has depressive or hypomanic but the symptoms don’t neatly fit into the medical definitions for mania, hypomania or depressive episodes and the episodes last on and off for two years or more. Finally, rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is when someone suffers from at least four episodes in one year.
What Are Episodes?
If you have bipolar disorder, you know what it’s like to have an episode. But while those around you might see the results of it, they can’t actually experience the episode itself. They don’t understand what you’re going through.
When you’re having a manic episode, you’ll probably feel hugely confident and content, but you might also feel irritable or angry at the same time. Your mind might race rapidly through thoughts and you may talk faster than normal, engage in more dangerous behavior than you normally would, act more impulsively than normal and sleep less than normal.
Hypomanic episodes are very much like manic ones, but they tend to be over quicker and be less severe while they do last.
On the flip side, depressive episodes usually make you feel some combination of loneliness, lowered self-esteem and/or sadness. Things that normally make you happy or excited no longer have much appeal for you. In fact, you may have a hard time focusing in on anything and you may even have thoughts of suicide.
Finally, mixed episodes are…well, mixed. If you have a mixed episode, you’ll go through symptoms of both depressive and manic episodes at the same time.
When bipolar sufferers are experiencing manic disorders, they may be confused for just being super ambitious and/or fun. They might take on a bunch of new hobbies or get a lot of things done and without a whole bunch of effort put into it. This might sound great to those who don’t suffer from it, but you probably know better.
For many sufferers, manic episodes eventually spiral out of control, causing them to go from extroverted, productive and/or cheery to short-tempered, angry and/or paranoid. You can become unhealthily obsessed with things, skip sleeping, be wasteful with money, drive recklessly, suspicious of people and things, overly talkative and more.
And that’s just when you’re feeling manic. Eventually, you’ll likely be hit with a depressive episode that can make you feel like life is worse than it’s ever been before every time it happens. Manic episodes can make you feel like you’ve never been depressed ever. How could you have been when you’re such a happy and extroverted person? But depressive episodes have the opposite effect, making you feel like things have always been terrible and you’ve never been happy.
All of those things are tough enough on their own, but even more mentally taxing can be mixed episodes since they combine the worst of both worlds all at once. These episodes are the most dangerous, as suicidal thoughts can be at their highest during these times, and you feel energized enough to follow through with them. It’s important that bipolar sufferers know about these episodes and the kind of feelings they can cause so that they can better get through them. It’s also important that those around you understand them too so that they can be there for you.
When you’re experiencing an episode, your friends, family members and colleagues can’t convince you to just feel better. It doesn’t work that way. But you’ll still want their support as you work through it.
You’ll also want a customized treatment plan. If you or someone you know might be bipolar, speak to a bipolar disorder specialist today to work out a specialized treatment plan.