Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness that represents a significant challenge to patients, health care workers, family members and our communities. While growing acceptance of bipolar disorder as a medical condition, like diabetes and heart disease, has taken hold in some parts of the world, unfortunately the stigma associated with the illness is a barrier to care and continues to impede early diagnosis and effective treatment. In order to address the disparity in how bipolar disorder is viewed in different parts of the world, the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD),the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) came together to work on the concept of a world bipolar day. – The International Bipolar Foundation
March 30th was chosen to be the day that we celebrate #WorldBipolarDay because it is also Vincent Van Gough’s birthday, who was posthumously diagnosed as probably having Bipolar Disorder. So still, why are we having a World Bipolar Day instead of a World OCD Day or a World Schizophrenia Day or A World Borderline Personality Disorder Day? I can’t answer that, but maybe this will get that ball rolling too. We have our Mental Health awareness weeks, and even months in some places, but as advocates, we don’t really need a day to spread the word. Today just happens to focus on my particular illness, but I have some brilliant friends that do not have Bipolar Disorder who will be taking part in spreading the word about #WorldBipolarDay
Let me hit you with some facts about Bipolar Disorder, first of all there’s more than just one This comes to you from PsychCentral:
What Are the Different Types of Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar I is considered the classic type of bipolar disorder. Individuals experience both manic and depressive episodes of varying lengths.
Bipolar II involves less severe manic episodes than bipolar I; however, their depressive episodes are the same.
Cyclothymia is a chronic but milder form of bipolar disorder, characterized by episodes of hypomania and depression that last for at least two years.
Rapid-cycling bipolar individuals experience four or more episodes of mania, depression or both within one year.
Let’s Talk Mania (textbook symptoms)
Feelings of euphoria and elation or irritability and anger
Impulsive, high-risk behavior, including grand shopping sprees, drug and alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity
Increased energy and rapid speech
Fleeting, often grandiose ideas
Decreased sleep (typically the individual doesn’t feel tired after as few as three hours of sleep)
Difficulty concentrating; disorganized thoughts
Delusions and hallucinations (in severe cases)
Let’s Talk Hypomania:
Hypomania is less severe than a full-blown manic episode. Hypomanic individuals can seem pleasant, friendly, energetic and productive. Though it doesn’t sound problematic, increasing hypomania can lead to risky behaviors and full mania.
Let’s Talk Depression:
Feelings of hopelessness and sadness
Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
Loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities; loss of energy (sometimes to the point of inability to get out of bed)
Changes in appetite and weight
Feelings of worthlessness and inappropriate guilt
Inability to concentrate or make a decision
Thoughts of death and suicide
We know there is SO much more to Bipolar Disorder than the tiny amount of info listed above. So instead of “facts” I’m going to give you real stories and questions sent to me by the followers of The Lithium Chronicles Some of the people who live with this illness every single day, or care for someone who does. This is how it FEELS. These aren’t the facts that you will find in a diagnostic manual, this is what you will find in my inbox on a daily:
“Feeling that dark cloud coming over me. I have been moody, depressed, weepy, withdrawn. Still taking my meds, but have been dealing with lots of triggers this past week. Ugh! I hate this part.”-CE
“Hi. I am married to a man who was diagnosed as bipolar about 7 years ago and is currently refusing to take meds. I feel like, in reading your blog, I might see some similarities in you and him. I had a couple of questions I was hoping you could provide a bit of insight on… When manic, do you find that your husband ever seems to become the enemy almost? Nothing he does is right. He’s the main reason you’re miserable and you’d be so much happier without him? I will be the first to admit that, even without his illness, we do have issues that need worked on in this marriage. But he goes through these phases where he claims he’s wanted out of the marriage for years and only stays for the kids. He’ll say in general that of course he’s not perfect and is the cause of some of our problems, but he almost seems like when it comes down to it, they’re nothing that he needs to change or work on or get help with. Sometimes he blames me…that he’s only reacting to the way I treat him (or, in my opinion, the way he perceives me treating him). During these times, he’s GREAT everywhere else. Gets along well with his family. Is happy with his job. Are great friends with his coworkers (he has no friends to speak of that he doesn’t work with). He seems to feel like I’m the only real negative thing in his life. (Keep in mind that, he’s come out of these phases before and thanked me for sticking through it with him, said he didn’t think he could do it if the roles were reversed, apologized for things he’s done and said and how he’s made me feel. So, I don’t think that it’s a case of him just biting his tongue for months at a time “for the kids” or whatever.) The other question is if people besides your husband can usually see if something is wrong or if you come off perfectly reasonable to most other people. I’m pretty sure my in laws are more concerned about my mental health than his because I’m so wracked with anxiety over this while he tends to come off generally calm and collected to them. (If it makes a difference, I think he tends to go more mixed than strictly manic.) I say that I’m bipolar by proxy. When I feel he’s manic and he can’t even accept the possibility I get so consumed with worry and stress that I can’t eat (have thrown up from the stress already) often don’t sleep much. I find that my mind will race trying to figure out how to fix things, how to get him to accept that something’s not right, how to get him to be willing to go back on meds. Part of the reason for that consuming fear is that he can get violent when he’s like that…typically throwing things. So between the worry about that and the worry about him trying to throw the marriage away, I’m always afraid of how the rest of the day is going to go or how tomorrow will go”. –TP
“Hi – can you ask the other BP members if they struggle with thoughts of suicide everyday? I tried as a teen and would never try again but I can’t get over the thoughts”–MS
“Hello. So today is a day where all I feel is depressed then I’ll get bursts of manic thought. I feel so low I don’t even I have the energy to draw a bath. It has been a long time since I have felt like this and have no one to talk to. I guess I just need some help getting back up.”–CN
“I am not sure where to begin. My wife has bipolar disorder and has been struggling for almost 3 years to consistently take her meds. She instead has been self medicating with cocaine. She has tried therapy, but she has a very strong disdain for therapy. I have read so many articles about this disease it has made my head spin. Although she has caused so much pain to our family with regularly disappearing to run away from the darkness within her. I have been following your site for months now and it seems that this a good place for some much needed advice. I am only trying to understand the disease and I guess that I am frustrated and trying not to give up hope. I only ask that this message remain anonymous, but I really need some advice on how to help her.”–TV
“So far since last week I’ve smashed two cups by accident, binged, had a full blown argument with my mum, then my boyfriend and today I was ignored. Like I didn’t even exist. I didn’t do anything wrong I swear. I was joking and people take me the wrong way. Been crying constantly. I don’t see my psych nurse till Monday but I’m at my wit’s end. I went a walk and found myself at a train station platform, watching trains passing and contemplated jumping. I didn’t obviously but I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to go inpatient. I was on top of the world a few weeks ago! I’m drained. That’s the only word for me right now I guess, is drained. I’m going to try get a hold of a help line but I’m not good on the phone.”–AA
“Hello! I really need advice. So I was pretty positive I have Borderline personality disorder. My therapist referred me to another psychologist for a diagnosis. The psychologist asked me a bunch of general questions and made me take this really long test. I think it’s called an MMPI. It has almost 600 true false questions. So after I do all this, she calls me today (a week later). She told me my test was “elevated” which could mean I’m “exaggerating my symptoms” and it makes the test invalid. She ended up diagnosing me with PTSD, depression, and Personality Disorder NOS. I already knew I had the first two but I’m really frustrated about the last one considering…well it’s a pretty wide diagnosis, isn’t it? “We don’t know what’s wrong with you, but you’re definitely not normal.” She said a lot of my symptoms overlap, which is why she can’t diagnose me better. She told me to get my depression under control and see about talking to a trauma counsellor. It may not seem too hard, but trust me it is. When I first started taking medicine, I wanted to stay on the low doses. Now I’m spiking higher and higher but my depression, anger, and hopelessness aren’t going away. I feel like my diagnosis wasn’t really a diagnosis. I just don’t know how to react or how to move forward from here. I feel like I’m just gonna be broken for the rest of my life. Defective.”–JT
I receive on average about 15-20 messages a week from my followers. They aren’t all concerning or about people in crisis, but there is a particular theme that runs through each one: Tell Me I’m Not Alone In This And That Someone Get IT! I’m really hoping that with the amount of info we will see being blasted on Social Media today, people will start to get it. Oh, and another thing. YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN YOUR ILLNESS!
So today we celebrate everything that we are, which is NOT just our illness. Our illness is a small part of us, but we are dancers and teachers and writers and doctors. We are your neighbours and friends and co-workers. We drive your busses and your taxicabs, and ring up your purchases at wherever you choose to shop. We are everywhere, and the more you know about us, the fewer STIGMAS there will be surrounding this illness. With less stigma comes more chances for people to reach out for treatment and live healthy and well with their illness.