The Ups and Downs of Bi-Polar Disorder

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Different people experience it in different ways – some have weeks or months of up or down, others like me fluctuate much quicker between the two and you can find yourself waking up to a different person you climbed into bed with.

Everyone has mood swings and days when they feel hyper for no reason or down in the dumps but can’t work out why – that’s my life everyday. I’m lucky because so far the disorder is only moderate and I haven’t really had a huge drop or leap into the extremes of the illness but that doesn’t stop it having an effect on me in day-to-day life. My mouth has always got me in trouble from saying something my brain thought was funny, witty, quirky or silly at the time and then as I realise what I’ve said – or days later someone calls you on it – you realise you are not in full control of yourself. This is the hyper phase and I’ve been told by my consultant that it’s normal for my condition – but not in “polite society” and it leads to you feeling guilty for things you have said, from the stupid remark yesterday to something you said a decade or more ago.

The hyper phase is enjoyable – I always saw it as the “norm” not knowing that everyone else didn’t have this dual personality. Down I understood because there was depression in the family and it made sense; it was an illness that couldn’t be helped – medical or chemical – but I didn’t realise until much later that the “norm” was often hyperactivity and not everyone experienced life this way. Actually it was only really when I was on medication for the depression that I realised how wrong I was about my neutral state of mind. It is fun, creative and naughty – you feel a bit like you’ve been let loose, but the truth is you still have to live in that environment and it’s tough sometimes to face it the next day or week when you know you overstepped the mark. Is it okay to hold up your hands and say “Sorry, I’m Bi-polar. Do forgive me.” or do you ignore it and hope people assume that’s just who you are?

Today’s been a down day – not a grumpy one just reflective (too much so). You start to wallow in it because it feels comfortably melancholy. You know it’s destructive to your mood but you feel drawn to stay in bed and pull the covers over your head. There’s a lot of sitting and eating and silence – how I love the moments of complete quiet that allow me to empty my head of my own negative voice. You have to feed the depressed mind with things to do to allow your day to have some kind of productive use otherwise it anchors itself to the first piece of misery passing and pulls you down.

I’m lucky in many ways that I knew to look up info about the illness and went to my doctor asking if this was what I was living with – not self diagnosing but more a request for help. I had taken myself to the doctors to sort out the depression but the bi-polar aspect seemed like I was pushing my luck; I couldn’t just ask for a new diagnosis seven months after the first was confirmed could I – what was I the mental hypochondriac? But I wasn’t miles away and the support I’ve had from both GPs and specialists shows that the NHS really does work if you are confident enough to use it for mental illness.

How I’ll feel tomorrow is unknown, likely a bit down and quiet as seems to be the predominant state this week. But who knows? The unpredictability could leave me saying something stupid or withdrawing from the world. No emoticons to sum up that feeling.

JD

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