The word Bipolar gets misused and thrown around when discussing common mood swings or disappointments when the reality of the illness is much more difficult that. Bipolar personality disorder effects over 5.7 million people in the US alone usually during the teen years to mid-life but it can be lifelong.
What is Bipolar Personality Disorder?
It’s waking up one day, you’re energized, able to accomplish more before noon than you usually think possible. Your mind is racing with creativity, words spill out, your mouth trying to keep up with all these new and interesting thoughts. There’s a confidence that may not usually be there.
That energy and confidence can lead you to taking risks. You may gamble or outright spend money that you can’t afford to lose. You may get promiscuous. Whether it’s with your significant other or a total stranger whether you use protection or not. This energy compels and carries you. It may not let you sleep and it may make you irritable.
From one pole…
That’s hypomania. One of the two poles experienced with the illness, it means under mania. Some people on the bipolar spectrum will experience full blown mania and psychosis. Others won’t experience these so-called highs much at all.
Hypomania can actually be enjoyable for some, at least as its going on before the consequences of high risk behavior or the reality of time spent with lessened control over yourself sink in.
Bipolar personality disorder is also severe bouts of depression.
…to the other
You feel increased anxiety, fear floods the mind for no good reason and stays longer than you’re comfortable with. You may lose appetite or just experience and absence of joy in the the things you used to love.
Emotionally, it’s like trying to touch the world through thick wool mittens. You grab without fully feeling those things you want a connection with. You’ve got a sense of being inept at making those connections and ultimately can’t look in the mirror and see someone worth connecting with. At it’s worst your head is thick with suicidal thoughts.
Bipolar personality disorder is also the mixed-states in between these two extremes. High energy and high irritability, symptoms of both poles happening together or rapidly one after the other.
From the outside, people who can’t or aren’t willing to sound the depths of another mind say: just stop. Stop feeling bad. Stop being rash and putting yourself at risk. Just stand up and be you again.
A simple sentiment but in this case it’s as useful as telling someone to stop drowning.
For someone experiencing bipolar personality disorder the mind is like a riptide. There can be a little thrill, even a grand euphoria as your pulled about until you feel yourself dragged away from the simple joys into depression, with the weight of an ocean on you, while it feels like all you can do is flail against it. Floating on the whims of your own mind.
There is no cure for it. You can cope with it through therapy and medication.
Like other mental illnesses there’s a thick, confused stigma around it. Most people want a distance from mental illness and it only makes treatment and coping that much harder. Medications that can help regulate moods or at least take the edge off the worst extremes are viewed warily. They are part of a sound treatment strategy but something about pills can make you afraid that they will take you away from yourself, diluting the real you.
Truthfully it can be challenging to get the right balance of medication and to learn how to stick with it. But actively taking part in your treatment, sticking to a regular schedule and taking medication can lead to a more controlled condition and better quality of life.