Thursday, 5 January 2017

Living with Bipolar: Funny is it?

Hello guys. I hope you're well.

Today I wanted to talk to you about Bipolar.

If you've read my blog before, you'll know that I have been diagnosed with Bipolar and Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) which obviously, has massively affected my life.
When it comes to Bipolar, there is this massive stereotype and stigma surrounding it as with all mental illnesses. Bipolar seems to have been given the 'crazy' tag.

Here are a few of the stereotypes/comments that get to me:

 1. Moods change every minute.
 2. People with Bipolar are 'crazy'.
3. But mania's fun isn't it?
4. One minute they're laughing and the next they're crying.
5. Woah, you're moody. Have you taken your medication today?
6. Bipolar people are so violent and angry.
7. Wow, you don't seem like someone with bipolar...

Now here are the realities of those:

1. WRONG! Our moods don't swing like a pendulum. My lows are much more frequent and longer lasting than my highs. My highs can last from a week to a month. and my lows? A minimum of a month going right up to about 5 months. But as I am human, certain circumstances can affect the frequency of highs, certain medications cap highs and lows which can make defining them difficult. 

2. From day to day, our realities are different from yours. Besides, what does crazy even mean? Craziness is what we make it. You think I'm crazy? Good for you. 

3. MANIA ISN'T FUN. There is nothing fun about it. It's often painted as euphoric as if the sun is always shining. But imagine the reality of that. The sun ALWAYS shining. 
You can't sleep because it's always a little too bright and you're a little too wired. You feel a duty to get everything done and everything is a good idea. 
Your thoughts won't turn off, your thinking isn't rational, your decision making is impaired, your words can't come out of your mouth fast enough and everything is so greatly exaggerated.
It is exhausting but somehow you find this energy that feels like it flows through your fingertips right down to your toes. It's more than you can comprehend and nothing at the same time. There is no stranger feeling than mania and at first, it can feel like a relief from the depression but when it kicks in you know you're in for a rough ride. It is many things but fun isn't a word that springs to mind.
When it comes to an end and you come crashing down from that 'high', you don't think "I had such a fun time. I can't wait to do that again"... Nope, not even a little bit.
And of course, there is hypomania... I could write so much about this so if you want a separate post about it then let me know.

4. Just like you I experience many emotions. It isn't just 'happiness' and 'sadness'. And as mentioned in point 1 I am not a pendulum. I am a human. Life is an emotional roller coaster and yes, some days I laugh and cry. And sometimes I feel anger or worry or embarrassment or love. JUST LIKE YOU.

5. Just because I am experiencing an emotion doesn't mean I haven't taken my medication. I still feel things even when I'm medicated or experiencing highs or lows. If I am taking medication it doesn't make me a robot. I have quirks, I have a personality, I have a life that throws things at me. Don't assume because I express myself that I have forgotten my medication. 

6. Men get tarnished with this one quite a lot. I also suffer with extreme irritability in both moods so I get it. But actually, people with bipolar are more likely to turn that hate towards themselves in various forms of self harm than hurting other people. If there is violence it doesn't come from the bipolar, it comes from people self medicating with alcohol or drugs which again is a form of self harm. Bipolar itself doesn't make you a violent person but the way you choose to 'treat' it can.

7. You know why that is? Because we are all different. We're all as unique as our fingerprints.
There isn't a mould that shapes us. It isn't a one fits all kind of thing.
We are all individuals with our own personalities and traits that contribute to who we are. Bipolar isn't WHO we are, it's what we have. 
Plus, bipolar quite often likes to team up with other mental health conditions.
For example, I have AvPD which affects my bipolar significantly. My hypomania manifests in extreme anxiety, agoraphobia and mild panic attacks alongside some of the regular and expected symptoms.

I often go through my twitter feed and see tweets like 'Having a bipolar day today' 'My moods are crazy today. So bipolar' 'It makes me laugh how bipolar I am' 'Girls, make up your minds! Stop being so bipolar'.
Granted, the word bipolar means two things. Aside from the illness it means having or relating to two poles or extremities but lets be honest, that isn't the definition they mean when they use the word. They mean it in terms of the illness and I don't appreciate my debilitating, life altering illness being used for your comic purposes. 

Your ignorance hurts.
It doesn't only hurt sufferers like me but it also hurts yourself and those around you. 
Mental illness happens more often than you think. Everyone knows someone and whether that person has a diagnosis, is suffering in silence or it's you, you owe it to yourself to know about mental illnesses and general mental health and well being.
There are ample resources available and so many bloggers now are taking to the internet to voice their experiences and stories. Take advantage of that and open up your minds, ask questions and get involved.

Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose and on average takes 10 years for an accurate diagnosis so the exact statistics of those with the disorder aren't known but it is estimated that up to 3 in every 100 people in the UK have a diagnosis. 
Those seemingly insignificant comments and jokes can really play on the minds who have to process them and absorb the reality of them. We are just individuals trying to live the lives we've been given.

Living with bipolar is tough enough without facing ignorance on a daily basis.
My disorder isn't funny and neither are any of the other mental illnesses used as adjectives.

Mental health matters.

Thanks for reading

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