like a rush of blood to the head

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So I just realized that in this blog I never directly explained what bipolar disorder even is. I’ve given testimony and other facts regarding misunderstandings, but haven’t told of what the diagnosis is. My bad!

If you’ve self-diagnosed yourself because you are super angry one moment and happy the next, congrats, you don’t actually have bipolar disorder! Though it is a common misconception.

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder characterized by unusual and severe episodes of both mania and depression that interfere with our ability to function in everyday life. The change is significant and it affects your mood, activity levels, and energy to the extremes. It’s formerly called manic-depressive disorder, and is different from the normal ups and downs people go through in life. It often first appears in early adult years. Psychosis can become a factor, and it’s a lifelong disease.

“Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide.” says NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health).

HOWEVER! <—yay

Bipolar disorder is treatable and people with the disorder can lead fulfilling and productive lives.

…If they can afford it and have an ideal home situation (this is the bad news).

I realize I’m fortunate. I have a phenomenal family, and without their consistent support I’m just not sure where I’d be. Nowhere good. I truly wish I could say the same about the rest of the nation and the world, but I can’t. Treatment is not only very expensive–it’s scarce.

Mania left untreated can last up to 3-6 months. Which is actually equivalent to an eternity for someone who is that far outside of their normal behavior. Mania can be just as destructive as depression, because it elicits risky behavior that wouldn’t normally be present.

Some people suffer for years before the term bipolar would even cross their radar. But what good is that term going to do in helping their situation? So that people can write them off as crazy and violent? No thanks!

So, as mentioned before, mood episodes represent a drastic change from a person’s usual mood or behavior. 

Mania– The overly joyful and euphoric state. Sounds like fun right?!

  • Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, racing thoughts
  • Excessive need to talk (pressured speech)
  • Unusually distracted
  • Increased activity, taking on many projects
  • Overly restless, can’t sleep/ not being tired
  • Can’t eat like a normal person
  • Unrealistic belief in your abilities.. (you can be an astronaut or Nobel Prize winner if you just put your mind to it!)
  • Behaving impulsively in high risk situations

Depression– the somewhat more understood state of feeling hopeless with prolonged sadness:

  • Overly tired and slow
  • Constant brain fog
  • Low sense of self-worth
  • Can’t concentrate, remember, or make decisions
  • Thinking about death or suicide
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Numb to the world

After an episode, people with bipolar retreat to their normal state and are free of symptoms….until the next episode decides to start! It’s kind of like a waiting game. For me, the seasons predict all of my episodes.

Episodes can become lesser and lesser if medical measures are taken. For example, fall is when I usually (always) become manic. So, my doctor put me on a higher dose to catch and stop the episode early. Apparently next year it’ll be even easier to prevent if I keep my symptoms at bay now. So.. it does get easier even if it doesn’t go away entirely (ever)!

This is pretty good news for me. Yet on the opposite side of the spectrum, episodes that are allowed to run rampant with no action, aka the case for the majority of people who have bipolar disorder, will cause more future episodes that are of the same degree. This is part two of the bad news.

The DSM medical handbook lists certain requirements to be officially diagnosed as Bipolar. I’m Bipolar 1. Basically the difference is I have severe mania, as opposed to the the lesser hypomania found in Bipolar 2.

So there you have it! The basic rundown of the disorder.

Hopefully this helped to better explain what bipolar disorder even is, and why it’s not just your ordinary need to go to the gym and eat healthier to get your mind right kind of deal. That reminds me, I need to get back in the gym. Not to cure my bipolar, just to get ready for the cruise I’m going on in a week with Eric and his parents!

XO-Laura

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