World Bipolar Day is on the 30th March every year, Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday (it is commonly believed that Van Gogh was bipolar), in order to raise awareness and reach out to those suffering with the condition.
Bipolar is often mischaracterised as being ‘just some mood swings’ or being ‘happy and then sad’. Despite more awareness of mental health conditions, Bipolar is one of the most frequently misunderstood mental health conditions and often has a lot of stigma attached to it. I have Bipolar Affective Disorder and I have been living with the condition for nearly 4 years after a really stressful event that happened in my life. For such a long time I have often told people that I have Depression, or Anxiety, as I thought that being Bipolar would change the way people perceive me. I thought that I could not have any true friends because of my condition, that they would ‘pity’ me because of what happened and I am glad to say that this isn’t true. My friends have been important rocks in my life and even though they don’t understand the full extent of my condition, but they realise that it doesn’t define me. Being Bipolar isn’t what you are, it’s something you live with.
Bipolar Disorder is characterised by two different types of mood, Mania and Depression. Being ‘manic’ can vary from person to person, and I want to stress that it is not being ‘insane’ in any way, shape, or form. When I’m manic, often I’m what Doctors deem ‘hypo-manic’, a less severe form of Mania. Personally, when I am manic I begin to spend loads of money (that I don’t have), act like I’m the life and soul of the party, and sometimes I get delusional about who I am. I start to think that I am better than everyone else, and that I don’t need anyone in my life. In the past, this has led me to quit jobs really hastily, pick fights with people that I normally get along with, and be outwardly aggressive. Then at the other end of the spectrum, when I’m depressed, I am severely depressed. Previously, I have had suicidal thoughts because I regret the things that have happened when I am in a manic phase and sometimes I don’t think that I’m a worthy human being.
Bipolar awareness is so important as often people (especially women) are misdiagnosed with depression. People living with Bipolar Disorder at the beginning, only tend to go to the Doctor when they are feeling low, meaning that so many people are out there living with the wrong diagnosis. I was one of them, for three years I refused to tell the Doctor about my other symptoms that were not Depression-related, meaning I was wrongly diagnosed. I’ve only been ‘officially’ diagnosed with the condition for a year, but it is clear that it was Bipolar from the start of my mental health troubles. It is so important that if you think you might have Bipolar Disorder, instead of Depression, to go and see your GP. Depression medication can make you manic, so it is very dangerous to be taking those kinds of medications if you know, or think, you have experienced a manic episode. Depression medication never worked for me, but since I’ve been on mood stabilisers, I have managed to gain some control back into my life. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be honest about your mood with your doctor, even when you are low – tell them everything about when you feel stable or ‘high’ too, as it will make you feel better.
If you are concerned about yourself or a friend, please do call Samaritans, or if it is more urgent 999. If you want to learn more about Bipolar Disorder and its symptoms, please look at the website here.