While everyone faces a sort of mood shift as emotions change, some face these shifts in such an extreme form that can last for hours to months at a time. Whether these mood swings are triggered by outside factors or not, they can come abruptly and lead individuals to do actions that they would not otherwise do. Bipolar can be overly romanticized by society, viewing mania as a productive and fun mood while in reality it can lead to snapping at loved ones, being intensely anxious, overspending, and being highly irritable.
Bipolar disorder is a neurobiological brain disorder that affects roughly 5 million Americans today. It’s commonly hereditary, but symptoms are often not visible until one is about 25 years old. Depressive episodes, similar to depressive disorders, consist of feelings of deep sadness, hopelessness, loss of energy, lack of interest, and suicidal thoughts. Mania however goes to the opposite extreme with an emotional high of euphoria and energy can cause one to engage in dangerous behaviors. These mood swings may be triggered by issues at home or in school, the change of seasons, or hormonal conditions, they may also come abruptly without a trigger. Some triggers may even appear “trivial” to some, but can still push someone with bipolar over the edge.
When I was in middle school, I was diagnosed with depression and was medicated for it. I found that even after trying numerous medications, none seemed to improve my mental state. After experiencing a few manic episodes, I was reevaluated in high school, learning that I had bipolar disorder. My psychiatrist informed me that bipolar patients who are incorrectly diagnosed with depression often experience no improvement when taking antidepressants. Those with bipolar disorder need to have their mood stabilized or their symptoms can worsen. I often experience depressive episodes the majority of the time with manic episodes from time to time that can last anywhere between a few hours to a few weeks. Although I had grown accustomed to depressive episodes, mania was a fairly new episode to experience. With heightened senses and less cares, mania often leads me to do actions that I would not otherwise do, feeling as though I’m living in a dream and that reality doesn’t exist. Although some may state that I’m more “fun” or more of a “risk-taker,” mania can prove to be just as harmful as a depressive episode. In my case, I can go from spending all my money and feeling invincible to feeling as though the world is crumbling and having the desire to shut my mind off to silence the million racing thoughts in my head. It’s having panic attacks from all the actions I do that I immediately regret afterwards. It’s saying yes when I should say no and beating myself up about it later. It’s being angry at the world to only realize that I’m the problem. Whatever outbursts I may experience, whether they be of sadness, anger, or excitement, they all lead to the same result. Being broken over nothing and having those around me confused and annoyed by my reactions from trivial issues. Worrying myself late into the night about what’s out of my control. Everything I touch gets destroyed, people leave, relationships crumble, and my goals become more so out of reach. A constant loop in my mind of every word, action, and moment like a song stuck in my head. Overanalyzing to the point where it keeps me up at night. Wanting more than anything to be held and told that “everything’s going to be okay” even if we both know that it’s a lie. I never know what I’m going to feel within the next day, hour, or few minutes. I can go from crying my eyes out in the corner of my room to feeling like a god within the blink of an eye.
While bipolar disorder does make life more challenging, it can be managed with the correct medications and healthy coping mechanisms. It’s important to keep dangerous items out of reach during mania or depression so as to not encourage harmful actions. It is also important to have at least one person that you’re close with that you can speak freely with and contact if you feel as though you may do something harmful to yourself or others. Using healthy forms of distraction when in a distressed state such as listening to music, watching TV, going for a walk, etc., can also take one’s mind off intrusive thoughts. I have learned to better manage my emotions but to also not suppress them and reach out when I need it. Bipolar is an aspect of me but it is not my entire life. I have come to the realization that bipolar can be managed and coping can greatly reduce the impact and pain. Although we may make poor choices from time to time whether it be during mania or depression, it is important to realize that the world will not come to an end, that we can learn from those actions and not repeat them. Although we should live in the moment and not dwell on what may happen, it is also important to think of how the actions you do will impact you and those around you the next day.
Whether you are struggling with bipolar yourself, or have a loved one who is, the most valuable thing is to be understanding. Bipolar doesn’t have to control your life and coming to terms with that is a vital part of growth. Everyone has their struggles whether they be mental or physical and even though we wish they would disappear, we must coexist with them and not let our struggles anchor us down and prevent us from developing into the person we desire to become. Reach out to those who need help if you are able but don’t forget to ask for help yourself. Being able to open up and state “I need help” is not a weakness, but a strength. Honesty can be challenging but can also prove to be your savior. We can grow from our struggles and they can aid us into becoming more understanding to ourselves as well as others.