Thursday, April 9, 2015

Stop Hiding. Admit That You Have Bipolar Disorder!

Over the past two years since I found out that I have bipolar disorder I have had many reactions. Most of the time I am greeted with compassion from people who have a family member or close friend who also possess a mental illness. They understand the struggle. 

Yesterday I saw an acquaintance in a parking lot. He looked different. The upbeat guy that I once knew looked like he was a zombie. He told me that he had just lost his job because he had a episode. He said that he had a brain disorder and his doctor put him on medication. He did not like the side effects. He told me that he needed the meds to control his mania. I asked him if he was bipolar. He was embarrassed and said, "Yes". Without hesitation I smiled and told him that I had bipolar disorder, too. He quickly relaxed and held his hand out for a fist bump. I reassured him that it takes a while to find the right medications to manage the disorder. Before we parted ways, I gave him a hug. I wish that he did not feel the need to speak in code to hide his illness.

I wish that people did not find shame about having a mental illness. I wish that there was not a stigma regarding mental disorders. With understanding, people will realize that there is no reason to be afraid.

Bipolar disorder, formally known as manic depression, is a mood disorder. A person with the disorder experience extreme mood swings between depression and mania. Most people are familiar with the term depression. I like to refer to it as depressions because there is more than one type.

There is unipolar depression (what most people are familiar with) and bipolar disorder. Unipolar depression has one pole (a unicycle has one wheel) and bipolar disorder has two poles (a bicycle has two wheels). Imagine that those poles are at an extreme distance from each other. 

A person with unipolar depression would stay at “one pole” and experience moods that are low such as severe and chronic sadness, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, lethargy and a lack of energy or motivation. 

The other pole is OPPOSITE of the first. It displays inflated self esteem, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, increased goal-directed activity and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences. This is considered to be mania. 

A person with bipolar disorder experience phases of mood swings between the poles, the lows of depression and the highs of mania. Individuals without the illness do not exhibit the extreme shifts in mood.

I have bipolar disorder. I am on medication to help stabilize my moods. My mental condition does not dictate who I am. I wish people did not feel ashamed. In order for that to happen, people need to educate themselves; not only the ones who do not have a mental illness, but the people who have one as well.
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