There are many misconceptions about what bipolar actually is. I will try to clear a few of those up. If you have additional questions please leave them below.
What is bipolar?
Bipolar is a mental illness that is characterized by periods of depression and periods of a hyperactive state known as mania. The cycling between manic episodes (tons of energy, feeling that you can do anything, reckless/dangerous behavior, and excessive money spending are a few of the symptoms of a manic episode) and major depressive episodes (no energy, feeling of helplessness, general gloom, lethargy, and hopelessness are but a few of the symptoms associated with depression) is what separates bipolar from other mental illnesses. The two main types are bipolar I and bipolar II, the only difference being that those with bipolar II experience hypomanic episodes instead of full on manic episodes. So less intense mania. I have been diagnosed with bipolar II.
But you seem so normal.
Believe it or not, mental illness is normal. That is part of the reason I am including this in the blog, to normalize mental illness and remove the shame that is associated with it. Just because I can’t get an x-ray to prove that I am bipolar doesn’t mean that it is any less real than a broken bone. The main difference is that when you break your leg you get to wear a cast and people are generally kind and help you with your wheelchair or crutches or whatever you have, but you can’t get a cast for any sort of mental illness. Instead of being kind and helping you, people will make fun of someone or criticize them. Saying to just suck it up and get over it. You wouldn’t tell someone in a wheelchair to just suck it up and walk already. Mental wheelchairs are more abundant, but less accepted than physical ones, and yet people are still so ashamed of them.
Really though? Bipolar?
That’s what I’ve been diagnosed with. I’m not 100% convinced that the hypomania I experienced was due to my head and not the meds I was starting, but the treatment for bipolar seems to be working and I haven’t had any sort of hypomanic episode in quite a while now. And so I choose to continue with the treatment.
How did you manage the constant mood swings?
A common misconception about bipolar is that cycling occurs many times daily when in reality episodes typically last anywhere from a few days to a few months or maybe longer. The ultra rapid cycling of hourly episodes is very rare. In fact, with my episodes ranging from a few days to a week or two, I am technically considered as to experience rapid cycling.
Was your mission hard?
Yes. My mental health problems made my mission very hard. I had intense sleep issues for almost the entire time, and sleep is essential not only to missionary work, but to controlling bipolar. So that really messed me up. Especially towards the end of my mission. I was experiencing more stress than normal (this is when I came out to my mission president and also to my parents) and it was too much. I sat for days in the room in the dark. Literally. I just sat there. Food was nauseating, and I lost about twenty pounds. I had some incredible companions through this time. Ellsworth, Decker, and Marçal had so much patience with me and I will be forever thankful to them for putting up with me. In the end though, President Hall and I decided together that remaining in the mission would only cause damage to me and that I needed to take care of myself first. And so, after serving for 18 months, I was issued an honorable release from full-time missionary service. The nice perk of that was that I got to go home with the Hermanas that came out with me, and they were (are) dear to me.
And how are you doing now?
I’ve been without symptoms of a hypomanic episode since at least October 2013. Perhaps earlier, but that was when I started going to a new doctor and he started me on some new meds that have really worked out well for me. I have gone through way too many meds looking for my perfect cocktail of pills, but I think I am in a good place now. Generally speaking. Better than I ever was when I was taking the drawer full of meds before (I for real have a drawer full of meds that didn’t work for me, and some in a cupboard somewhere, and others just lying around my room at home I think. Way too many pills). Depression is still a huge issue for me. There are still days that I feel like I have grape jelly flowing through my veins instead of blood. But I get through them. I don’t know how, but I do. And somehow I hope to continue getting through them.
So are you normal happy now….or manic happy?
Don’t ever ask me this question. I’m happy, isn’t that enough? Who really cares anyway if it is because of some hypomanic episode or because I got a text from a really cute guy? I’ll take any happiness I can get.