So, it’s not as exciting as Christmas or as fun as Halloween, but today is World Bipolar Awareness Day, and it’s something important to recognize!
You know, there are so many misconceptions out there in terms of what bipolar is, or is not, so let’s learn more about this brain disease with my infographic below!
In terms of the mania, here’s what those of us who have bipolar can experience (Mayo Clinic) with my comments in the parenthesis:
- ABNORMALLY upbeat, jumpy and wired (I can barely sit down when I’m manic)
- Increased activity, energy, or agitation (last summer, I walked 8 miles every single morning and then more in the evening, painted the interior of my house in days, created dozens of pieces of artwork, painted all of my wood furniture, kept up with 3 online classes, did tons of yard work and the list goes on!)
- Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (when I’m manic, I feel like I could rule the world! Literally!)
- Decreased need for sleep (I have to take OTC meds to induce sleep)
- Unusual talkativeness (my mom knows I’m getting depressed when I stop talking non-stop)
- Racing thoughts (sometimes I cry because all of the thoughts are so ‘busy’ in my brain it scares me)
- Being easily distracted (my mom will tell me something and I’ll be looking her in the eye, and then I say “What?” and she has to start all over. I’m distracted by my thoughts, sounds, what I’m seeing around me…all the while thinking how I could incorporate this into some kind of art)
- Poor decision making (whooo-weeee…where the hell do I start with this one? How about spending $20,000 on motorcycles in one weekend? Or, allowing my ex to move back in with me days after he cheated on me?)
In terms of depression, we can experience these things:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness with lots of tears (I will cry over anything, everything or nothing. I literally feel like there’s a whole inside of me that will never get filled or healed again)
- Marked loss of interest in activities (I can’t even think about painting or even coloring a page…I just don’t have the ‘will’ to create at all)
- Significant weight loss or weight gain, or changes in eating habits (when I’m manic, I’m too busy to eat, and when I’m depressed, I’m too sad to eat. Also, eating disorders often go along with bipolar, and since I’m a recovering anorexic, this isn’t good for me at all)
- Insomnia or sleeping too much (depression makes me want to nap during the day and it’s harder than hell to get myself up and face the night)
- Restlessness or slowed behavior (everything feels like I’m doing it in slow motion)
- Fatigue or loss of energy (oh yeah)
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive/inappropriate guilt (when I’m experiencing a depression, I apologize for things I did decades ago. I feel guilt over every wrong I’ve ever committed and feel I should be punished for them. When something bad happens to me, I feel like I deserve it as a payment for sins (even though I believe in Jesus). I also feel so worthless that the world would be better off without me.)
- Decreased ability to think or concentrate or indecisiveness (I know I stumble over words, don’t remember lectures like I should, and really have to think harder at school when I’m depressed…I hate how it affects my teaching. This is the worst thing for me…knowing that I’m not able to give 100% to my students each and everyday.)
- Thinking about, planning or attempting suicide (yep. Been there, done that. Nuff said.)
Now that you know about bipolar, maybe better than you did, this final question remains: What can YOU do with this info? Let’s see:
- Try not to use the term bipolar as an adjective…it’s not! It’s not a substitute for crazy or nuts or someone acting out! It’s the diagnosis of a mental illness!
- If you know someone you love or know is bipolar, try to remember the above! If they cancel plans on you at the last minute, refuse to join you in eating out, won’t speak to you except in short phrases, they are probably cycling through a depression and it’s not their fault! Also, if they are talking so fast that you can’t get a word in edgewise, won’t sit down and watch a movie with you, want to try everything out there right NOW, they are cycling through mania. Just try to be understanding that these things aren’t their fault.
- Having said that, if you see signs that you feel are much exaggerated and/or dangerous, talk to their partner, parents, or trusted friend of theirs. They might need help!
- Never ever be afraid to ask a bipolar (or anyone!) if they are considering suicide if you see signs of it (talking about it, giving away things, saying ‘goodbyes’, seeing helpless and despair in them, etc. For a full list of warning signs and more info, visit The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.) Talking, directing them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifetline at 1-800-273-8255, discussing what you see with their parents/partner/friends, or taking them to your local Emergency Room can help save their life.
- When you hear someone talking about bipolar in an inappropriate way, or you see something in the media that minimizes or portrays bipolar wrongly, speak up! Use it as a teaching moment for others to learn from!
There are so many other mental illnesses out there as well, and learning about them, talking about them, and understanding them can help reduce the stigma that the mentally ill face. The World Mental Health Day is celebrated on Oct. 10th every year, and the Mental Health Awareness Week is the first full week of October. Be vocal these days on social media and show your support for all that suffer from mental illness. We need you!
Finally, thank you all for supporting me. There are so many of you that read my blog who e-mail me with support while sharing your own stories. I love the connection with all of you!
I know it’s not easy to be my parent, son, sister, and friend. I know that it really sucks balls sometimes, and I’m so so sorry for what I’ve put my mom and son through especially. If I hadn’t had, or didn’t have, their support, I know I wouldn’t be typing this right now. The support you give someone who is suffering from a mental illness is truly life changing or life saving. We need you…and we know how special you are to be there for us.