Guest Post: Bipolar II
By Adrienne Morgan
I started feeling depressed around age 14. I thought it was normal teenage hormones. My behavior at this time changed drastically. I had always been a “good girl” but suddenly switched into a pot-smoking, beer-guzzling party girl. I was also sexually promiscuous. In those days, all of that was taboo.
When I was 22 I finally saw a psychiatrist. I had heard about Prozac and wanted to try it. I also began psychotherapy. My party-hard lifestyle was in full swing. I tried every drug, short of heroin. I did so much Ecstasy that I’m now convinced it caused brain damage.
At age 30, I was the oldest female I knew who wasn’t married or engaged. I had been so busy partying, I never bothered with a relationship. But now I wanted a family. So I reinvented myself back into the good girl and started looking for a suitable husband.
I married at 31, to a man I had little in common with. At 33, I was blessed with a baby boy. Immediately, I went into postpartum depression. I was working full time, with a husband, a stepson and a baby to care for. I felt overwhelming stress. Soon, I began abusing prescription diet pills and alcohol. I was absolutely miserable.
This lead to what I call, a nervous breakdown. I didn’t know it at the time but I was having a severe depressive episode. Unable to care for my son, my business or even myself, I dragged myself to a psychiatrist. I hadn’t seen one since I was 22. All those years, I’d been seeing a family doctor who gave me antidepressants.
The new psychiatrist listened to me and then said the most shocking thing I’d ever heard: “Adrienne, you have bipolar and you are an addict. And if you don’t get into treatment right away, you could lose your son, your husband, even your life.”
Doctors don’t completely understand the causes of bipolar. Its symptoms include having the elated highs of mania to the lows of major depression, along with various mood states between. These extremes in mood are called “episodes”. Or as I like to call them, “temporary insanity.”
I personally do not say “I am bipolar”. I say “I have bipolar”. Because bipolar doesn’t define me. You wouldn’t say “I am cancer” would you?
More than 10 million Americans have bipolar disorder. It affects men and women equally, as well as all races, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic classes. The bipolar suicide rate is 60 times higher than that of the general public and one in five people with bipolar disorder commits suicide. It is a deadly disease, which should be taken very seriously.
It used to be called “manic depression” but nowadays most people say “bipolar disorder.”
200,000 people with bipolar disorder are homeless in the US. 69% of bipolar patients are misdiagnosed at least 3.5 times. Bipolar disorder is the 4th-highest reason for disability.
When someone says something like “she’s so bipolar!” and they aren’t referring to a person who actually has the disorder, it is really annoying to those of us who have it. Just saying.
There are four types of bipolar: Bipolar I– having episodes that swing from depression to mania. Bipolar II– (that’s me) having hypomanic episodes, which are elevated mood but not full-blown mania, and depression episodes. Rapid cycling – having four or more episodes of mania or depression in one year. Mixed episodes – having symptoms of both mania and depression simultaneously or in very rapid sequence. This type has the highest suicide rate.
Mania is often misunderstood. It means an extremely elevated mood that can feel good (going on wild spending sprees, hypersexuality, partying all night, night after night) or it could feel bad (extreme agitation, violent behavior, psychosis). One severe manic episode could literally ruin your life.
There is no cure for bipolar but there are many treatment protocols including medication, therapy, and some experimental treatments. Once a person is diagnosed, it can take years for their doctor to discover what is just the right combination of meds at the right doses. Each patient is different.
The medical community uses the terms “disorder”, “illness” and “disease” interchangeably. There really is no difference in the words’ meanings.
People with bipolar are often stigmatized, mistreated and cast out. Treatments can be ineffective, expensive and require tremendous self-discipline and extreme lifestyle changes. Medications can cause terrible side effects.
As I like to say, bipolar doesn’t mean crazy or incapable! People can lead happy, successful lives. Others cannot or will not. We’re all different.
As for me, I have been in treatment (psychiatrist and sometimes therapy) for 11 years now. My marriage broke up. I lost my business. I went completely broke. These years haven’t been easy. But I have my son, 3 fur babies and a nice little house. I still have episodes occasionally. These have lead to my being fired from 2 jobs. But my partying days are long gone. I don’t even drink! And I have a boyfriend who loves me exactly as I am.
To visit my blog, go to The Moody Mom.
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.