So… I’m bipolar. It’s a thing.
I feel like most people don’t understand what bipolar disorder actually is. There is such a stigma surrounding mental illness, and the term “bipolar” is in the zeitgeist as an insult for someone who is being unreasonable. People throw it around carelessly, never pausing to think maybe someone in the room actually is bipolar. They get suuuuper uncomfortable when they remember, considering I tell pretty much everybody (it affects every aspect of my life, so it comes up organically more than you’d think).
But “bipolar” isn’t an insult. I know I personally didn’t know this before I was diagnosed. When I was put in intensive outpatient therapy for my suicidal depression, a team of doctors sat around a table with me and asked a billion questions. They wound up feeling 100% sure I was bipolar. When they told me, I’ll be honest, it broke my brain a little (not that it wasn’t already broken lol jokes).
It was upsetting to me because the only people I knew who had bipolar disorder were supremely selfish people. Despite their many wonderful traits, they caused a lot of harm to the people who cared about them. So when I was diagnosed, I was sent spinning into an existential spiral of fear that I had spent my whole life mistreating people without even realizing it.
It took a long time for me to come to terms with what my disorder means and what it doesn’t.
Bipolar is a mood disorder. For me, it causes me to spend a few months out of the year in a severe depression and a few months in basically an extended manic episode. This manic depression cycle is completely debilitating when I’m not taking mood stabilizer medications. When I’m depressed, I can’t get out of bed and I spend every second possible asleep. When I’m manic, I feel antsy and impulsive, like a remote control is fast forwarding my thoughts but the button to make it stop is broken.
With mood stabilizers, I have good and bad days, but I’m functional. I’m a relatively normal member of society, just a little flaky. Sure, I may take an occasional mental health day or cancel plans if I’m too tense to be around people, but I pay my bills. I’m a loving and compassionate friend. I laugh more than I cry, way more. That’s enough.
I have so much to say about the impact of mental illness on my life, as well as mental health in general, but for now I think it’s enough to just say… hi. I’m bipolar. Are you imagining me shooting finger guns right now? Because you should be. – Ryn