Today is World Bipolar Day. Jessy and Niamh are members of Orygen’s Platform team, a group of passionate young people who help to make Orygen a great service for young people to use. Today they share five things about what it’s like living with bipolar.
It is so hard to figure out who I am when I am unwell and having a bipolar episode. My character can change into someone I’m not. I have had experiences where I wanted to go to the police station because I thought I was doing something wrong when I wasn’t. I have raised my voice and gotten thrown out of hospitals when I was unwell. I have even decided to have a smoke when I am unwell just because I thought it would help my stress levels. I have also had arguments with friends that were so out of character that my friends tell me ‘it’s like I am a different person’ when I am unwell. I don’t know how to change this when I’m manic – it just happens.
When I am having a bipolar episode I am usually experiencing a hypomanic episode. My body is over producing adrenaline and I am on a natural high. It's euphoric and it can feel great. The real problem is when I am coming down from this state of mind and everything feels so flat afterwards. I can also then see the logic of other people and the destruction I may have caused while I was experiencing the hypomanic episode. I wish I knew that just because I was enjoying myself, doesn’t mean everyone else was around me. They were affected by my thoughts and actions.
Some people with bipolar may experience it more frequently than others and on a more intense basis. Sometimes people misunderstand why we might get so angry about something that may not make much sense to another person. Bipolar can be a reason why we act this way. We are not always using bipolar as an excuse, sometimes you really need to think of it as a reason. For example, why do you drink water? Because you’re thirsty, right? Well we may act out sometimes because our brain is so overworked and it can feel like a monster is about to explode out of our chest. If you were in our position, you would also look at the way we respond to some things is a reason and it’s not an excuse.
We can feel so frustrated with life (especially if we are misunderstood) and in order to ground ourselves we may need a minute to ourselves and go outside and scream or hit a boxing bag rather than hurting someone else in the process. This helps us ground ourselves and move on with reality.
Sometimes people make the active decision to put us down and blame it on our bipolar. It hurts and we know that it is hard for people to understand the reality of bipolar when they don’t experience it themselves. The reality is that we can be oblivious to what other people may be feeling and it is so hard when we are punished for that. Bipolar can be a selfish disorder, especially when we are unwell. We don’t mean to hurt people.
A common misconception for people who experience mania or hypomania episodes is that it means we are happy. This is incorrect. We can get quite irritable and this can lead to a depressive manic episode. So we can be depressive but still have a lot of adrenaline in our system and that means we are more likely to engage in risky behaviours such as walking around late at night by ourselves and attempting to harm ourselves.
Lastly, choices are important. If you feel we cannot make our decisions by ourselves, we are more likely to agree with something if we get a choice. For example, when I was unwell, I was asked if I wanted to have an ambulance to come and get me or if I wanted to go straight to the hospital. I chose the ambulance because I felt I was feeling okay enough to function. If I was told that I had to get an ambulance, I believe it would have affected my mood even more.