S.E. is a young person connected with Orygen and has written a thoughtful and informative blog for us to share on World Bipolar Day, 30 March 2022.
It’s a day for bringing awareness to bipolar disorders and in doing so, help to eliminate social stigma. In her blog, S.E shares four things she’d like you to know about what it’s like living with bipolar and how you can support young people experiencing it.
Trigger warning: this story discusses suicide. If you feel alone, suicidal or in crisis call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. If it’s an emergency call 000.
I think it’s hard to explain exactly what bipolar is. Although I’ve struggled with it for years now, I don’t even think I could properly explain what this disorder entails. Am I manic, depressed or in a state of numbness? This is the question I ask myself every single time someone asks, “well what state are you in now?”. To be honest, I don’t think I ever know fully what state I am in. What I do know is that there are many common misconceptions about this disorder that I’d love to share some knowledge on, and hopefully help other people to understand more about it.
Please don’t disregard our emotions
My biggest pet peeve is when people disregard my general emotions and the way I react to things with comments like “oh, they’re just having an episode” or “oh, it’s just the bipolar”, when in reality, I am just feeling normal everyday emotions like sadness, anger and excitement. This can be incredibly condescending and really hurtful.
Our moods don’t fluctuate a million times a day
Another thing that I’d like people to know is that our moods do not fluctuate a million times a day. These drastic changes in mood can last for up to two weeks for me personally and it’s absolutely exhausting. The mania is a period where I feel elevated and may feel happy sometimes. But for the most part, mania is filled with anger, extreme irritability and risk-taking behaviour such as starting fights and substance use.
After this period ends, the comedown is terrible and to put it in layperson’s terms, it feels like being hit by a truck. The depression is a period where I feel absolutely exhausted and am much more likely to have suicidal thoughts during this time.
Take us seriously
Another thing I’d like people to know is just because our moods fluctuate like this, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken seriously. Growing up I was always met with confusion from others who would say things like: “Why are you so depressed now? You were happy only the other day”. This could be seen from others as ‘attention-seeking’ behaviour whereas in my brain, it was, and still is almost a constant fight for survival and energy.
Listen to us and treat us with compassion
Overall, I’d just like to encourage everyone to actually listen to people with this disorder and hear about their experiences. I can speak for everyone with this disorder when I say it’s a bit frustrating to hear ten times a day “the weather is so bipolar”, or if someone has a tiny mood swing, they’re met with people saying they’re bipolar too! These comments can just be really condescending and invalidate our own experiences.
By taking the time to listen to people with this disorder, you’ll find that we are not aggressive, or ‘crazy’, we just have to work a little harder than everybody else to deal with our emotions and moods.