a (VERY LONG) note on bipolar….
by Herman Le Roux, Co-Found of BSB
The stigma of Bipolar
There is a stigma surrounding Bipolar, there is a general misconception about us. There is fear.
These are the facts
People are in fear that we will commit suicide at any moment. People that are not bipolar commit suicide every day, when they get arrested, when they cannot face debt, when they cannot face life anymore. Most of us are still here, and most of us will be here as long as you.
People think we are all cutters. People smoke, they drink, they get addicted to drugs. People cause bodily harm to themselves in more ways than cutting. And if we are cutters then maybe we cut to not feel pain, or to feel alive.
People think we are zombies due to medication. We do know more than the average doctor about our medication. People take medication every day for so many things. Some to stay alive. We take medication to be better.
People thing we have an illness. Most illnesses can be cured. We cannot be cured. We have a disorder. It is part of us an always will be. People that are diabetic are that way, they take insulin, we are they way we are, we take medicine.
People think we are always depressed. We are not. We are not depressed people. We have BI polar which means that we go from mania to depression.
People think that bipolar people cannot function and cannot be successful. Van Gogh, Woolfe, Einstein and many more was just that.
People think when we are manic we are mad. We are not. We accomplish more when we are manic in one day than most people do in one week. We don’t always shop, do silly things. We often achieve the most incredible things when we are manic.
People think there is always a crash after mania. This sometimes happens but not always. We do get down gently, we can be stable after mania.
People think we cannot be treated. We can be, there are so many treatments that show good responses. We can live normal lives and we can accomplish so much.
People think that everyone that does something wrong is bipolar. This is not the case. More often than not Bipolar is used as an excuse and that creates a misconception. In every aspect but one we are as “normal” as the next person.
People think that the Internet will give them a true reflection of who we are. That is not the case. We are as different from each other as the next person.
People think we have mood swings. We don’t. We go from mania to depression. We are not moody people. We cycle between being depressed and being manic.
People think we cannot be stable. We can be. Often people on treatment never shows a sign of bipolar for the rest of their lives. Often people cope so well that you would not say they are bipolar.
People think we have a choice in the matter. We don’t. We were born this way.
People think that we are hyper sexed. We are not. We are not addicted to sex, we just feel much more passion than most people.
People think we are mad. Warmongers, rapists, killers, are mad, we are not.
People think Bipolar is a death sentence. It is not. It is a sentence to a passionate life.
The reality of Bipolar Disorder
Some people think that Bipolar Disorder is a “tell on Oprah” or “designer” diagnosis”. I have been told by many of my therapists and docs over the years that they actually had patients that “want” to be Bipolar.
There is nothing glamorous or special about having BP. It is an affliction that I would choose to not have if I had any choice in the matter.
The reality of Bipolar Disorder is that it causes pain and suffering. It causes hurt and it takes away from you that are rightfully yours.
So then, for the uniformed. Here are some of the realities that people with Bipolar Disorder deal with.
1. BP causes a mania. That means that you as a sufferer of BP go into a state of being manic. Being manic means that you have energy that is above the energy levels of any normal person. Your thoughts race. You may clean the house. Several times. Some people go on shopping sprees. Sometimes your mania lasts for several days, even weeks. You seem to have boundless energy. You maybe more creative than you have ever been. The unfortunate thing about this seemingly wonderful state is that it is false. It is a state that is induced by the chemical imbalance in our brains. It never lasts and more often than not it is followed by something we as BP sufferers call a “crash”
2. To crash. To crash is something that everyone that suffers from BP fears. It is something that is so devastating that a large % of people commit suicide when they crash. All the hype and all the energy from the mania is taken away from you in mere minutes. Your energy levels are gone, your mood is dark and you feel nothing but utter despair.
3. Depression. Depression stands at the other end of the pole that we call mania. It can last for a few minutes, for days, weeks, months and for some of us it can last several years. In the time that we suffer from depression we loathe everything around us. We have no energy and the world is a very cold and dark place. Depression in BP is not to be confused with “normal” depression or the “blues”. BP depression is something that is severely debilitating and has a massive impact on you and everyone around you.
4. Mixed state. Mixed state means that you feel both mania and depression at he same time. It is a very confusing state to be in and very difficult to treat. It is almost impossible to explain to someone that you feel good and bad at the same time. The best description I have heard for it so far is having an orgasm and burning your hand at the same time. That description does not explain how we feel, but it gives and idea of how confusing it can be.
5. Rapid cycling. Rapid cycling means you go from mania to depression to mania to depression and so on. What makes this so difficult is that this happens in a short period of time. Sometimes the cycling takes place over a few hours, sometimes it can even be every few minutes. Rapid cycling is very tiring and also very difficult for loved ones since you are never sure where the person is at.
6. Medication. There so many medications out there and the average BP sufferer know more about meds than the average doctor. Some respond so well to meds that they live balanced healthy lives. Some have horrible side affects ranging from permanent impotence to bleeding gums to Tardiv Dyskenia. Some cannot afford the exuberant prices of the more “designer” meds out there and have to accept whatever the state maybe give them. Some do not respond on meds and have to consider electro convulsive therapy. ECT therapy (or brain shocks) is a controversial treatment. For some the results are wonderful. For some permanent memory loss and other side effects are part of the package.
7. Suicide. Suicide is a reality in the life of someone with Bipolar. For some the battle becomes too great. Some of us loose the fight and we end our lives. For the rest of us that have lost a FB friend or a real friend due to suicide we understand that it was not a cowardly step. We understand that it was just too much to take anymore.
8. Stigma. Even today, in this enlightened age we live with the stigma of being mentally ill. People often blame violent crime or crimes of passion or sexual obsession on people with BP.
9. Loneliness. People with BP are often very lonely. The reason for this is the constant change in their moods or constant depression. It is not easy to cope with someone that is BP and true compassion and understanding is needed.
Bipolar Disorder is not something that we would choose. It is not something that is understood completely. The disorder is complex and causes a great deal of pain for the sufferer and the people he or she loves.
The reality if Bipolar Disorder is that we deal with it every day. The Reality is that we need you. Our friends, our families, our Doctors and our lovers to make the moments that we are stable special, the moments we are manic safe and the moments we are depressed surrounded by support and love.
If you are Bipolar then you will know what I am talking about. If you love someone that is Bipolar then you should know that our reality is what I wrote here.
We are the polar riders.
The joke of mental illness
We as people with bipolar or other mental disorders often joke amongst ourselves about our disorder.
Who do you think you are saying that I am nuts?
Who do you think you are stating that I am crazy?
-People that make war are crazy.
-People that rape children are crazy.
There are people that see and hear things. That live in a world of their own, they are ill, or they have a disorder. You call them mad, or nuts. You might say they need to be behind bars.
Sometimes people commit crimes and then shout insanity. How dare they? How dare they do that?
Borrow from us what we battle with every single day?
So you laugh at people that have schizophrenia because they hear and see things you don’t. How dare you make a joke about that? Do you have any idea how scared that person must be?
So you say that people that have obsessive compulsive disorder are just plain crazy. Have you ever washed you hands that the skin comes off? Have you ever been so tired that you just fall asleep because you do the same thing over and over?
So you want to laugh at someone that is bipolar because they are moody, because they shop too much.
Have you ever severed the arteries in your arms because you cannot face life? Probably not. People commit suicide out of fear. Bipolar people commit suicide because they do not want to live. Do you want to joke with that?
So you make jokes about people that are autistic. You laugh at people with Asperger syndrome. Have you ever had your world turned upside down because someone re arranged your room?
– Probably not
So you want laugh at us, people with mental illness, with mental disorders. You want to make jokes about us like you joke about the rape of children. You want to ridicule us like you ridicule the disabled and the elderly
– Yes that is you, that is what you do.
But you have never been in my mind, in my heart and you have never and will never hold my soul.
For all my bipolar friends….