I have lived with bipolar disorder for over ten years now, and along the way have learnt a lot about not only the illness, but also about myself too.


Here are a few things you may not know about bipolar disorder; a few things I’ve learnt along the way.

1 Bipolar disorder is more than just ‘mood swings’

Many people have this perception that bipolar disorder is just when you are ‘up and down’. It is so much more than that. For me, it’s when all your emotions are heightened. When you’re sad, you are suicidal, and when you’re happy, you’re ecstatic. I often experience anger, and sometimes it can be over the smallest thing; I can drop a plate and feel a wrath like no other. Emotions are off the scale with bipolar disorder, and often people feel like they are walking on eggshells around us, because they don’t know how we are going to react.

2 Bipolar disorder can be genetic, or even triggered by an event

Bipolar disorder can often run in families, and is often passed down genetically. However, in some cases bipolar disorder can be triggered by a traumatic event in a person’s life. For me, it was neither. As far as I am aware, there is no root of bipolar disorder in my family, and I didn’t have a traumatic event in my life that triggered it. Mine happened believe it or not, practically overnight. It was New Years Eve, and I experienced my first depressive episode. It lasted two weeks, and then I went sky high. Doctors diagnosed me years later as having bipolar disorder, and couldn’t determine where it came from, or if it was indeed genetic.

 

3 Those with bipolar disorder are likely to suffer with other illnesses

As someone living with bipolar, I deal with a lot of mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and low mood. However, I also deal with physical symptoms linked to my diagnosis. I deal with severe migraines (something very common experienced buy those with bipolar) which cause me pain and temporary blurred vision. Many other people I have spoken to also deal with severe migraines; bipolar disorder really is the gift that keeps on giving.

 

4 There are many types of bipolar disorder

In my time dealing with doctors, therapists and Psychologists, I have been diagnosed with three types of bipolar disorder. The first being cyclothymia, which is also known as bipolar light. Those with Cyclothymia deal with low moods and highs the same as others, but they are not as severe. This does not mean that they struggle any less than other bipolar sufferers. There is a lot of stigma that surrounds mental illness, and often people presume the less you show signs, you don’t actually deal with an illness.


Second is bipolar type 2, the one I was officially diagnosed when I was 20. Those who deal with bipolar disorder type 2 deal with more depressive episodes rather than manic episodes. Mania for us is more defined as ‘hypomania’ which is a less severe version of mania.


Thirdly is bipolar type 1; the same as bipolar type 2 except roles are reversed. Those who deal with bipolar type 1 often deal with extreme mania, and often they are misdiagnosed due to this. They still deal with depressive episodes, common with all bipolar sufferers, but not as often as those with type 2. They also deal with ‘mixed’ episodes; episode which the person experiences mania and depression at the same time.


Lastly is rapid cycling bipolar disorder; the person dealing with rapid cycling bipolar disorder often has four or more episodes of depression and hypomania or mixed states within year, and for some reason is much more common in women than in men.



5 Bipolar disorder is not curable, but manageable

Having bipolar disorder may seem like a life sentence; you have been given this incurable illness who many have very little understanding about, and you may feel deflated.


However, after dealing with bipolar disorder for ten years now, I have picked up a few tricks of the trade for managing it. There may be no cure, but you can still lead a happy, enjoyable life with it. Self-care for me is one of the most important things to do when it comes to mental illness; basically, it means to look after yourself; your body and your mind. This can come in many forms, be it a warm bath, a long walk through the park, a catch up with a friend, taking your medication (important for those who are on it) and just being in the moment.


Bipolar disorder is hard, often at times unbearable, but I believe that with the right tools you can live a happy life.
Look after yourselves, and remember, you got this.