I have a love hate relationship with my bipolar disorder. At times it can heighten my experience of the world and make things more interesting and exciting. At other times it can heighten my awareness of negative things in my environment, make me paranoid and agitated. Then I experience periods of time with no symptoms at all – but even these times are awkward because I am forever double guessing myself and checking and rechecking my behaviour for hints of mania or depression coming on. I should add here that I am also diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder which complicates matters but I’ll talk about that more in another blog.
The depressed times are deflating, and usually involve self loathing and hopelessness. Depression also makes me extremely lethargic and things that would usually be very important to me lose meaning. I am not certain, but I believe I am a type 2 bipolar. Type one have very extreme mania that lasts for long periods of time, whereas type 2 have less severe mania for shorter (even a few hours or a few days) times. To date I have found my mania lasts a number of days, maybe a week or two at most. The depression on the other hand can last much longer – and as most of you know I had a severe depressive period for more than a year recently.
Strangely enough I also find I can experience mania and depression in combination – I will be obsessing about things that I am depressed about, doing a million things to try to ward off the depression that I feel is looming. Or I might be manic all day and then be so lethargic that afternoon that I can’t find the energy to get out of bed when Dan gets home from work. And that’s another issue in itself- work. It is very hard to maintain a stable mood in order to appear ‘normal’ when I’m at work if I am experiencing manic or depressive moods. I have been honest with my employer about my condition, which was a decision I took a long time to make. This means that I can say to my boss that I’m not feeling great, but there is only so often you can say this and be within acceptable boundaries of employment. I cannot expect my job to be flexible with my mood. But when I’m manic I can achieve far more at work than normal, so it can have a positive effect on my relationship with my boss too!
I am finding now that it is becoming harder to define what is a normal (not depressed or manic) mood for me. They start to blur together, but at the end of the day as long as I take my medication and do my exercise and get lots of sleep etc etc, I am managing the condition to the best of my ability and I am doing pretty good. I am holding down a job and running a household and am still very happily married. So the moral of the story is you can lead a ‘normal’ life with bipolar disorder but your experiences will be magnified by your moods.