honesty.

when i decided i wanted to change the world’s view on mental illness, i made myself a promise that i would remain transparent with you all (and myself) no matter the circumstances. so there’s something you should know.

in my realm, bipolar disorder isn’t very common. in my eyes it was just intense mood swings and a crazy person. i had negative experiences with a bipolar individual, and that skewed my entire view of the illness. i had it all wrong. this is embarrassing for me to admit, especially as an individual fighting to break the stigmas of mental illness in today’s society. i should’ve known better.

but i learned from my mistakes, and this is what i now know:

  • bipolar disorder is an imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters (similar to depression). what differentiates it from depression is the period of mania.
  • mania is at least a few days of overactivity, obsessiveness, excitement, impulsiveness, and euphoria.
  • then comes a depressive period. there are just really bad days. i’ll spare you the details since i’ve already written about it.
  • bipolar 1 is the more severe form of the disorder. it involves drastic mood swings from manic to depressive.
  • bipolar 2 is less severe, meaning it goes from depressive to a state called hypomanic, which is just less intense than full-on mania.
  • cyclothymia is when someone displays bipolar symptoms for at least 2 years, but each episode is not severe enough to be diagnosed as bipolar 1 or 2. if that makes sense.
  • finally, bipolar nos. in the most simple of terms, it is having strong enough bipolar tendencies that you aren’t just depressed, but your bipolar tendencies aren’t strong enough to be fully classified as type 1 or 2, or cyclothymia. basically it’s a little mix of everything. that’s what i have.

getting a different diagnosis really opened my eyes. having been diagnosed as depressed for so many years, i assumed everyone felt like this. i was in awe when i realized that my boyfriend (also battling depression) doesn’t have the daily mood swings like i do. in a way i felt more alone – harder to understand. but then i realized that a bipolar nos diagnosis meant i could connect with those that are depressed or those that are bipolar. i understand both sides.

i was so torn about my diagnosis. for so long i had thought bipolar was just a pc way of saying completely unstable. the word had gotten such a negative connotation in my mind that i was afraid to be seen like that. and let’s be honest, society has not made as much progress with the acceptance of bipolar disorder as it has anxiety and depression. i was scared to be written off as unreliable or untrustworthy due to my diagnosis.

and then my years of therapy kicked in and i realized that it truly didn’t matter. i’ve felt like this for so long that putting a new word on it didn’t change anything for me. it was just a more specific title. in fact, having a stronger way to describe the way i interact with the world will enable my doctor to have a better focus when it comes to treatment. instead of taking strictly anti-depressants, i’ll start taking a mood-stabilizer to counteract my bipolar tendencies (aka an anti-psychotic).

whatever your diagnosis is, it doesn’t define. it’s not your most important quality or the worst thing about you. it just makes it easier for people to understand how you perceive the world around you.

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