From what I can remember, I started experiencing symptoms in middle school - around age 10 or 11.
I experience both episodes of depression and mania. From what I can tell and have been told, my depression/mania states are somewhat middle-of-the-road on the scale of what all bipolar folks experience. For example, severe mania can cause some people to experience hallucinations - this is something that has never happened to me (not as a result of my bipolar anyway ;)).
It's affected my life in some pretty profound ways - both good and bad. This post is about my personal experience.
My mania typically consists of:
- A feeling like I can do anything
- Feeling extremely energetic both mentally and physically
- Desire to be very social
- A strong need to do something active like dance
My depression gets pretty bad. When I was younger, more hormonal, and less aware of what was going on in my brain - I would get extremely depressed to the point of feeling suicidal. These days, I don't get suicidal thoughts because I've ruled it out on a logical basis, but I still:
- Feel really shitty
- Stop eating as much or eat a lot more
- Engage in self-destructive behavior like pushing my body beyond healthy limits
When it happens
Sometimes these moods just happen, sometimes there are triggers. My triggers for depression are:
- Gloomy days (rain, clouds, snow, grayness) - something associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Poor diet
- Not socializing when I want/need to
My triggers for mania are:
- Lots of socializing
- Accomplishing tasks
Caffeine is a very recent discovery of mine. An old friend who is also bipolar told me about it and since then I've been using/abusing it.
My episodes last anywhere from hours to weeks, typically.
It's who I am
A lot of people tell me to take medication for it. I don't want to. There's a tangential issue here about the overmedication of society that I won't get into, but it's part of my reason. The bigger reason is that I don't want to be 'fixed'. A lot of bipolar people don't want to. Many of us don't want to because bipolar is who we are.
It's my personality. It makes me me.
It probably seems silly. Who would want to deal with entire months' worth of depression every year? Who would want to deal with being a crazy manic person the other half of the time? Well, I do. My mania is a huge contributor to some of the greatest things I've ever done in my life. The depression is something that comes along with it and it affects the severity of my mania. Overcoming the depression is a challenge I sometimes even enjoy.
You can't know the light without the darkness.
To me, it's like having a super power. My mania is my super power and my depression is my kryptonite.
Why I wrote this
- As a guide so I can just point new friends at this post
- To help others with similar issues
- To increase everyone's awareness and understanding
I think there are a lot of people who experience things like this in their lives who never talk about it with others, never seek help, or never learn about it. I wish I would have had someone to guide me through it when I was younger.
I chose to write about it now because it's something I finally accept and understand. I went from total ignorance → denial → accepting that it affected me → understanding what it was → being able to identify when I'm experiencing mania/depression. That last part probably sounds funny to a lot of you, but it's something that's really hard for a lot of bipolar people. You'd think I'd know when I'm screaming at the top of my lungs and randomly doing cartwheels that I'm probably experiencing a manic episode, but I don't. Well.. I do now, but I didn't always know.
This is sort of a 'coming out of the closet' thing. It's not something I hide from people, but I don't bring it up for fun either. Not everyone can talk about their mental health so publicly, so I feel somewhat of a duty to let people know that we, the mentally 'abnormal', exist.
BTW, ENFP and SAD
Interesting sidenote, bipolar often goes hand-in-hand with SAD and ENFP personalities.
I mentioned SAD earlier. Part of why I moved from Illinois to Austin, Texas was the weather. Winter in particular is a big trigger for me. An old partner of mine and I once had a pattern of breaking up every winter and getting back together in the spring/summer. We're both pretty sure now that we experience SAD and it was probably a major contributor to that behavior. It happens to be commonly found in bipolar folks.