What is bipolar disorder?


I think the first place for me to start is an explanation of what bipolar disorder is and what it means for me as someone living with it.  In my first post Living with bipolar disorder I mentioned that people find it hard to understand what bipolar if they haven’t experienced it themselves.  So, for me I’d describe it is a mood disorder which effects my life through having periods of highly elevated episodes and periods of depressive lows. With both of these, I have little to no control over them as I’m very much a slave, like you’ve boarded the bipolar train which goes up and down and with no way to get off.  I will explain my hypomania and depressive parts in more detail in later posts but here is the brief version of a very long subject:

For the purposes of this I am going to focus on type 1 and type 2 bipolar definitions.  I am type 2.

For both types there are two distinct phases from highly energized and euphoric stages called mania and the lesser form hypomania, to depressive stages.  These moods persist for the majority of the day and every day for a few days depending on the typical duration for each respective period.  The main difference between type 1 and type 2 is that type 2 do not hit mania, we have hypomania and our periods do not often last as long as type 1’s; I’ve read that type 2’s last for 3-5 days (as mine do, sometimes a week) but type 1’s from week upwards.

For Type 2 sufferers these hypomanic events can be rewarding – you have feelings of elation and creativity and periods of joy, feel really good about yourself like your sexy, but there are down sides with excessive talking and obsessional behaviors and risky adventures – spending money or promiscuity.  Type 1 sufferers have a much worser deal because all the above is intensified further.  The behaviors and how they effect others are different between the two types, as type 1’s often need medical intervention as they are more disruptive to society/friends/family and themselves.  Both also have grandiose ideals and can believe things that aren’t quite true – like one is a god! but again this is different with hypomania compared to mania.  I once quit my job and refused to work my notice period because I felt I was better than others and had more important things to do.  The fortunate part is that not every time I have an episode do I experience all the things in one go!

There is also another element of mania and hypomania and that comes in the baggage and that is when feeling happy and creative it’s often that you have fleeting ideas and thoughts enter your head quickly enhancing this productivity – everything you think and feel is amazing!  You also need less sleep than normal, type 1 sufferers, I’ve read, can usually go without sleep for a few days, as can type 2 but for me a few hours sleep is fine.  However, there is a flip side to this coin which is what both sides suffer with (or at least I definitely do) is that the insomnia and chaotic thoughts don’t let up and as the days go on, what was once a welcome idea and thoughts because so loud and and chaotic that a daydream becomes a nightmare that you can’t wake up from – it’s like trying to block a busted water main with just your hands.

The depressive periods, however, are the same for both type 1 and type 2 sufferers, but some arguments can be made for type 1 experiencing more suicidal idealizations while type 2 suffer more/longer periods of depression.  It is for this reason that type 2 sufferers seek professional help for the depression side of equation but don’t seek it when they are elated.  While type 1 sufferers often need medical intervention with the highs.  With the depressive episodes, I can feel dispirited, dejected, disheartened and desolate.  I’ve often planned my death a hundred different ways and relived them in my head, feeling them as if they have happened.

Sorry to end on such a downer, but I hope I have covered everything!


Author: Jake

I'm a 35 year old novice writing a blog about my life living with bipolar disorder over the last 20 years having only been diagnosed last year.

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