Today is World Bipolar Day, a day in which we come together to try to break down the stigma of this disorder, to open conversations about it and to try to help others understand what living with this illness is really like.
On my part, I wanted to discuss 10 things that are important to know about those of us with Bipolar Disorder. I just want to state here that I’m using the word ‘we’ as a general whole from my own experience with my illness and connecting with others in the community, not everyone will have the same experiences and if yours differ from the below then that’s completely valid too.
1. We are not scary
People with Bipolar are more likely to be hurt in relationships or to be attacked than to be the one doing the attacking, we are more vulnerable than the average person, and are certainly far from scary as people in general. We are no more likely to hurt someone than any other person in the general population.
2. It’s not all one extreme or the other
We do have stable periods where our moods are ‘normal’ and are neither too high or too low. There are also plenty of grey areas between the extremes, it’s like a sliding scale; it doesn’t always have to be that our mood is at the lowest possible or the highest possible, there are plenty of places in between.
3. We are likely to be more intelligent and more creative
As people, those of us with Bipolar Disorder to tend to be more intelligent and some of us do tend to sway towards having a more creative streak, whether this be expressing ourselves through writing, dancing or art.
4. Our diagnosis doesn’t change who we are as people
At the end of the day, a diagnosis of Bipolar is just a label, we are still the same person as we always have been. The disorder doesn’t change our personality or make us different people; it can certainly affect our actions if we are struggling with an episode and that can be a hard distinction to make, but it doesn’t alter our personalities.
5. It is a life long illness, but it’s also very treatable
Bipolar Disorder isn’t curable that’s true, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be treated. There are plenty of therapies and medications, as well as other routes that individuals can discover over time, that can help us to treat our symptoms.
6. It affects us all differently
There are different types of Bipolar Disorder and although there are sets of symptoms that fit with the disorder, those symptoms affect everyone differently. For some people their manias or hypomanias may be more extreme; some people may enjoy them while others may find them distressing; some people may experience psychosis while others may not; some people may experience hypersexuality while others may not.
The same goes for depression, the episodes can last for varying about amounts of time and vary in severity: some people may self-harm and experience suicidal thoughts, that doesn’t mean everyone does; some people may be actively suicidal while others may experience suicidal ideation.
We may be treated or untreated; diagnosed or undiagnosed; have had therapy to deal with our conditions or not; be at different stages of our journey and deal with our symptoms differently – we are all individuals so it’s important to treat us as such and not make assumptions.
7. We are so worth being friends with
Sometimes it might be hard to understand what we are going through and it can be challenging at times to maintain relationships with us, but it is well worth it. We tend to love fiercely, we are so loyal and appreciate those people who stand by us and support us on such a deep level.
8. If we cancel plans, it doesn’t mean we don’t love you
Living with an illness that can be so unpredictable combined with fatigue, side effects from medications, shifts in mood, daily struggles and potentially other comorbid conditions can mean that we sometimes have to cancel or rearrange plans. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to be there or that we don’t love you so please bear with us.
9. We are very strong people
Having an illness like this and all that goes with the journey and living with it makes us so strong as people; we most likely will have been through a lot and are still fighting on every day. This mental illness doesn’t mean we’re weak, it means the opposite: we are so incredibly strong.
10. We can thrive not just survive
I think the most important thing to know is that with the right treatment, self-awareness and medication we are able to live full, healthy, productive and extremely successful lives. This disorder certainly can make things harder but we are able to be successful and valuable people, we are able to have fulfilling lives.
If your experience differs from the above or you have any important things that people should know about the disorder to add, I would love to hear from you in the comments so we can raise awareness together.
Happy World Bipolar Day.