Everyone experiences bipolar disorder differently. There are at least three types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, bipolar II and bipolar not otherwise specified. There is also cyclothymia. Within each of these categories, the diagnosis becomes even more personal. Do you suffer from psychosis? Do you experience euphoria or irritability? How long do your depressive episodes last? Which symptoms are most prominent? The answers to these questions also inform the way we respond to our disorder and how that affects our self-care and treatment.

Since everyone experiences this disorder differently, I cannot speak to others’ experiences. It helps to get more than one point of view, so I would like to share how different people handle having bipolar disorder.

Here is one person’s story:

“I am far from the perfect bipolar patient. I’ve been known to skip appointments, stop taking meds, and generally doubt the fact that I need any of this at all. And I’m far from the only one, however. Studies show that up to 64% of patients with a bipolar disorder do not comply with their prescribed treatment.

Manic episodes are a constant fight between how I feel and what I really need. For me, I end up feeling just fine when I’m manic. Who needs meds? Not me! Sure, I was sad. But now I’m great! Look at me! Even though in the back of my head I know that I need treatment more than ever when I’m up, usually I’m on to some other scheme that is way more important than my mental health.

I’ve also run into issues when I’m low. I don’t want to go to an appointment to talk about myself when I can’t even get out of bed. I don’t care anymore. Why bother trying to fix what’s already too broken? Making appointments, paying bills, dealing with insurance are the last things I want to think about.

There are a few ways around these barriers. My husband generally knows when he needs to drag me out of bed and hand me some pills and water. It doesn’t always work, but it helps. I’m also very blessed with a close group of friends, many of whom share my diagnosis, or can relate. They keep me in check. It’s always going to be an uphill battle, but having someone to push me up that hill goes a long way.”

While this is one person’s story, the aspects of bipolar disorder she experiences are not uncommon. Treatment non-adherence is prevalent in bipolar disorder even though nonadherence is more likely to lead to relapse, hospitalization and suicide attempts. Worries about treatment affordability are also common as around 60% of people with bipolar disorder are frequently unemployed.

One of the biggest ways around these barriers, like she mentioned, is social support. Having people around who understand what you’re going through (or at least try) can make a huge difference day-to-day. It is this type of positive reinforcement that can help people with bipolar disorder seek the professional help we need.

 

 

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Image credit: Shovona Ngela