For over 30 years my life has been characterised by extremes of mood. High and productive phases, followed by periods of being low and useless. There’s no fixed timetable for switching between these poles of behaviour. One state could last for hours, days, or weeks before heading to the other extreme and then back again without warning. During a Skype conversation a friend witnessed my transition from a high state to a low state in the blink of an eye. It would be an understatement to say that the sudden transition freaked that person out.
Finally I am in possession of a diagnosed explanation from a psychiatrist for this: bipolar disorder.
To quote from the leading mental health charity Mind: ”Someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) experiences swings in mood from periods of overactive, excited behaviour known as mania to deep depression. Between these severe highs and lows can be stable times. Some people also see or hear things that others around them don’t (known as having visual or auditory hallucinations) or have strange, unshared, beliefs (known as delusions). Everybody experiences mood shifts in daily life, but with bipolar disorder these changes are extreme”.
Bipolar II is my particular brand of the illness, which means I am prone to periods of hypomania as opposed to the full-blown state of mania that is characteristic of sufferers of bipolar I. So I fly high but not so high that I can’t survive the resulting fall. So far anyway.
Being told that I have bipolar disorder has come as a relief not a horrific shock. Yes the transition to new medication has been a trying and psychedelic experience but I have to hope that my behaviour will begin to level out. I don’t know what a state of normal happiness is any more. There’s either euphoria or doom acting upon me. Other issues exist in my life that can’t be resolved by medication or therapy or other health-related tricks but all I can do is get myself well enough to cope with those as best I can.
There’s been a huge amount of encouragement and support from my fellow mental health travellers in the Twitterverse, especially Charlotte and Tracey. The conviction of the former that I was displaying many signs of bipolar was the push of encouragement I needed to finally seek out a psychiatrist. The knowledge of the latter serviced me well when I needed to complain about the rubbish psychiatrist I’d initially been assigned. If you get dealt a shit hand then use the Patient Advice and Liaison Service. Don’t ever allowed yourself to get fobbed off.
2011 and 2012 have been the shittiest years on my life. 2013 can surely only get better and hopefully finally being treated for the correct condition can only benefit me.