Navigating Bipolar: Bipolar Awareness Day



I was diagnosed with Bipolar Defective Disorder in 2017, but never put on the correct medication, until the beginning of this year when my current psychiatrist did an official diagnosis and got me onto mood stabilisers, and the correct antidepressants. Life has been easier, to be honest, my moods are still very high and low but better and I have become productive at work.


I suspected it, I could never understand how I could be the life of the party, be loud and then have extreme lows. My mood was a constant sliding scale for as far as I can remember, this from my teenage years. However I never got the treatment because no one knew, and if they did they were probably too ashamed to call it. Mental illnesses are a stigma in South Africa, the African community and more especially in the Christian community. The shame that comes with admitting that you can no longer "bear your burden" is quite telling! There is a culture of having to have it all together, especially if you believe in the Lord. When I sat down with my current psychiatrist she made me realise that my mental illnesses had evolved throughout the years- I suffered from PTSD from being raped and molested as a child and also being held hostage for an hour (story for another day), I have been living with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy for years unknowingly, these along with depression evolved into Bipolar Defective Disorder. They were a contributing factor. So now we are here, and I am learning to navigate this mood disorder everyday.





What is Bipolar? "Bipolar disorder (once known as manic depression or manic-depressive disorder) causes serious shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior—from the highs of mania on one extreme, to the lows of depression on the other. More than just a fleeting good or bad mood, the cycles of bipolar disorder last for days, weeks, or months. And unlike ordinary mood swings, the mood changes of bipolar disorder are so intense that they interfere with your ability to function."


Symptoms

There are several types of bipolar and related disorders. They may include mania or hypomania and depression. Symptoms can cause unpredictable changes in mood and behavior, resulting in significant distress and difficulty in life.


Bipolar I disorder. You've had at least one manic episode that may be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. In some cases, mania may trigger a break from reality (psychosis).

Bipolar II disorder. You've had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but you've never had a manic episode.

Cyclothymic disorder. You've had at least two years — or one year in children and teenagers — of many periods of hypomania symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms (though less severe than major depression).

Other types. These include, for example, bipolar and related disorders induced by certain drugs or alcohol or due to a medical condition, such as Cushing's disease, multiple sclerosis or stroke.



This is my reality, however with medication and psychotherapy I am managing it. It also helps to have a support system, it makes life easier, and living with the illness bearable. I will share the symptoms, and treatments in detail in another post. For now, Happy Bipolar Awareness Day; be kind because someone may be suffering and don't make jokes about it that increases the shame. If you are suffering, get professional help and remember ; it is safe to come out.

PK