In the famous words of Will Smith, 'so here's a little story all about how my life got twist, turned upside down, and I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there, to tell you how'...I got diagnosed with bipolar and what it actually means. It's a complicated subject - it can mean different things for different people, it isn't talked about anywhere near enough, and there's often an overly simplified, one-sided portrayal of it in the media. If we're ever going to be able to defeat prejudice and make mental illness a less taboo subject, there's going to need to be a clearer understanding of it. Here's part two of my A-Z guide to the unifying aspects of the illness:
K - KerAzY
Don't call us crazy. Being 'crazy' is probably my biggest fear, and also the furthest from what I am actually like. Experiencing life in a bipolar way doesn't make a person mad, just more sensitive to the human spectrum of emotions.
L - Lethargy
With the lows comes extreme fatigue, making simple tasks difficult to carry out. The lethargy makes everything slow - the days are endless, the nights are longer, you want to sleep all the time, but you're also restless. Imagine a snail trying to run a race.
M - Mania
So as the name would suggest, there are predominantly two phases to bipolar; the ups, and the downs. However, there's also the manic phase, which I guess is technically an extreme high, but the feeling is completely different. Everything is speeding - your thoughts, your speech, your ambition, your spending. You're totally impulsive; one minute you have a steady income, a job you're happy at and a loving relationship and the next you've quit your job for no apparent reason, you've racked up a tonne of debt, and you've left your partner for another person. It's terrifying having so little control over your own life and your choices, and there is a constant fear, even when you're well, that mania will hit and you'll lose everything you worked so hard to gain.
N - Neurotic
Anxiety is a big part of bipolar. You might think your bipolar friend is a little neurotic - the reality is that's probably just the tip of the iceberg. Under a not-so-calm surface is a torrent of thoughts and ideas that could swallow anyone into a deep depression.
O - Obsession
A lot of bipolar sufferers also have to deal with OCD - but that's not the obsession I'm talking about. It's the fixating on a little thing and turning it into a life changing focus kind of obsession. This can be both negative and positive - on the upside, you might decide you want to be a pianist and focus your every energy on achieving that goal, thinking about it night and day. On the downside, you might decide that everyone hates you and you spend every waking second fixating on all the different pieces of evidence you can find to back up that assumption. Either way, it's not healthy.
P - Panic Attacks
You're sat at your desk at work, minding your own business, typing up some notes, when all of a sudden your heart starts pumping at a million strong, loud beats per minute. Next thing you know, you can't breathe, you're sitting on the floor in the foetal position, rocking back and forth, trying to remember how you got your lungs to work in the first place. Real pain in the arse, these things.
Q - Queasy
Most medication has side effects of some sort, which are often just as problematic as the illness itself. Constantly feeling queasy is one of those side effects for me. Fun times.
R -Rapid Cycling
There are several different kinds of bipolar disorder. Some are more severe than others; some have longer mood swings, other shorter. Rapid cycling is when you experience four or more manic or depressive episodes in one year. The important thing to remember here is that not all people with bipolar experience the same thing - there are different kinds, so be careful not to stereotype (I'm trying my best not to do this myself!)
Check the site next week or subscribe to Shadi's posts to read the final instalment of the A-Z of bipolar