Living with Bipolar Disorder


Have you ever felt like you couldn’t control anything that happened to you or the world around you? Have you ever felt like the world is against you? Have you ever felt on top of the world one minute and then at the bottom of the scrap heap the next?

I am a sufferer of bipolar disorder. These things are daily occurrences for me. The extreme highs and lows are something I have come to accept and, over time, they have become a lot better. But there was a period in my life where the highs and lows were so extreme that there were days I couldn’t get out of bed to face the world, or times when my intense ecstasy caused me to act irrationally and without thought. These highs and lows are the symptoms people immediately think of when confronted with the concept of bipolar, but there is a lot more to it than that.

I can still remember the first time I hit a low point. The light hurt my eyes, the sound of people’s voices caused each and every hair on my body to stand on end, the thought of venturing into the outside world made my stomach churn. My body felt too heavy to lift out of bed, my thoughts weighed me down, and I stayed there for six days. My parents convinced themselves it was a physical illness, and I did too.

The first high point was, in a way, even worse. I acted without rhyme or reason – consequences meant nothing. My mind worked in irrational and erratic ways. I did anything I wanted, because nothing could bring me down. Until something did. And in a way, the fall from the high hit me far harder than the deepest depths of any low.

Over time, my condition has depleted – due in part to medication, but also through learning from my own experiences. I can tell when a low is about to hit, or when a high is rolling in. There are certain things that make it worse, like a piece of bad news, or a particularly bad day in work. I count myself lucky, however, that I have a support system strong enough to help me get out of bed on the days that I feel like I can’t.

There are, of course, people that struggle to understand. These are the people who tell me to cheer up, who tell me to calm down, who often don’t understand that I act in irrational ways because they seem rational to me at the time. While I in no way believe that my condition excuses certain behaviours, it would certainly make my life a lot easier if people could even begin to understand the quick-as-a-flash alterations in mood that I encounter on an almost daily basis.

I am beyond thankful for the support that family and friends have given me over the years, but occasionally I find that even this does not help. Despite therapy and medication, there are still days where I find it impossible to live a normal life. An old friend of mine had a tip-off for days like this – I would tell them I wanted to spend the day in a nest, and he would know that I needed him. He was often the only person that could help. While this can be helpful at the time, I know now that it is never safe to rely on one person, for many reasons. Bipolar is not something that one person can fix. It is something only you yourself can work through. You will make mistakes. You will fuck up. But understand that this is a very, very real illness.

And please, on days where you feel like giving up, or on days where you feel like you rule the world, remember that you shouldn’t, and you don’t. You can fight it. You can control it. You just have to want to.

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