Bipolar: 10 startling things you need to know

I’m not a mental health professional. I’m The Moody Mom. A patient who has bipolar II. I read a lot about mental illnesses. I’ve learned so much through my own experiences. With so many stigmas and misconceptions out there, I started this blog partially to share current facts, theories and research. Today the topic is bipolar disorder.

Doctors don’t completely understand the causes of bipolar. It’s symptoms include having the elated highs of mania to the lows of major depression, along with various mood states between. People with bipolar vacillate from one extreme to the other. These extremes in mood are called “episodes”. Or as I like to call them, “temporary insanity”.

Bipolar is classified as a mood disorder which is a category of illnesses including: major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, persistent depressive disorder, cyclothymia and SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

Moody Mom comment: I personally do not say “I am bipolar”. I say “I have bipolar”. Because bipolar doesn’t define me. You wouldn’t say “I am cancer” would you?

More than 10 million Americans have bipolar disorder. It affects men and women equally, as well as all races, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic classes.

The bipolar suicide rate is 60 times higher than that of the general public and one in five people with bipolar disorder commits suicide. It is a deadly disease, which should be taken very seriously.

Moody Mom comment: it used to be called “manic depression” but nowadays most people say “bipolar disorder”

200,000 people with bipolar disorder are homeless in the US.

69% of bipolar patients are mis-diagnosed at least 3.5 times.

Bipolar disorder is the 4th-highest reason for disability.

Moody Mom comment: when someone says something like “she’s so bipolar!” and they aren’t referring to a person who actually has the disorder, it is really annoying to those of us who have it. Just saying.

There are four types of bipolar :

  • Bipolar I- having episodes that swing from depression to mania.
  • Bipolar II- having hypomanic episodes, which are elevated mood but not full-blown mania, and depression episodes.
  • Rapid cycling – having four or more episodes of mania or depression in one year. In severe cases, episodes can occur as frequently as daily.
  • Mixed episodes – having symptoms of both mania and depression simultaneously or in very rapid sequence. This type has the highest suicide rate.

Moody Mom comment: mania is often misunderstood. It means an extremely elevated mood that can feel good (going on wild spending sprees, hyper sexuality, partying all night, night after night) or it could feel bad (extreme agitation, violent behavior, psychosis). One severe manic episode could literally ruin your life.

There is no cure for bipolar but there are many treatment protocols including medication, therapy, and some experimental treatments. Once a person is diagnosed, it can take years for their doctor to discover what is just the right combination of meds at the right doses. Each patient is different.

Moody Mom comment: the medical community uses the terms “disorder”, “illness” and “disease” interchangeably. There really is no difference in the words’ meanings.

People with bipolar are often stigmatized, mistreated and cast out. Treatments can be ineffective, expensive and require tremendous self-discipline and extreme lifestyle changes. Medications can cause terrible side effects. As I like to say, bipolar doesn’t mean crazy or incapable! People can lead happy, successful lives. Others cannot or will not. We’re all different. And we deserve respect.

She was just being bipolar!

Recently, my boyfriend and I started a business. He does the work and I handle the marketing and the business side. We were spending a lot of time together. He was exhausted and stressed and he began to treat me like shit.

I was patient. But I felt hurt, taken for granted. Finally I blew up. I sent him several long texts over 2 days. I told him I was done. With the business and the relationship. I understand if your loved one is extremely anxious and tired, they may snap at you. But this was happening every day.

He finally apologized and we made up. Later when we talked about it, he said he understood why I’d quit because I was just “being bipolar”. But I wasn’t having an episode. My points were valid. Then he admitted to me when I had sent him those long, late night texts telling him how hurt I was….he hadn’t even read them.

Maybe I’d been a bit dramatic. But that’s my personality. That’s not my illness.

Will he ever take me seriously when I’m really happy, angry or sad?

Stereotypes of Bipolar Women

So what works for depression?

I get asked this a lot. I have some hacks that you may have heard before but, maybe not. These are what work for me anyway…

  • Light- science has proven that light, especially sunlight, boosts your mood. For me, it energizes and makes me feel healthy. They make “happy lights” for indoors too.
  • Sleep- get plenty of quality sleep. 7-9 hours. But don’t stay in bed all day. That can make you feel worse.
  • Laugh- the act of laughter releases dopamine to your brain, making you feel better. I like to watch stand up comedy!
  • Exercise- now this is really effective. If you can muster up enough energy and motivation, go outside and walk briskly. Good for body & mind!
  • Eat healthy- fresh whole foods with nutrients make you feel better all over. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugar.
  • Mindfulness- google this. Or look at my previous post which features the mindfulness site which guides you through this.
  • Help someone- this will make you feel so good! It could be something small like buying a strangers coffee. Or call a friend or relative and talk only about them. Do not mention your mood. You can really help someone just by being there.
Yoga works!