My name is “Tyler”, and I have dealt with bipolar disorder pretty much my entire existence. I was diagnosed with it at age 25, and it has been an eye-opener for me as a young man, to say the least. I am now 36 years of age, and unfortunately, only very few of my peers have a good enough understanding of what the condition is, and how I go through every waking day with all of it on my shoulders.
According to statistics, around 5.7 million Americans are stricken with bipolar disorder, more commonly known as manic depression. Further details of these numbers show that the average age when this malady manifests is at 25 years old, much like how it did with me, but it can affect people in early childhood as well.
But what exactly is a bipolar disorder? We have all probably heard of such a term one way or another, bearing very little information about the said condition. The basic information that is readily provided by people and the internet is that it is a mental disorder that causes mood swings in people who suffer from it.
It is clear that bipolar disorder is prevalent in major parts of the world, and this article should hopefully shed some light on this ailment that has been a problem for many in society for a long time now.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
The common notion about this condition is correct, in that bipolar disorder is a mental health issue that causes the individual stricken with it to experience severe mood swings. They could be feeling on top of the world one minute, then suddenly down in the dumps after another.
There are a few types of bipolar disorder, and they range in the symptoms that are usually displayed. One would be Bipolar I disorder, wherein the individual would have gone through at least one manic episode. It is succeeded by either hypomania or severe depressive episodes.
The second type is Bipolar II disorder, only this time, the manic-depressive episode is almost always accompanied by at least one instance of hypomania. In this case, however, no manic episodes are usually displayed.
The third type of this condition would be Cyclothymic Disorder. When people suffer from this condition, they likely would have experienced at least two years (or one year in a child or teenage) of hypomania and depressive symptoms.
Other cases of bipolar disorder can be caused by external factors such as narcotics or other substances, or diseases such as a stroke or multiple sclerosis.
Delving Deeper into the My Symptoms
So what about me? The symptoms that I have dealt with were severe enough to disrupt my daily life but were still manageable to not take any drastic measures. Primarily, I have dealt with both mania and hypomania, two of the most distinct symptoms that go along with having bipolar disorder.
Now, these two symptoms may be classified differently, but they are pretty much the same. I would usually go through episodes, noticed especially when I was at work or during other social functions, where I was uncharacteristically upbeat and wired like I had just downed three bottles of Red Bull.
Many of my friends would notice how unusually chatty I was. I’m not a doctor, but I would attribute it to my brain that is seemingly racing at all times. This has hurt me many times, leading to many ill-advised decisions that bore major repercussions.
But that would usually happen on a “good day”, so to speak, because the flipside of it is the exact opposite. I spiral into a pit of severe depression that would last for many days, wherein that feeling of emptiness and hopelessness is just all too consuming.
Physically, I would feel fatigued and irrationally exhausted, as if all my energy was zapped out from my body. I would also feel the loss of interest in any pleasurable activity, whether it be good food, sex, even when I’d play the harmonica, my favorite pastime since I was about 13.
Dealing with the Condition
It’s been a decade since I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, and through the picture I’ve painted, you will probably see that it has not been a picnic. However, I did find various remedies to make life a bit more bearable for me.
I would consider myself fortunate enough to still be alive despite this condition, unlike some people I have met through the years who ended up taking their own lives. As statistics have also shown, 30% to 70% of those who suffer from some form of depression, including bipolar disease, have ended in suicide.
But I have chosen to fight the good fight and not let this condition get the best of me. In addition to medications, I made some minor tweaks in my lifestyle, and I believe anyone like me can also make this work for their benefit.
For one thing, lack of sleep is probably one of the biggest triggers of manic episodes. Doctors say it is pretty commonplace for those like us to stay up late binging on Netflix shows, but this can only worsen the condition.
Getting some sleep can be difficult at times, but what has worked for me is listening to relaxing music before bed. I would suggest trading those Pantera CDs and MP3s for more light-hearted tunes like piano jazz or classical music.
It could also help to stick to a set routine to help prevent the sudden mood swings. I always keep a workout schedule at 9 am to get my day going. It helps give me a good boost in mood and overall disposition.
Speaking of exercise, this has been a good way for me to cope with this condition. I make sure that I get to break a sweat at least four times a week, through various workouts such as martial arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and hiking.
On the flipside, it would not be advisable to take any form of altering substance, even if it is something as relatively negligible as coffee. Of course, avoid taking any other recreational substance such as alcohol or drug not prescribed by your doctor, as it could worsen those manic episodes. Abusing drugs can also lead to addiction with dual diagnosis. There are individuals who are in inpatient rehab with bipolar disorders and it is a difficult battle.
Sure, living a life with such a gripping condition can be taxing, even fatal to some people. But ultimately, it is all about choice. It would be all up to you to either give in and be eaten alive or to fight it head-on.
If you choose to do the latter, you can be guaranteed that there many ways to deal with this, to boost the chances of you living a normal and happy life.
AUTHOR: Charles Watson is currently the head content writer for Sunshine Behavioral Health. After spending time with “Tyler,” it was decided to put his hardships out for everyone to see. This was done to show that while a person is diagnosed as Bipolar, life still goes on. Hopefully Tyler’s story will resonate with others. Charles can be reached on Twitter at @charleswatson00
“Bipolar Disorder Statistics.” Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), DBSA, secure2.convio.net/dabsa/site/SPageServer/?pagename=education_statistics_bipolar_disorder.
“Hotline Information.” Types of Bipolar Disorder – Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, DBSA, secure2.convio.net/dabsa/site/SPageServer/?pagename=education_statistics_bipolar_disor
“Bipolar Disorder and Suicide.” WebMD, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/bipolar-disorder-suicide.
Picture Credit: National Institute of Mental Health