What does bipolar mean to me?
Another altered state of being. This state is a disorder of the mood of a person. Rather than having a steady mood with experience of feelings based on reactions to the surrounding environment, the person with bipolar will oscillate between periods of feeling extremely joyous, referred to as mania, and extremely down, referred to as depression. For several weeks the person will feel like they can apply to graduate school, work in a stressful job, get no sleep, rearrange the furniture in the house, form a band, afford a complete drum set, earn a black belt, talk your ear off, and do no wrong. Although that may sound kind of exciting and fun, once the period of exhilarating mania nears its end the person may start exhibiting obvious paranoia and speak of hearing or seeing things that other people do not hear or see. Once the period runs its course and the person reaches sort of the peak of mania, they start the descent. The person, apparently experiencing this descent more quickly than the gradual rise of the mania, suddenly becomes depressed and continues to hear and see things and think that someone is following him or watching him. Eventually, if the right medication, in the right amount, is given to the person, the voices, visions, and paranoia dissipate and go away. And slowly the depression begins to fade, and he starts to feel stable without extremes.
My best friend, my husband, has to deal with this condition. My description of bipolar is what he and our family experienced this past year from around March 2011 to October 2011. His first episode of bipolar occurred in his late teens to early twenties while in college. He was fortunate that his parents found a doctor that found a medication that gave him stability. However every couple of years when his stress increases significantly or his medication interacts with another medication, the extremes return. With the many happenings of family, work, school, and life the symptoms can easily be missed and the mania runs its course and excessive paranoia and hallucinations and depression also return. Today, my husband is feeling better. The mania, excessive paranoia, and hallucinations are gone, but some of the depression has remained. He’s able to work and spends time with the family. We’re still working on finding a steady middle.
I understand my husband’s experience of bipolar is not representative of all person’s with bipolar. Each person is unique and not all person’s with bipolar experience the condition in the same way. But what is true of any case of bipolar receiving proper diagnosis, treatment, and support can make a person with bipolar disorder’s life much easier. Some cases may be more severe than others. My husband is high functioning and is able to live a relatively satisfying life. Some persons with bipolar are not as fortunate and find themselves in and out of psychiatric hospitals or living in state-run hospitals most of their lives. There are possibly numerous variables involved in whether or not the person finds himself high functioning or low functioning, but my opinion is that support and understanding has much to do with it. When a person with bipolar or any mental illness is accepted, and not ostracized, he has a much better chance of managing his symptoms and therefore being more high functioning.
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