World Bipolar Day is designed to raise awareness of bipolar disorder and to eliminate social stigma, whilst providing information to educate and help people understand the condition. Social media has been key to openly discuss mental health problems. Many people open up to others about how they feel. However, for many people suffering from bipolar. The reality is that they still feel isolated and judged should they tell other people they suffer from this mental disorder.
What is Bipolar?
Bipolar is a mood disorder, where someone suffering may experience episodes of depression or mania. People living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depression, tend to have their lives significantly disrupted as a result. For many people, it can impact a person’s ability to function. It can often feel lonely and exhausting living with bipolar, as the person attempts to disguise their symptoms and hide their illness from family and work colleagues. There are several medications that can help to treat the condition, but often it will take a while for doctors to be able to get a person’s medication just right as each individual reacts differently.
World Bipolar DayWorld Bipolar Day is an initiative organised by the International Bipolar Foundation
In partnership with the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders.
I have listed out some of the terminology associated with bipolar disorder. For those of you who suffer from the condition, you will probably already know most of this already. It is good to understand what is happening to you and other people, who may have been diagnosed with the condition.
Let’s talk about…
depression – feeling very low and lethargic
mania – feeling very high and overactive
rapid-cycling – moving from one state to another very quickly
Cyclothymia – bipolar II
Bipolar can go undiagnosed for many years. No-one thinks about seeing the doctor when they are feeling elated and great about life. The condition can go undiagnosed as only the depression is witnessed by a GP or people around you. Yet the ‘highs’ can be equally as disruptive to a person’s life.
During an episode of depression, you may have overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and thoughts of suicide. If you feel suicidal, please go to your nearest A&E department as soon as possible. You could also call NHS 111 for an immediate assessment.
If you’re feeling very depressed, contact your GP or local mental health crisis team. If you want to talk to someone confidentially, you can also call the Samaritans, free of charge, on 116 123. You can talk to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
It’s important to remember that these feelings will pass. Many people will feel depressed after an upsetting life episode where they might need temporary medical assistance. Feeling depressed or down should not be confused with clinical depression. Do take your mental health seriously.
I chose this photo to show that most often, mania cannot be seen. The person may appear happy and excited about life. Compared to depression, manic episodes whilst exhausting are often celebrated by the person who is experiencing this. Sometimes people ditch their medication because they miss their highs and enjoy these fun moments.
Symptoms of a manic episode may include:
feeling very happy and elated
have lots of energy and ambitious ideas
spending large amounts of money
drinking or taking drugs
Other common characteristics are:
not feeling like eating or sleeping
becoming annoyed easily
Many people feel very creative during the manic phase and crave this experience when they are in the depressive phase.
Some people (not all) may suffer from symptoms of psychosis, where you see or hear things that are not there or become convinced of things that are not true. Medical treatment must be sought when this happens so that you and the people you are with are not put in danger.
When your mood moves from depression to mania very quickly, this is called ‘rapid cycling’.
Not as commonly known, Cyclothymia is also known as Bipolar II, classified as a condition that is not as extreme as bipolar disorder. However, for anyone who suffers from this, it also can be quite disruptive to a person’s life. A person can suffer from hypomania and depression with Cyclothymia.
Most often, people will try to self medicate to cope with bipolar symptoms. Many people may develop alcohol dependency or substance abuse problems as they attempt over time to medicate their moods. Not everyone who suffers from bipolar has an addiction or co-morbidity problem. Unfortunately, the NHS will often look to treat the alcohol or substance abuse problem before making an official diagnosis. Yet it is not often easy to take away the crutch, which has helped for so many years as a self-medication tool. A trained psychiatrist will help diagnose you if you feel that you may have bipolar disorder.
Living with bipolar
Bipolar disorder does have its challenges and problems. It can affect relationships, both personal and at work. Your money situation may, in turn, create financial stresses. Some people are unable to work for periods of time due to this mental illness. Do not give up. You can still live a great life with the right support in place.
Many treatments and medication are available to treat bipolar. It often takes a while to find what suits you and the drugs themselves may take some time to get used to. Whether you are under the care of your GP or mental health team, be honest with them about how you feel and what is and isn’t working for you. Each person is different and a treatment plan can be designed for you. It’s often good to keep a mood diary to understand what are your triggers and when your symptoms are gradually getting worse over time. Get to know your triggers such as stress. Insomnia is often a direct result of stress, which will exacerbate mental health problems. Not everyone who has bipolar takes medication, but do take your mental health seriously. If you feel that you are better with medication, don’t be afraid to take it to help yourself. Also, get support from people around you and from professionals trained to help.
medicine to prevent episodes of mania and depression – mood stabilisers
medicine to treat the main symptoms of depression and mania when they happen
learn to recognise the triggers and signs of an episode of depression or mania
psychological treatment – such as talking therapy, which can help you deal with depression, and provides advice about how to improve your relationships
Everyone knows that to lead a good life, you should eat well, get lots of sleep and prioritise self-care. Yet when you are in a depressive episode, it is often most difficult to perform basic self-care. There may be days where it is a struggle to get out of bed and wash. Let alone get up and do a full day’s work. Stress often triggers insomnia, which in turn can trigger periods of hypomania, where sleep then suffers. You may not feel tired but most often than not, you are running on empty. For moments like these, you need to introduce rituals into your everyday routine. Brush your teeth and shower straight after waking. Go to bed at a certain time even if you do not sleep. Write down lists for those of you like me who ruminate over things that have happened during the day. Make sure you don’t drink when you are most stressed. Fridays are often a danger zone. Take one day at a time. Just get through the day and do little checks. Have I eaten? Washed? Made my bed today? You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure you say no to people and look after yourself.
Living with debt
New research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute reveals that more than 1.5 million people in the UK are struggling with mental health and money problems. During a hypomanic stage, you may overspend which causes you to get further into debt. The spending might not even be on fancy holidays or clothes. Just going out and buying other people drinks for a prolonged period of time, which will have a detrimental affect on your finances.
People with mental health problems are 3.5 times more likely to be in problem debt than those without mental health problems.
Nearly half (46%) of all people in problem debt are also experiencing a mental health problem.
People with bipolar disorder or depression are around five times more likely to be experiencing serious financial difficulty than people without mental health problems
If you have noticed a friend isn’t responding to emails and you haven’t seen them in a while, reach out to them. Anxiety and depression often rob you of your self-confidence and self-esteem. Sometimes you may think your friends are better off without you and don’t like you anyway. You may feel trapped and lonely, but unable to do anything about it right now. It might even be a struggle to wash and get out of bed. I must admit, I hate it when people update their facebook status to say that they are there for you if you are feeling down or depressed. Yet, you never hear from them. You can tell the people going through a difficult time. Reach out to them.
Build a support network
If you feel you are able to, confide in your close friends. If things get really bad, you can contact these people who were probably wondering why you never get in touch anymore. Fakebook is great to hide behind, so don’t judge other people by their status updates and photos. Most of the time, you can see when someone is in pain and struggling. Take some time to send a loving message. I know that I am lucky to have some special people in my life, who message me from time to time to see how I am doing.
Check in with a friend, as they may notice your symptoms spiral out of control faster than you can. Unfortunately, many people love someone who is the life and soul of a party, with many dramas and stories to tell, but do not realise that they are a risk to themselves.
If you can – only you will know this – confide in a work colleague/boss/HR. Sometimes work can be overwhelming and so you may need work to understand when you haven’t slept or need additional support. If you have bipolar build a support network around you of people who you can trust and have your best interests at heart.