Emotions and moods fluctuate for everyone. When life is going our way we are happy and when things are rough we can be down. This ebb and flow of moods is normal; it is what makes us human.
So what is the difference between ‘normal’ and ‘bipolar’?
Bipolar Disorder takes those highs and lows to the extreme: mania and depression. Manic periods might have you talking too fast or louder than normal, making decisions without thinking, lots of energy, spending a lot of money, impaired judgment, hearing or seeing things that aren’t there, and even a sense of being better than everyone else. Depression episodes may bring feelings of worthlessness, sadness, hopelessness, or even thoughts of hurting yourself.
If you think you might have bipolar disorder you can start keeping a journal of how you feel and when. Make sure to include the amount of sleep you’re getting and your appetite. Recording these things can help pinpoint highs and lows and can help your doctor or therapist identify what is going on with you. Many times professionals mistake bipolar disorder for depression, because the patient doesn’t feel as if anything is wrong during the manic periods of their illness.
Speaking to your doctor is important. It is easy to become frustrated with medical professionals because it can be difficult to explain the extent of symptoms, especially during a twenty minute check-up appointment. Advocate for yourself! No one knows you better than you know yourself!
Remember that bipolar disorder has been around for centuries, and people have been finding ways to thrive while living with it for the same amount of time. Finding out what works for you can take many different steps, and often missteps, but it’s so very worth it.
Sometimes just getting a correct diagnosis is a weight lifted off a person’s shoulders. It’s the freedom to say; “Hey! Look! I’m NOT crazy! I’m living with bipolar disorder!” It can be a celebration, because receiving a diagnosis means correct treatments can be tried until something works!
There are online quizzes, forums, chat rooms, medical dictionaries, and so many other resources both good and bad, if you think you might be living with a mental health issue the internet is a great place to start, but it can also be your worst enemy. Do not self-diagnose. Self-diagnosis can not only be wrong, but it can be very dangerous because of self-medicating.
Seek help. Even if you feel your symptoms are mild. You don’t have to be thinking about hurting yourself or someone else to sit down with a doctor (be it your primary physician or a mental health professional) and have a frank discussion about what is going on with you.
Don’t get discouraged. The road to diagnosis can be a long one, and sometimes it can be a frustrating one, but it’s so very worth it. Reach out to others who are having the same issues, on the internet, or in your community if something is available.
You’re NOT alone, and it’s such an awesome feeling to know that the mental health community can band together! Often we cry together and laugh together! We pick each other up and celebrate each-others’ accomplishments. It’s like stepping out of the darkness and into a hug of knowledge where other people have gone before you and paved the way!
To read more from Jessica, see her posts for IBPF here or check out her personal blog.