It’s like any other illness.

Bipolar disorder. You’re probably reading this because either you suffer from this illness or someone you love does. While I am no expert on bipolar disorder, I do a lot of research on this topic. Why? Because my fiancĂ© is diagnosed with bipolar II. And I’d do anything to help him.

Like I said, I’m not an expert in this field, but my goal here is to inform people about bipolar disorder and maybe even provide a little comfort through my experiences. Before we get into my own personal life, I’d like to share some facts about bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is actually a brain disorder that will affect day to day activities. This typically happens due to changes in mood and energy level. There are basically two moods with this disorder. Patients will feel either very “up” or happy, energetic, and reckless, and then very “down” or depressed, fatigued, and hopeless. Most people assume there is only bipolar I and II, but there is actually Cyclothymic Disorder and other types that are unlike the previous three. But most commonly, everyone talks about bipolar I and II.

Bipolar I is defined when a manic (or “up) episode will last at least 7 days or if the episode needs hospital care. Then a depressive episode will last at least 2 weeks.

Bipolar II is defined by a series of depressive and hypomanic episodes, which are not as severe as a manic episode in bipolar I. There is usually a pattern of these episodes.

Cyclothymic Disorder is defined when there are a large and frequent amount of both hypomanic and depressive episodes that last for at least 2 years. This is different because the symptoms don’t meet the hypomanic and depressive diagnostic requirements.

And with other types of bipolar disorder, they do not have the same symptoms as above but would be diagnosed and define by the patients doctor.

Now that the different types are defined, let’s look a little more into defining the symptoms. That way we can better understand what someone is feeling.

During a manic episode, the person may feel jumpy, have a lot more energy, have issues sleeping, become agitated, feel their thoughts are going fast, feel they can accomplish a lot at once, and engage in risky or reckless behavior.

During a depressive episode, the person may feel sad, down, depressed, hopeless, have little energy, have trouble sleeping, feel worried or empty, eat too much or too little, and have suicidal thoughts.

While not every person has every single symptom I listed, those are the most common. And of course each person could feel something I did not list.

Many times, people may feel both manic and depressed during an episode, so they are not always exclusive. The person may not recognize that their behavior is different either, but family or friends may notice first.

Now that we understand the medical definitions, we can start to understand what the person is going through. From this alone, it’s easy to see things are really confusing during an episode. The person most likely does not feel like themselves, but are unsure what to do. Especially when the person has not been diagnosed, it can be more scary.

Something very crucial for bipolar patients is therapy, medication, and support. More often than not, bipolar patients function better if they take medication and attend therapy. The medicine really helps balance out the moods and the therapy better helps them express their thoughts and feelings. There are so many types of medicine out there, it really depends on the person. A lot of patients think they will be on medication the rest of their life, but sometimes as they enter older adulthood, their disorder balances out. Even though bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness, it is very treatable and lets you function day to day.

Like I said, support is a big part in bipolar patients functioning day to day. Having a loved one to listen and talk to can really calm a person down during an episode. Having someone to trust and connect with is really great. It’s also helpful to have someone to recognize signs in their life that the person diagnosed may not see. And while many people may think being there for someone who has this disorder is extremely difficult, it is easier than you may think. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a walk in the park every single day, but there are more good, rewarding days, than bad.

I’ve talked to a lot of people about loving someone with bipolar disorder and I constantly see a huge negative idea around it. I see many selfish people that are angry at their loved one for acting out to them. And all along they really just forgot that their loved one has a serious mental illness, so sometimes the things they say is not what they mean. Sometimes the way the act, was not what they wanted to do, but how their illness made them act. While this disorder is not an excuse for people to be awful to one another, it explains why your friend may have said something hurtful during an episode. Bipolar disorder is like any other serious illness, so don’t brush it off like it’s the common cold.

With all of this so far, I hope you can see bipolar disorder in a bit more of a positive light. And I hope as I continue with this blog you can all see and learn coping mechanisms for yourself and your loved one.

Until next time.

All information on bipolar disorder is from NIMH. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

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