What is Bipolar 1 Disorder?

Hi lovely readers,

I hope you are all staying healthy, safe, and sane. I’m so sorry for my absence, but not only was my laptop broken, but I also was barely functioning enough to get out of bed to eat or drink water, even. Thankfully things are beginning to open up, which is encouraging for us all,  and my depressive episode has really come to an end, thanks to a new medication I’m taking in replacement of the one from the US I was on that I can’t access presently. (If you’re interested in finding a new Bipolar depression medication, this one is called Rexulti).

I once used a website called Quora.com which is apparently where people can ask questions and really, anyone in the world, qualifications or not, can answer. And then get voted as having the best answer. A lot of the questions are situational, but often about abusive family members or partners, and then A LOT of the questions are about the logistics and characteristics of different mood disorders and personality disorders. Because I now get these irritating, lol, spam emails constantly containing new questions and answers posted, and they are supposed to pertain to what I had originally looked up on the site, I occasionally glance at them and click on the odd one, only to be so discouraged about the state of “Mental Health Awareness” right now.

I wanted so badly to believe that things like Bell Lets Talk day would do the world good. But it has become truly apparent to me that that is not the case at all. Instead, as a result of incredibly pervasive stigma surrounding disorders like Bipolar, PTSD, Schizophrenia, etc., the only people who speak up on those days discuss what sounds like relatively manageable anxiety and situational depression that didn’t require psychiatric treatment. Which is important too, of course, without a doubt, to talk about. But it’s also created a false empowerment among people who have zero sense of what other mental illnesses are like or have only experienced them in the form of knowing one person with a more ‘severe’ mental illness and, having done zero research aside from maybe checking out some rants on reddit, consider themselves experts. So now there’s a TON of discussion of mental illness, but none of it has any foundation in reality.

So, and I’ve never done this on my blog before, I’m going to explain what my two primary diagnoses really mean, having been seeing a psychiatrist who is the head of Addictions and Trauma at a hospital in my city and who is so knowledgeable I’m consistently learning new things, having read a ton of the books I was recommended to upon being diagnosed, having used credible sources to do my own research online, and having actually lived this.

For one, a mood disorder is not a personality disorder. I see a lot of confusion between Bipolar and BPD, and though sometimes they can cooccur, they are vastly different. First of all, BPD is a Cluster B Personality Disorder. Meaning it’s characterized by patterns in action/behaviour and primarily relationships, as well as having undefined and heavily influenced personality traits and patterns in terms of how they treat themselves and others and form extreme attachments and suddenly may detach. It is very difficult to diagnose because statistically BPD patients are very opposed to therapy and evaluation of their behaviour and being completely honest with someone they do not have an attachment to, which to some, but very different degree, I can understand.

However, Bipolar, at least Bipolar 1 which is more in my range of knowledge, is a mood disorder, not a personality disorder. It’s diagnosed because someone experiences mania for at least 2 weeks. A full manic episode. Mania is the experience of having excessive energy and little desire to sleep, talking at rapid paces, believing your ideas are brilliant and perhaps genius, and sometimes results in god complexes or psychosis and extreme recklessness and hyper sexuality. My experience of mania incorporated a lot of what I listed, but mania is actually quite uncomfortable for me as it feels kind of like my brain is … to much. It almost feels explosive, and when I’m practically running somewhere for no reason and my hands are quivering, I feel like I’m being semi-electricuted. And I am fearful of what is to come, as the manic episode that got me diagnosed was believing that God had told me my story had to come to an end because I’d completed my destiny. I have to laugh at that now, because finding humour in these things is kind of crucial to me. So, anyway, I ran out of the club I was at with friends and utterly fearlessly, without hesitation, ran into the road in front of a car. It just bumped me, because I was on another planet mentally and didn’t do a lot of advance planning, but the cops wound up escorting me to the hospital closest to my dorm residence. There they basically just asked if I’d do it again (in my head I was like hell yeah) and I said no and they let me go.

Back to my dorm room I went, where I took all the pills I could possibly fine with a bottle of vodka and passed out. Eventually I was taken back to Toronto (I’d been at McGill), and having finally proven that I had long lasting depressive episodes and manic episodes, I was diagnosed as Bipolar 1. Bipolar 1 depression by the way is a lot like clinical depression, as it includes feeling completely unmotivated, exhausted, sometimes angry, but essentially just so painfully sad life feels colourless and entirely lacking in purpose. Bipolar 1 depression is written in many articles, though, as being different from clinical depression, for one, because it is episodic and almost predictable, and it’s very, very hard to find adequate treatment – in the case of clinical depression, because antidepressants can have the opposite effect on people and cause suicidality, and in the case of Bipolar 1, because an antidepressant is off the table entirely as it would trigger manic. It is also different in that it is more likely to result in successful suicide attempts than any other mental illness. It is sharp, it is unrelenting, it comes with repetitious obsessive thoughts about death, about how worthless and disgusting one is, and truly, when I’m in a depressive episode I can look around my beautiful apartment and believe that everything is utterly muted and grey and I’m existing for nothing. I just want the pain to end, and I don’t like socializing at all though I’m sure it would have its benefits, but at some points, I feel so tired, I can’t even make words come out of my mouth in response to a question from someone.

PTSD I’m not going to really cover in this post, because it’s a very uniquely different form of mental illness, and it demands a lot of discussion. But it also seems to be confused frequently with panic disorders and anxiety and situational depression or sadness. It is very difficult to actually obtain a PTSD diagnosis because the symptoms have to be very unique, yet follow a very exacting list of characterizing beliefs and behaviours, which is something a lot of people are misinformed about, and that is a dangerous thing.

But, in summary, for those who are new here, and for those who may want to learn more about mental illness, for a loved one, for a friend, for the betterment of the world and the way in which we discuss things, bipolar 1 disorder is a mood disorder, not a personality disorder, and it is only characterized by extreme episodic, periodical, somewhat predictable, episodes of very very low mood, or severe depression, and mania, which is extreme ‘happiness’/ and or tense but explosive and reckless energy and racing thoughts. And, by the way, someone who actively pursues and participates and proven highly effective treatments, including psychiatric care and taking medication religiously, as well as going to talk therapy, potentially CBT based which is the recommended therapeutic program for Bipolar patients, can live a really wonderful, productive, meaningful, contented and love-filled life. People with bipolar, just like the rest of the world, can be shitty people and they can be amazing people and everything in between. There is no point in discussing “what’s a bipolar person thinking when they do [bad thing]? Are Bipolar people empathetic or evil?” because that has absolutely nothing to do with this particular mood disorder itself. Cooccurring disorders are common, so it’s certainly possible someone might also have a personality disorder, and that could impact the way they treat you, but then get off the question and answer with random input from anyone potentially lacking any formal education on a very sensitive and important subject and go read a book, go on a reputable website.

That’s my rant/explanation within the limitations of me being very tired having barely slept last night because of food poisoning, haha.

Thank you so much for stopping by to read. My next post might be this afternoon or tomorrow, but it’s going to be an apartment tour to switch things up for a lighter finish to the day/start to tomorrow.

Thanks for sticking with me, lovely readers. I appreciate your comments, your insight, your compassion and understanding and patience, so deeply I’m unsure how to adequately express it. But, love to you all I will say.

Lots of love,

Liz

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