Coming out and admitting publicly the diagnosis that has followed me since I was 19 is a bit scary: I have bipolar II disorder.
There is a stigma attached to bipolar, a mental illness that was formerly called manic depression. Many people would have no idea that I suffer from this, now that I am stable on medication, but it still stings when someone is in a grumpy mood and then someone else uses “bipolar” as an insult to describe the grump’s attitude.
Bipolar is different from regular depression because I go through periods of extreme elation, a high that I don’t need drugs to induce. Then, when I fall, the downward spiral is devastating because I have farther to fall from my high before I hit rock bottom. My manic phases mostly include falling victim to my addictions: shopping without regard to how much is being spent, reading, praying, overeating. I yell a lot. I don’t sleep. During my depressed phases, I can barely drag myself out of bed, and I don’t want to eat anything.
I hate both of these sides of myself. I wish I could stay in the middle, balanced, all the time. Unfortunately, that’s not always simple, but with proper guidance of my doctor, I can minimize the time when I am out of balance.
Managing my moods
There are two forms of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I is the more severe form, and has severe episodes of mania. Bipolar II has less severe episodes of mania, called hypomania, and no symptoms of psychosis or negative impact from mania in work or social functioning.
I want people to know that just because I suffer with this illness, I’m not a bad mom. I have two beautiful kids, and I do my best to ensure that my disease does not negatively affect my ability to parent. Some days, it’s harder than others.
Days that I don’t want to get out of bed, I use that opportunity to wrap or snuggle my littles and read to them or watch cartoons.
Days that I feel like I can do anything, I take them out to the park or go for a walk.
Sometimes I feel disconnected from my kids, especially since weaning my son back in October. Those days, I wear them. Babywearing has allowed me to connect with my children even on my darkest days.
I also am not afraid to ask for help when I need it. Being able to find my voice to ask for help is my greatest strength.
I am blessed to say that once I moved to West Columbia, I found mental health professionals much more accessible than when I lived in New York (new patients on Long Island can expect to be put on a waiting list for an intake of 6 to 9 months if not admitted to a hospital). I’ve never been hospitalized because of my condition, as I have never been a danger to myself or anyone else.
There is no definitive known cause of bipolar disorder, although there is some speculation that it could be genetic. I would agree with that assessment, as I do know that bipolar disorder does occur in other members of my family and my uncle lost his battle with mental illness before I was born. If you or someone you love suffers from episodes of mania or depression, please don’t hesitate to seek help.
Here are some local resources for mental health assistance, whether you have bipolar disorder or other conditions:
Services and educational program for Richland and Fairfield county residents (based on income)
- (803) 898-4800
Non-emergency crisis intervention, information and referral
- (803) 790-4357 (HELP)
- (803) 733-5408
- (877) 892-9211
Education and peer support
- (803) 739-5712
Does someone in your family deal with bipolar disorder? Share your story in the comments.