Bipolar Disorder: A gift or a curse?
Updated: Mar 4
Bipolar Disorder, previously known as manic depression is an illness in which the sufferer contends with extremes of mood that are beyond the usual highs and lows that the average person experiences.
However, it is too simplistic to just label someone as having "Bipolar" because the illness affects people in different ways and is divided into subcategories. I am going to list these to add some clarity.
* Bipolar Type 1 - This is my diagnosis. The patient experiences the most extreme manic highs and devastating lows. For me the highs come rarely but when they do they are totally out of control and I have to be hospitalised. This euphoric state only lasts at most, a couple of months but it is followed by deep, bedridden, curtains closed, depression which can last, for me, up to 18 months at a time.
* Bipolar Type 2 - In this category the patient experiences the same highs and lows as the Bipolar 1 but they are less intense. Many people with BP2 only experience a "hypomanic" state when "high", so the illness is not as easily diagnosed. This is because they seem only to be very happy, productive and busy people when high and only "below par", sullen and sad when low.
* Cyclothymia - In this subcategory the patient experiences mood swings that affect their daily life and can develop into Bipolar Type 1 or 2.
* Rapid Cycling - The patient will experience four or more episodes of mania and depression in a year. Some patients experience extremes of mood from one day to the next while others notice changes in mood within the same 24 hour period.
There are also different states of Bipolar illness other than those of depression and mania as it is also possible to be manic and depressed at the same time, this is known as mixed state Bipolar. In this state the patient experiences manic racing thoughts but in a negative way. I have experienced this and find it one of the most excruciating elements of Bipolar disorder. I had racing suicidal thoughts in my last episode which is something I hope I never have to experience again.
In Stephen Fry's wonderful documentary "The secret life of the manic depressive," he asks his fellow sufferers; "If there was a button you could press to remove your Bipolar illness would you press it?"
He found that nearly all of them said that no they wouldn't press the button they would keep the illness. Stephen has done a huge amount to increase understanding into Bipolar and I have added a wonderful short video clip that gives so much insight and hope surrounding the illness. You can watch the clip here.
Since the program there have been two studies conducted, looking into whether or not patients with Bipolar illness would press a button to delete their symptoms. The findings were that in fact, 75% of people said that they would press the button to permanently rid themselves of the disorder. However the remaining 25% is still significant; why would these people want to keep this devastating and disruptive illness? The research paper which is concise and very interesting can be found here.
The findings in the two studies showed that those who identified with the illness and thought of it as part of their makeup wanted to keep the condition. Those who saw it as a disorder and not part of their personality or makeup would press the button and permanently delete it.
I would most definitely press the button because I don't see the illness as part of who I am and I hate the fact that when it comes, it renders me completely useless, I will even go as far as saying that I resent the illness because it has caused so much disruption to my life and caused my family immense worry and stress.
But I do understand why people would say they want to keep their bipolar disorder because the hypomanic state I experience before a full blown mania is absolutely inexplicably blissful. In this state you are "floating on air," you feel so empowered, funny, clever, gifted and wonderful it is indeed the complete opposite of depression, it truly is a heaven on earth experience! In a manic state I have spoken to Princess Diana, been blessed by Mother Theresa and even had God's hand outstretched from a cloud to meet mine! Who would reject an experience like that?!
I would love to hear other experiences of bipolar disorder so please do share this article and the website link so that people can reach these pages. To do this click the link sign at the bottom of this article or the three dots at the top and share to your contacts! You can also share the Facebook page if you wish by tapping the icon at the top of the home page.
Tomorrow's post will be about mental health in horse racing and equestrianism so be sure to check back in!
Thanks for reading!
Speak to you soon,