Bipolar

I promised I’d write a post about bipolar. Also, I promised a podcast. We are working on it. Me and my cohort work for a university, and May is the time at universities where people are trying to finish and graduate. This translates, for us, that we have to do a ton of extra work. Which would normally be an awful time to start a project.

This helps move us on to the topic I promised. Bipolar. I’m not explicitly bipolar. My personal problems revolve around anxiety, that hasn’t got a lot of real basis, and the resulting depression. Being frightened most of the time takes its toll on you eventually, it’s harder and harder to feel good about things. This occasionally leads to a severe disconnect from your feelings. If you have not, you should check out what the lady at Hyperbole and a Half has to say about depression. It’s not simple to explain to people what it feels like, and more than once have I had someone tell me “Well stop, just pick up and feel better!”

That’s hardly an option when you no longer feel the need to continue existing. Like it’s optional, you wouldn’t be upset if you stopped. It’d be largely OK. Also well described in her comic, there is a dam that tends to break during your recovery period. This is a hypomanic episode. Everything you were unable or unwilling to feel for the period of time before doesn’t go away. It gets deferred. It all will pour out at once in an unpleasant rush. The greatest thing is that you may not even know you are having this happen to you. I don’t notice my manic swings until someone else says something. When I write an e-mail at 3AM that is so densely written and full of information that it is difficult to understand, it seems perfectly normal to me. In hindsight, of course it sounds silly.

So do most things in hindsight.

My problem is minor. I have to deal with the unpleasant feeling of being at the complete mercy of my emotions, many of which I don’t understand or can even trace back to a trigger in reality, with no real reason to believe they will subside, or if this is a good sign or if this is the straw that finally breaks your resolve. I only had to suffer with it for a couple weeks at a time, very rarely will I have a phase where I’m not in control, that I make impulsive decisions and start up projects I can’t possibly finish. Some people go through cycles of feelings like this on a daily basis. They are under constant assault by their own feelings. They likely feel as though something is wrong, and will self medicate. Addiction to the manic phase, the knowledge that the depression that will follow will hurt beyond reason, will try to stave it off pharmaceutically. Impulsive and destructive consequences are better than the nothingness that comes with depression. It’s easy to see how things would fall apart quickly, how hard it would be to function in society, but people with this problem get little understanding and support from the people around them who just don’t understand, who haven’t ever had to deal with the fact that their emotions aren’t necessarily theirs; they are fake, not related to the world around you, and they never stop coming.

This blog is about awareness. I write things that I know about, I talk about things I see that make me worry. You or someone you know has a mental health problem related to depression or some other mood disorder. Specifically the NIMH gives statistics for reported cases at about 10% of adult Americans suffer from major depression or severe bipolar disorder. There is a severe stigma that surrounds admiting that there is something wrong, or asking for help. No one wants to admit they can’t handle how they feel on their own, we are full of shame if we appear needy, so that number is probably disgustingly low compared to the number of people suffering. The simple truth of the thing is that is the biggest lie that was ever sold, we need each other more than any of us will ever know, probably one in five of us needs some kind of help.

That’s a lot of needy people out there. Shame we don’t seem to do much about it. And the thing to do is so simple; listen to each other and recognize that its a real problem that people can’t just “get over” without help.

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