Backpacking and Bipolar II. Taking Manic Depression on tour.
#bipolar #manicdepression #stigma
I may be slightly more irritable than is often the case, but seeing Bipolar II and Cyclothymia spoken about in the diminuitive has begun to massively irritate me.
I learned that I suffered from bipolar II disorder, a less serious variant of bipolar I, which was once known as manic depression. The information was naturally frightening; up to 1 in 5 people with bipolar disorder will commit suicide, and rates may even be higher for those suffering from bipolar II.
The risk of suicide is far greater with Bipolar II especially, due to the difficulty in diagnosing the condition. Usually victims of BPII only seek help whilst depressed and their mania is less stereotypical and pronounced. This often leads to a misdiagnosis of unipolar depression. This was true in my case, and I was given an antidepressant which hugely antagonises Bipolar Disorder. Consequently I slammed into a depression so sudden that I was instantly and completely overwhelmed by it. I spent almost a month being within inches of killing myself.
My cousin is a barrister dealing with family court. He is exposed to a LOT of psychiatrists and psychologists. His awareness of mental illness would be considered to be profound by U.K standards. When I approached him and mentioned that I thought I might be ill – his response was that I didn’t get manic enough to be Bipolar. I took this information completely at face value and wrote myself off the Bipolar register.
The truth with BipolarII and Cyclothymia is that your default, ‘normal’ mode is probably Hypomania, unbeknownst to you or anyone else. People would find you funny, energetic, perhaps irritating occasionally, confrontational and you would know of yourself that you don’t need much sleep. You’re just seen as an extreme personality. A character.
My father was undoubtedly Bipolar, and so too was his mother. Neither of them were ever diagnosed. The ‘lesser’ versions of Bipolar invariably lead to either misdiagnosis or the complete absense of a diagnosis. My brother exhibits signs of BipolarII but flatly refuses to even explore the idea.
This unholy balance of JUST being shy of HypERmania and occasionally getting depressed means that who-knows how many of us never get a diagnosis. No one ever has a reason to intervene. Indeed it could be said that people would rather not hear about it.
“Thats life.”, “We all get down from time to time.” and “come on, put some effort in and cheer up.” make regular appearances in conversations with family and friends. I went for most of my adult life KNOWING that I was just an arsehole, and I knew that there were no pills that would solve that. All this because Bipolar II and Cyclothymia are allowed to nestle under the radar. These things are MORE serious than BP.I in my opinion because they are more likely to kill you. Simple as.
Off my soap box now, carry on.