There are two types of bipolar disorder listed in the DSM-V. Bipolar I has one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes (both manic and depressive). Bipolar II has at least one hypomanic episode and major depressive episodes.
I have bipolar II. I have a specific cycle and triggers that can create a very precarious situation. It is almost impossible for me to tell whether the mania or the depression comes first because it’s so cyclical. It flows into one mood and then into another. I also have a rapid cycle so I can have mania and depressive cycles multiple times in one day.
The danger is in the depressive episodes for me. I get so consumed with a darkness that suffocates me. The relief came from either self-mutilation or prescription drug abuse. I needed to mentally check out because I couldn’t cope with the emptiness.
I was 13 or 14 years old when I was diagnosed with bipolar. I didn’t have the usual symptoms because bipolar in children usually comes out as anger and I was born angry. I would have temper tantrums that put holes in the wall or broke dishes. It was an uncontrollable monster that crept up with no warning. I didn’t get control over that until my late teenage years and I only got control because apathy replaced the anger.
I didn’t start feeling things again until my late 20s. The flooding of emotion was a strange jungle that I didn’t know how to navigate. It created an internal war between the apathy and the underdeveloped emotional range.
The bipolar has affected my life in all aspects. I haven’t been able to hold a job for longer than a year. I have little to no close relationships and my apathy makes it so I don’t mind those things. Relationships have always been tricky. Other people trigger my insecurities and amplify my feelings of how alone I feel so I try to avoid them at all possible cost.
I’ve gone to therapy and psychiatrists since I was 8 years old. None of it has ever actually helped. It may have made my trust issues even worse because I had very callous therapists who only regurgitated things from psych 101 textbooks. I knew if I was going to be saved then I had to save myself. I started paying attention to my triggers and my moods. Now I can tell when a manic or a depressive state is starting up.
When I was about 23, I became interested in behavioral modification. I wasn’t able to break the depressive state once it became progressive, but if I caught it early then I could minimize the damage.
Humor is the best deflection of depression that I have come across. I would always get one image in my head: Mr. Potato Head doing a little dance in high heels. This is great because it has no relevance to anything so it derails my emotional train and gives me a chance to break the depressive cycle much sooner than it would otherwise be.
This is something that I do every day as second nature and I believe that, because of the bipolar, I have a much better understanding of the human condition and psychological process.