“The last time someone called me crazy, I wanted to kick them in the shin. Then I heard that I am “suffering” from Bipolar. Clearly, I am still here and functioning well and the last time I checked, I actually survived and I am coping very well with bipolar disorder. So please do not say that “I am Bipolar”. I HAVE Bipolar Disorder! I remember the first time I had a manic episode. I had all this energy to clean the house and wash its windows but at the same time, I was extremely irritable with the perception that the house was made dirty for me to clean up. I believed that no-one else could clean the way I do and I even conjured up ideas of how I can personally renovate and reconstruct the house to appear better. I suddenly had so many ideas and in trying to explain to my mom what we will do, I barely made any sense and even started crying at one point when she asked me to calm down and breathe.
I started spending money on trivial things which I did not need and I did not mind picking up new friends every second night or so at the hang-out places in my town. My mood was so high, it felt like I was piloting a fighter jet. I felt very tired but could not sleep at night and even though I took really short naps, I got up early and felt refreshed and ready for action the following day. My parents soon realized that something was not right. They have experienced me with low moods due to depression, but this was a completely different ball game for all of us. I argued constantly and did not want to visit any doctor just in case I get hospitalized again like when I had depression. I did not understand what they were on about because I was feeling great and on top of the world.
One day I got out of bed with a very bad cough. I have been out many late nights and it was the start of winter. I felt like I was coming down with the flu, and my mom insisted I get a prescription from the doctor to get medication for the cough. Eventually I agreed and there I was, marching off to the doctors’ rooms in single file. My parents insisted that they wanted to join me so I relented and along they came. I started explaining about my cough and before I knew it, the topic changed into a discussion of my sudden euphoria and belief that I could conquer the world like “Wonderwoman”. I sat there listening to my parent’s worries and confusion about my behaviour and their fear that I might get hurt or even die. It sounded like a ride on a roller-coaster and it dawned on me that I actually felt as fast and slick like a roller coaster. The doctor gave me my cough medication which I went there in the first place to obtain, but he also recommended that I consult with my psychiatrist as soon as possible. In fact, he made the appointment for me for the following day.
After the assessment with the psychiatrist, I was advised that I could have bipolar disorder which is also a mood disorder. I was hospitalized and the next few days I spent using medication and attending therapy to get my mood back to normal again. It was about the fifth day where I felt so exhausted that I could not get out of bed. My body felt like it was hit by a truck. I just stayed in bed for the longest time that day. I then knew that a new journey had started for me. I was ready for action…of a different kind, but I was ready.
My name is Hershia and I live with bipolar disorder. If I ever again hear that you say “I am bipolar”, I will kick you in the shin.”
Having celebrated Bipolar Awareness Day in the past week, the story of Hershia above is very touching and very telling of what it is like for someone living with bipolar disorder. It takes a lot of courage and determination to live as normal and productive as possible each day.
Mental Health Professionals suggest the following coping strategies for bipolar disorder:
- Building structure into your life by developing and following a daily schedule can help to stabilize mood swings associated with bipolar disorder.
- Develop set times for waking, eating socializing, exercising, working, relaxing and sleeping.
- Be aware that at times it may be difficult to follow a schedule but establishing a regular pattern of activities is very helpful.
- Identify people who can support you when necessary. These may include family, friends and colleagues who understand.
- Experts advise that a combination of medication and psychotherapy is very effective. Sometimes, and in severe episodes of mania, hospitalization becomes necessary to stabilize the individual and then other coping mechanisms are suggested.
- Following a healthy diet and exercising regularly is important and helps to maintain focus throughout a day.
Living with a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder and as in the case of Hershia, is a task with many challenges. The great news is that it is treatable and can be managed to allow millions of people the ability to live a good quality and productive life. That is ultimately what we are here for…