Awareness and Education    

 “With every small act, you can build momentum to move out of bipolar depression,” Robin Flanigan bp Magazine: Hope and Harmony For People with Bipolar 

This is my small act today to move out of my dip. There are some general misconceptions about bipolar that unfortunately I, one who has the illness, buy into when depressed. The best course of action for myself is awareness and education.

Self-Awarness: This is the key to managing symptoms. Although during a depressive episode it’s a key which often opens a pandora box of self-doubt. So let’s bust some doubt-causing misconceptions with the facts:

I do not spend weeks awake, spend loads of money, or go “postal” on people. Some symptoms of bipolar I mania are decreased need for sleep, reckless behavior, and heightened mood. Truth: Studies found that people with bipolar spend far more time in depressive states than elevated. Depression to mania ratio in bipolar I is 3:1. Meaning, 3 more depressive episodes to every one manic episode.

“But Violet,” I tell myself, “You only have bipolar II so this is less serious.” False: Instead of mania I suffer from hypomania,“a milder form of mania.” Even by definition it sounds like hypomania is far more preferable than mania.

And in many ways it is, but it’s what I call my “Wonder Woman” period, but I am entirely unaware that I’m acting superhuman. Observers often (as I’ve personally have been told by friends) admire the qualities I show during hypomanic periods. I’m highly capable of multitasking and taking on many projects. I convey a general sense of happiness; even if there are external difficulties the glass is always “half full.” I’m able to work, be social, engage in life to the fullest.

How is that any different than being a “go getter American”? 

Because the hypomania period is usually just a week or two,and by the end my mental activity is off the charts. I want more work responsibility but can’t concentrate on a single task. My speech, thoughts and ideas race around in a million different directions. This type of mania deceives me because  I’m on medications, sleep well, get things done. It feels pretty awesome and I feel totally in control until perhaps the last day of this “up cycle.”

“That sounds wonderful, Violet, sign me up for hypomania!”

In bipolar II the ratio of time spent in a depressive state to hypo manic is 40:1. That means for every 40 dips I get ONE Wonder Woman cycle.

Presently I am in a major depressive episode. This generally happens to me after a hypomanic state. Good news: I only get this chemically down after a hypomanic state, and hypomanic states do not happen very often.

“Just get off the couch and turn those lemons into lemonade.”

That’s the worst misconception of all. Because, you see, there are no lemons. Everything in my life is great. This is what frustrates me the most, but also brings out the truth of my disease. I have a chemical imbalance, a disease that is separate from my reality. I am having a depressive episode, and am aware that I need to practice self-care.

I have to have the awareness to practice “good enough.” I don’t have to go all “just do it” in regards to moving out of this depressive state. For example, I didn’t have the energy to shower yesterday but knew I needed to go see my therapist. A few years ago that would have been enough of a stressor to cancel the appointment.

But I took a wet wash cloth & cleaned myself up. I even brushed my teeth and concealed my greasy hair with a hat! Winning! As long as I take these”good enough” steps and stay out of guilt and judgement. As long as I am aware that I am in a chemical state of depression and remember I can be happy, the small acts will move me out of this bipolar depression.