According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 2.6 percent of the adult population in the United States were diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (formerly called manic depression). I happen to fall in this category.
I began suffering with episodes of mania in my early 20s. I would be awake for days at a time taking on numerous projects. I exercised excessively. I loved to spend money and became very irresponsible with my finances. I would date multiple men at the same time with little to no regard for anyone’s feelings. I literally felt like a supermodel during these periods. After about a week of my “natural high,” I would start to crash.
Then came down period. I have never struggled with the actual depression side of bipolar disorder as I have a manic personality. However, during my “down time,” I felt tired, irritable and extremely unattractive. My mind would race, and due to lack of sleep and other contributing factors, I would become paranoid and typically end all of my new relationships.
The breaking point for me was when a close family member was hospitalized and diagnosed with mental illness. I decided that I would go see someone to ensure that the same fate would not await me. I was very open and honest about the things I had gone through. And I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.
It was a crushing blow because there is a stigma that people with this condition are bat-shit crazy, that they hear voices and need to be locked up in a padded room. That is not the case.
I spent the next few months adjusting medications to treat my specific situation. People with bipolar disorder have their own symptoms and needs, so it’s important to be treated as an individual. Personally, I needed proper medication to stabilize my moods, slow down my thoughts and to help me sleep. Some of the medications caused me to gain weight, others caused me to have opposite reactions. It was a long, hard journey. I also had to meet with my psychiatrist once every three weeks until I was stable.
Today, I take a cocktail of medications. It’s been working for a few years and I see my psychiatrist once every eight weeks. I wish that I could say I am cured but sadly there is no cure for Bipolar Disorder. I do still suffer from occasional periods of mania, but I am able to recognize them and seek help.
If you are bipolar, it is important to stay on your medication and to continue seeing your therapist to stay healthy. I am sharing my story in hopes that it will encourage and inspire you to keep going. You can and will lead a normal life. You must love and accept yourself for who you are, even if it’s a woman living with bipolar disorder, before you can truly love someone else.