On the 4th of September 2013, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder, rapid cycling type. This means that I am prone to spikes and plummets in mood which go beyond the ‘normal’ ups and downs of life. I experience shorter periods of hypomania and longer periods of depression. Though I’ve never had a psychotic episode or full-blown mania, and so avoided the diagnosis of Bipolar I, I can go from delight and elation to despair and devestation in a matter of weeks, days, hours or even minutes – and then back up again. I can also experience these same peaks and troughs at the same time. It means that I am a funny, vivacious, charming, confident and sexy chatterbox who is extremely antisocial, morose, unkempt, tearful and quiet, with a side of extreme agitation and irritability. I can survive on three hours of sleep and a diet of 15p noodles, but cannot get out of bed after 12 hours of sleep without feeling exhausted and insatiably hungry. I can laugh hysterically, sob uncontrollably, be so excited but so bored I could kill myself, and sometimes feel absolutely nothing at all.
It means that the antidepressants I was prescribed at 16 may have made my rapid cycling much worse and I am at the very, very beginning of an attempt to finally come off them seven years later. It definitely means I’m at increased risk of suicide, post-partum depression/psychosis and poverty, plus I’m probably not allowed to drive for a while. It means I’m disabled by the barriers imposed upon me by a (supposedly) mentally well society and can subsequently claim Disabled Students Allowance. It means that life can often be difficult and uncomfortable, as I struggle to cope with daily activities like going to uni and cleaning my house (though sometimes I do totally rule at it). It means I may have to take mood stabilising drugs for the rest of my life or I may just have to eat right, meditate and do yoga every day. Both have serious side-effects, including weight gain, acne and becoming a New Age tosser.
It means that I can be extremely creative but it’s definitely not as sexy as it sounds. My laptop contains a swathe of projects – some are fully finished out of a spurt of heady creative lucidity, others still embryonic and languishing sadly on my desktop. I mostly write poetry as it maximises creativity in a short time period, thus requiring the least concentration if I’m either up or down, but I’ve started making really scary music – I hope this blog is another project that makes it out alive. I can be intense, bouncy and jittery or slow and shaky, wading through the thick sludge of depression which oozes like tar, though I can often be pleasantly distracted by something which requires intellectual effort. I am a series of (mostly) entertaining crises as I never know what I want for more than a couple of weeks at a time; it becomes very hard to trust your own feelings and judgement, even when you’re utterly convincing to others due to the absolute depth of your emotions. My emotions are very real – they’re just sometimes a bit short-lived.
It means that relationships have suffered due to my strange and unpredictable switches in mood, personality and sex drive. My perception of the world alters and it becomes difficult to assess what (or who) I should be doing. I have saught ill-advised attempts at sexual, chemical and sensory gratification to try and ameliorate the pain I have felt throughout my tender years. It means that I am still often dealing with embarrassing or hurtful consequences, despite arguably knowing better. I have hurt people I love, lost friends and eroded trust and intimacy over and over and OVER again. I have also ended up with complete and utter dickheads as a result of low self-esteem and short-sightedness. I have suffered at the hands of cruel, heartless or small-minded brutes, as well as traumatising a series of very nice young men… though I still maintain that they simply weren’t big or bold enough to handle me. Or pretty enough. That being said, I have had a lot of fun and have some excellent stories to tell – being a bit mental often entails wacky hijinks.
I am a bad friend, an even worse girlfriend but an extremely caring, lovable and loving, thoughtless, impulsive, considerate, sensitive, bizarre and funny woman, occasionally enhanced but often devestated by a serious mental illness. It does not define me because it is me – it is my extra sprinkling of nonsense on top of the blundering, bumbling sundae of life. Even if those sprinkles sometimes taste like complete shit.
A lot of people have never heard of Bipolar II and have often asked me what it means.
I thought it would be much harder to explain than that.