It’s World Bipolar Day today! Every 30th March is a day dedicated to talking and learning about this illness.
Coincidentally, over the last week, I’ve published two posts about how mania and depression feel. I won’t go into huge detail about this today, as I’ve written about it before, but I wanted to give you some more information about bipolar disorder as it is still incredibly misunderstood for many reasons, one of which is how it is portrayed in the media. So, here are some facts about the realities of this illness:
⁃ Bipolar disorder does not mean you are either really high or really low. People can go years without experiencing any symptoms at all if it is well controlled; it is possible to be ‘in the middle’.
⁃ People can also experience a ‘mixed episode’, in which symptoms of both depression and mania occur at once.
⁃ It takes an average of 10 years to get an accurate diagnosis – women are often diagnosed with depression first, and men with schizophrenia.
⁃ To receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, symptoms of an episode must be present for a number of days or weeks. It does not mean your mood changes up and down every day.
⁃ The average age of onset is 25.
⁃ More than 2/3 of people who receive a bipolar diagnosis also have a relative with the condition.
⁃ People with bipolar disorder have a lifespan approximately 10 years shorter than average.
⁃ Medication can be life changing in good ways and bad. It can bring years of stability, but cause both short and long term side effects that make life difficult in other ways.
⁃ The idea that everyone with bipolar disorder is some sort of creative genius is harmful and outdated. It’s a destructive and challenging illness to live with.
⁃ It is not a discriminatory illness – it can and does affect people from all kinds of backgrounds.
⁃ People with bipolar disorder are 20 times more at risk of suicide.
⁃ It is a life long, incurable illness.
I was diagnosed at age 25, after it was first queried at around age 15. I was diagnosed with a recurrent depressive disorder during those 10 years. It couldn’t be more textbook. But that doesn’t do anything to make it easier.
Taking medication every day is hard; maybe it’s because it’s a daily reminder that I’ve got an illness for the rest of my life. But I am thankful every day that there is a medication that helps me and allows me to live a normal life; I know there are others who aren’t so lucky.
Bipolar is in a category known as a ‘severe and enduring mental illness’. It is not something to romanticise or minimise. But it’s also a part of who I am, and ultimately, I’m okay with who I am.
Let’s use this World Bipolar Day as a platform to keep spreading awareness and breaking down stigma surrounding not only bipolar, but mental illness as a whole.