My Life with Bipolar 2

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Two faces silhouette in profile that intersect. Double personality concept. Metaphor bipolar mental disorder

Susanna Crawford, Staff Writer

Throughout quarantine, I really struggled with understanding my mental health. After being depressed for a long time, I began going in and out of episodes of extreme happiness and terrible depression, and I didn’t know why.  

I realized that I should see a therapist to help me figure out what was going. I was professionally diagnosed with bipolar 2 in January. The diagnosis confirmed what I had suspected for months.  

People assume that bipolar disorder is a lot like severe mood swings where you go from depressed to manic within a matter of seconds multiple times throughout the day. 

That’s not how it works. Bipolar mood swings are a lot different than the typical moodiness that everyone experiences. Episodes can last between two weeks and several months. The duration and severity of each phase vary with the person who has the disorder, how long they have had it and whether they are medicated or not.

Mania is the intense high experienced in bipolar 1. When manic, it is common to experience symptoms: extremely high energy, a diminished need for sleep, impulsivity, excitement, aggression, being easily distracted, overly talkative, feeling very important/too confident, feeling euphoric, being full of new ideas and plans, out of character behavior.

Bipolar mood swings are a lot different than the typical moodiness that everyone experiences. Episodes can last between two weeks and several months.”

I am diagnosed with bipolar 2. Instead of manic, there are hypomanic episodes. Hypomania is like mania, but it is a more mild version of it. The main difference between mania and hypomania is that it is much easier to carry on as usual with life during hypomanic episodes.

 In contrast, because of the severity, manic symptoms can often lead to hospitalization.

Mania and hypomania bring a feeling of being on top of the world like you can do anything you want. You feel unstoppable and don’t doubt anything that you do. 

Mania and hypomania are also often stereotyped as a time of extreme productivity. While this is true in a sense, it also is not. In my experience, yes, it is a very productive time, but your priorities are not exactly in order. You’re productive with things you want to do, not the things you need to get done. For example, instead of doing my homework, I will teach myself about dinosaurs or astrology or deep clean my room in the middle of the night.  

While in a hypomanic state, I get very little sleep, usually about 2-6 hours at most, and often, I don’t get any. Even though I get very little sleep during these episodes, I still feel energized. 

During hypomania, I have gone four days straight without any sleep. I have also impulsively given myself bangs (big mistake), spent a lot of money on unnecessary things I would never buy, planned out my entire life, and made it into a book. 

In short, it causes me to act very out of character for myself. 

Along with bipolar 2 Disorder, I have anxiety and ADHD. My anxiety affects me most in social situations. I had a depressive episode that lasted for about two and a half years. During that time, my anxiety got really bad. I wouldn’t talk at lunch, I couldn’t ask friends to hang out, I convinced myself that no one wanted to be my friend, and I eventually gave up trying to socialize with people.

 When I went through my first hypomanic episode, a significant amount of my anxiety was suddenly gone. I felt very confident in myself, and I was able to talk to the people I sat with at lunch and people in my classes. I was suddenly determined to make friends and have a social life, and I was overly confident that I would succeed. I thought that my depression had been cured out of nowhere, and I would be fine from then on.  

What comes up must come down, which is evident with the extreme low of bipolar disorders. 

While in a depressive state, people struggle with and go through many complex things that are hard to understand for someone who has not ever experienced it. When suffering from depression, people commonly experience a significant loss of interest and inability to enjoy things that they once did. Depressive episodes can cause eating disorders, Insomnia or oversleeping, feeling fatigued, and having a significant loss of energy. 

While in a depressed state, people feel worthless and have excessive and unnecessary guilt. There is also a constant depressive mood; feeling sad, hopeless, empty, tearful, and irritable. The worst symptom and a prevalent one is thoughts of and/or planning to self-harm and attempt suicide.

You may notice the change coming, like a rainstorm that starts with a sprinkle in but over time comes down harder and harder.”

While going through a depressive episode, it is easy for me to experience all of these things. However, the extent depends on the episode’s severity. While depressed, I will sleep anywhere from 10-15 hours on average and will spend the day in bed if I can. I get very irritable, especially when I can’t just be alone. 

During an episode of depression, it’s hard to think about the future because every time you think about it, it’s like a hypothetical. It makes it harder to work on things you need to get done because you don’t see yourself being able to make anything out of the payoff or it being worth it.

At the beginning of quarantine, I was mainly hypomanic, and the depressive episodes were not that bad, so I hardly noticed them. Then about halfway through the summer, I began experiencing terrible depressive episodes again. They would last about 2-4 weeks and have about 1-3 weeks in between them.

While switching in and out of an episode, it can be very slow, and you may notice the change coming, like a rainstorm that starts with a sprinkle in but over time comes down harder and harder. Eventually, there comes loud, destructive lightning and thunder and strong winds.

Switching from a phase can also be like flipping a light switch. It is very sudden, and everything all happens at once. 

While leaving a hypomanic episode near the beginning of January, I slept for 27 hours. When I fully woke up, I still felt tired. Leading up to this, I had a relatively regular sleep schedule and was getting about six or eight hours of sleep every night. 

It’s ok not to be educated about all mental illnesses, especially if you don’t know anyone who is struggling with them. There is no need to go out of your way to worry yourself about other people’s issues. 

If a friend or classmate does reveal that they are dealing with something serious, don’t make assumptions about it. Everyone struggling with mental health struggles differently and with different aspects of their disorder. It’s important not to invalidate them because you have never heard of a symptom presenting itself in a certain way. Instead, take time to listen to them, continue to engage with them and let them know they have your support.