The Epic Highs and Lows of Living with Bipolar Disorder

“Bipolar disorder is a neurobiological brain disorder that affects approximately 2.3 million Americans today, or almost 1 percent of the population.” [Mental Illness Policy Org]

Life with bipolar disorder is synonymous with going on the most intense roller coaster you will ever ride.

You get on the ride, and without warning, you are taken to the top. An adrenaline rush quickly fills your body as you grow excited for what is to come. Because you are on top of the world, you feel as though you are looking down on everything and everyone else. Almost like you are better than them sometimes, just because you get to be on this special rollercoaster that they know nothing about. That feeling just stays for a couple of minutes, which then turns into hours. Days. Weeks.

At this point, you really want the rollercoaster to just go down the tracks. You don’t remember when you first got on the ride but you just want to get off. The energy and vigor started out as the most amazing, mind altering psychedelic of all time. And at first you love the feeling, until you realize you are stuck in your seat. You can’t get off. You just exist with an unquenchable thirst to be free and get even a fraction of the energy out of your system.

Naturally, you want to touch the ground and feel stable again. But the conductor of the ride refuses to let you down no matter how much you beg and plead. Since you are up in the clouds, there is less oxygen going to your brain. So you make bad decisions. You accidentally ruin relationships because you can’t talk to anyone except those who are on the coaster with you, and more often than not, no one is there. You can’t rest because you are so scared the coaster is going to fall while you are sleeping. You do your best to keep busy, but there isn’t much to do on top of a roller coaster that isn’t dangerous.

Then the coaster finally goes down.

The wind blows through your hair and the feeling of relaxation is absolutely incredible. You can finally take a nap, trusting that the coaster will take you back to the beautiful, rock solid, and safe ground. But the coaster keeps going down, and you start to fear that it’s never going to stop. And it doesn’t. You just keep going lower and lower, and you lose track of time. How long has it been since you first got on the ride? Have your friends and family forgotten about you? Are you spending too much time on this roller coaster that they want nothing to do with you?

There is nothing to do but sit and think since the coaster is moving way too fast to let you do anything else. So you think. And think. And think. And think. You feel so alone and ashamed of how long you spent on top of the roller coaster. Ashamed about how oblivious you once were, and you long to go back to the top.

After spending all of your energy on the top of the roller coaster, you have none left to deal with the downward spiral that refuses to stop. You need the ride to stop, so you can breathe, but it won’t stop. And once again you are stuck.

That’s what being bipolar is like: an endless rapid cycle between mania and depression. People with bipolar disorder often make highly impulsive decisions, as they cannot control their emotions or moods. It’s completely unpredictable. Think of it like this, their brain flips a coin at random every few weeks. Heads say the next few days or weeks are going to be full of mania and uncontrollable energy. Tails force them into a state of depression that will feel endless. For some people, one side of the coin is weighted. Those with Bipolar 1 typically flip to heads more often. So they have longer manic phases and shorter fits of depression. People who have Bipolar 2 experience tails more often, meaning more depression and less mania.

Try to be more aware of what other people may be going through. Oftentimes, those people you think are “weird” and “too much” are just the ones dealing with things you have no idea about.

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