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Life is a rollercoaster: the ups and downs of Bipolar Disorder

By Sophie
Life is a rollercoaster: the ups and downs of Bipolar Disorder

What is bipolar and how does it affect people?

Wednesday the 27th of June 2012 was the very first national bipolar awareness day. A recent survey revealed 4 out of 5 people are not diagnosed with the illness immediately. Celebrities like Russell Brand, Ben Stiller, Stephen Fry and Catherine Zeta Jones have all talked openly about coping with bipolar disorder yet many of us are still in the dark. So what exactly is it?

In layman’s terms bipolar is a form of manic depression. However, it can be hard to spot since it affects every person differently.

During a period of depression, you may have feelings of worthlessness. You may feel pessimistic as well as experiencing self-doubt, delusion, illogical thinking and at worst, suicidal thoughts. The manic phase of bipolar disorder includes feeling overjoyed, full of energy, self-important and making decisions or saying things that are out of character or put yourself or others at risk.

For those with bipolar, insufficient sleep becomes part of what is called ‘hypomania’. This is when feelings of stress cause an elevated mood state. You sometimes feel as though your foot is on the accelerator throughout the entire day. Then when nighttime comes, absence of sunlight prompts most people to feel sleepy.

With hypomania, the accelerator is still very much on and what’s worse is that it feels as though you’re unable to take your foot off of the pedal. Eventually you come crashing down, feeling exhausted.

As you can imagine, this is perhaps the worst way to feel when suffering from depression. The aftermath has a huge impact on your mood, leaving you feeling unstable. When you have to meet strenuous coursework deadlines at university, it can suddenly feel like a waking nightmare. So how do you cope on your own?

Whilst studying, not having your parents around can feel liberating. However, this lack of parental oversight means that you have to work that bit harder just to ensure you’re getting just the right amount of sleep and TLC.

Coping with an illness like bipolar takes a lot of commitment and self-control. It’s by no means a walk in the park. There are so many people that do it well though and live successful, happy lives. It just takes work. There is a long-standing myth that recovery from bipolar is all about medication. Although careful use of medication does play a part, acute self-awareness and psychological therapy also play a part. Nipping self-destructive thoughts and actions in the bud early on is the first step.

On the upside, being able to cope well will make you emotionally stronger. You’ll feel prepared to take on just about anything the world throws at you. Hemmingway, Munch, Van Gogh and Nietzsche all faced bipolar head on so remember that you’re amongst greatness. For more information, visit http://www.bipolaruk.org.uk/

“Unthinking the Rain”: Actor Stephen Fry on bipolar disorder

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Tagged: ilness, hypomania, depression, bipolar disorder

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