Bipolar Disorder can be a very scary thing for people to go through. You can go from being extremely “happy” to really upset within seconds, which is due to the serotonin levels in your brain. Bipolar disorder causes people to have mood swings, which most of the time have nothing to do with anything going on in their lives. This is exactly what they call it – a mental disorder. People who get it cannot help it, just as people with cancer cannot help what they are going through.
Another name for bipolar disorder is manic depression, which is a very effective definition of the disease. Bipolar means “2 poles.” In this case, the meaning is about mania and depression. When you have an increased level of serotonin on your brain, you are said to be hypomanic. When you have a low level of serotonin in your brain, you are in a depressed state. Bipolar patients have both of these going on at the same time throughout their lives, possibly even many times a day. The process is called “rapid cycler.”
People with bipolar disorder may try to commit suicide or do things to harm themselves. Such things may include cutting themselves, drinking, using drugs like marijuana. People with this disorder tend to use marijuana in order to relieve the symptoms of pain and stress. Although marijuana does have antidepressant properties, it can cause the so-called “amotivational syndrome.” It occurs when people who use it begin to perform at a very low level, which is lower than before using the drug. The person may feel relief from their symptoms, but this may be just an illusion.
When bipolar people are in a manic state, they begin to think in a frenzy. All of their muscles tense up, and their shoulder blades and jaw begin to ache. Their heartbeat speeds up. Physical activities become effortless, and they feel very strong, yet doing simple things like tying their shoes becomes difficult. They begin to feel twitchy and want to move around a lot. People during mania often talk to themselves, or if talking to others, they repeat the same thing over and over again. Often times, they overreact to things or blow things way out of proportion, and tend to have short tempers. Driving while in a state of mania is one of the most dangerous things for them to do because they forget about the mental pictures of other cars and believe they are the only ones on the road. Even if things are irritating to others, they will continue to do them, such as poking people, interrupting others, or ignoring. The dreams manic people have are so vivid, and they feel as if they have lived them. Speech often speeds up and may be unintelligible to others. Productivity soars during this time, but they get easily confused if given more than one thing to do. When a person is hypomanic, they are very good at lyrics and poetry, being able to come up with songs and things very easily.
As it comes from everything mentioned above, many things can happen when you are in a hypomanic state. You may be asking yourself, “Besides the few obvious things like dangerous driving, what could be so bad about this?” The answer to that question is suicide. A little-known fact is that surprisingly, more bipolar people commit suicide during hypomania rather than depression period because they feel like they are on top of the world and nothing will hurt them. At the same time, depression causes you to mope around.
On the other end of the spectrum, depression comes. People lose understanding of what they should be doing next. They tend to wander around in a daze. Things begin to stay undone. Every person makes them nervous. They can fight it for a while, but when it hits hard, everything becomes a burden. It is a battle that is always lost because they cannot help it. By the time they realize they need help, the depression has taken over, and they cannot communicate clearly enough with others to tell them. They often stay inside and never leave. Their sleep patterns become odd, often staying awake for 20 or more hours. These people become so afraid of others that they disappear and go driving, sometimes for hours. The purpose is to escape and put their body somewhere else that is safe and comfortable to escape the terror. They spend their days with blank minds. In my surveys, I found the results kind of surprising. Almost exactly half of the 50 people surveyed knew someone who was bipolar, which I found amazing. A good thing about this is that people who didn’t know anyone with manic depression said that they would try to calm them down and be a good friend to them.
I chose to write about manic depression because a close friend of mine is bipolar, and it is so hard sometimes to deal with him. However, I do because I love him, and I know that without me, sometimes he would feel as if no one cared. He started out young, doing the typical things that boys do, like drawing bloody pictures and stuff like that. He always thought about killing the person he was mad at as a child. Although it was trivial at the time, it was important to him. Nevertheless, in no way is he ‘a crazy psycho that needs to be in an asylum,’ as one of my friends put it. He is a human being. Just like anyone else, he should be treated fairly. In the past few years, I have realized that most, if not all, of the symptoms he has displayed that I thought were just ‘him,’ were really signs of mania and depression. He feels comfortable talking about his disease, so soon after we met, he told me. I was confused at first and wasn’t sure how to deal with that information. But then I realized that he should be treated the same. I just have to be careful when saying something because bipolar people tend to get their feelings hurt easily. Luckily, he was diagnosed at 18, which seems like a lifetime ago for him. He is 21 now. He takes medication to help control the masked killer we call manic depression, which affects 2-3 million people in the U.S. I believe he is on the right track now. All he needs is the right motivation, and people to stand by him.
I recently read a book by Danielle Steel “His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina,” which was about her 19-year-old son who was bipolar and killed himself. This has become my favorite book, and I love the way she told the story. What she says in the intro of the book almost made me cry because that’s how I feel about my friend. She says, “There is no denying that it is a hard, hard road loving someone with bipolar disease. There are times when you want to scream, days when you think you can’t do it anymore, weeks when you know you haven’t made a difference but only wish you could, moments when you want to turn your back on it. It is their problem, not yours, and yet it becomes yours if you love the person suffering from it. You have no choice. You must stand by them. You are trapped, as surely as the patient is. And you will hate that trap at times; hate what it does to your life, your days, your own sanity. But hate it or not, you are there, and whatever it takes, you have to make the best of it.”
Bipolar disorder is something that cannot be cured. However, it can be controlled in the right environment. I hope my message makes you think as follows – if you know someone who is like this, please, don’t turn your back on them. Stand by them and support them, because this is something that they will have to deal with for the rest of their life.