Disclaimer: The title… I’ve been watching a lot of Life on Mars lately. Gene Hunt is in my head and I’m totally okay with that. Also I was inspired to actually post this behemoth because of Erika’s amazing blog post on puzzles and anxiety.
Recently Bell held a “Bell Let’s Talk” Day to support mental health awareness. It raised well over six million dollars and for 24 hours it had people talking about their experiences with mental health. There is controversy surrounding where some of that money is going though, namely CAMH and Dr. Zucker and some of his practices. I won’t get into that here, I’m not equipped to talk about it but here are some links that I encourage you to read and make your own decisions. Obviously it’s too late now to take that money back if you disagree but there’s still the option of moving forward to talk about mental health. We need it when we still have people like this complete idiot from Fox News saying “bipolar disorder is a fad.” I’ve been “out” about my diagnosis for a while now. I have rapid-cycling bipolar II disorder as well as anxiety issues. I’ve been diagnosed since I was 19 and had symptoms as early as 12.
Bipolar II Disorder defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes (highs and lows), with no full-blown manic or mixed episodes requiring hospitalization that would make it type I. There is also Cyclothemia which is like bipolar II but less severe. During a hypomanic episode, you may feel euphoric, and be highly productive. You seek out high-risk pleasurable activities and have a decreased need for sleep. You talk fast but it makes total sense to you. The world seems crystal clear and all the answers are right there waiting.
Rapid cycling occurs when a person has four or more episodes of major depression, mania, hypomania, or mixed states, all within a year. Hypomania can seem pretty good and lots of people; I include myself here, don’t want to medicate at first or treat the illness and lose the “good things.” I feel very creative when I’m manic, and I feel like I can write an award-winning novel. I stay up for as long as I can and consume a lot of caffeine, “working.” First time I watched Torchwood I was manic and I watched the entire two seasons in one sitting. I suspect this is why I love Torchwood so much. Only good reason to love the cheesy bits as much as I do.
I was supposed to go to work but I didn’t. I didn’t even call in, just didn’t show up for two shifts. I almost lost my job because of it. A week later I walked out of work when I took an anxiety attack. Again no explanation but somehow I kept my job (my bosses were so understanding). I don’t see people talking about this. When hypomania turns into full-blown mania you can require hospitalization. You can believe you’re a superhero and try to jump off a building because you believe you can fly. You may run around in the middle of the night screaming how much you love your neighbours like a drunk college student, but completely sober.
You believe you are the best possible thing in the world and can take on everything. Mania is dangerous to the person and to everyone around them but people don’t talk about it. Sometimes this lasts a day, sometimes two weeks. This is often the face movies take when they show bipolar disorder. Stephen Fry made a wonderful documentary on bipolar disorder called the Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. In it he shows the realistic side of bipolar disorder as someone who suffers from it. It’s well worth the hour it takes to watch it:Stephen Fry: The secret life of the manic depressive from Keenan Laskin on Vimeo.