“Bipolar is like being on a roller coaster ride. Sometimes you can predict drop-offs and others you just have to hang on because the next turn sends you into an unexpected spiral. Sometimes you are laughing and throwing your hands in the air and other times you are clinging, simply holding on for dear life screaming at the top of your lungs.”
Imagine walking down the road and suddenly you’re hit by crippling sadness, something that hits you in the knees, slows down your walk and ultimately it paralyses and cripples you. You are chained to your bed with no appetite for food or human interaction, even that funny episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S won’t cheer you up, you try to look alive, into the interesting anecdote your friend is narrating but your mind is somewhere else, i.e. nowhere, you try to think if you’re not in this moment, you must be somewhere else but you realize you are nowhere in that moment. You wait for it to pass, which your doctors so conveniently have termed as a phase, you try to sit it out and then one day you’re walking again down the same road and you’re hit with a sense of euphoria, happiness is immaterial but this happiness is tangible, you can feel it coursing through your veins. The physical effects of this sudden change of mood is very much visible, there is huge change in the levels of your energy, you can do more, run an extra mile, your head is filled with ideas, creativity starts pouring from every edge, on which topic would you write a poem first. The retina of your eye also undergoes some kind of a change, the grass is a shade greener, there are more leaves on the trees, you’re talking more hastily, everything is in excess, even your unnatural felicity, it is worrisome almost, with no change of events or personal cause to attribute it to. This unaccounted happiness goes like it comes, suddenly removed without any notice or caution, such are the phases of a Bipolar, the phases come and go with punctuality, the cycle continues with no straight line out of it.
Bipolar Disorder is a disorder characterised by extreme shifts of mood, while the symptoms vary for different individuals, the two commonly observed phases include Mania, i.e, period of extremely elevated mood coupled with risk taking behaviour (for some) and poor judgement, another phase termed as Manic Depression, includes extreme sadness, decreased self worth, inability to do simple tasks, trouble concentrating. Sleep cycles also shift through the phases, increased sleep duration during the low phases which sometimes exceeds 14-15 hours and a decreased need to rest during mania. Mood episodes last for months at a time and are often coupled with suicidal thoughts, the severity of the disease varies from individual to individual. The exact cause of Bipolar is not known but a combination of genetics, environment, altered brain structure and chemistry may play a role. Childhood trauma is pointed as an important reason for surfacing of Bipolar during adulthood. Genetic predisposition also plays an important role, which means if someone in your family is struggling with a mental illness of this sort you have a high risk factor. One of the main concerns with Bipolar is that these emotional highs and lows leave the person with variable effects on their work productivity. A generation of hustlers, and ‘making the most of the moment’ enthusiasts, leaves a little space for Bipolars, as the reality of their present moment keeps changing from time to time. Bipolar patients often refer to themselves as unreliable, they may be at your beck and call, doling out fresh and creative ideas when their spirits are high but won’t even answer your calls when they are down in the dumps, for most times they are unable to even fend for themselves. This leaves them lagging behind in this competitive era with only few good days in their pocket. Bipolars often try to use their mania as a productivity tool which is dangerous as it furthermore sucks them into a circle of high productivity and low productivity. It has been observed the following of a schedule often helps during the periods of extreme depression, a sense of routine at times serves as a balancing agent.
While the stigma towards mental illness is reducing with every day, Bipolar still stands to be one of the most misunderstood and dangerous diseases. Putting out bipolarity is difficult owing to the complexities surrounding the disorder. With Google at our tips, we have access to a tremendous amount of information, typing vague symptoms into our search bar often gives us definite search results, but mental illnesses are not that simple. Self diagnosis and casual use of terms like Bipolar is dangerous and often borderlines on insensitivity. If you feel you are struggling from something that falls in the similar lines, visit a mental health professional, let them examine you, conduct the necessary exams and questions and come to a conclusion with his help, not alone. Since we have started a debate about mental illness, we need changes within our system to be more inclusive to people with disorders like these which makes it difficult for them to keep up with the daily tasks. Our system alienates people who fluctuate, it demands consistency and is goal oriented, while this all may lead to high annual turnover but leaves a little space to be human, flawed and not perfect.
Bipolar Disorder is a complex disorder which can be managed by rigorous therapy and a combination of different medicines, coupled with a strong support system that understands the constraints of this disease and accommodates accordingly to make space for people struggling with this disorder.
Rutba Iqbal is a student pursuing English Honors from Jamia Millia Islamia.