You might use the word “Bipolar” to describe the weather in Kansas or to joke about your significant other or when venting about someone. But you might be shocked to realize just how complicated Bipolar Disorder can be.
Hey everyone, I’m Marissa, the blogger at Created Breath. I’m a well-adjusted mom, full time employee, Jesus lover, and crafty woman. I also have Bipolar II.
As a young adult, I couldn’t help but think that I should be immune to mental health problems. I graduated from college with Magna Cum Laude honors. I have loving parents and siblings. I was married already.
After a year and a half of trying to conceive, I had a blessed addition to my family. I was on track to pursue my calling into ministry, although I put it on pause until I could afford seminary. My life was put together. Besides, I didn’t previously have a track record of substance abuse or mental illness.
As one therapist pointed out though, I was stuffing multiple life transitions into a short time frame. I got married my freshman year of college, worked 2-3 jobs through all 4 years, studied abroad twice, and became pregnant my senior year of college. I started a new job at 8 months pregnant. I only had two weeks off work to deliver (FMLA doesn’t kick in until over a year’s work), a strict schedule wasn’t adhered to so it was impossible to pump regularly. My son’s dad left for military training when my son was a month old, and I still had to finish up two final courses. I shortly realized that I had postpartum depression to the point that I was regularly having nightmares.
I saw a therapist and tried several antidepressants for my Bipolar II
I found out that I’m allergic to a whole bunch of them (the meds, not the therapists). I thought I was good to go on my merry way. Then about a year later I noticed my depression kicking in again, but this time it was punctuated with periods of energy and ambition (like staying up late to sew everyone Christmas gifts or wanting to run in the middle of cold weather).
I did some armchair research, went to a therapist, and asked if maybe it was an indicator of Bipolar II. Due to other circumstances, I switched my provider and found out that I had Bipolar II.
Bipolar II is a bit different than classic Bipolar II. As my psychiatrist explained, its “bipolar lite”.
Instead of full-blown manic periods, I have hypomanic periods. For me at least, symptoms include over excitement, not wanting to stay still, talking faster and more assertively than usual (which is complicated by my existing speech impediment), a decreased need for sleep, taking on more projects than I can realistically execute, and splurging on Nutella (it sounds silly but normally I am a penny pincher).
It may not seem like such a bad thing, but I worry that I may be too careless. What if I say something that I shouldn’t, or buy more than I can afford or don’t sleep? Spoiler alert, none of these have happened yet.
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After sharing fears with my provider that Bipolar II would develop into Bipolar I or that my hypo-manic episodes would intensify, she reassured me that I would have already exhibited more serious symptoms by now. I’m a self-aware, goal-making, and grounded person and I thank God that she had a point.
Compared to Bipolar I, being diagnoses with Bipolar II, I spend more time depressed than hypomanic.
You probably already know many of the symptoms of depression so I won’t detail those as much. For me, the lack of energy and feeling isolated are the worst. When adjusting my medication this spring, I spent almost two months depressed and it was the worst. Luckily, I spoke up to my provider and we readjusted my dosages. Since then, I’ve only had mild depression and no hypo-mania. I spend most of my time “normal”, albeit with anxiety.
Someone close to me told me that I shouldn’t have to rely on a pill to be normal. Some of the worst advice I’ve ever heard, I thought. And it was pretty ignorant. But it had me thinking about ways I can supplement my medication.
Some of the things I do to help me with my hypomania are:
- Listen to calming music, such as my Be Still playlist
- Do home exercises
- Use calming essential oils
- Indulge in just one or two passion projects that I’ll stay committed to
- Color or paint
- Write stories
My self care for depression includes:
- Getting a good balance of sleep
- Stocking my fridge/cupboards with easy meals in advance
- Good television shows that I can keep in the background
- Listening to live radio (the commentary makes me feel less alone)
- Going out to events or otherwise making plans
Related Post: Getting An Emotional Support Animal?
Why am I sharing my experience with Bipolar II with you?
I have a lot to lose in the esteem of my community, friends, and audience. I share because I spent hours Googling stories like mine when first researching Bipolar Disorder. I share because I want to break the stigma of mental health issues. I share because I don’t like feeling as though I’m hiding part of myself. And I want to challenge thoughts that there is a “type” of person who has mental illness. We come from all education levels, ethnicity, socioeconomic backgrounds, religions, political parties, and orientations.
Thank you for letting me share my story. I hope that it informs you and that you share it with someone you know who has a mental illness.
Marissa is the author of Created Breath, a blog about faith, motherhood, and creativity through the eyes of a millennial. While not working full-time or blogging, she enjoys sewing, attending church events, reading social commentaries, learning Spanish, and of course spending time with her son. She’s a lover of tattoos, cheese, and Disney +.