What Exactly IS Bipolar?

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week around campus, and as a student with Bipolar Disorder, I thought I’d write an article to raise awareness of this condition. Bipolar Disorder, which is […]

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week around campus, and as a student with Bipolar Disorder, I thought I’d write an article to raise awareness of this condition.

Bipolar Disorder, which is also known as Manic Depression, affects approximately 5.7 million people around the world. Of this percentage, 70% received a misdiagnosis and 20% would go on to commit suicide.

Bipolar is a form of depression that consists of both manic and depressive episodes. During a manic episode, a person may feel restless, irritable and euphoric. They may have trouble sleeping, an increased sexual drive and poor judgement. They may even be more inclined to misuse drugs/alcohol, engage in risky behaviour and lack concentration.

During a depressive episode however, a person may feel hopeless, emotionally empty and guilty for things that may not be their fault. They may also feel worthless, fatigued and lose interest in their everyday life. Most worryingly, during a depressive episode, they may even contemplate suicide.

I’m not going to lie, Bipolar is a pretty horrible condition to have. I’ve tried not to let it affect my life and try to live like everybody else but sometimes even the simplest things can become hard. My moods can become so erratic they scare me, and also scare those closest to me. Bipolar doesn’t just affect the person with the condition, it also affects those closest to them.

When I first told my mother that I was having suicidal thoughts, she didn’t believe me, but now she spends a fair amount of time worrying about me, which I do not want. She wouldn’t even let me have any sleeping pills (it’s really hard for me to sleep during a manic episode without the use of pharmaceuticals) as she worried that I’d overdose on them whilst she wasn’t looking.

It’s difficult for my friends, too. I’ve told my closest friends about my condition so that they can understand me during a depressive episode. During these times I become really, really paranoid. I genuinely believe that everyone hates me, even my friends and family. I feel completely hopeless, like I can’t do anything. Sometimes I will just skip Uni and stay in bed because I can’t face the world. I also cry a lot during these times, mainly for the most mundane reasons.

During these periods, I also forget things that are important, for example an appointment with the doctor. Normally I have a very good memory. I can remember tiny details from films or something from Year 8 Geography but I can’t remember things that are genuinely important. More worryingly, I contemplate committing suicide (something I’m determined not to resort to but the thoughts won’t ever leave me) and become very reliant on alcohol.

Alcohol plays a big part in any student’s life, but I find it especially useful. During a depressive episode, a couple of drinks thrust me from a depressive episode into a manic one. This is unhealthy, I know, but when the thought of killing myself sounds more appealing than facing the world I’d rather kill my liver a little. Please don’t take this as advice from me, as alcohol definitely doesn’t solve my problems and it won’t solve yours, but when I’m desperate and need a quick fix, I find that a little bit of sambuca goes a long way.

Manic depressive episodes sound fun, and for a while they are. It’s a little bit like being a crazy, happy drunk. Everything sounds funny and I have a lot of energy, a bit like a hyperactive child. I’m fun to be around and feel happy for a little bit, but at the back of my mind I know that my mood could change at any moment.

I do take antidepressants for my condition, but they don’t work as well as I’d hoped. I also have counselling and have taught myself how to meditate, which can help during depressive episodes. The best thing for me is distraction, so I talk to my Mum or my friends (but not too often as I don’t wish to be a burden!) or watch a bit of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ to distract me or cheer me up. I’m determined not to let Bipolar ruin my life, and despite having it pretty bad last year, I still managed to achieve a 2:1.

The aim of this article is not sympathy. I want to enlighten students on the ways of Bipolar during our Mental Health Awareness Week. The University has a very good counselling service which hosts drop-ins every day from 1-2pm.
Furthermore, everyone is welcome to get involved with Tea & Talk at SUSU  or Southampton University’s Mental Health Awareness Week