So today is #worldbipolarday, apparently. Thanks Facebook! As I was scrolling through the black hole that is facebook at 8:45 this evening during class (it’s not like you’ve never done it. And besides it’s 8FUCKING45 AND I’M IN CLASS), I noticed that little annoying thing in the corner of things that are “trending,” one of which is #worldbipolarday. I’m about to throw some facts in your face like a cream pie so look out. And taste the cream pie.
First of all, bipolar disorder is NOT borderline personality disorder. There are several varieties of bipolar disorder, but simply, there is bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. It’s kind of like diabetes, 1 is worse than 2. Worse is kind of a bad word. Ok how about “more severe.” When most people think of bipolar disorder, they probably think of the common features of bipolar 1, which is the rapid cycling and severe highs and severe lows that can change very quickly. HOWEVER. People with bipolar disorder do NOT switch back and forth between being angry to happy to suicidal in a matter of minutes. Manic episodes or depressives episodes can last for almost an entire week. Same with a rapid cycling episode. Rapid cycling is more like the stereotype of bipolar disorder: it’s exactly what it sounds like. Rapid back and forth with mood. Rapid cycling can be seen in bipolar 2 as well.
And let me tell you, rapid cycling is scary. It’s unexplainable. One minute you feel great. You can conquer the world. You’re going to go home and knock out all of your homework and stay up all night drawing and tomorrow you’re going to go run 5 miles and then go get plastered that night. That’s the plan anyway. Your manic brain’s plan. But, as the rapid cycling goes, maybe an hour or so later, your mood drops lower than you could ever feel. You want to die. You want to curl up in a ball in your bed and waste away with Netflix and junk food. Nothing matters. You don’t care. You’re tired. Fuck everything. You feel depressed. But wait… you bounce back eventually!
Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder. Major depressive disorder is a brain disorder as well, but you can trick yourself out of it (that makes it sound so easy). Yeah, your brain chemistry is messed up but I know that it’s easy to trick yourself into feeling happy. Bipolar is different. You are literally trapped by the reduced volume of your prefrontal cortex (it’s the part of the brain right above your eyes). Among other structural abnormalities in your brain. And some other neuroscience that I don’t understand because I just have an (almost) degree in psychology and psychology majors do not understand biology. Unless you’re getting your bachelor of science. Then you can’t sit with us B.A. psych majors. We’re a different species. Ok so anyway.
Did you know that bipolar disorder is so incredibly common? It shocks me that a very large percentage of the population has bipolar 2 disorder, and often it’s misdiagnosed as depression. 2.6% of the US adult population suffers from bipolar disorder, and 2.2% suffer from severe bipolar disorder (thank you, NIMH statistics). This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s literally about 3 out of every 100 people that have bipolar disorder.
My therapist has a chalkboard in her office that has a huge list of celebrities that have bipolar disorder so here’s a few: Jim Carrey, Russell Brand, Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Mel Gibson, Demi Lovato, Marilyn Monroe (I know, right?), Lou Reed, Axl Rose, Ernest Hemingway…. The list goes on forever.
Sidenote, I don’t have bipolar disorder. I’ve been misdiagnosed with it several times and maybe I do have it but honestly, who knows. And I don’t care. You are not your label. You are not your DSM code or the medications you take. You are a person. A beautiful person that I want to hug and tell you that you will be ok just like everyone else. Some days will be better than others and that’s inevitable. But it’s ok. As a very annoying smiling cat once said…
We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.