>> Tuesday, October 21, 2008
We all have our ups and downs. It is an inevitable part of being human (or any animal really, I KNOW Floyd is moody). Sometimes the ups don't last as long as we would like and it seems at times that the downs last forever. It's hard to do, but remembering the good is even more important during the downs than we realize. For some of us, however, the ups and downs spin out of control. They are not just situational highs and lows, they are emotional highs and lows so extreme we cannot control them. At all. I know many people think: 'they are YOUR emotions, how could you not control them?' but we can't at all.
The point I am trying to get to is a topic that is near and dear to me. This is a topic that requires me to admit something about my self I have only ever even mentioned (sort of) once on this blog before. I am bipolar. It's true. I have medical records dating back more than 13 years and covering various professionals that all agree. I'm stuck. There is no way around it. Well, there is LOTS of medication, but lithium almost killed my kidneys.
Why, all of a sudden, am I telling you this? Mostly, it is a way for me to teach something else science related while breaking down certain stigmas attached to this topic. Partially, it is to give myself a pep talk and to let me know that it is okay and not my fault. Weird, I know.
First and foremost, a definition:
According to One Look, bipolar means having two poles, like Earth. Throw on the word "disorder" to that (I really hate that word) and you get
▸ noun: a mental disorder characterized by episodes of mania and depression
fig. 1 episodes
What causes this?
I don't really want to rewrite everything I see today so you get a quote from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI for short):
While the exact cause of bipolar disorder is not known, most scientists believe that bipolar disorder is likely caused by multiple factors that interact with each other to produce a chemical imbalance affecting certain parts of the brain. Bipolar disorder often runs in families, and studies suggest a genetic component to the illness. A stressful environment or negative life events may interact with an underlying genetic or biological vulnerability to produce the disorder. There are other possible "triggers" of bipolar episodes: the treatment of depression with an antidepressant medication may trigger a switch into mania, sleep deprivation may trigger mania, or hypothyroidism may produce depression or mood instability. It is important to note that bipolar episodes can and often do occur without any obvious trigger.This, in a nutshell, states that we really have NO CLUE! Somewhere, though, I have faulty wiring. How to fix faulty wiring? Well, we don't have little nanobot electricians (yet) but we can load up on chemicals.
How does it affect a person's life?
I don't mean to sound morose, but it affects everything... especially school. Some days I am super gung-ho and can't wait to learn and research and learn and talk talk talk. These are usually my manias. This is great except my papers sound like my thought process: a tornado flinging thoughts at you. Other days I can't even get myself to think about doing my homework or even getting out of bed. At times I go to school just to argue with people. Other times I am there, but my notes are more sketchbook pages.
The worst part is I know the stuff but since I don't go to a Big State U, I can't just rely on my test scores to float me. Homework = FAIL. The advantage is I am a discussion based learner so the small classes accomodate that. That is why I am still an undergrad at my age with an okay grade point average even though I am super passionate about science. I can't stay focused and I can't really learn the way I KNOW I can. This could be due to a really horrible standardized education system, but that is a topic for one of my soon-to-return Debate!s.
Back to the topic, bipolar disorder can so severely affect people, they can be considered disabled. I, however, am stubborn, and even though my case is severe I force myself to be a "normal" functioning member of society. It may lead to me having odd jobs (painting ornaments, working with butterflies, barking) and having a hard time with authority at times, but I make it work. I know what my triggers are and I have an amazing support network (the hubs and my best friend/mother). There may be many people you know who are bipolar as well and you may not notice or simply think they are nutty and silly.
A book I read when I was younger made me realize I was not alone. It's called An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness and it was the first time I saw on paper what I had been trying to describe all along. I read it when I was about 14 years old and is one of the books that has deeply impacted me over the years. I began to talk more freely about my condition and found other people who thought they were alone as well. Until you know what you have, you feel as if everyone and everything is going crazy and you can't grasp why what you are doing and feeling is wrong. When you know, you can (occasionally) step back and say, "it's okay, it's just a swing." It is a bit hard to overcome, but I am driven and know that even if it takes me 10 years to finish my degree (I hope not) I will do it because this is what I love and I am not going to let my malfunctioning neuropathways stop me!