Life on a swing: Sharing life with the bipolar disorder

“It is both a blessing
and a curse
To feel everything
So very deeply”.

David Jones

As David Jones’ quote says, the striking feature of people with a bipolar disorder is their mood sensitivity. Events have a great impact on them, triggering the mood swings and making them feel the related excitement or sadness in such a deep way. If this is a curse or a blessing, let’s leave the decision to them. 

What is the bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is an affective disorder that implies strong mood swings, from mania or hypomania to deep depression, alternating with periods of time with mood in a normal range. There are two types of bipolar disorders.

Type one 

In type one the person experiences periods of intense activation and excessive mood elevation. He doesn’t need to sleep as much as usual and acts in a different way from how he normally does - with an extreme self-confidence that could bring him to get involved into dangerous situations. These could include excessive speed driving, gambling, not safe and/or promiscuous sexual activity. This mood elevation is so intense that it gets very difficult to handle and potentially dangerous for the person himself or the people surrounding him, that it requires a hospitalisation.

Type two

On the other hand in type two, the mood elevation is less intense and it never requires a hospitalisation. This is what we call hypomania. In both cases mood activation is usually followed by periods of intense depression. 

What does it mean living with a bipolar disorder?

Try to put yourself into a bipolar person’s shoes, because this is what usually happens in some severe scenarios. You spend a few days feeling so good, so happy, so self-confident. You work so amazingly well because so many new ideas come to your mind and you feel such an energy that you are able to actually put into practise all these ideas and you do not feel tired at all.

After a long but so positive day at work, you are still hyperactive, you have plenty of energy to go out, rock the world and simply you are not able to stop. Everything comes easy, ideas, words, jokes, and this can actually feel really good. In some cases this excitement can grow more, more and more until you become anxious, irritable and people try to stop you and this makes your irritability worse.

After a few days what usually happens is that the same intensity of mood elevation goes towards the opposite direction. And now you find yourself alone, lying down in a deep chasm. You don’t have the strength and will to wake up, live your life and do anything at all; you feel like you are a heavy stone, not able to move. Really bad thoughts come to your mind and nothing really matters. 

What are the consequences of those swings? How can you give a meaning to those experiences? It’s like living on a rollercoaster. Where would you recognise your identity? In the self-confident, hyperactive person with blast of ideas and no need to sleep? Or in the person with no trust on himself and people, and no will at all to do anything? You can imagine that this can get really confusing and that it can make it extremely difficult to plan long-term goals and to try to achieve them using stable strategies. 

Bipolar disorder can be a heavy burden; but with a good specialised help, pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy, you can arrange the best solution for you to cope with it.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, WC1A 1LH
Written by Ilaria Tedeschi
London, WC1A 1LH

Ilaria Tedeschi is a cognitive behavioural psychotherapist in Marylebone, London, with several years' experience working with depressive, anxiety, sleep and relational problems.

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