Some of you reading this know that I have Bipolar Disorder II. I was first diagnosed in 2004, when I had a hypomanic (a mild form of mania, marked by elation and hyperactivity) episode that caused me to stay up all night, clean obsessively, watch t.v.s in two different rooms, and spend money recklessly. Once I learned about what hypomania was, I realized that I had been experiencing it for many years. I used to have hypomanic episodes often when I traveled. I thought that my lack of sleep, hyperactivity, and high energy level was because I was staying in an unfamiliar place and was revved up because I had to speak in front of a group.
My illness has progressed over the years, and I am not the person I used to be. I have limitations today that I did not have in the past. I left my career of 14 years in 2007 and have been receiving disability ever since because I am unable to work. It has been hard to accept that things I used to do without thinking I now have difficulty with. I often have trouble being in crowds, so I don’t go to concerts, etc. very often. I am happy overall, and I have learned how to work with my limitations and recognize that I am not my illness – I have an illness. My medication needs tweaking a few times a year, and during the phase where my current medication is not working I go through a period of depression. But I have learned to view it objectively, telling myself it is just chemical, and remind myself that “this too shall pass”. I don’t allow my distorted thoughts to win out – I challenge them with facts.
I read an excellent article in the New York Times called “The Problem With How We Treat Bipolar Disorder“. It is very well-written and interesting and I could relate to a lot of it. Though my condition isn’t as severe as hers (I’m not delusional, I don’t hallucinate, etc.) I could really relate to the parts regarding grieving for our old self.