What is Bipolar Disorder?


























May 15, 2002

To my friends,

I recently found out that I have bipolar disorder, a mental illness also known as manic/depressive syndrome, and I'm still learning to deal with it. I've just started taking medication for it, and I'm hoping in time my illness will be under control.

Having bipolar disorder means that my mood may change quickly. It's like looking through a dark glass. I never know when it will happen. Many things can trigger this change, sometimes its just something as simple as a thought in my own head. Its not something that I do just to get attention, it happens without warning and there is nothing I can do but try my best to deal with it as it happens.

Most people don't understand much about this. They equate 'mental illness' with what they've seen in movies or on TV. The mass murderers or those that kill their own children, or set out to blindly hurt others. This isn't the case with me, in fact at my most depressed I am far more suicidal than homicidal, and at my most manic I am far too hyper to notice what you do or say.

Please understand that even though I have this illness, I'm still human, just like you. I have good days and bad days, and some in between days, just like you do. I'm still me, I haven't changed just because I've found a name for what's been happening to me most of my life. I have days where I simply cannot sit still or stop talking. Please be understanding.

It's not that I want to bombard you with endless questions, or long unending rants, or even random thoughts picked out of the air, its that I simply am unable to stop myself. Asking me to stop doing this is like asking me to stop breathing. I simply am physically unable to do it. During these times I forget easily, I lose track of time, I can't concentrate, and part or sometimes all of things I'm told simply do not register. I become distracted easily, and start many projects at once, but finish few of them. I often say things I do not mean, but can't find the proper words or the correct way to phrase what I'm trying to say. I'm not trying to pick a fight, or be insensitive, its just that my mind is racing and the words and thoughts do not form as I would want them to, or form so quickly that I can't focus on them. I become impatient, and sometimes irritable. I often get little or no sleep during this time because my mind will not slow down enough to allow me to rest. Bear with me during these times, it will pass.

I also have days where the simplest task requires more energy than I can muster. I feel useless, worthless and without hope. Life is too hard, I can't do anything right, so why bother? I often label these times as "falling in a hole" because that's what it feels like. I sleep too much, or sleep poorly, not getting enough restful sleep for my body to adjust. I sometimes can't even get out of bed. I cry for no reason, sometimes for hours on end. I feel like no one loves me (even though I KNOW in my head its not true- I have a family and friends who love me, and who I love dearly), I feel that I am not loveable, that I do not deserve to be loved, and that everyone would be better off without me.

I feel like I'm being punished, and I'm sure I deserve this punishment. My feelings are hurt easily, and I often times quarrel with the ones I love the most. During these times I have thoughts of death, suicide, and ending the emotional pain I'm feeling. I don't want to hurt others; I want to hurt me. I imagine that no one would miss me if I was gone, and that my life has been totally wasted. Telling me to cheer up, or count my blessings or to focus on my good qualities or that I should think positively does no good. I want to cheer up, I want to think positively and I would if I could. I just can not do it. Please, during these times, ESPECIALLY during these times don't walk out of my life, this is when I need you most. This mood will pass, I just need patience and understanding. You don't have to say a word, just BE there.