esthergerber asked this question on 5/11/2000:
what is bipolar disorder
Imagika gave this response on 5/12/2000:
Bipolar disorder (also known as Manic Depression) is a mood disorder characterized by extreme mood swings, and extended periods of depression followed by extended periods of mania (or vice versa... it's the whole chicken vs the egg thing!). By extended periods, I mean as little as 2 months (though it can feel like two years!) or as long as a year (or more in some cases). I was first diagnosed as having Depression at an early age, and did not have a manic episode diagnosed until I was 18 years old. At the diagnosis, my family and I thought about these periods of mania I had as a child that they thought were just normal behavior.
I have to admit that for me, the depression part of Bipolar is the worst for me. I don't want to get out of bed and go to work, school... I don't want to talk to anybody... I just want to snuggle up under my blanket in my pyjamas and not leave the safety of my bed. The depression takes it's toll. I would tend to gain weight (or lose depending on whether or not I was trying to comfort myself with food or just being so depressed that I had no appetite). I would either sleep too much (since I didn't want to leave my bed), or stay up all night tossing and turning because I would be thinking about how bad my life was.
The mania part is scary... but it has it's fun points (for me anyway). I tend to cling to those first few days of a manic episode because I'm happy, I'm energetic, I feel on top of the world. Then it gets scary. My self-destructive behavior kicks in. Since I'm on this "high" I don't think too much about what I'm doing. My personal self-destructive behavior is compulsive shopping. Actually it's more of a self-defeating behavior than self-destructive... a large amount of people who are Bipolar will have promiscuous sex, abuse drugs, or gamble their life savings while in the manic mode. Compulsive shopping and gambling are somewhat in the same category. For me, I would feel so much happier the more things I bought. Though I don't have the cash flow, I have the credit cards, and I would run through shopping malls like a bat out of hell buying things I didn't need (or later decided that I didn't even want, but I wouldn't return them!), feeling happy and successful with every shopping bag I collected full of stuff. My rationalization skills are also at their peak when I'm manic. I have about $2500.00 worth of baby clothes in my dresser because during one of my manic episodes I decided that while I was working in a baby store getting an employee discount, I may as well stock up so I won't be caught off guard if I get pregnant "before I'm ready." Well, here I am, 6 years after that and no babies! And everytime I came home from one of my shopping trips, I would have to rearrange my closet and my room to "show-off" my new stuff. I remember one time a couple of years ago where I had broken up with this guy I was dating and my dog had just had emergency surgery, and my grandmother's death was really sinking in for me that I went into a manic episode which in one day, I bought $500 worth of shoes that I only still wear one, and spent about the same amount on clothing. It feels good for me at the time, and then I start realizing that I am NOT in control of myself. I now that I'm out of control, but I can't regain control of myself. I rarely eat, I shake, I talk at high speeds, I don't sleep (i'd get up at 3am and decide to reorganize my closets). When all the dust settles, I have a good recoopepration period. Where I'm not terribly depressed and not extremely manic.
I've gotten to a point with medication and treatment where my episodes are fewer and farther between and tend not to last as long. My family and my boyfriend and my friends know what symptoms to look for in me to tell me before I put myself further in debt, or somehow give me the strength to get up in the morning and face my life.
It's a hard thing to live with. The mood swings are unbelievable... one minute I'm laughing hysterically, five minutes later I'm sobbing uncontrollably. Fortunately I have most of that under control.
Hoefully, I have answered your question... please let me know if I can clarify anything or help you with anything else :)
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