Bipolar Awareness – Long Overdue
A child at school today told me that today is the first Bipolar Awareness Day to be held in the UK. My first thought was ‘what’s your name again?’ and the second was ‘there’s an awful lot of ink round your mouth’. My third reaction however was ‘about bloody time’. ‘Bipolar’ is one of those words that people are always bandying about with little to no thought of what they actually mean. You hear an awful lot of bizarre stuff from the utterly ill-informed about bipolar disorder; it’s all either ‘split personalities’ or ‘totally mental’. Some people say they’re ‘feeling a bit bipolar’ when referring to their menstrual cycle. This really pisses me off because they don’t seem to know the power of their words. People know so little about bipolar and the misconceptions lead to stigma and a sense of isolation for sufferers. I would hope that a day dedicated to awareness of this disorder would help people who are isolated but I have to say the press reponse to the day has seemed somewhat muted. So in the spirit of my other incarnation as a teacher (rather than sarcastic blogging bitch) I hope in this post to give a brief introduction to bipolar disorder. Please bear in mind that it is IN NO WAY DEFINITIVE. Different people will experience different things if they’re bipolar. Please go and do some more research if you want to know anything in depth.
Bipolar simply means extremes of mood. They’re greater extremes of mood than the average person but by and large this is was bipolar is. There are differences within the catch-all diagnosis of bipolar – those with bipolar 1 for example will become manic, which can involve high energy, euphoria, huge amounts of anxiety, inflated self-confidence etc. and sometimes even psychotic episodes mixed with periods of seriously depressed mood. Someone with cyclothymia (an allegedly a mild subset of bipolar, although ‘mild’ is debatable) won’t swing as high perhaps but will have episodes of hypomania (which can include elevated mood, anxiety, supreme confidence, risky behaviours etc.) and serious depression. It isn’t just about sometimes being happy and sometimes being sad. Everyone has that sometimes; that’s just life. Bipolar is much more extreme, an uncontrollable lurch between up and down. Many people cope with it well to the point where you might not know that anything is amiss. Many more do not cope with it well at all and is as debilitating as any physical illness. The more it’s talked about the more people will understand it. The more people understand it the less alone people will feel. I think we can all agree that that can only be a good thing given that 20% of those diagnosed die from the disorder..
Want to know more? I heartily recommend Stephen Fry’s ‘Secret Life of the Manic Depressive’, of which you can see part 1 HERE. Don’t be afraid of the mixed mood bods. You almost certainly won’t be bitten.
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In other news, I’m going to the Olympics. Unfortunately they withdrew my star events of marathon pint-to-face lifting best curmudgeon face so I will be resigned to watching lesser athletes swat a cork with the arse feathers of a goose stuck into it over a fishing net. Apparently they call it shuttlecocking and the Chinese are expected to win. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of any of the badminton players (as I believe they are called) I am likely to encounter but I am looking forward to bellowing indiscriminately at people, because I’m good at that. It’s my third sport but I was cruelly overlooked in qualifying.