The United States has the highest lifetime rate of bipolar disorder at 4.4% (cnn.com) – that’s 5.7 million Americans (source). That’s a lot of people running around on medication, not on medication, people who spent their teen years perhaps undiagnosed and having social and family problems and possibly being called “crazy”…That has to take a toll on a person. Ever wonder how a person with bi-polar disorder does with friendships, family members, co-workers, roommates, lovers, etc? We decided to reach out to a person who not only suffers from the disorder but also was running a support group for like-minded individuals to help each other cope. This what she had to say on the matter:
When I was young, my family really didn’t know how to deal with me, especially my dad after my mother’s suicide when I was 4 years old.
I had outrageous anger outbursts, and my dad would tell me “You are just like your mother.” I was very talkative, and my brother and father would just talk over me until I would stop. I think their intent was if they ignored the problem it would go away.
I spent a lot of time in my room buried in books. Reading was a great escape from a lonely life.
I suffered a severe depression in 2004 at age 29 after years of mood swings and overall depression. I wanted to die, to just have the pain and sadness end, and I knew I had to get help. Luckily my doctor asked the right questions and determined that I had bipolar 2 and not just depression, which makes a big difference in treatment. It was at this point that a lot of things started to make more sense. My mother’s suicide was most likely due to undiagnosed bipolar, but they didn’t have the knowledge and treatments available in the 70’s that they do today. If it wasn’t for what happened to my mother, I might not be alive today. I promised myself that I would never make the same choice she did.
With medication and therapy, the deepest depression began to lift in a few months, but it was probably about 3 years until I was pretty stable. And even now I have up and down waves of my moods but they are much less disruptive than before I was receiving treatment.
I know that my rambling uncontrolled talking has been a turn off to people I have met over the years. But I also learned that some of the things that certain people don’t like about my personality are the same traits that my close friends love about me. Even though I am an outgoing person, I still have social anxiety in large groups and feel more comfortable with a few close friends.
There are definitely some lifestyle changes and non medication treatments that keep me stable, like going to therapy, attending support groups, and trying to keep a consistent work and sleep schedule. You don’t just take a pill and get better, it’s a constant effort.
Personality traits of people with bipolar can sometimes kill friendships, but what the person really needs are friends who listen and care. For me, depression is loneliness.
When things are bad or out of control, just remind yourself that this is only temporary. Things will change, things will get better. There are people out there who can help you get through this.
-guest writer, Kara