1 – Myth: Bipolar disorder is just mood swings that everybody has.
Fact: The highs and lows of bipolar disorder are much more drastic than a typical mood swing for someone without it. When I experience lows (depression), they are deep energy-zapping lows. It feels like an effort to even do basic things, like making a sandwich, brushing my hair, or taking a shower. When I experience the lows, I don’t take care of myself at all and will eat the most accessible thing available and binge-watch series on Netflix. If anyone displays any attention towards me in these times, I instantly cry for a long time (hours). I have had days that I cry every couple of minutes the whole day.
In contrast, when I experience the highs (mania), I feel like I can conquer the world. I want to take the town by storm and go on a shopping spree. I feel as though I can do everything I ever wanted to and more. I shoot for the stars and sometimes get very little sleep (as in 4 hours) without getting tired. I can work without stopping. I get my best ideas when I am on a high.
2 – Myth: Bipolar disorder can be cured by exercise and diet.
Fact: While regular exercise and a healthy diet do go a long way in terms of self-care, bipolar disorder cannot be cured. It is a lifelong illness, and I need to take the medication to help stabilize the chemical imbalance in my brain for the rest of my life.
3 – Myth: A person with mania is fun to be around and is very productive.
Fact: I must say in my experience, yes, I am much more productive when I am manic, but this does not last forever. The highs of mania take a toll on my body because I do not sleep and I get flights of ideas, and my brain never shuts down (as in it never stops giving me ideas and random thoughts – so much so that I cannot sleep without taking medication). Mania is also very destructive. Before I got diagnosed and adequately treated, I went on extreme shopping sprees with my credit cards. Taking them to the max every month and opening accounts at all my favourite stores and maxing out the limit, leaving me with crippling debt. When I am manic, I am also very irritable and snap at those closest to me – mania is very damaging to personal relationships. Ultimately my mania got so out of control I started losing my grip on reality, and psychosis occurred once (for others with bipolar disorder this can happen more – I was lucky that I only experienced psychosis for a couple of days).
4 – Myth: People with bipolar disorder are always either manic or depressed.
Fact: There are long periods that I experience very balanced moods and can function as a productive member of society. This stable mood is called euthymia. There are also times that I get mixed episodes where I experience both mania and depression at the same time. In those times I feel like that Katy Perry song: You’re hot, and you’re cold, yes then you’re no, in and out, up and down…. very frustrating and confusing. Not fun at all.
5 – Myth: Bipolar disorder is challenging to treat.
Fact: In this day and age, it is not difficult to treat bipolar disorder. There are excellent medications available, and regular psychotherapy or counselling coupled with regular exercise, healthy diet, and good sleep make it very manageable to live a relatively healthy life. The problem I have seen over the years is that a lot of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder refuse to take their medication, they don’t do self-care, and they put no effort into educating themselves about their illness. I think then it becomes severe and crippling, as they refuse getting treated.
If you find that the medication you are taking for treatment does not seem to be working, inform your psychiatrist immediately. There are a lot of types of medicines for treatment, what works for one person, does not necessarily work for another.
Where to get help:
If you suspect yourself or a loved one is suffering from bipolar disorder, I recommend making an appointment with a psychiatrist to get evaluated. I went to a psychologist who referred me to my current psychiatrist, where I was diagnosed and received treatment.
With the correct treatment, you can live a healthy life. You are not alone.
If you have questions or comments or have heard any other myths about bipolar disorder, feel free to comment below.