Tag: #bipolar

The “Mental Tug-of-War” of Bipolar Mixed Episodes

Sources: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), American Psychiatric Association; The Minnesota Reports, University of Minnesota; “MMPI-2, MMPI-A, and Minnesota Reports: Research and Clinical Applications,” James N. Butcher, PhD; Bipolar Disorders: An International Journal of Psychiatry and Neurosciences

By JB Burrage Last Updated: 13 Aug 2020

Mixed episodes of mania and depression aren’t easy to spot, but when they hit, they’re among my most exhausting experiences. Not only did I learn how these mood episodes affect me, but I realized the risk they carry—and that is my biggest fear.

mental tug-of-war bipolar disorder mixed episodes mania depression suicidal thinking anger

“Mood Episodes with Mixed Features,” aka Bipolar Mixed Episodes

Something that I don’t talk about often in public is mixed episodes. According to the DSM-5—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the manual created by the American Psychiatric Association to outline the criteria for mental health conditions and treatment—these mood episodes are no longer considered distinct episodes on their own. Now they are considered a “specifier,” or a feature of another mood episode

But, not being a medical professional, and for the sake of this writing—so I don’t confuse anyone or myself—I’ll use the phrase “mixed episodes.” Mixed episodes are yet another of what I call the “twisted” components of my bipolar disorder. I probably experience mixed and depressive episodes more often than full hypomanic or manic episodes. Not only that, it’s a part of my disorder that sometimes concerns me more than depression or mania. At least with depressive and manic episodes, I know distinctly what they are. Mixed episodes aren’t as easy to spot, but when they hit, they’re among my most exhausting experiences.

While I’ve heard of them before, the first time that I can recall being told that I have experienced mixed episodes was about eight years ago, when a psychiatrist had me take the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and determined that I had traits of hypomania and “agitated depression.” Being the overly curious guy that I am, I looked it up and saw that it was one of two names for mixed episodes.

Like with almost everything else that I continue to learn about my bipolar disorder and the experiences of others, it was confusing but started to make sense. It explained why even during my depression that lasted from 2008 till around 2012 or so, excluding the almost half-year-long manic episode in 2011, I had moments when I would feel hyped and energetic, while also miserable and not wanting to get out of bed or see the world at the same time. My therapist at the time was very concerned about these episodes; she warned me that people experiencing mixed episodes were more prone to attempting and following through with suicidal thinking, so she paid close attention while lecturing me about taking my medication… I was notoriously noncompliant with my medication regimen back in those days and it showed.

The Exhaustion of Mental Illness … Amplified by Mixed Episodes

My personal experiences with these episodes, again, is that they are very exhausting. I can’t emphasize that enough. Mental illness is exhausting as it is, but I would say mixed episodes are just another beast altogether. It’s very conflicted for me, especially since these episodes are not as distinct and obvious as manic or depressed episodes are. One of the best ways I can define it is almost like a “mental tug-of-war.” Or perhaps imagine trying to mix gasoline with water and throwing a match into it. If either analogy didn’t make sense to you, you can now imagine the itch in my brain that it causes.

If you’ve followed any of my other blog posts, I’ve talked a lot about how difficult bipolar depressionis for me. I think I have written more about depression than mania, so I don’t have to tell you how it sucks the soul out of me—and for any of you who feel this way, too. But with these mixed episodes, I deal with a mix of symptoms.

My Symptoms of Mixed Episodes

  • I’m extremely irritable.
  • I’m extremely energetic.
  • I don’t sleep.
  • I feel like I want to crawl into a hole.
  • Everything around me is nothing but darkness and sadness.
  • I feel like I’m the show starter and the showstopper.
  • I feel like I’m Superman.
  • I hate my life.
  • I can’t get out of bed.
  • I feel like all of my life’s energy is being drained, and I’m walking around with a metal ball and chain.
  • In the most extreme cases, I want to die.

I think you get the idea, so I don’t need to go any further. And these episodes can go on for days or even weeks. To be honest, I don’t think that I ever fully recover from them, because I always feel like I’m straddling the line between mania and depression, even on the days when I’m clearly fine and my moods are more in check.

Dealing with Mixed Episodes That Seem to Never End

So how do I deal with this? Sometimes, I don’t know how. Anyone who knows me knows that my go-to used to be to just try to drink it away. I HIGHLY DON’T RECOMMEND THATSERIOUSLY, JUST DON’T DO IT. At this point, I’m kind of trying to drill this into my head (“do as I say, not as I do” kind of thing), because when I tried to drink away the misery, it never ended up good. It either intensified my “mixed” symptoms or tilted the scale one way or the other. I try to handle it by doing the typical things that I would do in an episode: write, read something (no matter how big or small), watch funny videos, send stupid memes, listen to music, walk … whatever will take my mind off of things. But it’s not always that easy.

Efforts to Communicate and Connect with Others

I’m trying to get better at communicating these things—my struggles with bipolar and my mixed episodes—though it’s still not simple or natural. So, I try to talk with friends and I’m still trying to get therapy restarted. I’m compliant with my medicine regimen 99.5 percent of the time, but, to be honest, sometimes I feel like they don’t work when I’m experiencing mixed episodes. I could talk with my psychiatrist to change my dosages and medication, but I’m still fairly new with this current regimen, and it does work the majority of the time. One thing that concerns me with changing medication and dosages is that I hate the unknown variables. My first bipolar medication regimen had weird effects on me, and, because of that concern, I don’t want to adjust them at this time.

Suicidal Tendencies

What bothers me the most is when I think about what my past therapist warned me about when it comes to mixed episodes and the risk of suicidal impulses. Again, being the overly curious guy that I am, I went back and did my research. I saw how real the likelihood was during mixed episodes. The risk for suicidality is greater during mixed episodes because you’re depressed but you’re also more likely to have the energy and drive to carry out your impulses and/or plans.

This scares the living daylight out of me. Because back when I was told about mixed episodes, agitated depressions, and all of these other new terms that I had to learn, I was always grappling with these kinds of thoughts. It’s something I don’t talk publicly about often, but it’s an ugly truth. I once told someone that I was more afraid of my own hand than anything else. Over the years, there have been some close calls.

I even had a complete, thought-out plan, right down to how I would be found. So, years ago, it was a very real situation for me. Finding out that having mixed episodes increased the chances of it actually happening brought not only another sense of fear but also a new sense of determination to beat this thing. I admit that it wasn’t right away. But, eventually, I realized that I’m not ready to go, and I have to do something to keep these impulses under control.

Choosing to Fight for Myself

It’s hard. But I’m trying. Every day I’m trying. So far, I’m winning.

If you take anything out of this story, I would hope that it’s this: with everything else that is part of this disorder, you’re not alone in this struggle. We’re all living through this together, no matter how it manifests itself. If you’re dealing with mixed episodes, I completely understand you and how it makes a very confusing thing even more confusing.

But because I don’t have the answers, I wonder how some of you deal with mixed episodes. What would you recommend, to me or others, to make them a little more manageable?

Because even though almost ten years ago, a name was given to my experiences and I deal with them frequently, it’s still very tiring and I don’t always know what to do.

Stay safe. Stay focused. Keep striving.

What Life is Like When Your Mom is BipolarIt’s the only normal you’ve got

Article:https://medium.com/publishous/what-life-is-like-when-your-mom-is-bipolar-bf8fea4d59e3

“Michael, give me a kiss before you go to the bus.”

“Because I’m going to kill myself while you’re at school today.”

The Reality of Life

For me, this was just how life was. I had no frame of reference other than my home. No kid does. Everything their parents do is the right thing because that is the only thing they know.

But some people don’t do that

My dad died at 68 of his third heart attack, while working full time and taking care of my mom, who at that point was an invalid. My mom killed herself at age 63, 6 months after my dad died. My brother died at 43 of a massive heart attack. His son died at 17 of a massive heart attack. My sister has been in and out of mental institutions her entire adult life.

What I do know

Mental illness is a real thing that touches more lives than just the person who has it. If a person is a parent and mentally ill, I can say from experience that a parent’s mental illness changes their kids’ lives. I would guess probably not for the better.

What’s the big deal

I’m reading back through this story and wondering why I wrote it. I think maybe to share my experience in the hope it will help someone.

Conclusion

I’m not manic depressive. But I learned as a child that how my parents acted was how adults behaved in the world. I learned to be dramatic in everyday life. That was cool when I was a performer, but not so cool in any other area of my life.

I am extremely grateful that I did.

16 Signs You Grew Up With Bipolar Disorder

The Article here

There’s a certain misconception that children are “too young” and don’t have enough life experience to have a mental illness, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Studies show the age of onset for mental disorders usually occurs in childhood or adolescence. Of course, these mental disorders are often unrecognized by our peers and parents, and both diagnosis and treatment typically don’t occur until years later.

If you live with bipolar disorder, there’s a chance you grew up with it. But what signs might there be in childhood? To find out, we asked our mental health and bipolar disorder communities to share “signs” they grew up with bipolar disorder they can recognize now as adults.

From childhood depression to being a “problem child” in school, we hope their answers can give you insight into your own childhood, or shine a light on why a child in your life could need some extra help and understanding.

Here’s what our community had to say:

  1. “As a child, I was always way more sensitive than other children. I would break down for hours and cry. I thought about my death and my family’s deaths abnormally often. At 10, I lost parts of my hair from being so depressed, or I would have these hyper attacks where I would laugh for no reason for a long time and I could never stop talking. I’d also be cleaning my whole room over and over again. It was exhausting.” — Morgan T.
  2. “Not knowing who you are without your disorder. I have become comfortable with my sadness; it’s all I know. If I have an ‘OK’ day, I don’t even know how to feel about myself. I don’t feel like me when I’m not depressed.” — Shannon M.
  3. “I wasn’t properly diagnosed until I reached my 40s, but looking back, my erratic sexual and spending behavior, in addition to my bouts of depression, should have been major red flags. I had no idea it was due to bipolar; I just figured I was ‘screwed up.’” — Jessi F.
  4. “I started cycling at 12 years old so I have no idea what the Alysha without bipolar disorder is like. It’s also why I say ‘I am bipolar,’ instead of ‘I have bipolar.’” — Alysha F.
  5. “Irritability. I was always irritable, no matter what. That’s why, when I was diagnosed, everything I felt started making sense.” — Katelyn S.
  6. “I was always super sensitive and prone to anger outbursts. I could also focus on something so intently the world would fade away. I’m still angry and sensitive but therapy is helping me get through it.” — Beth B.
  7. “Thinking I was invincible at 14. I would sneak out at night and go on walks because I couldn’t sleep, I would still wake up in time for school but could only sleep four or five hours a night. I walked a lot just because I had the energy during the day and then more at night.” — Cassandra K.
  8. “Growing up, my parents and sibling thought I had inherited my father’s extreme anger and violence. My teachers and fellow students thought I was just lashing out and enjoyed getting into fights at school, constantly getting suspended, until ninth grade when I was asked to leave. This all started when I was around 5 years old, but it was not until I turned 12 that a doctor told me I had bipolar disorder. Growing up and constantly being misunderstood, from my feelings to my behaviors, is one sign I grew up with bipolar disorder.” — Samantha W.
  9. “Everyone else thought something was ‘wrong’ with me. I had impulse control issues and was so afraid I’d be disliked that I’d lie to be liked. I was diagnosed 21 years ago.” — Sasha S.
  10. “The cycles I had with my moods. I would do great in the spring and summer, but as soon as it hit August and fall started approaching, it all went downhill. I always knew it was around the time that school was starting that I would start to cycle into an episode, so it would increase my anxiety and I would absolutely dread going to school. I never realized it was a sign until recently, when my team and I figured out my cycles and it all just clicked and made sense. I was diagnosed at 17, but honestly I think I’ve been bipolar since I was probably between 8 and 10 years old.” — Megan D.
  11. “I would have painting sprees. I wouldn’t want to paint for a while, and then all of a sudden I would do like two paintings a day in middle school and high school, convinced I was getting visions from God, and it was my duty to share my genius with the world. Sometimes, I fantasized about my death, wondering what it would be like at my funeral and how no one would come except my mom and dad, or people would stomp on my grave and laugh at me. In my freshman year of college, I didn’t sleep and stayed up all night doing homework full of energy, and I always forgot to eat. I became very religious and believed I was getting visions from God again. For the first time in my life, I was a social butterfly. I did many paintings and even started a website out of the blue. Then I crashed for the first time in my life and started having suicidal thoughts. I have always either been heavily invested with something and then suddenly not interested in that thing or activity at all.” — Zoe S.
  12. “I never slept, but was never really tired. I just chalked it up to being a kid and having energy, and then as a teen, having a night job and then having to do homework once I got home. I also repressed everything.” — Morgan W.
  13. “I was very shy, reserved and sensitive. I had a lot of fears and cried very easily. But then there were times when I would stay up for days with little to no sleep, cleaning and rearranging the house. My mom thought it was odd but harmless so she didn’t stress over it. As soon as I was diagnosed, it all made sense.” — Courtney B.
  14. “I spent weeks remodeling my bedroom, covering every inch of wall with collages and pictures. I even built a table. Then, a year later, I ripped all of it off the walls in an hour leaving blotches of drywall and became depressed for weeks. I was 16.” — Emma T.
  15. “As far back as 6 years old, I would do great in the fall with school and family. Every spring without fail, and still at age 49, I have three weeks of productivity and fun followed by three weeks of the most rage and hostility I had ever known. Those were my first memories in general.” — Beth P.
  16. “Being described as ‘the problem child’ because people thought you were just dramatic and a mess; they didn’t realize the behavior was uncontrollable due to the mental illness.” — Sabrina G.

Pets & Bipolar: How Having a Furry Friend Boosts Our Mood


Article:https://www.bphope.com/pets/pets-bipolar-friends-with-benefits/

Whoever coined the phrase “man’s best friend” was on to something. Dogs—and cats and birds and other critters—have well-documented properties for boosting our well-being.

When psychologists from Miami University in Ohio and Saint Louis University in Missouri compared pet owners to people who did not own a pet in three different studies, people with pets scored higher on self-esteem, were more physically fit, and tended to be less lonely, less fearful and less preoccupied.

One of the experiments showed that thinking about a beloved pet is as effective as thinking about a human friend in helping someone feel better after experiencing rejection. In fact, research shows that the bond people have with their dog can be as strong as the bond with their closest relative.

“A third were closer to the pet dog than to any human family member,” says Sandra Baker, PhD, who co-authored that study. “Wherever I speak around the world, dog owners aren’t surprised by that.”

Barker is director of The Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, where she holds a named chair in psychiatry. She’s been involved in a body of research documenting the power of even 15 minutes with a therapy dog in cutting levels of stress, anxiety and fear for both psychiatric inpatients and hospital staff.

That reduced stress response, whether with therapy dogs in health care settings or pet owners “in the wild,” has been documented across a range of physiological measures, including brain waves, blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone.”

Aubrey Fine, PhD, editor of the Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy and author of several books on the benefits of human-animal ties, notes that dogs are very attuned to nonverbal behavior and therefore responsive to emotional distress.

In his most recent book, Our Faithful Companions, he writes about how the comforting attachment of a golden retriever named Magic helped his wife through breast cancer. Like many people who study or have companion animals, Fine talks about the emotional boost from a dog’s faithful devotion—the excitement on seeing you, the total acceptance without judgment.

“That unconditional sense of love gives people a sense of hope that they can persevere,” says Fine, a professor at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona. “I remember my wife said, probably a couple months post-treatment, ‘Magic is the hope that I need to get on to the next day.’“

Cats and dogs don’t have exclusive bragging rights, though. Fine first got intrigued by “pet power” in the 1970s when he saw how children he was treating responded to a gerbil named Sasha. Clients in his private practice engage with his cockatoos and other birds, and even his bearded dragon (a type of lizard).

“Fish are very relaxing,” he adds, referring to research that shows watching fish tanks decreases stress hormones.

A goldfish in the cardiac unit was the catalyst for People-Animal Connection, a volunteer program based at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. “People noticed that it had an effect not just on the patients, but on the staff as well,” explains program coordinator Stephen Goldstein.

Now People-Animal Connection has therapy dog-and-owner pairs visiting almost every unit of the hospital, including the psychiatric institution. The organization also arranges for people to spend time with their own pets, which combats loneliness and raises spirits.

“Words can’t quite describe the effect,” muses Goldstein. “The dogs provide something that medicine cannot.”

For his part, Goldstein has a cat waiting in his condo when he gets home after work. He finds solace in stroking Athena’s fur.

“There’s scientific evidence that petting, whether a cat or a dog, reduces blood pressure,” he explains.

However, getting a pet isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Some of us just aren’t “animal people.” Others may have issues with health, time, money, or housing that make having a pet problematic.

“We can’t make a blanket recommendation that everyone should get a dog. It really depends on the family’s circumstances and their ability to care for the animal,” notes Megan Mueller, PhD, a research assistant professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

She also points out that the emotional benefits of animal companionship depend on the quality of the connection between human and animal. In one recent study of children in military families, she found a deep attachment to the family pet is associated with greater resilience when a parent was deployed—“an acute stressor,” she says. The simple presence of an animal in the home wasn’t as important as “what kind of relationship someone has with a pet,” Mueller says.

The deeper the bond, however, the more painful it can be when it’s broken. When we invited readers to share the ways companion animals add to their well-being, several alluded to the destabilizing effects of losing a beloved companion. As with so many triggers, having a coping plan in place can moderate the fallout.

“Most people are surprised and shocked by how intensely they feel grief after the loss of a pet,” says Barker, who is known for her work in supporting bereaved owners. “Pets don’t live as long as humans do. It’s important to remember that and prepare as the pet ages.”

She suggests thinking in advance about ways to commemorate the pet, such as planting a tree or writing a poem.

Of course, we also received many heartfelt and heart-warming accounts of how animals contribute to our lives. We present some of those stories here.

30 Years of Managing Bipolar DisorderBy George Hofmann

A person learns a lot managing a mental illness over a lifetime. I recently heard from a reader who’s been doing it for decades…


The Article:

30 Years of Managing Bipolar Disorder

http://ow.ly/uJUY50zapJx

The woman, Althea, said that she has been dealing with bipolar disorder for 30 years. That’s about how long I’ve had a diagnosis, so I asked her to write a note on how she manages the disease. She was caring enough to allow me to reprint it. Althea writes:

Re: manic depression, there are some things I do and some I don’t. Let’s start with the negatives.

No smoking

No drinking

No drugs unless prescribed by someone with a degree

Keep your mouth shut. Very few people know my dx; my immediate family, daughter’s fiancé, GP and provider. This is how I intend to keep it because I’ve learned that folks on the other side get really uncomfortable and won’t want to deal with you.

Introspection- too much is bad, just do what you need to do and don’t overthink it.

Positives

For me I need a bit more sleep than the average person, on work days 9-4:30 am and when I’m off I get a bit more. My sleep habits are extremely important in keeping my condition in check.

Food- organic when I can- check out the dirty dozen. Whole Foods, we do almost all our own cooking. Glass containers and never heat food in plastic.

Relationships- they’re work but they’re worth it.

Outside- walk outside on your lunch break, especially if it’s sunny.

Plan fun- put this stuff on your calendar and you’re more likely to do it.

This is great advice for maintaining you mental health. Three points deserve comment.

First, calling the illness manic depression. Some of us old folks still prefer this term. I do. It’s much more descriptive of what we suffer from and a lot less inclusive of other less disruptive mood disorders that camp out under the rubric of bipolar disorder.

Second, the reference to keeping your mouth shut. Yes, there is a terrible stigma against people with bipolar disorder. Some of us talk about our struggles with the disease, and others choose to keep it secret. They must be respected in their silence.

Today many people live openly with bipolar disorder, and people love to read about celebrity struggles with disruptive moods. However, people diagnosed this century have no idea how challenging it was to function in society years ago, pre-HIPAA, if employers, acquaintances, bankers, your kid’s friends’ parents, co-workers or neighbors knew you had a mental illness. It was not accepted. There was a lot less tolerance for crazy people. For some of us, there still is.

Finally, the comment on introspection. I’m very curious. Loved ones often tell me I think too much. Sometimes, when I fall into deep rabbit holes of introspection I come out the other side in a full blown episode. But I’m a writer, that’s what I do.

Most people successfully operate on a need to know basis. Therapy is important for many of us with mental illness, and therapy, of course, is an exercise in introspection. But it’s guided. It’s designed to be safe. Our own intellectual musings may be less so. Althea is not saying be ignorant, she’s saying be careful.

Know the things that will help you, and avoid the things that won’t. Find your comfort zone in how you manage your mental illness and stick with it.

Thanks, Althea.

For information on my upcoming book: Handling Anxiety in a Time of Crisis, join the Facebook group Practicing Mental Illness.

7 Reasons Bipolar Disorder Makes It Hard to Hold Down a Full-Time Job

For many people (including myself) who received a mental health diagnosis as a young adult, the idea of reaching adulthood and thriving can feel a little (OK, a lot) overwhelming. For those whose diagnoses came a little later, figuring out how to adjust so you can continue to maintain your lifestyle offers a seemingly impossible ultimatum. At the end of the day, the question remains the same: how do I keep a career when my own mental health is a full-time job?

Here are seven things that make that question even more complicated.

1. Concentration.

Whether it’s depression, mania or hypomania, concentration can be a crapshoot when it comes to productivity. Try breaking your day into little chunks that allow for breaks. If your work is time-sensitive, try starting with something that can be accomplished quickly or easily. That will help boost your confidence the project can be completed. Needing to take a break isn’t a weakness, but you may find it comes up on your yearly reviews.

2. Risky behaviors.

Mania is known for a lot of things — impulsive behavior included. While the hope is that law enforcement doesn’t need to be involved, sometimes mania results in hospitalization or jail time. It may also look like gambling debts or hypersexuality among co-workers. This all has the possibility of negatively impacting job prospects and steady employment. The fallout from these risky behaviors can often be just as damaging as mania itself.

3. Short-term creative spurts.

Creativity is something that goes hand-in-hand with bipolar disorder. Using those moments of creativity for marketing, art or other business uses can be fantastic when it works, but often those moments of expression and “genius” are lost when moods and energy levels change. When your boss sees the decrease in productivity, you may find yourself being asked questions you don’t have the energy to answer.

4. Sick days.

This might be the obvious one. Sometimes mental health requires a sick day (or two). Jobs frequently have a strict attendance policy that doesn’t account for mental health. So it might be important to go to your hiring meeting or to your HR person with some ways to help fix the problem. Bosses are more willing to work with you if you come in with solutions and not just problems.

5. Insomnia and hypersomnia.

Insomnia and oversleeping might lead you to have similar problems as taking too many sick days would. Coming in with solutions such as staying late so you can take a nap at lunch, or working from home may create some spare time so you can catch some extra sleep. Using your “insomnia time” to pick out your clothes, make your lunch or mentally prepare for your day could help as well. Ultimately, this might be something your job doesn’t want to work around and you may have to make some difficult decisions.

6. Burnout.

If there’s one thing that seems to hover around mental health and jobs, it’s burnout. If you are burned-out of your job, you may find the only way to find relief is to find a new one. Do that too many times and suddenly you have a lot of explaining to do.

7. What starts in hypomania, fails in depression.

This was a difficult lesson for me to learn. I apply to so many “high-need” jobs when I’m hypomanic. Jobs that require me to be at my most creative all of the time. And while I can handle that task when my moods are up and when I’m pulling long days, as soon as my energy drops, I’m struggling to maintain those trends and commitments. Picking your jobs strategically, or being upfront with your boss may save you some heartache later.

The thing about bipolar disorder is no matter what job you choose, you’ll always feel like you’re working two. Taking care of yourself is a priority that, if ignored, will leave you unable to succeed for long. The scariest part of any job is asking for something you might not be given. Ask for an adjusted schedule. For a later shift. For help. Bosses and coworkers generally don’t respond well to being presented with a problem they have to account for. But if you bring a problem with possible solutions, you just might find you’re able to take on more than you thought you were capable of.

Article:https://themighty.com/2019/11/hard-full-time-job-bipolar-disorder/?utm_source=newsletter_bipolar_disorder&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_bipolar_disorder_2019-12-03&$deep_link=true

16 Signs You Grew Up With Bipolar Disorder

The article:

16 Signs You Grew Up With Bipolar Disorder

There’s a certain misconception that children are “too young” and don’t have enough life experience to have a mental illness, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Studies show the age of onset for mental disorders usually occurs in childhood or adolescence. Of course, these mental disorders are often unrecognized by our peers and parents, and both diagnosis and treatment typically don’t occur until years later.

If you live with bipolar disorder, there’s a chance you grew up with it. But what signs might there be in childhood? To find out, we asked our mental health and bipolar disorder communities to share “signs” they grew up with bipolar disorder they can recognize now as adults.

From childhood depression to being a “problem child” in school, we hope their answers can give you insight into your own childhood, or shine a light on why a child in your life could need some extra help and understanding.

Here’s what our community had to say:

1 “As a child, I was always way more sensitive than other children. I would break down for hours and cry. I thought about my death and my family’s deaths abnormally often. At 10, I lost parts of my hair from being so depressed, or I would have these hyper attacks where I would laugh for no reason for a long time and I could never stop talking. I’d also be cleaning my whole room over and over again. It was exhausting.” — Morgan T.

2 “Not knowing who you are without your disorder. I have become comfortable with my sadness; it’s all I know. If I have an ‘OK’ day, I don’t even know how to feel about myself. I don’t feel like me when I’m not depressed.” — Shannon M.

3 “I wasn’t properly diagnosed until I reached my 40s, but looking back, my erratic sexual and spending behavior, in addition to my bouts of depression, should have been major red flags. I had no idea it was due to bipolar; I just figured I was ‘screwed up.’” — Jessi F.

4 “I started cycling at 12 years old so I have no idea what the Alysha without bipolar disorder is like. It’s also why I say ‘I am bipolar,’ instead of ‘I have bipolar.’” — Alysha F.

5 “Irritability. I was always irritable, no matter what. That’s why, when I was diagnosed, everything I felt started making sense.” — Katelyn S.

6 “I was always super sensitive and prone to anger outbursts. I could also focus on something so intently the world would fade away. I’m still angry and sensitive but therapy is helping me get through it.” — Beth B.

7 “Thinking I was invincible at 14. I would sneak out at night and go on walks because I couldn’t sleep, I would still wake up in time for school but could only sleep four or five hours a night. I walked a lot just because I had the energy during the day and then more at night.” — Cassandra K.

8 “Growing up, my parents and sibling thought I had inherited my father’s extreme anger and violence. My teachers and fellow students thought I was just lashing out and enjoyed getting into fights at school, constantly getting suspended, until ninth grade when I was asked to leave. This all started when I was around 5 years old, but it was not until I turned 12 that a doctor told me I had bipolar disorder. Growing up and constantly being misunderstood, from my feelings to my behaviors, is one sign I grew up with bipolar disorder.” — Samantha W.

9 “Everyone else thought something was ‘wrong’ with me. I had impulse control issues and was so afraid I’d be disliked that I’d lie to be liked. I was diagnosed 21 years ago.” — Sasha S.

10 “The cycles I had with my moods. I would do great in the spring and summer, but as soon as it hit August and fall started approaching, it all went downhill. I always knew it was around the time that school was starting that I would start to cycle into an episode, so it would increase my anxiety and I would absolutely dread going to school. I never realized it was a sign until recently, when my team and I figured out my cycles and it all just clicked and made sense. I was diagnosed at 17, but honestly I think I’ve been bipolar since I was probably between 8 and 10 years old.” — Megan D.

11 “I would have painting sprees. I wouldn’t want to paint for a while, and then all of a sudden I would do like two paintings a day in middle school and high school, convinced I was getting visions from God, and it was my duty to share my genius with the world. Sometimes, I fantasized about my death, wondering what it would be like at my funeral and how no one would come except my mom and dad, or people would stomp on my grave and laugh at me. In my freshman year of college, I didn’t sleep and stayed up all night doing homework full of energy, and I always forgot to eat. I became very religious and believed I was getting visions from God again. For the first time in my life, I was a social butterfly. I did many paintings and even started a website out of the blue. Then I crashed for the first time in my life and started having suicidal thoughts. I have always either been heavily invested with something and then suddenly not interested in that thing or activity at all.” — Zoe S.

12 “I never slept, but was never really tired. I just chalked it up to being a kid and having energy, and then as a teen, having a night job and then having to do homework once I got home. I also repressed everything.” — Morgan W.

13 “I was very shy, reserved and sensitive. I had a lot of fears and cried very easily. But then there were times when I would stay up for days with little to no sleep, cleaning and rearranging the house. My mom thought it was odd but harmless so she didn’t stress over it. As soon as I was diagnosed, it all made sense.” — Courtney B.

14 “I spent weeks remodeling my bedroom, covering every inch of wall with collages and pictures. I even built a table. Then, a year later, I ripped all of it off the walls in an hour leaving blotches of drywall and became depressed for weeks. I was 16.” — Emma T.

15 “As far back as 6 years old, I would do great in the fall with school and family. Every spring without fail, and still at age 49, I have three weeks of productivity and fun followed by three weeks of the most rage and hostility I had ever known. Those were my first memories in general.” — Beth P.

16 “Being described as ‘the problem child’ because people thought you were just dramatic and a mess; they didn’t realize the behavior was uncontrollable due to the mental illness.” — Sabrina G.

The Unique Grief That Can Come With a Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

Find the article:https://themighty.com/2019/10/grief-after-a-bipolar-disorder-diagnosis/?utm_source=engagement_bar&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=story_page.engagement_bar/

I remember when I first received my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. At first, I was full of relief to finally have an answer. I had finally found a doctor who would listen to me and my suspicion was confirmed. Getting a diagnosis was incredibly validating. But I also found myself grieving, too.

A few weeks after diagnosis, I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling and looking for the cameras that were watching me. It was then that I understood how truly sick I was and an overwhelming sadness took over. I sobbed into my pillow as I tried to explain to my husband but he didn’t understand.

My grief was unique to mental health and bipolar disorder. I found out I had a lifelong illness and with that, I also found out that I was “wrong.” Everything in my life was wrong.

I realized my perception of reality was different than everyone else. Often, my sadness would take over and my world was different. Where others saw color, I saw black. While everyone experienced joy in their childhood, I experienced the devastation of depression over and over.

I felt like I would never get to enjoy some of the basic experiences of life because my mania and depression often got in the way. I missed out on friends, sleepovers, sports, decent grades, college acceptance and even a stable traditional professional career. I missed out because of being so overtaken with my mental health. I will never get that time back.

Eventually however, my grief transformed into acceptance and I began to accept my life. My life experience is different than a person with a “healthy” emotional well-being and I have come to accept that. I have learned to be OK with living differently than others. I have learned to fall in love with the life I have, even though it is different.

I have also learned to accept my past and the missed opportunities I had. While other kids may have been playing games, I was writing or painting. My lonely childhood made me learn to be comfortable with my own company and my deep emotions made me explore writing even more, which has now lead me to a professional writing career as an author. Had I not experienced what I have, I would not be where I am today.

The grief of getting a bipolar disorder diagnosis was a painful, but also a necessary, step in my process of learning to live my life. I grieved my missed opportunities and the life I could have had if I hadn’t been born with bipolar disorder. But in the end, I learned to accept the life I do have and move past grieving what could have been. I need to live for today.

%d bloggers like this: