This Is The Face Of Bipolar Disorder

Let's start with the facts:
"Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental illness that brings severe high and low moods and changes in sleep, energy, thinking, and behavior.
People who have bipolar disorder can have periods in which they feel overly happy and energized and other periods of feeling very sad, hopeless, and sluggish. In between those periods, they usually feel normal. You can think of the highs and the lows as two "poles" of mood, which is why it's called "bipolar" disorder.
The word "manic" describes the times when someone with bipolar disorder feels overly excited and confident. These feelings can also involve irritability and impulsive or reckless decision-making. About half of people during mania can also have delusions (believing things that aren't true and that they can't be talked out of) or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't there).
"Hypomania" describes milder symptoms of mania, in which someone does not have delusions or hallucinations, and their high symptoms do not interfere with their everyday life.
The word "depressive" describes the times when the person feels very sad or depressed. Those symptoms are the same as those described in major depressive disorder or "clinical depression," a condition in which someone never has manic or hypomanic episodes.
Most people with bipolar disorder spend more time with depressive symptoms than manic or hypomanic symptoms."
There you have a basic layout. The mere foundations for a diagnosis that, if explained by someone experiencing these symptoms, could lead a person down a winding rabbit hole. There are no two people alike. Therefore, no one experiences the same exact symptoms. So how do you understand something that sounds so complicated and at times, downright scary? 
You start by asking.
This is the face of bipolar disorder:
This is the face of someone with bipolar disorder who wakes up to a 6:30am alarm after a night left tossing and turning in and out of poor sleep. This is the face of someone suffering from chronic insomnia- something she had since she was a child. Something that has morphed into many things as she grew older. As a teenager it was poor grades, bad behavior, inability to concentrate in class, anger, fear, carelessness, suicidal thoughts, etc. 

As an adult the sleepless nights turned harder to handle as responsibilities grew. 
Sleepless nights shifted from insomnia to infant care, and the sleep in between (due to stress) turned into a place of literal nightmares. Nightmares that began to induce a fear of sleeping at all. 
This is the face of someone who after years of sleepless nights now takes medication for her nightmares. 

*Take 1 pill once a night for sleep.

This is the face of someone who loves her children, loves her home, loves her family and loves her surroundings. Yet struggles to even plant her feet on the floor some mornings. Day after day after day, until the depressive episodes fade. This is the face of someone who is loved, cared for, and reminded daily of how special they are, but still has the ugliest thoughts about her life when she's consumed in her irrational grief. 
*Take 1 pill once a day for depression.

This is the face of someone who does not engage in physically or emotionally harmful behavior. Who, in fact, has made it her highest priority to avoid negative triggers and people- for the safety of herself and her children. This is the face of someone who knows that self medication, alcohol, or excessive drug use will serve as no substitute to a healthy dose of reality. 
Let me tell you, reality isn't so easy when you are of sound mind and have a deep understanding of yourself. Understanding that your mindset can switch at the flip of a coin is exhausting, because in order to be healthy you need to keep a never ending checklist going in your head. 
It means having to take accountability for your actions, 
all of them.
It means that when the tingling in your entire body starts to creep up under your skin and the sounds become too much, the lighting and excessive movement too strong, and you have no where to go to calm your nerves and you inevitably snap at your poor child who is only playing a game of monsters-- you take accountability for your actions and apologize. It also means explaining to that child what is happening within you and why they are not to blame. It means finding new ways (probably for the thousandth time) to decompress in stressful situations.
*Take 1 pill twice a day as needed for anxiety
Struggling with bipolar disorder means that when you're feeling excessively low and the urge to self harm, drink to cover emotions, stop eating or eat more as a way to gain control over your situation, make any move in any direction that could harm your future due to a brief moment of self-pity or grief-- you take accountability and reach out for help. 

This is the face of someone who has had to "suck it up" far too many times and admitted defeat in order to keep her sanity. This is the face of someone who had to openly say, "I need help. Please." Three words that sound so easy to utter, but hurt like daggers for someone who is trying to show the world she is a capable and thriving woman. The world's definition of "strong and independent".
That was, until a few years ago when she realized that asking for help when she needed it was strong and independent.

This is the face of a woman with bipolar disorder who wakes up, sends two kids off to school and is home with a three year old all day while battling debilitating exhaustion and complete lack of motivation. 
No she isn't lazy. No she doesn't skip her medicine. No this is not an excuse to keep a messy home. 
In fact for her, she makes the tough times easier by giving herself small to-do lists before she allows herself the luxury of giving into her emotions and "giving-up". She cleans her dishes, she feeds her child, she washes the laundry and scrubs the counters and tells herself over and over through-out the process, "You can do this. You are okay." All the while choking back tears and praying for the sun to set so she can finally crawl in to bed and not have to move, or think, or even feel human for just a few hours. Some days are horrific to her on the inside. Some days she completes these lists, and she is proud. Other days she doesn't, and she tries her best to not berate herself for hardly being able to stand that day.
However, every single day she is proud that she tried not to snap on the outside the way her every nerve-ending felt within her on that specific day. If she did snap? 
She took accountability, and apologized. (There's a pattern here when being honest with your brain's malfunctions.) 

Lucky for her, she rejoices in the sporadic days in between the depressive episodes that allow her the blessing of energy, insane amounts of energy. On her "good days" (which to most would simply call a "normal day") she accomplishes every task and more. She is kind and loving, affectionate and ready to play with her kids. Her house is spotless and she feels an immense sense of pride within herself. Those good days are amazing for her. The sun couldn't be brighter, her life couldn't be lovelier, and every thing feels like glitter is dripping off of it.
*Take 2 pills once a day to balance the rapid cycling.

Statistically this is the face of one person among approximately 5.5 million Americans, or 2.6 percent of the adult population, who suffers with this neurobiological disorder that often presents itself 
in a multitude of many frustrating and unpredictable ways.

One person who hates admitting where she is flawed, but recognizes the beauty and power behind working through her perceptions of what being "flawed" means to her, instead of avoiding its existence all together. 
This is the face of one person who loves exactly who she is but has no problem telling you that she understands how exhausting she can be, but how thankful she is when you stick around and try your hardest to understand her. 
This is MY face. MY struggle. MY journey. 

However, there are so many who quietly suffer in shame of something they feel they 
have 0 control over. I need you to know, first and foremost, that it takes bravery and accountability to climb your highest, hardest mountains. I need you to know, it is possible to hold power over your most seemingly powerless moments.

I need you to know...
You are not alone. 


Unknown said...

Kelly, you are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have no doubt you have already inspired many -- including me! xo

Unknown said...

My mom sent me here as she is a friend of yours, heather, and I am 13 with a clear but still undiagnosed bipolar. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

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