Awareness for Bipolar Disorder
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“Why is Mom in the hospital Dad? She’s not sick or hurt.”
“Your Mom is sick in a different way. You know how sometimes you feel very happy or very sad? Well, your Mom has a kind of sickness where she sometimes has those same feelings, but they are much stronger and can last a really long time. Those strong feelings can make her say or do things that can be upsetting.”
I was only 10 when my father tried explaining what bipolar disorder was to me. In some ways, I still don’t understand it, even at age 25. At such a young age, seeing my mother at the hospital due to a serious mental breakdown will always resonate with me. My family and I would visit her weekly as we would all sit down together with a psychiatrist. Every time that we left, somebody always cried. What most people don’t understand, is that bipolar doesn’t just affect you, but the ones you love as well.
Bipolar disorder, for those of you that do not know, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. It affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population age 18 and older EVERY YEAR. The median age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years, according to NIMH. Although the illness can start in early childhood or as late as the 40's and 50's. The main symptom that it gets confused with is depression. Due to this, most are completely misdiagnosed with “just depression.” With this delay, it can take upwards of 10 years to be diagnosed properly. My mom went through numerous doctors after her breakdown to figure out why exactly she felt the way she did. This went on for 7 years with at least 15 doctors who said that she was suffering from “just depression.” After she was finally diagnosed with Type 2 bipolar, she was put on a multitude of pills. They ranged from antidepressants to mood stabilizers. She doesn’t use them as much as she does now, but I wish there was a better way to receive treatment than resorting to narcotics and pharmaceuticals to feel “happy and positive.”
I suffer from the disorder as well. I can be the happiest person in the world, for all of 30 minutes. It doesn’t take much to change my whole mood around. Next, I will be feeling tense and anxious without ever knowing what made me tense and anxious in the first place. My mother feared this would happen to be. I can sense the guilt she feels; blaming herself for the way that I am. If anything, this just makes me that much closer to my mother. But, I have chosen to go undiagnosed. I guess you could say fear is what is keeping my diagnosis at bay. I dread the day that will be taking the same types of medications as my mother just to feel functional. CHANGES MUST BE MADE. Raise awareness! Educate our physicians on proper alternatives to prevent these emotional episodes from happening. I want my mom to be happy again. Sign this petition to change the way bipolar disorder is perceived. Reach out, seek help. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
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Stephen Shull needs your help with “International Bipolar Foundation: Awareness for Bipolar Disorder”. Join Stephen and 93 supporters today.