(First posted at http://www.planetmut.com on 26 December 2013)
AMAZING, isn’t it. I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar 2, meaning I’m even second when it comes to health and wellbeing. I suppose I should be grateful, though, as from what I’ve read if I’d been Bipolar 1 I’d be bankrupt, divorced and dead by now.
I was diagnosed back in March and have been on medication for the condition since. I’ve been on antidepressants for years but they never really seemed to solve the problem — the bad times, as I euphemistically call them, were always there waiting for me. My doctor realised that there must be something else going on so sent me to a psychiatrist who asked me all the right questions — specifically, if I had highs as well as lows.
And I think it’s then that I realised, as did she, what’s been wrong with me for so long. All the other doctors and the psychologist I saw a few years ago concentrated on the depressions (not that I blame them, that’s why I was seeing them). But once the psychiatrist asked if I had elevated moods, bouts of being stupidly happy, euphoria over fairly basic things and days when I was full of energy, I thought, “shit, I’m bipolar.”
She explained that I didn’t have BP-1 as I was able to function when high. BP-2 does produce manic episodes, it’s hypomanic — in other words it’s below mania. According to Wikipedia, hypomania makes me “extremely energetic, talkative, confident, and assertive [and] have a flight of ideas and feel creative”. Yep, I recognise all that. I’ve had days when I’ve been up at 5.30am, done all the dishes/laundry/bins/catbox housework by 7am and am out the back smoking and reading and wishing I had more to do; days when I can’t wait to get in the Mini and floor it up the freeway to work; days when I’ve been gagging to get on here and write 500 words of shit (the fact I haven’t updated Planet Mut in so long probably tells you the mood I’ve been in recently, although it’s not been that bad — I just haven’t been interested in doing it); days when even the most mundane things have seemed exciting; days when I just want to do something, anything. And I thought that was just being normal, what people without depression feel like.
And then there’s the downside. I joke about coming second but BP-2 is actually just as severe as type 1. Whereas BP-1 gives much greater manic episodes, BP-2 goes the other way; the gaps between depressions are shorter, the depressions last longer, the cycles of up-and-down are more frequent (I’m pretty sure mine are every three days, give or take) and the depressions are far more severe. The medication is definitely working on the bad side as although I still have crap days it’s nowhere near as bad as it was a few months ago. I mean, nowhere near, which makes looking back at what I was like bloody terrifying. When I’m doing OK or hypomanic I can’t even remember what it’s like to be down. How did I even get out of bed in the morning?
My meds have been upped once already, from 100mg a day to 150mg a day. I can tell the difference and I’m feeling positive about getting better, even on days when I’m not doing too well. The drugs are meant to level me out and stop the depressive/manic cycle; the stuff I’m on, Lamotrigine, is supposed to help more with the depression, which is good as frankly I’d quite like to keep the hypomania as I thoroughly enjoy it.
Exercise helps so I’m back on the treadmill, and I’m even lifting weights, which is a good thing as I have the upper-body strength of a three-week-old kitten. One positive thing is that my weight loss is continuing, and I’ve lost so much I feel OK about revealing the numbers: in the past 12 months I’ve gone from 252 pounds to about 202. Not too shabby. I still have about 30 to go to hit my target, but at least it gives me something to aim for.
I’m Matt. I’m a Welsh guy living in California with my dog Cadbury. I’ve suffered from depression since my late teens but was only diagnosed Bipolar 2 a couple of years ago. Medication is helping me but it can be a real struggle at times. Luckily I have friends and family to support me.