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“High-Functioning” Bipolar Disorder

Sometimes people don’t believe I’m particularly sick. They meet me, I look fine, I interact, I charm, I wit and all seems, if not normal, at least something reasonably normal adjacent.

And that’s fine. It’s by design. Being a high-functioning mentally ill person, I can’t really afford to run around with my hair on fire. But faking normalcy, happiness and pleasure is a tricky and very expensive bit of business.

High-Functioning Bipolar

Being a “high-functioning” bipolar doesn’t really have a definition, per se. The term indicates that I’m not in a mental hospital, and I do things like live on my own, pay rent, work and whatnot. I would suggest that being “high-functioning” seems to indicate that I can fake not being a crazy person.

High-Functioning Weekdays

It’s really important that I be able to put my bipolar on the shelf. I have to be able to put the crazy away so that I can talk to people, engage in business, produce technical documentation, write articles and so on. I wrote about 12,000 words last week for clients. You can’t do that if you’re pondering where on your wrist the best place to slice is.

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Low-Functioning Weekends

The trouble is, using all my control, sanity and energy during the week to try and produce enough work to pay my rent then leaves me with a really large deficit when I’m not working. I’m crazy. Remember? Not normal? I’m just faking the normal. And faking normal requires more effort than you can possibly imagine.

So then, as soon as I’m not working, I break into a thousand pieces all over the tiles on my kitchen floor.

Sure, you go out Friday night with friends. My Friday night is usually spent fairly catatonic trying desperately not to get suicidal.

Energy is Finite, Bipolar is Exhausting

As I see it, everyone has a similar tank of energy. We expend that energy in lots of ways. We run after kids, we go to the office, we jump out of planes. All fine uses of energy. Me, on the other hand, I spend a massive amount of energy just trying to keep my brain in one place. I have almost no energy, or brain left, outside of that.

I Give Up a Life to Survive

So all the appearance of my functioning is paid for by utter decimation and exhaustion the rest of the time. I don’t have energy or brain space left to read, see friends, date or do pretty much anything else. The last thing I want to do is leave the house. I want to sleep. Forever. And ever.

I do know wonderful people and I do adore them. But that doesn’t overcome the inertia of having every drop of energy sucked from me so I can pay rent.

Bipolar Sucks the Life You Don’t See

I’m the least fun person in the world. I work. I sleep. I have a schedule. I keep that schedule. I’m tired. I make excuses not to go out. I’m sort of the lamest person ever.

But that’s the mental illness sucking the life out of my ears. I want to go out. I want to see my friends. I want to do something fun. I want to have a drink with you after work. I just can’t. I’m too tired.

So yes. I’m capable. I’m talented. I work hard. I produce stuff. Yay me. But the price I pay for that is not being able to be anything else.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

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292 Responses to “High-Functioning” Bipolar Disorder

  1. susan rivas says:

    Well,,,now I’m jobless. Best thing really. I was not functioning well at all. And it was noticible to others. I lasted a whole 60 days. I went ahead and filed for total disability. My official diagnosis was made 10 years ago but I had problems way before then. Worst of all,,my short term memory has really gotten worse. In that 60 day period I was not able to remember a lot of my coworkers names or even place them with a face. Since there were less than 25 of us it did not fare well for me. And keeping track of patients and their names was a nightmare,,I also consistently misplaced important paperwork. I could no longer do it. My sister suggested that I file for disability prior to taking this job but I held off. Who wants to admit that at 50 years of age that I’m no longer able to be productive in the medical workforce. I sure didn’t but I’m forced to. I’m going to retire my license and I just thank God that I didn’t end up killing someone.

  2. jeanne says:

    That just anserred my question. I’m “high functioning” too. To add to it, I’m homeless. Because I’m high functioning, am not a drug addict, have no kids, and never been to jail no programs will help me. I lost everything when I had a nervous breakdown and the cruelty of a few saw it possible for me to not make it through the toughest time of my life. In addition to the job I lost last year, I ran my own grassroots production company. Now I have just that and having a project coming up I was doing very well once my life stabled out. But, once the lady who I was renting a room from decided last minute she wanted to rent that room to someone with a car, I have been bouncing like a ball from place to place an the instability is keeping me from focusing and my brain is awefully tired. It scares me because I have a show coming up soon and I am zapped of brain power. At first I believed I could get through this despite the lack of support from these programs. I do have friends who are doing their best to help. But now, my hope is slipping with my ability to function. I am even trying to get low level jobs so to lay off stress but I’m over qualified. Geez. But. I am beyond exhausted.

  3. Jacqueline M says:

    My son we were told was high functioning, but military kicked him out last March and he took his own life last April with the 3 month’s worth of antipsychotic drugs they handed him all at once, we are still recovering from our loss and Trauma, anyone who reads this Please Tell someone if you feel suicidal, it shatters many lives :(

  4. SkyBlue says:

    Hi Natasha, recently diagnosed bipolar 2 and currently trawling through the Internet researching what this means. Came across your blog and posts, this one resonated a lot. It made sense, it is something I have tried to describe to friends pre diagnosis for a long time not knowing why I feel this way. Funnily enough, at diagnosis when I asked about high functioning, I was told point blank there is no such thing. Good to see others experience it and glad you were able to put it into words. Thank you.

  5. r says:

    Three years ago I had a melt down and ended up in hospital due in large part to how I was being treated by management. Shortly after I came back to work my newly appointed supervisor went on sick leave. Everyone said she wouldn’t be back. I assumed she had quit or been fired. Rumor had it she’d lied on her application which grieved a lot of other people who’d applied for the job but because she was favoured by management she was hired anyway. Both she and her boss made my life a living hell by a constant barrage of various forms of harrassment. I was being bullied to take a buy out due to downsizing. Somehow by the grace of God I managed to survive all that. I even got some pretty decent yearly work assessments after she left. But today I found out that this woman may be coming back again and I feel sick to my stomach. This is the last year for the organization to balance the budget… I know there are laws against harrassment but how does a ‘crazy’ person protect themselves when management has an agenda, knows how to skirt the law and get away with it.

  6. Ann says:

    Hi SkyBlue,
    I was diagnosed a year and a half ago with bipolar (not sure if is I or II). I don’t do drugs, would never cheat on my husband, don’t drink, exercise, am a good mom of 3 (my kids are all doing well in school etc), don’t consider suicide an option ( I resolved never to entertain those thoughts and don’t), am financially stable and have been a successful professional in the same career for 15 years. With my manic phases I have accomplished some amazing things. I took some major risks and frankly I didn’t consider the possible consequences. Definitely manic, with all the characteristic signs, being really talkative, racing thoughts, increased energy, over exercising, losing lots of weight and feeling superhuman. One time, I didn’t sleep more than 2hrs a night for four months. I’ve traveled the world, played competitive sports, have a rental property, done lots of charity, joined boards, created lots of unique artwork, written a bi-law for my municipality and lots more. Fortunately, despite my not having good insight during those periods, I enjoyed success with my creative endeavors and people were very grateful and benefited from my work. During my depressive months, I just sucked it up, as it were. I truly believe I’m dying when I’m down, it’s actually funny how I believe it when I’m in that place. The pain is unexplainable and intense. I gain lots of weight because I am so tired and I binge eat. None the less, no one (not even my husband) could know how badly I am feeling when I’m depressed because I hide it convincingly well. I usually say I’m sick, overstressed at work or come up with some other acceptable excuse to get into bed and cry for a few hours a day. I am better now at reigning in the mania which helps avoid the depression, but I used to drag my sorry ass to whatever I had committed myself during a manic phase and did my best at work, home and in the community…Many days I felt like I actually had lead in my body…lifting myself out of bed was painful and an enormous chore. I love my job, so I just coped mentally by telling myself this is just the waiting time, “things will shift”. I actually used to believe it was God’s will. I thought God was wanting me to “wait” and that he would reveal my special purpose again soon lol (in retrospect I was having religious delusions). Anyhoo, people do think I’m crazy, but “good” crazy. I tried all the drugs out there over the past year and a half and frankly the side effects weren’t worth the small improvements in clarity I felt. I did feel relieved by Risperidone, like the thoughts on loop in my brain were now under my control to be stopped or started at will. That is how I know I actually have bipolar. The drugs made me binge eat more and there were some other really nasty side effects as well.
    What I am wondering is; are there other people coping with Bipolar like me? Are there others who never allowed it to interfere with their dreams and goals? Are there others who found the strength to cope during the depressions and harness the creative energy during the manias? I’ve always been into yoga, self help books, nature and anything that seems to give me a sens of peace and love. I did a lot of talk therapy in the past two years, have tried neurofeedback, had cognitive behavioral therapy and did a mindfulness training course. I have always understood that to give to others I’ve got to cope with my very deep emotions and that only I have the power to do that.
    Ultimately, I am the one who is responsible for my thoughts and feelings. In my case, my desire to give to others outweighs my bipolar so I control it no matter how difficult and exhausting it is. I’m “high functioning” so I know there is such thing… Am I alone?

  7. Mark says:

    I read a few of the comments by other readers and I know exactly what your going through. Many of us are not perfect and some hide it better. I have seen people flat out deny the illness. Are we sick or just being taken advantage because we lack the skill sets to socially play the game. I say who cares what anyone thinks and they can have the job. They can go do the work. Focus on moving to a lower income area and reset your expectations level on a home and car. Save 10k buy a mobile home get a 1k car. Resolve your roof and transportation issues first. Do whatever makes you happy we only live once and we are all going to die. One more thing I think most people are mentally i’ll due to the society we have built were just plum crazy over here in the USA.

  8. Gayle says:

    I have had Bipolar 1 since I was diagnosed 22 years ago. I know both spectrums of the disease because I was suicidal at age 16 and again at 23 (That year I had a psychotic break – mania) and then a suicide attempt with a summer in hospitals. The following year a psychiatrist that happened to work at the private hospital where I was admitted had written a book on Bipolar Disorders. This story is very long, but I took mood stabilizers since that time and was able to work professionally full time for over 12 years and raise a daughter with my husband. After my brother died of cancer and my father was diagnosed with Alzheimers, I suddenly had a unexpected manic break at work. I was not hospitalized, but my Dr. was trying different medicines to stabilize me. That was between 2007 and 2012. Without going into detail, my marriage almost broke up while our daughter was attending college. I began to work part time in a non-professional field. Then I heard about the NAMI Family-to Family, free 12-week, class and my husband and daughter completed it. I began going to therapy more often and going to a weekly peer support group similar to DBSA. I also took the NAMI Peer-to Peer class, and recently took a WRAP class (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). I have a routine…I have a part time job, I care for my dog, and I facilitate the weekly support group. This summer I also added another fun volunteer job. My problem is not dealing with depressive episodes, but managing hypomanic (mild form of mania) Yes, my cognitive skills slightly diminish, I get hungry and gain a little weight, and am irritable…from my (PRN) extra medicines needed to get me to sleep more than 5 hours a night. I use my WRAP skills such as recognizing warning signs…(rapid thoughts and over-planning). I wake up very early in the morning and don’t want to stay or go back to bed another hour or two. My Dr. is aware of this pattern and helps me track my medicine while I track my moods and behavior. I consider myself “high functioning” because people around me don’t know of my illness unless I choose to tell them. I also have to work hard to manage my symptoms and it can be very tiring. There are many tools to help beside medication and therapy, such as mentioned in these posts. I highly recommend you by the WRAP workbook by Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD. Journal, do art, listen to music, yoga, meditation or mindfulness, get a massage or pedicure, simple gardening, ride a bike, take a walk, make a healthy meal, call a friend, etc. Do what makes you happy and healthy. Don’t judge yourself against others and don’t feel like you are alone either. Take care,
    -Gayle

  9. BipolarII says:

    my therapist and I have been working together for 3 years. I was misdiagnosed with major depression, panic disorder, insomnia, and PTSD. As time went on, we have come to a conclusion of bipolar II. I have taken DBT Dialectible Behavior Therapy twice, mindfulness meditations, and medication, as well as talk therapy.
    Socially interacting is quite difficult for me, for I am not able to hide my symptoms to well any more. I am no longer working, I am no longer fostering children, I am no longer involved with children’s lives as a mentor and a safe adult. I no longer design and sew for people as a living. I fill my days with fist assessing my moods and moving accordingly. I have regained 100lbs and I have not career. I live on disability and I am a 41 yr old living below the poverty line at 900 per month. i am living in low income housing and have aknowledged my bisexuality this year. I met and fell in love with the most amazing woman, when I told her I had a crush on her, she was gracious and let me down gently. The next time I saw this dynamic woman, was turning the other way whenever she saw me, that was painfully difficult, for I was admitting to liking her after she winked at me twice on one afternoon. To my dismay, it was harmless flrting, that I saw as total acceptance and a sign of love. Wrong! I went from this woman being a positive conversation that could have led to friendship, now it is awkward and unpleasant. Self help books tell you to surround yourself with positive people, but it doesnt say that these positive people may not want you around. I am a work in progress. I binge eat all the time, for I am in the downs more than I am up. When i am up, I am bored and have a burning desire to work or do another hobby project (repurposing furniture). I used to be high functioning, but now I am fighting suicide on a weekly basis.

  10. Highfunctioning2 says:

    I am high functioning as well. It sucks. I appear fine but the reality it does suck the life out of me. What is worse is that I am a nurse. I am smart, organized and utilize my critical thinking at work…

    Then I come home to pure chaos. I have all I can do to wash my scrubs for the next week. Intrapersonal relationships suffer. I can’t explain how frustrating it is to explain that I need to follow my schedule. I need someone to accept me for me. That to be “normal” during the week takes every last bit of energy from soul. I barely have enough to keep myself together at home. Every night I cry myself to sleep. Wishing that it would just stop.

  11. lila says:

    I need help. I want to talk to someone.. anyone that will understand that being bipolar 2 is hard. I am having a difficult time lately n need help.

  12. Hi Lila,

    I’m sorry you’re having a hard time right now. If you need to talk to someone, please see our hotlines and resources page here: http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/

    Someone is waiting to listen to you.

    - Natasha Tracy

  13. lila says:

    Thank u! I have been researching bipolar 1 & 2 I was diagnosed 5 yrs ago but had suffered thru ups n downs since age 22. I am now 41. I always just thought.. hey Im emotional.. never understanding… what I was going thru. I had my own place held a job for 10 yrs. Moved held a job n learned a new trade for 7 yrs. I always spent my money on bills n necessities. I never fit it anywhere.. but i had good friendships that lasted.. I just dont understand how now I am falling apart.. I have always had an inner fight for what was good n bad.. I use to tell my dad that when i was really young. I have to fight so hard to do whats right. Its exhausting.. I never understood my need for sex n the guilt afterward.. i still fight that daily. ..Being a Christian is hard enough but to add the ups n downs.. its a bit much. Im saddened on how hard this is n how devastating it can b. For the ppl going thru it n family n friends..
    finding support groups is very difficult. Being honest at church is difficulft . Being told just take ur meds without realizing how hard that is on ones mind n body. Sometimes it just feels so overwhelming that u just shut down..
    Where do we begin to live.. ?? I have had good days n bad.. but in all of this is soo much..

    needing help n asking for help has been a huge challenge for me.. falling apart n being so terrified to even breathe is so hard to come back from but God is good n u take it one day at a time…

  14. lucy says:

    I have been suffering with rapid cycling bipolar for diagnosis 23 years ,I work as a nurse .I’m married to a wonderful man and have two great sons. But there are times where its easier not to talk to single soul.It not the nicest disease to have. Sometimes I say something that is just plain rude or meant ,and I drive people away.
    Tonight my husband and I had a discussion about what this disease does to me ,versus what his folliclIitis does to him .I wasn’t very nice to him and by stating they are different like apple and oranges ,one makes your mind dark and sad and the other just on the skin . Well I don’t understand his problem. He doesn’t have a clue about having your mind turn on you. I’m very sad that he is missing the big picture that I am trying to present him.

  15. Elijah says:

    I’m impressed with how well this is written. I was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I find it so difficult to explain to people exactly how it affects me. No one ever thinks I am struggling, and the biggest challenge is balancing my energy levels between work and my social life. By biggest challenge I mean impossible. If I don’t give work everything I have to maintain myself, I crumble. Living in Vancouver is too expensive to be jobless. It runs in my family, though I am the only one considered high functioning. Thanks for writing this. Not only do I realize.the way I feel is “normal” based on the diagnosis, but now I can use this to explain it to people when I cannot find the words to do it myself.

  16. ellana says:

    Like im tired of everyone using mental illness as a scape goat everybody is a fine tuned individual. And the way you think is not a mistake. Even when your emotions and thoughts seem out of sorts it may just be a side affect of you. For instance I talk alot academically im gifted socially well I proboally overwhelm others I have blamed it on me being manic when in reality I was lonely sure I had people around but they were uneducated and not driven like me. I get around intelligent people and suddenly I don’t feel so crazy. I think you need to take accountability for the way you are and do what makes you happy working the way you do is making a part of you feel suppressed. If meds help great but look into other reasons you feel how you feel and try not to label yourself even if you do suffer from those symptoms labeling it will make you feel like you are not a part of these negative behaviors its just illness well giving up and letting this illness take the heat for your lack of self control is not going to fix anything so stop generalizing yourself. You are a fine tuned individual and I hope you get well.

  17. Trish says:

    Please, after reading this if you don’t know Jesus Christ as your creator God, then please put your faith in Him. Please read the Bible and understand why you are alive and for what purpose. The bible says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

  18. Liz says:

    I just came across this article and I feel like you sound exactly like me. This resonates so much (I am not diagnosed as Bipolar yet but feel strongly that I am type 2). Thank you for putting it out there, it helps so much to know that there are other people in the world that feel the same as I do.

  19. Avolitionist says:

    Natasha,
    I can identify with so much of your writing here … I was going to say I ‘enjoyed’ it but that is not the right word … sometimes it’s very difficult work to admit these things, or in turn, see the mirrored reflection in the words …

    While I am no longer suicidal (3 attempts between age 13-19) I still struggle with fast shifts – I go thru the process of complete avolition to high productivity about 4 to 6 times a year.

    Recently, I discovered Asperger’s syndrome … within the first few chapters I realized a complete description of my entire life. (also tests confirmed my self-diagnosis)
    Because of so much overwhelming info about my life, which would have answered so many questions my late mother had (she passed away 10 years prior to my discovery) I sank into a regretful, bitter depression. But then when I came out, I was very excited & felt freer bc I had answers for things – I no longer felt guilty, or could be made to feel guitly for LIKING to be alone a lot. I also became more tolerant of the people who think neurotyically (just about everyone. I also have a new understanding of my depressions – which are largely born of coping mechanisms. Like you, I ‘act’ around people all the time. It is not insincere – it is a form of forcing myself to model socially appropriate skills, such as smiling, eye-contact, listening – all of which do not cme natural to me, and including the actual thinking, planning, and DOING of my job. (I’ve been self-emloyeed for 30 years)
    I became a Christian many years ago at 20. I learned very very early on that others in this faith do not allow themselves to be equipped with what is required to be helpful at all to depressed people. Also, I no one even.knew about Aspergershose days – so … well, I was just a ent’ cookie. When I was productive I was valued, so I maintained productivity. When I attempted to share personal struggle, I was told to just pray, or that I would have ‘complete victory’ if I prayed more … or worse, I was scolded for allowing the enemy of my soul a weakness.
    This highly adjusted way of dealing with a human is not Christ like, but I forgave, because I actually DID pray more, and developed a very personal relationship with God. Many depressions were spent in intense crying out to Him, something I could never do with any other person. Yet, I knew He heard, understood, & felt, and many prayers were answered and many depressions ‘turned’ and much sanity is restored – but because I am simply human, not immortal or a god, or even ‘normal’ minded, this activity is like shampoo … wash, rinse, repeat.
    lol
    I do not go to doctors bc they can make you really sick.
    I prefer herbal or natural remdies for everything..
    Thanx for your forum Natasha.
    I will be thinking of you and reading more here.

  20. Ellie says:

    I so relate to everything written here. I was diagnosed at 23 after being hospitalized for a suicide attempt. Since then, I had trouble with work attendance at my last job, and despite disclosing my diagnosis and hospital stay to my boss they pressured me into resigning. I was able to, by the grace of God find another job shortly after and things were going great for the first five months- my meds had been figured out and I was finally doing all the things i needed to to be a “normal” person. However, I found out I’m pregnant and have been off my meds for approximately two months now. My husband has been amazing and supportive, but I’m so afraid i’m going to lose my job because of the depression I’m experiencing- being pregnant and having Bipolar Disorder is NOT easy!

  21. Alice says:

    To be high functioning is REALLY exhausting, but I really didn’t have any other choice but to fend for myself. I have no family support, friends stay at a distance and don’t want to get involved, the federal government keeps denying me disability as if it’s going to go away by magic, and I find myself suicidal a LOT. people don’t realize that I am having to act normal so that they feel more comfortable, while I have to suffer behind closed doors. It’s the price I pay for “fitting in” without actually fitting in because even my own family keeps me at a distance. I’m not invited to christmas, weddings, parties, and people are very uncomfortable with me around their kids. Try offering platitudes to someone like me who really doesn’t have anything spectacular to live for. The only reason I don’t jump is because I’m not an asshole.

  22. Kathryn says:

    To be high functioning for me means to tell no one but my husband and dad. My daughter doesn’t even know and just doesn’t understand why I can work all day but leaves the house a total wreck. It isn’t “Hoarders” bad or anything, I just. can’t. do it. I don’t have the energy and would rather sleep. Most of the time I am not depressed and I am just hypomanic which is super cause I get so much done, but then there are the other times…I just keep to myself then and remember how awful it would be for my family if I weren’t here. Who would take care of them and love them as much as I do?
    It’s so hard having friends but not going out to hang with them. They send the invites. It’s always open. I just can’t seem to make it out the door. I just wish there were people around me who understood without labeling me “crazy”. Where I live, people are scared of bi-polar for some reason. I don’t know why.

  23. Steve says:

    I think Bipolar I and II should be renamed because it gives people the false perception that it’s just spectrum and some people are a little worse than others, but I can say that full-blown mania is light years away from hypomania and it’s not just more severe than hypomania…it’s much different. Also, someone with bipolar II doesn’t experience true mixed-episodes and those are the times when suicide is at the top of your mind and you don’t just make gestures that occasionally end in death, like cutting or overdosing on prescription meds, but make serious attempts.

  24. Laura says:

    This is so spot on for my life. My therapist tells me I’m “high-functioning” as well. Yet when she says it, it’s almost like she dismisses my illness. I’m “High-functioning” because if I wasn’t, who would pay my bills, my rent, my doctors appointments and prescriptions, etc. I’m “High-functioning” because I’m obsessive compulsive and have to follow a routine otherwise it sends me into a chaos of mania.

  25. Mohammed B says:

    I experienced the manic episode at my work environment three times. Two held unbelievable outcomes. I thought at that moment; the best way to underestand my illness is to write whatever crossing my mind. So i did, as i knew that it wont last.
    And i knew for sure that after these ups I will face hill. All theses were in my mind during the last episode which made me very upset to lose it. The main factor which I totally forgot about, each time Manic episode appears, I Play a historical character at the end of that episode which I believed at that time it’s not me but I have to pass the test infront of who I believed is testing me.
    Psycosis gave me the ability to travel back in time to see those charachters.
    When I collapsed and found myself totally depressed, I used to tell myself ” this is not you” as if someone already took your body but unfortunately you have to watch.
    Which brings more sorrow and pain.
    I just smile, act inorder not to talk.
    People usually can tell that. So I take a note in my head to remember.
    And it was my mistake !
    Last time I had the Manic eps, I told those at work” ok now you have to know that Im mentally ill” .
    I was enjoying thier reaction, it gave me more power to show them my ability,
    And I succeded but couldnt take it anymore.
    I resigned.
    When I submitted the letter, I was so confident and manic that after what I did,
    I will work anywhere I like for a period to underestand more till a target date. Then, My chances could tell.

  26. Kelly says:

    Bipolar too

  27. nirmal says:

    I am also suffering from bipolar disorder,from last six years and in a financial crunch having done the job in past.its quite difficult coping with others having an mba degree now worthless seek some financial help to start my own business so that i can work by my own.can any one help and guide me.

  28. Matt says:

    Another BP sufferer surfing the web to find some peace today. Today is my 43rd birthday and I’ve been in a mixed episode for a couple months or more. I’ve had episodes off and on since I was a teenager, just didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was hospitalized 12 or 13 years ago several times before my diagnosis, after being prescribed SSRis. After that experience I was untreated for the next 10+ years. I started meds a month ago, and they’ve definitely helped bring me back in line. I guess I’m high functioning, I have a job and house, wife, etc, but I feel like a basketcase. I’m sure my coworkers have wondered why I’m very happy in the morning and hiding my face in the afternoon most days, as I quietly sob. Today I don’t feel particularly bad, I just can’t stop crying. I have a friend who says “never give up”, and that one saying, and my accountability to her, may be what is keeping me from going down the rabbit hole to suicide.

  29. Cheryl says:

    I have never been diagnosed, but I have all the symptoms of Bipolar. Reading these post is the first time I have ever felt understood and not alone with my shameful secret.

  30. Cheryl says:

    I have never been diagnosed, but I have all the symptoms of Bipolar. Reading these post is the first time I have ever felt understood and not alone with my shameful secret. I am highly functional if that mean having a job and an apartment….last year I walked out of my 7 year marriage, walked off my job and refused to take calls from my friends and relatives. I spent the next couple of months in hiding…mostly sleeping and crying. Feeling completely ashamed. I packed my bags and moved out of state to get a fresh start. I have a good job, a nice apartment and car. Everyday I pray and ask God to help me get through the day.

  31. Bryan says:

    I am 40 and I have been in a fight with this my whole life but never understood what it was. I went to a few psychiatrists, psychologists and the lot. They all diagnosed me with Adult ADD and prescribed Adderall. That felt wonderful at first but in the end just made the problems worse. The highs were higher but the lows were about as low as you can get to the point of sitting straight up in the bed at 3:30am more or less screaming about how bad life sucked and I didn’t want to be here anymore. This was more than my wife could handle and she told me to get off the Adderall and find another doctor because she didnt know how much longer she could handle these mood swings, at that point we had been married for 18 years and now in retrospect, she dealt with it all of those years the best she could.

    I switched family doctors 2 years ago to see the same doctor that my mother does. I thought that may help because he knew her background. Unlike the psych’s that I had saw in the past where $130 = 15 minutes of nothing in my opinion the MD was much more interested in what I had to say and how I was feeling than just saying here is a prescription, and if the appt. took an hour then it took an hour that was his view. After 2 appointments, one with my wife in the room and one without and using the reference of my mother’s bi-polar he told me he though I was bi-polar but not exactly like my mom. He diagnosed me with rapid cycling bi-polar 2 which was aggravating an anxiety problem I already had but had partially learned how to control. The end result was being prescribed Lamictal once per day and small dose klonopin twice per day.

    I felt pretty flat and lame the first month or so but no major mood swings. As time went on I got used to it and feel pretty normal now. I will say that this year around the holiday period things got hectic and I forgot to take the Lamictal for 2 days, that made me feel horrible then when I did remember to start taking it again it took about a week to get back on the level again. I wish I could stop taking these meds not because they make me feel bad but just because I dont like taking meds just to feel “normal” but they work and if not both I will probably be on Lamictal the rest of my life.

  32. Susan says:

    This is for Lucy with the husband with folliculitis. I’m bipolar 2 and last year I had folliculitis. Horrible, painful pimple-like bumps all over my head. I was on massive doses of steroids which can play mental havoc with a “normal” person. So, I have some empathy for your husband if he’s on steroids.
    That said, I know how hard it is when nobody understands what’s going on inside your head. The time I had folliculitis was probably the worst time I’ve had with my BPD because both the inside and outside of my head were turning against me and I’m not sure my family had any idea what I was going through.

  33. Stephanie says:

    Hello to you all!
    Guess we’re all in the same boat. Was diagnosed with bd at 16 after 3 suicide attempts between 12 and 16 y/o. I’ve been suicidal w multiple highs and lows since I was 9 y/o. When I started consulting, the psychiatrist didn’t diagnose me right away because she said “it could just be typical teenager symptoms”. What a bunch of crap! I’m now 21 and not taking any medication. Can’t really afford it and truth be told, I don’t want to. The feeling of taking medication to try and be “normal” plus the fact that it takes years to find the right mix sounds annoying. Probably less than feeling and living my ups and lows though. I have long episodes, from months to a few years. I’ve normally been able to be high functioning, but the last four years were disastrous. Dropped out of school, couldn’t get out of my bed, packed on 50 pounds… I’m only just starting to get out of it but I’m afraid I’ll fall back. There’s no way to explain it to people. It’s like there’s you and bd and then there’s the outside world. You’re in it, but not really. Kudos to all of you who have a family. It must be so hard to maintain it all on top of it. I can’t deal with myself. I’ll never have kids if it means being able to protect them from my behaviour, my episodes and everything that comes with bd. God forbid that I bring them down with me. I have more lows than highs and I have yet to feel a real feeling of happiness or gratefulness for being alive. I just don’t see myself ever coming out of this. I don’t know about you guys, but I feel like whatever happens, whenever it happens, I’ll still end up taking my life. That’s how I see it end, even if I get better.

  34. Tasha says:

    When I read this post I felt that someone finally understands me and puts into words the things that I always scream about in my mind. I am a college teacher and have spent years of my life trying to land a good job. At the moment I work part-time in two colleges (16 hours in total-double that time for home preparation). I am barely able to do the work. I also have resistant depression and this year relapsed and it was a living nightmare. I feel such shame it is incredible. When I wake up in the morning and I feel like crap from all the medication I am on and still have to go to work and pretend I am fine. And they know that something is wrong because I look like a frump, like I dont care about my appearance. It also seems like I am absent minded and I am always behind with work and marking essays and that doesnt reflect well on me. So I Refused a class early in the morning because I am unable to drive so early and was told in no uncertain terms that next year I will not be employed. I have very little energy. Everything feels like a chore. I am not the person that I used to be, that relaxed person that had immense energy and could achieve so much in one day. Now everything has to be put into a schedule. Make sure I see my friends so that I wont lose them. Make sure I am ok with my fiance so that he doesnt feel left out. Make sure I work enough to keep my job….I am always running, trying to make it in a life that is not created for us but for people that have no problems, are healthy. The only reason I dont file for disability is because the money they give in my country are so little you literally starve! I have reached the point though that I understand I am unable to work full time and fulfill my dream. The cost is immense. Work like everybody for a week and collapse for two! Do what others do in one day and cry for the next two. I know the solution. It is to cut down on work hours even further. Be “humane” to myself. But the guilt and the shame comes back and bites me in my behind. Three Masters Degrees, so many years of studying to sit at home and pretend I work?? Is this what my life has amounted to? A game of “pretend”? Pretend to friends I had a cold because I couldn’t go to their party? Pretend to my boss that I have serious family problems so they feel sorry for me? Pretend that I dont care about superficial stuff like appearance and my extreme weight gain and that I dont see the looks on their faces? And life doesnt stop because WE are unable to speed up like the rest of the people? Because we fight with medication and relapsing all the time? The secret battle we give every day that nobody knows about.

  35. blitter2014 says:

    Masks. Its always about masks. We hide behind them in the vane attempt to appear normal.

    I hold down a part time job cleaning public toilets. Up until twoyears ago I was building houses for a living. I had a nervous breakdown midway through a Job and ended up having to walk away from it all work wise. This put a huge strain on my marriage and child as I had been functioning med free for five years. My life is on complete shambles now, and my days besides work on weekends consists of housework and not a lot else. I see my tools in the shed and part of me longs for my former life. 16 years ago I went through a similar period , lost wife family business everything but managed to rebuild. This time my memory is so badly affected I do not think I will ever work in the building trade again. In my 40s and it feels like I’m 70 because that’s now my interaction level. It takes everything to hold the mask for my family and the small amount I have to go out in public. Truth is no one wants to see the mental illness. Nor do they understand. It evokes if anything pity, but not empathy. I don’t think it can, unless you have it.

    I struggle daily with suicidal thoughts although strongly medicated. What’s the point if this is the best now life has to offer. I believe in a creator, however my faith does not take away the daily struggle. I also realistically realize my insignificance in the grand scheme of things. Life is exhausting before you walk out the door, before you draw your first breathe in the morning, and its hard to convince yourself that its worth the struggle.

    I’ve lowered my expectations. I know I have the ability for so much more, yet not the capability to cope with it. That failure right there is a constant reminder of an illness that you predominantly have to hide. Have a broken leg people understand and it will heal. Bipolar, people stay for a while then leave, it just becomes too much. Again, why bother with the masks. Because unless you want to live like a leper, we have no choice. And having to hold it together for any length of time, yes we can do it. The anger, frustration, lack of memory seeps out and shows eventually and people notice. Then when away from everyone you completely fall apart. You become absolutely no fun. My wife says that all the time, your no fun . its not by choice. But can you blame them. No. So we struggle and fight alone.

    And for me that’s the hardest part. Having people around you yet feeling totally alone and abandon.

  36. M says:

    Hi blitter2014

    I’m sorry that you’re going though such a dark period of your life right now and that you feel you have to face this alone

    For what it’s worth I think we all wear a mask of some sort or other whether we have a mental illness or not but I do get what you are saying. With a mental illness comes a whole host of unique challenges

    For me when I get struck in that valley again it’s a very humbling experience. On heavy doses of meds trying to climb what seems like an unsurmountable mountain feels impossible, without the energy, strength, tools or proper support. I find being willing and open to accept any and all help that may be offered is always a good start. I know if I keep on fighting eventually things will start to improve. You CAN learn to rebuild your life again if you don’t lose hope. It just takes time… Believe in yourself. Learn to be your own advocate and ask for what you need. Try not to compare yourself with others who have not experienced what you are going through otherwise you will sink into a pit of despair and negativity.

  37. Jorja says:

    I am happy to find that there are others that are high functioning. I too am able to work in a high stress job but find that is about all I can manage. Fortunately I have a supportive spouse that is willing to do much of the housework when he gets home after work. What I really miss is not being able to socialize with people, I can’t drink alcohol, I have too watch what I eat, take my meds by 7:30pm and be in bed by 8:30pm, all so I can get up and work 9-5. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life like this but can’t really find an alternative.

    Any ideas?

  38. Karen van Zyl says:

    Is that what it is called? High Functioning??? Yeah sure. I am in full time Christian ministry, working with children. I was diagnosed with depression at age 24 although it was lingering since age 10. I was hospitalized a year ago, and even then the Bipolar was not diagnosed due to my A-typical Mania symptoms. It was only 5 months ago that they finally clicked. Now it is meds, and routines and just trying not to kill incompetent co-workers. Clinging desperately to my job and feeling as if the church board is on the brink of firing me. I am too tired to think at night, too tired to deal with my family and generally just trying not to start cutting again. This Bipolar thing sucks, and no one around you get that even the smallest of things set you off. Strongs to everybody out there.

  39. Lacie says:

    Looking in the rear view of life I have been struggling with bipolar for most of my life from preschool on. I am now a 38 year old woman with 3 kids and 2 failed relationships. I however have never been hospitalized or in trouble with law enforcement to a degree that would give me a record. Recently trying to get help for my son who has struggled for just as long in his life (preschool) the doctor (3rd so far) said you can’t be bipolar unless you are hospitalized or in jail! I was able to describe how that it was a possibility, due to parents refusal to help when suicidal or even acting out in mania was shoved under the rug. I had to learn how to be high functioning bipolar, I had only two choices suicide or fake it till you make it. I get a lot of surprised reaction when I say that I am bipolar, I don’t look or act crazy! Well no one knows the person within or the crazy things I’ve done, but they do know that I am an unwavering supporter of my 2 bipolar children and always put the mental health needs they have first. Thank you for putting words to the “high functioning” part of our bipolar society.

  40. Nerb says:

    High functioning= very good actor or actress

  41. Dean says:

    Hi Ann…

    I found your comments fascinating. I am currently undiagnosed as Bi-Polar. However I have for years considered this to be the cause of my manic and depressed episodes. I can be the most horrible person in the world to live with, and yet at times provide a great deal of entertainment and inspiration to family and friends when I am manic. I have achieved some truly amazing feats when manic and have many stories to tell. However at 42 years of age with three children, I am starting to think that I may need treatment as when I crash so does my business, and this is not good for family and future. As a mild antidote to living with bi-polar, I would say the following… As a young unattached man, I could endure the lows to enjoy the productivity of the highs. But as an older family man it puts too much strain on my relationships and future prosperity.

    Let me know if any of you feel similar…

    Thanks for reading – Dean

  42. Donna says:

    Hi Dean,I feel the exact same way..I’m a horrible person during the lows and love,care and feel so guilty about the lows during the highs…never really knew nor understand this disorder until a few years ago…my father also struggled with this and back then nobody knew what was going on…I had to find a way to focus on the weakness though and not the wicked ness…it’s a horrible disease to have and so very much still needs to be done to eradicate it forever

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