I’m a fairly high-functioning crazy person. This is probably why it took so long to be properly diagnosed.
I have bipolar II disorder. This is what they tell us about bipolar II:
People with bipolar II suffer primarily from episodes of severe depression with occasional episode of “mild” mania, called hypomania. Hypomania differs from mania in that no delusions are experienced.
Like mania, hypomania can cause severely impaired functioning. The hypomanic episode often feels so good that bipolar patients often discontinue their medication in quest of a hypomanic episode. This is especially problematic because symptoms that come back after stopping drug treatment are often much harder to get back under control a second time.
While Bipolar II has sometimes been described as a “milder” form of bipolar disorder than Bipolar I, the suicide rate among people suffering form Bipolar II is actually higher than that for those suffering from Bipolar I. (SOURCE: Bipolar-Disease.com)
So, I don’t have the psychotic features, or the grandiosity. When I’m hypo, people see me as exuberant, and outgoing, and funny. Hypo feels good. Hypo feels like who I really am.
So, that’s my question. Where does my personality end, and my disorder begin?
I’ve always been an emotional person. I was a sensitive, moody child. Certain things, like seeing a homeless person eating out of a garbage can, or watching a movie in which an animal was harmed in some way would render me inconsolable for hours; sometimes even days.
I could certainly be a little over-the-top, as a child. I remember having a pair of red cowboy boots, and I loved these boots. Whenever I could, I would race out the front door, naked as a jaybird, except for the red cowboy boots. I can’t even begin to describe the joy I felt in doing this. My poor mother really had her hands full:
- I was sent home in 2nd grade–more than once–for taking off my clothes.
- I once gave all of our food away, to the neighbors, after misinterpreting the message from an episode of Mr. Rogers.
- I spent an entire year pretending to speak Spanish (at a fundamentalist church school that clearly lacked diversity), and even sang a song in front of the whole school, demonstrating my “fluency”.
What can I say? I was a quirky kid.
But was I really exhibiting early signs of bipolar disorder? I realize now that it was already in full swing by the time I reached my teenage years. Could my prepubescent mood swings have been a warning sign of things to come?
If this is the case, it’s depressing as hell.
I like being quirky.
I like being a little bit over-the-top, sometimes.
I like knowing who I am.
If my red cowboy boots are actually part of my mental illness, then I’m not quite sure I know who that person is, anymore.