Why I Write About Manic Depression

Last October I wrote for the first time about having bipolar 2 brain disease, otherwise known as manic depression. Writing about this has become more and more important to me. Why? For three reasons: The older I get the more changes I see in the symptoms and cycles of the illness and how it affects my life. The more people I talk to about my own experience with this illness, the more people I discover are affected by it. The more I write about it, the more online connections I make.

I find the word ‘bipolar’ strangely…obscure and minimize[s] the illness it is supposed to represent. The description ‘manic-depressive’ on the other hand, seems to capture both the nature and seriousness of the disease I have rather than attempting to paper over the reality of the condition. Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind1

On the downside, the older I get, the more severe and deeper are my depressive cycles, and the more lengthy are my hypomania cycles. Cycles present differently than they did 15 or 20 years ago. I seem less able to predict or control the cycling and find them more difficult to manage.

On the upside, I recognize I’m in a cycle more rapidly than before. I’m quicker to surrender to each cycle as it comes along; I don’t fight them like I used to. I’ve learned to pray through the days, and accept the new symptoms as I learn new information about the disease. For instance, I’ve learned insomnia is a symptom of the end of my hypomania cycles. Instead of considering insomnia a negative that starts a cycle, I can now view it as a positive sign which ends a cycle, and take action to alleviate the symptom in a positive way.

As I learn more about my own cycles and my reactions and responses to them, I am more willing to be honest with the people I know. I’m more willing to say, “I’m not up to visitors today,” or, “I really don’t feel like going shopping” or “out to dinner,” when I know my reaction will be negative to being around people.

Sometimes, we simply can’t be there, and while that disappoints you, it disappoints us at a much deeper level, and that disappointment hangs on like a millstone around our necks. We desperately need your grace and forgiveness.

With close friends who know I have bipolar, it’s become easier to simply say, “It’s a bad day today,” or even, “I think I need some company.” Most times, friends have risen to the occasion or at least talked with me or texted until I feel better. I do my best to return the favor, though sometimes when I’m in the throes of a cycle, I can’t be there for them, and that hurts.

I want friends and loved ones of those with bipolar to know we do our best to be there for you. Sometimes, we simply can’t be there, and while that disappoints you, it disappoints us at a much deeper level, and that disappointment hangs on like a millstone around our necks. We desperately need your grace and forgiveness.

For those of you reading this in my online living room, I pray you gain sustenance and lose all the shame this disease has caused you over the years. I didn’t come out of the closet until I was sixty-six. That’s far too long to carry the burden of stigma. I invite you to talk openly about being bipolar. I invite you to cast of the anonymity you surround yourself with. I invite you into freedom.

Attitudes about mental illness are changing, however glacially, and it is in large measure due to a combination of these things – successful treatment, advocacy, and legislation. Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind2

Above all, if you have bipolar – and by the way, you are not your bipolar diagnosis – I strongly recommend you never make the decision to spurn your medications. If you think your medications are too strong or are not right for you, by all means get a second and third opinion. But understand medications are there to help you navigate and manage your illness, just like diabetes medication. If you go off them, tragic symptoms and circumstances can occur. And I can tell you from personal experience, medication saved my life.

Bipolar is an illness of the brain, but it affects not only us – it affects our families and our friends. It can control you if you’re not vigilant. Even if you are, it feels as though it controls us sometimes. But there is always hope – in connection, in medication, and for me, in my faith.

So hang in there, through the down times and the up times. You have people who care about you. And I’m one of them.

For additional bipolar websites and links, visit the * sites listed in the right-hand blogroll.

1©1995 Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind p. 181, Vintage Books, NY, NY

2©1995 Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind p. 183, Vintage Books, NY, NY

16 comments

  1. Good on you for taking the time to tell the world about the cycles you go through and it’s really inspirational for me as a new blogger to see that there are so many people out there with similar cycles and conditions as i have and getting to find out what these cycles mean for people like you! very interesting read and thank you for your honesty.

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    1. You’re welcome.

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  2. I also have manic depression. I write about it frequently and I would really appreciate if people would check out my page.

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    1. I pray they do too. Any and all connections are important, and we need to support each other.

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    2. I couldn’t access your site from the link in your name. Would you please give us the url in a comment?

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      1. Promotinglove.wordpress.com

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  3. Mental health tends to get swept under the rug until it becomes part of a larger headline in the news. Yet the more people who learn about bipolar and other mental health disorders, the more people to dispense grace and mercy instead of judgement on the patient and the affected families. I’m glad you are comfortable letting people know how you really feel when you are not up to their social expectations.

    Sharing your story not only educates but ministers as well. I wish you far more “good days” than bad and I suspect your honesty encourages more people than you will ever know. Our tests do become a mighty testimony when we allow them…

    ((Hugs)) to you!

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    1. ” the more people who learn about bipolar and other mental health disorders, the more people to dispense grace and mercy instead of judgement ”

      This is my hope, Lilka.

      Hugs back to you, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. atimetoshare.me · · Reply

    May God continue to bless you in your journey,

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  5. Yes! It took some time to realise but now we are completely aware of his problem

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  6. I’m so proud of you at least you are not hiding your illness. I have had a very bad experience with a bipolar boy he broke nearly each and every stuff at our home. He really didn’t know what exactly he was doing or was saying! But, my husband and I felt compassion for him. We are still friends with the boy and we still hope he will come out of this illness soon!

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    1. There is no cure for the illness, only management with medication. Even then, sometimes it gets the best of us.

      I pray you will continue to be compassionate toward him and am glad you understand it was the illness acting out and not his own desires.

      Liked by 1 person

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