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Bi-Polar For Dummies. Wednesday July 15, 2015

This post is in response to some of the comments I receive when I post about bi-polar specifically rather than just about the depressive phase. It is intended to give a very general overview and can only reflect my own reading and research, which is not extensive. And my own experience, which is.

People with bi-polar disorder suffer episodes or periods of depression (well – duh, that's why we're all here on Moodscope; we know what that feels like!) and episodes or periods of mania where they feel energetic, "high", creative, but they may also be irritable and become easily annoyed.

In between these times they may have periods of perfect stability and be utterly normal, with just the mood swings that most people experience in response to life–events or tiredness etc. Or they may never experience "normality".

Bi-polar is much more common than most people imagine. 1 in 100 people will be diagnosed with it at some point in their life and it affects both men and women from all backgrounds. It usually starts in the late teens/early twenties (I was an early developer at seven) but can appear in middle or old age. It is an equal opportunity condition.

Bi-polar type 1 is what most people imagine bi-polar to be. This is where you get the full blown mania; the type where you put thousands of pounds on the credit card buying gold plated golf-clubs when you don't even play golf, plan to start a Moodscope community in Antarctica (it would work I tell you!) and snap the heads off everyone around you who just can't see what a wonderful idea it is! You might even hear a choir of Angel voices giving you instructions for that depressed Penguin community. And – yes – then you get the bloody depression too.

Bi-polar type 2 (imaginative chaps, these medics), has a rather less theatrical form of high, called hypo-mania. If you know your Latin then you know that hypo means sub, under or less. So you will still be able to make sensible decisions about those golf-clubs (although you might book golf-lessons), and know that Penguins don't use the internet. But you will still have all the creativity, the lack of desire for sleep or food (funnily enough, one's desire for alcohol and sex are exacerbated) and the short temper and irritability.

And then – yes, damn and blast it – the depression. More people with type 2 commit suicide because the downs are longer and more severe than the highs. Uh huh. Been there. Several times...

The frequency of the cycle varies too. Rapid cycling bi-polar can do the up/down thing several times a day. Or it can go day by day or week by week. A friend showed me his Moodscope graph which looks like a never-ending rollercoaster. I have an annual cycle with a four year pattern on top of that cycle; my highs last about six weeks to three months, my lows three to nine months. Some people have only one cycle in seven years.

Tomorrow I will write about the management and treatment (and causes) of bi-polar.

A Moodscope member.

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Anonymous Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 7:20am

Thank you, Mary. Expertly written, as ever. My health professional has frequently asked whether I am spending ridiculous amounts of money, managing with little to no sleep and going through periods of intense creativity. It took some time, however, before I was 'officially' given the bi-polar 2 label. Whilst lows have been devastating, understanding that there is a cycle of sorts has made depression easier to accept . I look forward to reading your recommendations on management and treatment of this roller-coaster existence.

Pippa Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 7:25am

Thank you so much for writing about bi-polar. I had been beginning to wonder if perhaps I might have it and now having read your blog, I think it is possible that at least one of my sons may have it as well. If I have it I think I am the type 2. I had no idea it was so prevalent. It was very useful to read - thanks very much :-)

Melanie Lowndes Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 7:54am

Dear Mary, thank you for your blog. So clear. Gosh life is quite challenging isn't it! I mean it is for anyone.... I was listening to either Brian Weiss or James van Praagh as part of the Hay House world summit talks and they said that our souls come here to learn and grow - it is the best place to do so because it is very difficult. So we should all give ourselves credit for choosing to come and to grow at the rate we are doing so - and having bipolar - all the more so. Love to you.

Charlie Bransden Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 8:33am

And I thought I knew . . . . . . thanks for beautifully clear explanation of what ails me. Plain English Award richly deserved.

Hopeful One Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 8:41am

Hi Mary- I did not need to look at the bottom of the blog because I knew straight away it was you as soon as I read the first para. Oh my word you have given a very useful ground level description of bilpolar to someone who doesnt have it. I can see how it must drive some to seek the permanent solution for a temporay problem if only they always knew.Looking forward to the next bit.

The Entertrainer Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 9:15am

"...periods of mania where they feel energetic, "high", creative, but they may also be irritable and become easily annoyed."
Perfect, Mary, just perfect.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who has thought they are the only person like them in the World. Your eloquent description today has really helped me realise I'm at least 1 in 100!

Anonymous Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 9:31am

I'm learning and I'm loving. Great post Mary doll! Thank you very much, love ratg xxx.

Elizabeth Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 9:47am

"We all know, how that feels"... perhaps not ... I wonder, does anyone know, and could perhaps blog about, if the "bipolar depression" feels the same as other types of depression? I know it is in general different for every person, but still there might be different perception (and treatment) of bi-polar depression, genetically wired major depressive disorder, reactive depression (like getting caught in grief), anxiety induced depression... not to talk about thing like the burn-out syndrom or chronical tiredness, which seem somewhat similar... of course, on person usually experiences one type of depression, so it's soooo hard to compare :)

Mary Blackhurst Hill Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 11:12am

Bless you Charlie! That means a lot. Thank you.

Anonymous Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 11:21am

Yes, yes! Wonderful! Thank you, Mary. And only you could make reading about this horrible stuff really entertaining. susan xx

Mary Blackhurst Hill Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 11:21am

Elizabeth - you are of course so right. As humans we are all individuals and unique in our experience of life, in our joys and in our suffering. I can only write of what I know. Someone else can write of what they know. Yesterday I realised we have a huge gap in that none of us can address the depressive issues suffered by military veterans. This is an area I would love to see addressed by Moodscope.
Yes - I know that my depressions are caused by a physical change in the chemistry of my brain, rather than by events or anxiety. Does it feel different? I don't know. Should it be treated differently? Again - I don't know. But what a great angle to explore. Thank you for raising the point. As ever, I know Caroline welcomes posts by fellow users. Please, Elizabeth, think about contributing in this way. Your thoughts and experiences are valuable to us all.

Anonymous Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 11:45am

Thank you Mary...I sometimes wonder what % of us Moodscope members are bi polar.. the score comments almost encourage us to get higher and higher, when in reality we may well be causing havoc in our relationships! I feel blessed that when in the dark tunnel of depression I know (even if I can't feel it!) that if I just keep going I WILL get out the other end back into the light. The risk is that when I emerge from darkness I try to cram 6 months living into each week and have to stop myself or I'll just burn out and sink with exhaustion & guilt back into another deeper depression. A friend with post traumatic stress seems never to have that window of release, and just drives himself on, dismissing negative thoughts & feelings, afraid of crowds, events, noise, living a limited life. We could all benefit by being kinder and more forgiving, accepting help when low and offering help when high and we have excess energy. Sue

Anonymous Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 12:18pm

Wonderfully had to be you, Mary, thank you for the insight.
Karen x!....and not as much of a Dummy about bipolar as I used to be!

Anonymous Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 12:21pm

Too right, Susan...Mary makes her blogs so interesting and funny..I now have visions of carol-singing penguins and bi-polar-bears lol!
Karen x

Nancy Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 12:36pm

Mary, very clearly written. Unfortunately here in Canada, the medical community is very slow to label someone as bipolar type 2. Some psychiatrist's don't seem to know it exists. My meds have now pushed my hypomania (slight) to a little higher mania. Not real high but enough I now notice it. It is scary to be there and I can't imagine being higher and for longer. The redeeming fact of bipolar 2 is I know the bad point of each will soon swing the other way.
My personal experience on the depth of depression is once I started having the slightly higher manic episodes the depression troughs seem worse. It could be I truly swing lower OR the difference from the high just feels worse. Whatever, we all have to deal with the depths in our own way.

Di Murphey Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 12:46pm

Dearest Mary-Love and Elizabeth ~
By all means, write what you know. Elizabeth, we welcome your expertise and thoughtful wonderings. Please consider writing more.

Mary, I am totally with you on the huge gap addressing our military veterans and their depression issues. How my heart aches for those who are ignored, misplaced, and/or misdiagnosed.

Personally, I would like to see the cultural shame factor (especially high in the U.S. as well as other countries) erased for those living with depression. I notice it is especially prevalent for males.

I look forward to your posts on management and treatment. You are loved, lovable, and loving.

PS: Today I attend a funeral for a 16 year-old former student of mine, male, who may have had undiagnosed depression. Another area of need ~ or, could he have been too young to diagnose? (Our local village high school has a continuing struggle with teen suicides. We do have a high rate of drug use, mostly meth, and work hard to find answers and solutions.)

DawnC.Ritchie Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 2:24pm

I enjoyed, as always your writing on Bi-polar, something I know little to nothing about, so your blog has given me a wonderful insight. I especially loved the golf clubs scenario.
Thank you Mary :D x

GreenJean Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 4:40pm

Always so reassuring to hear from other'sufferers' and to discover we are one in a hundred, especially since when we are in the depressive phase we often can't accept it's an illness. My psychiatrist gave me the diagnosis of Bipolar 2 only last year which was 38 years after my first major depressive episode - she wanted to see me when I was'well' and not only when depressed. At least I now know why I am irritable and argumentative at times which is really not in my nature. Thanks goodness for good psychiatrists and Pills and people like Mary who helps us all discover we are not the only ones. Bless you Mary - Jean

Anonymous Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 6:51pm

Oh I hear you Sue! This is me all over...trying to cram 6months worth of living into one week and then paying the price heavily and descending into a deeper depression. :o/ another Sue

Anonymous Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 6:55pm

This is fantastic Mary. Thank you so much. It's said that mental health awareness has come on...that's not my finding.
Another Sue

otir Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 7:16pm

I love it when you write about bi-polar! (probably because this is what I am ~ type 2). Thanks, Mary dear!

Mary Blackhurst Hill Wed, Jul 15th 2015 @ 10:28pm

So pleased this has been helpful to folk and not an irritation.

curious212000 Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 6:53am


Elizabeth Fri, Jul 17th 2015 @ 8:40am

"expertise" :D I have been thinking about writing a blog about my personal experiences, and perhaps one day I will. But I am a student of physics, not a health professional, and faaaar from being and expert on anything concerning mental health. The most I could do is copying information from some kind of book. Anyway, thank you both for your reply and encouragement!

John Sun, Oct 4th 2015 @ 9:28am

I had a down and I mean way down period of 10 years. Then without notice I reached up beyond Jupiter and Mars. My first high in over a decade.

Now for the past two years I've been swinging up and down on a day for day basis. My worst this year on the Moodscope scale has been 5% and my best 55% so my highs have not been extreme when viewed as normal, but my lows have been low. I am at 7% today and ... I'll leave it at that.

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