Trigger warning: This article covers mental health and suicide.
“So is it kind of like Carrie from Homeland then?” asked a friend to whom I’d revealed that I was being treated for Bipolar II disorder.
She was visiting from overseas and wasn’t privy to the happenings of the previous year. I was feeling fairly fresh that day, after slowly clawing back to some sort of normalcy after the big fall a few months before. I was actually out at a bar in Melbourne, a huge leap forward compared to the perceived safety of the bed sporting my crappy pyjamas and sallow eyes.
“Well, kind of. Not quite as extreme in the ups and mania, but yeah, kinda, I suppose,” I said.
Yeah, I kind of feel like Bipolar II is like a ‘softer’ version of Bipolar Disorder, although it has been found in a number of studies that there are higher instances of suicide ideation and attempts amongst Bipolar II patients (24%) compared to 17% in Bipolar I patients and 12% in major depressive patients so maybe not quite as ‘soft’. It’s a tricky one to explain.
Maybe it’s because the symptoms are harder to diagnose? The mania isn’t quite as obvious as assessed in those with Bipolar Disorder (it’s referred to as hypomania) but the depression can linger on, so the condition can be cloaked and missed in earlier attempts at diagnosis, often mistaken for depression or other anxiety disorders. It’s a complicated spectrum and many fall through the cracks and don’t come out alive.
So, how did I get here?
The psychologist who I was seeing for about six months before the big fall didn’t quite pick up on it. She assessed me as suffering from General Anxiety Disorder and we kept up the cognitive behavioural treatment for a few months. Me coming in, telling her about my fears, my strange ideas, the growing anxiety and she would then refer me a text, an author to read and other methods. She said I really needed to leave my job, it was toxic for me.
In anything I did, I always over-promised due to my ‘big-picture thinking’ and always under-delivered due to the lack of confidence and crushed self-esteem – a vicious cycle.