Millions of Americans are diagnosed with some form of Mental Illness every year. There has been a lot of progression in the studies of different types of Mental Illnesses, however there is much to be discovered. Bipolar Disorder, for instance, is a common type of Mental Illness that can affect an individual as early as age six, but affects more people in their late teens and the beginning of early adulthood. According to WebMD.com, “Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that is characterized by extreme changes in mood, from mania to depression. It can lead to risky behavior, damaged relationships and careers, and even suicidal tendencies if it’s not treated.” Yahoo! Health explains that Bipolar Disorder was formerly known as Manic Depression or Manic Depressive Disorder.
Doctors do not necessarily know what causes the disorder. Bipolar disorder is not gender specific. Both men and women can suffer from this disorder. Women with Bipolar Disorder experience longer bouts of depression than men, however both men and women experience rapid cycling and mood changes frequently. As a sufferer of Bipolar Disorder, I know this all to well through first hand experience. My situation with Bipolar Disorder is a unique one, yet I am sure many people can relate to my experiences. Unfortunately, I was not diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder until I was thirty. I had many rough periods in my twenties from not being diagnosed correctly. I became a heavy drinker, abused drugs, smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, and constantly dealt with my troubled family life. My father did not believe there was such a thing as Mental Illness, in fact, one time he referred to it as an excuse for crazy people to commit suicide and martyr themselves. I had no support system in my household. I continued this horrible path until I had a close friend die of a drug over dose. He suffered from Bipolar Disorder as well and the drugs he took interacted with his medication. He died of heart failure in his sleep.
The high’s and the lows:
When I was twenty two years of age in 2003, I met my girlfriend and my life changed forever. She stayed with me through all the up’s and down’s. In January 2007, I had a major set back. I had four very close relatives pass away in the same one month span. In the process, my sleep patterns changed drastically. I would go from sleeping all day to being up all night. There was one time where I was awake for 2 and ½ days straight. I got sick on top of that with a systemic staff infection and was in and out of the hospital frequently. My girlfriend stood by me through it all. There was one time I had a drastic cycle and took a two hour drive away from Los Angeles to San Diego in the middle of the night. I just got up and left. This all goes back to the frantic mood attacks that Bipolar Disorder causes.
The Brighter Side of things:
Since January 2011, I have been on an upward swing for the positive. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree. I was able to find a job. I found a job working with emotionally disturbed, developmentally disabled, and Autistic clientele. This is what I felt compelled to do because I had gone through so much. I felt the need to give back to others who may have had similar experiences. I have a successful job and I’m just starting to rebuild a broken relationship with my family. It helps to know that things have changed in a good way for me. I am getting married and we will be planning for a family. I have gained an empathetic frame of mind. I enjoy working with others and trying to help them cope with their problems. If someone is a recovering addict, I can give them first hand advice. If someone suffers from Mental Illness, I can teach them coping skills. Even if you have a condition that is not curable, such as Bipolar Disorder, I have learned that a good support system is the key to getting on the right path.