Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Friday, August 28, 2020

Public Service Announcement of the Week:

Well-meaning people often use the term 'bipolar' as a synonym for acting crazy and maybe having a few ups and downs or mood swings.

But clinically, bipolar disorder can be a crippling illness that brings crushing depression that creeps up on you before you realise it, punctuated by disorganised and horrible highs that feel good at first but threaten your well-being or throw your good judgement out the window. That's Bipolar I. If you're 'lucky', you may have disturbing-yet-not full-blown manic episodes (known as hypomania) that's no less serious but generally gets treated as such. That's Bipolar II. Or sometimes it's a mix of it all, what's called mixed episodes, where you may feel so depressed you may just want to end it all while being agitated and irritable all at the same time, a particularly dangerous combination.

Mental illness, like all illnesses, makes us feel horrible and exhausted. There is no shame in it; there should be no stigma. In some ways, it's no different than having high blood pressure or diabetes, but at the same time, it is insidious, as it alters our emotions and thinking, and people see the behaviour but not the pain, and it can absolutely wreck relationships.

Even when you've been stable on the same medications for years, it can strike when you're least expecting. Suddenly you're speaking with push of speech, very fast, or it's hard to get up in the morning and you drag trying to get out of bed because you're depressed and facing taking a shower is so hard, like you're moving through jello, and all you want to do is to curl up in a ball and let the world pass by. Having bipolar disorder or any other mental illness during a worldwide pandemic, with all the anxiety, uncertainty, and change in routine is even more difficult. That's why it's more important than ever to have a good healthcare team, the support of loved ones, and the ability to self-monitor before it gets too bad. And it's important to reach out to the people in your life before it gets to be too much or to call a number such as the national suicide prevention hotline (1-800-273-8255).

We never know what's going on in someone else's head or how they're really feeling. But we can listen to them put those feelings into words and try to understand their pain. Empathy is one of the greatest gifts we as humans possess.

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