Unspoken Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
I recently realized that I subconsciously haven’t wanted to speak much on my bipolar disorder because of the huge stigma that it carries. Once I realized that I’d been avoiding it, my first thought was to make a post because that’s why I created this blog - to erase the stereotypes and stigmas that mental health disorders have.
I want to start out by saying that not all people with bipolar disorder are “crazy”. In fact, when I told my friends and family, they were in genuine disbelief. Even I was confused when I’d first received the diagnosis. But as I learned more about the unspoken symptoms of bipolar disorder, I started to understand.
But before I get into the more unspoken symptoms, I want to address the common assumptions of bipolar disorder. A lot of people believe it’s rapid mood swings, super impulsive decisions, risky behavior, unwarranted overreactions, or someone possibly wanting to hurt themselves or others. I’ll be honest with you, these are symptoms of bipolar disorder. But when these symptoms are stated, people assume the worst situation possible. For example, when people hear “impulsive decisions” they assume something like crashing a car or maxing out a credit card. But for some of us, those “impulsive decisions” can be saying something without thinking first or making last minute plans to go out instead of doing homework.
The point of explaining this is to let you know that society portrays mental health disorders as much worse than they typically are. Yes, it’s possible for someone with bipolar disorder to crash their car, but it’s not common. It’s an extreme example of the disorder. You can still feel or seem “normal” when you’re bipolar.
Now that we’ve discussed that, I want to share how bipolar disorder affects my life. Even though I know other people with the disorder who experience the same things, I will not speak for them. But as you’ll see, my responses don’t really fall in line with the common assumptions of bipolar disorder.
My most “severe” or overwhelming symptom is my changed motivation levels. I have weeks where I want to spend every waking moment doing something productive. After that, I have weeks where I never want to leave the couch. Basically, I’ll spend a few weeks accomplishing double of what I should be, and then I crash for the next few weeks and do the absolute bare minimum.
My motivation is basically all dependent on my changing energy levels. When I have a lot of energy, I sleep a lot less to get more done. I wake up early to get a good workout in. I can focus a lot better on work, so I try to work as much as possible while I know that I have the motivation. But when I don’t have the energy, I skip the workout. I procrastinate on the work. I become a couch potato.
I also find it very hard to remember things. I have the worst memory out of anyone that I know. Not being dramatic, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was told that I had short term memory loss. Here’s a few examples..
I’ll be in the middle of a sentence and completely forget what I’m saying and never remember.
I completely forget about things that happened the day before.
I can’t ever tell a story because I leave out huge details (because I forgot).
I have to take notes on every reading and bring them to every lecture because I know that I won’t remember what I read 5 minutes later.
I lose things frequently. (ex: where I park my car, the phone I had in my hand 2 minutes ago.)
I can’t trust myself to remember anything important - due dates, personal details about friends, instructions, etc.
I really struggle with this. It’s really frustrating to not be able to trust yourself with important information, especially when it affects other people as well. Luckily, basically everyone that knows me is aware of my situation and knows how to work around it. They’ll text me things that they’d like me to remember or just remind me themselves. For me, I write down everything that’s important and frequently set reminders.
I think one of the main reasons that I can’t remember things is because I can’t concentrate. I have so many racing thoughts going on in my head 24-7. I just have so many different emotions, thoughts, and worries about things that my brain never shuts off. I have literally never just sat down and thought about nothing in my entire life, even when I’m trying to sleep.
On a different note, I have depression and anxiety but sometimes I have unexplained sadness and/or anxiety for longer periods of time, which I contribute to bipolar disorder. I don’t know how to explain it to someone who doesn’t experience it themselves, but it’s almost like a different type of depression or anxiety when I hit a bipolar low. The symptoms worsen, but for no reason, like nothing happened to cause it. When I hit bipolar lows like this, I undertake a lot of physical tolls like headaches, stomach aches, and jitteriness.
One of the things that I hate most about bipolar lows is my change in appetite and weight. In the past, I’ve always coped with feelings by eating. It’s something that I’m improving at this point, but I’m not out of the woods yet.
I also feel guilt - like I can’t do anything right. I feel weak because I’m sad and anxious for absolutely no reason. I feel angry and upset that I don’t have the power to control it and move on from it. I also get upset because I usually don’t accomplish anything while I’m in bipolar lows.
I’ve also noticed that being bipolar really affects my social life. When I’m happy and energetic, I want to hang out with other people. But when I’m not doing so well or I’m super tired, I don’t want to see anyone. I am a suffer in silence type of person, so sometimes I’ll want to go days without seeing people.
Irritation/anger has also been a symptom for me. I don’t personally believe that I portray that to others because I would never want to project onto someone else, treat others poorly, or even let people know that I’m upset. But when I’m in a bipolar low - so many things irritate me. It’s extremely pitiful if I’m being honest. I can get irritated by a little things like a comment that someone says (that I’d normally easily excuse) or by freaking dropping my pen. It’s weird.
Lastly, and probably least importantly, I can’t ever make a decision. I can’t decide where to go to dinner, what time to go to the gym, what outfit to wear, where to live after graduation, etc. I know that most of those things are very little decisions, I honestly just couldn’t think of more important ones.. You get the point though.
Whew.. I feel like that was a lot, but I just wanted to express that being bipolar isn’t always a scary or crazy thing. It can apply to very normal situations and people. Which one surprised you the most??
Also somewhat in relation to bipolar disorder, I took a social media/blog hiatus. It feels good to be back and sharing important things! I know a lot of people wanted to see this blog post to get more informed on bipolar disorder, so feel free to reach out to me on Instagram (@carmenreynolds) or Pinterest (@thesopblog) with any questions! Other than that, have a great week! :)