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Living with Bipolar Type 2: The Basics
I have been diagnosed with bipolar type 2 since 2002. I had the first signs at the age of six, so I suffered for 30 years without knowing what was going on with me. Since my diagnosis, it has been a daily struggle to deal with the illness. I am now on the right medicines and getting the right help so I can make it day to day.
So what is bipolar 2 and what is the difference between it and other forms of bipolar? I am not going to give you the textbook answer, you can look that up online which is easy enough. I am giving you what it means to me. I can't speak to what it's like to have bipolar type 1 but in a nutshell, it is depressive episodes mixed with manic highs. Bipolar 2 brings severe depressive episodes but not the manic highs, instead, you have what are called hypomanic episodes which I call manic lite. For me, hypomania means I have more energy and have a much more positive outlook on things. I look forward to those episodes but sadly, for me, they are not very frequent. The only drawback to these episodes that I have is I tend to spend money too much. Before I was diagnosed I was very bad at this and would even spend money set aside for bills. Now I am better at it, I can usually pay my bills but cannot have any money in savings. Everyone's episodes are to different degrees and everyone handles them differently.
Now the depressive episodes with bipolar 2 tend to be worse than with bipolar 1. I can attest to that. I have had some very severe depressive episodes. Before I was medicated I would get the point of suicidal thoughts often. Now, not so much. For me, before I was diagnosed my episodes would sometimes leave me non-functional, once for six months (that's when I found help). Now my depression is bad but I can function. I can get out of bed, shower, have some coffee, and go forward with my day...most days. My depression does stay with me all the time though, except when I am hypomanic. My mood runs from melancholy, apathy, and a little sad all the way to being majorly depressed and negative about everything in my life. My times of being happy with life are very few, actually rare.
When I first was diagnosed I was pretty scared about what I was going to do. Luckily, in my state, we have a state-run facility for people with mental health problems. They provided a psychiatrist and prescriptions for the medicines I would try. In my experience, finding the right meds was the hardest part. I went through three years of trying different meds before I found the right cocktail that helped me out. Everything changed for me at that point. It helped me to become a better, more in control, person. So if you haven't found the right meds yet, don't give up no matter how frustrating it gets. It's worth the work when you find the right ones. Are the meds perfect? Do they make me happy? No. They do, however, help me control my emotions and they keep me from crashing too hard. I tried quitting them once because I thought I was better and didn't need them. I was very wrong. I was fine for a few days but then became very depressive. I quickly went back on them and have stayed on them since. The next thing I did was to try and get on disability. Some don't need it, some can work a 40 hour week and function without falling apart. Not me. The main reason with me is that I have severe anxiety along with the bipolar diagnosis. If I try to work too many hours my anxiety goes crazy which usually triggers my depression. One bit of advice I would give on getting disability is to not give up, it's very hard to get. It took me three years of trying, but it was such a relief when I got it. I was lucky and had help getting it so I didn't need a lawyer. Some find a lawyer very helpful because there is a lot of bureaucracy involved.
So basically if you are newly diagnosed, or think you might have bipolar disorder, find a psychiatrist and find the right meds for you. I have also found a therapist helps though you may have to try several to get one you like. If you have no money, like the way I didn't, see if your state has any mental health clinics or assistance. File for disability as soon as possible once you are diagnosed. If you have family or friends get them involved and ask them to help get you going. It's really hard just starting this journey so don't do it alone and don't give up.