Ranting on Bipolar II
For starters – this is a pure opinion piece. I am going to rant a bit about Bipolar II.
I read a lot of bipolar “stuff” – articles, study results, chat boards, Facebook pages – a lot. Recently, once again, I have become irritated by the use of “Bipolar II”.
I recognize that Bipolar II is a DSM diagnosis that indicates that a person has cyclical periods of depression alternating with hypomania. I know that is true – and that the diagnosis must fit some people. Bipolar I, on the other hand, is defined as cyclical periods of depression, alternating with manic episodes. If you are a rapid cycler or have mixed state disorder – you are usually classified as Bipolar I.
My current irritation is with a story – not a celebrity this time – but an apparently real person from a news story. The article reports that this particular woman had been diagnosed with Bipolar II when she was 20 and now 38, she is stable on a myriad of pharmaceuticals. Fine.
The article goes on to say that she “experiences the manic phase” but mostly struggles with the severe depression, adding that she also has PTSD, anxiety and has been unemployed most of her life. Let me repeat, she has manic phases, PTSD, and anxiety. She has always been unemployed (due to her psychiatric condition). Doesn’t sound very stable to me…and doesn’t sound much like Bipolar II.
I have a problem with the fact that so many stories I read are about people who claim to have Bipolar II, and are careful to clarify that they don’t have Bipolar I. Naturally, this would be a kinder, gentler form of Bipolar disorder. A Bipolar disorder where we never bother anyone, get lots of stuff done in an organized fashion but sometimes get depressed. A Bipolar disorder that makes us “better”. Better than Bipolar I’s craziness – and even better than regular people.
I don’t live in that world, and I am not truly convinced that it exists. I have known lots of people with Bipolar disorder – in fact, I used to go to a group just for people with Bipolar disorder. Every single person there was initially told they were Bipolar II – and then once they got used to that… the real news came out.
Many of us were “high functioning”, many of us had “good jobs”, many of us were “organized”… except when we weren’t. We didn’t come to the bipolar group because things were going great. We had all had periods of depression, periods of extreme productivity and periods of crazy when we told the truth.
In my experience, people with Bipolar disorder don’t seek help. They are driven to it – or dragged. People are driven to help when they are depressed, and they are dragged to help when they are manic. If they arrive when depressed, they don’t report the mania that gets them a Bipolar II diagnosis. If they arrive when they are manic – they won’t listen to anything about “crazy manic depression” so they are told about how much better Bipolar II is. They will take the diagnosis and take the meds. Either way, the first diagnosis is probably going to be Bipolar II.
I could claim to be Bipolar II. I could even get a couple of doctors to agree with me. Most of the time, I am “high functioning” – except when I am not. Bipolar I won’t ever lose the stigma if Bipolar II continues to be presented as “better” and people continue to be dishonest.
Take your meds!