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“I can save the world! No, I am a coward.” | What is it like to experience bipolar disorder?

“I can save the world! No, I am a coward.” |What is it like to experience bipolar disorder?

The majority of people have not experienced bipolar disorder before and we want to share some real life experiences of what living with bipolar disorder is like. All of the following stories are true stories that patients have voluntarily shared. We hope to raise awareness, improve understanding, and better enable the support of those struggling with bipolar emotion.

1) I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for 8 years now. My emotions always transition between a depressed mood and a manic mood, just like a corsair in an amusement park. At the moment I am going though a depressive phase. I don't know how to describe it, maybe we can have a chat when I am in a manic phase.

2) People say this disorder is for geniuses, but I can’t even eat and sleep like an average human being. Sometimes confidence can leave a great legacy, and sometimes it can destroy the world. Maintaining a balanced life requires all of my energy.

3. I suffer from bipolar disorder. I am a senior in college majoring in Psychology. I was introduced to emotions associated with bipolar disorder a year ago in an abnormal psychology class, and when I thought about it carefully I realized that I had already experienced this myself 10 years ago in middle school. I was the leader of the class and my form tutor gave me a lot of freedom to develop. I was able to come up with many ideas and organize class activities. I liked talking to my teachers and my classmates about a lot of things. However, sometimes I would feel very depressed and was scared to communicate.

I was like this until I started college. In college I had more independence so the problem became more obvious: I don't have a regular routine; I procrastinate on everything; I can’t cope with finals, internships or research papers; I feel more and more self-contempt and sometimes I can’t even take care of myself. Sometimes however, I am very active, have lots of ideas, make plans and show off to others.

I am like two completely different people, one with a high level of confidence and one with an inability to do things. I frequently go to a counselor for help in order to better understand myself, but when I am depressed I can’t imagine how I perceive the world. Just recently, I have decided to use medication to help me to get through this. I am still looking for the right way to exist after a winter holiday of medication and self-observation.

4. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 7 years agoand I am only 17 years old now. Everyone’s situation is slightly different. When I am manic I can be funny and outgoing. I study even harder than usual without sleep. However, when I am in a depressed mood, I don't want people to remember me, tears run down my face while I lie on my bed doing nothing.

5. When depressed, all obstacles will destroy me. —Kafka

When manic, I can destroy everything. — Balzac

6. When I am in a manic phase, I always want to express myself. I could talk about anything and am also very productive. When depression comes, I don't want to see people, nightmares make me choke and life is meaningless. I realized something wasn’t right after experiencing some physical symptoms 6 months ago.

I finally had the courage to go to the hospital, and I was diagnosed with bipolar.

“I can save the word, no I am just a coward.”

7. Sometimes I feel like I have depression. I don't want to go out, do anything or communicate with others. Sometimes I feel like I am very passionate about everything. I can do everything with a positive attitude and it can influence others, but I never know how long this state will last. It is like burning a candle, when the candle is burnt out, another extreme will occur.

8. I just experienced bipolar emotion a few days ago. After working hard for a whole year, I still did not get into graduate school. That afternoon, though the sun was warm, I was still very cold. Although the street was energetic, I still felt a sense of loneliness. Though I had many messages that needed to be replied to, I just wanted to get into bed and be isolated from the external world.

I woke up early the next day, from 6 in the morning till 11 in the night, I could not stop working on my essay. I was like a machine, and I couldn’t stop writing, I wished I could be burnt out that day. This can be seen as a contradictory moment.

9. I can experience emotional ups and downs in a single day. When I want to write things, I cannot stop copying lyrics and writing things down. I do this to keep myself calm, but my mind cannot control my body.

Sometimes when I fail to complete my homework, I feel like I am powerless. I have no energy to move or do anything other than lie on my table. I don't want to do anything and don't know what do to. I want to listen to music or read books but I am too down to do so.

10. During the holidays, I don’t have motivation to do anything: I don't go out, don't get out of bed and don't talk. When school starts, I study normally just like the others but sometimes I need to visit the school counselor for guidance. My emotions are like a swing. Sometimes I feel active, like I can achieve anything. Sometimes I am down, and sometimes I skip school.

After talking to a psychiatrist, I came to understand that my emotions are affected by my family. I don't know who I am, I am like a puppet who is being controlled by my family. I never had the courage to break it, so I chose to give up. A few days ago I watched “Manchester by the sea”, a movie about “the past is the past, people don’t have to make up for it,” when I saw the character Lee saying “I can't beat it, I can’t beat it!” with a face full of sadness, I cried. I realised that I have wasted a lot of time, missed a lot of opportunities, but sometimes I still feel depressed.

11. I started running every day in March, I am afraid to stop. After spending spring festival home alone, I felt lonely and could not do anything. I had no motivation to do things other than eat and sleep. The person who exercises every day has now disappeared.

12. Last year in high school. My therapist told me to make a plan after school started. So I followed this advice passionately. As a result I had a good time. I couldn't stop doing my homework and I was very healthy. However, a few days ago, I failed to follow my plan. I was sad. Now I am suffering from bipolar emotions, I can’t make myself calm enough to study. I know I need to work hard, but I don't know what to do.

13. The week before school started was horrible for me. I could be on my phone 24/7. I was always tired but could not go to sleep. Sometimes, I even woke up in the middle of the night. I got better after school started and felt more energetic. But my mood still swings back and forth: negative and positive.

I could not control my emotion, even when I tried to. It was useless.

14. This is my first time writing about this. I hope to live a happy life, but the opposite always turns out to be the case. Sometimes I think everything is bright; sometimes, everything seems so awful. Having these two extreme emotions is torturing me spiritually. But I believe the future is going to be bright.

Photographer Pere Ibañez took some photos of the people around us, expressing bipolar emotion. These photos are being exhibited. Ibañez’s photos reflect his subject’s mental and physical suffering.

However, we can also see that everyone who suffers in this way yearns to be cured. They wish to get through this with support and help of others.

Our Emotional Wellbeing Moodlab Bipolar Awarenss Raising Project hosts workshops to help participants to get to know our emotions. Being aware of emotions and managing them not only helps those with bipolar emotions, but are also important skills for everyone in society.

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