I've been diagnosed as having Bipolar II Disorder. For over a year the diagnosis had been Major Depressive Disorder. And although I spent hours, days, weeks, even months huddled under the covers wishing for a quick, tidy end to the pain, preferably one which didn't require hours of in-depth analysis into my cracked psyche, there were moments when a thought would make me throw the blankets off. The thought could be minor, like the sudden desire to make cupcakes for my kids. Or it could be extravagant and expensive like the remodeling of an entire bathroom.
Suddenly, the sad woman who struggled for a simple breath of air; that person over there with her head on the table at the food court because it was too heavy to hold up even in a public place; the chest pain, a vice tightening more and more until tears and screams begged it to release its grip; that same woman who could sleep for 19 hours a day, could now function on four. She now bounds out of bed to orchestrate the necessary lists, supplies, and venue in which to throw her daughter the most perfect birthday party.
And then, when the event is over, when nothing more can quell the sadness, the merry-go-round which is my world stops spinning long enough to shove me off, where I roll away into the dirt; dusty, battered, and bruised, too exhausted once again to stand upright.
After seeing four psychologists, two psychiatrists, and two GPs, one of the GPs, who had witnessed me begging for something, anything to stop the thunder and lightning blazing and booming from the storm cloud enveloping my head; this same man had also watched me smiling as I chatted happily about my upcoming trip to Las Vegas. For many months I was being treated for Major Depressive Disorder, and sometimes I would sit before my doctor sobbing, saying, "I can't live like this much longer," and sometimes I would be smiling because that familiar roll of ecstasy in my gut allowed me to be present. To look and see the world. Not dreary and annoying, and blinded by the shades behind my eyes. As I asked my doctor, "How come I feel okay right now but then I'll feel crappy again?" I was introduced to Bipolar II Disorder.
The DSM V describes Bipolar II as depression "with a minimum duration of two weeks" interspersed with moments of hypomania, which are classified as moments of "elation, bursts of energy, or irritability" differing from a person's state when not depressed. This differs from Bipolar I in that Bipolar I exhibits mania while Bipolar II exhibits more predominantly as depression with bouts of hypomania.
Although learning the difference between Bipolar II and Major Depressive Disorder was illuminating, I have to admit that those moments when the hypomania manifests; when I stop crying, become a member of the family again; these moments are awesome. The tightness in my chest moves down to my stomach where a ball of excitement rolls around and around. It's a mounting feeling of sorts; starts slow, and as life progresses; as the good moments overtake the bad; as the birthday party supplies accumulate in the trunk of my car, I breathe a huge sigh of relief. Many actually. The depression is gone. For now. Phew.
No precise medication has helped as of yet, but my moods are currently not bouncing all over the place like one of those tiny little rubber balls I used to play with when I was a kid; one of those little balls that's too small to catch but too fast to slow down. I still feel the rumble of excitement in my stomach at the thought of online shopping for items I can't afford, but now I recognize the feeling. It doesn't rule me the way it could. But honestly, after being unable to find joy in anything; when darkness was dominating every room I entered, that little bouncing ball is welcome to bop all around me, even if it's just for a short time.
I once heard Bipolar II as being described by Laura Bain as footwear. The hypomania is a pretty, trendy high heel, while the depression is a boring, old slipper. The analogy has always stayed with me, because although the old slipper is familiar, the glitzy high heel makes life brighter, better, faster. The slipper is floppy and trips me up. While I'm wearing the slipper, I have no stability. When I'm wearing the slipper, it's completely impossible for me to move steadily enough to catch that little bouncing ball so I can grip it tight in the palm of my hand and hold on to it forever.
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