Angry at the world; Is there still hope for bipolar people?
He sat in a 10×10 room, in one of seven chairs, evenly spread throughout the room. The walls sported an unappealing shade of beige, each donning modern paintings. In one of the corners stood a statue; almost menacing him. Its twisted pieces of metal intertwined and overlapped one another as sporadically and angrily as the thoughts in his mind had become over the past few months.
Wyatt Brown sat and waited, unsure of his reasons for being there. He could feel something dark rising within him, threatening to take over. Still the urge to walk out and forget about the whole thing seemed almost too tempting.
Resisting temptation, he took his first steps into Dr. M. Devaul’s office, his new psychiatrist. Brown had been facing some disturbing problems that he needed to discuss with the doctor. His anger had soared to new heights, his sleeping patterns had become erratic and he had experienced elevated, expansive and irritable moods throughout his days. He felt like he was losing control.
“I told her that I have major problems with society and that I get angry all the time and just want to hurt people,” Brown said, recalling his first session with Devaul. “I told her I have all this irrational anger toward people, who I had no reason to. Even on my way there that morning I wanted to knock out like seven people just for being there.” After the session Devaul diagnosed him with bipolar disorder.
The onset of full symptoms generally occurs in late adolescence or young adulthood, like Brown. Each person may experience different symptoms such as being depressed most of the time or going from one emotional extreme to another. All these symptoms can be treated with the right dosage of mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics.
The National Institute of Mental Health characterizes bipolar disorder as severe and unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and a person’s ability to perform day-to-day tasks. And like in Brown’s case, diagnosis of bipolar disorder is heavily based on the person’s self-reported experiences, as well as observed behavior.
“It started out with a creative cycle where I spent two weeks doing nothing but painting and then another couple of weeks writing; and I kept getting all these new ideas and it started getting overwhelming,” Brown said, speaking almost fanatically. “It’s like a flood of information that starts out good and you’re like ‘I can go with this,’ but then it keeps coming at you and you can’t get a break from yourself. That’s when I just started getting angry and depressed all the time. In fact the first few weeks of school I kept getting real angry and leaving school just because I couldn’t deal with all of this and the public too. I felt like I was going to loose my mind or more on somebody! That’s when I decided I needed to get help. Otherwise I wasn’t going to make it through school!”
Generally there are considered two phases associated with bipolar disorder, a manic phase and depressed phase. The manic phase can range from days to months. During this phase sufferers can experience agitation, hyperactivity, increased energy, lack of self-control and their self-esteem is exaggerated sometimes to the point of delusions of grandeur, and some may believe they have special capabilities.
“One thing about being bipolar is that sometimes I feel almost invulnerable and super confident,” he said, speaking articulately and self-assuredly of his highs. “You get all this energy. It feels like your whole body is vibrating. You’re just like ‘I want to get all this creative flow out. I want to express this somehow.”
The depressed phase of bipolar disorder involves very serious symptoms of major depression. Some of the symptoms include difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions, fatigue or listlessness, loss of self-esteem, withdrawal from friends and activities they once enjoyed.
He began to falter to a sunken and almost droopy state as he spoke of his lows. “When I feel down though, I feel real tired all the time, and just depressed. I lose all my motivation. The waves, as I like to call my mood swings, go from high to low tide in an instant even on the meds. It gets frustrating cause you have to go to school; you have to go to work and you’re like ‘Why am I like this? Why can’t I do this?’ I have responsibilities and I need to be a functional part of the world. That’s why I went to go get help in the first place!”
To try and quell the symptoms Brown had experienced, Devaul prescribed him depakote, a prescription medication licensed to treat mania. Brown’s moods began to even out with the use of the drug, but he still found himself being overtaken with emotions or completely despondent at times.
“I was about to be homeless and on the streets, which I would’ve been okay with,” Brown said; his face beginning to turn a blotchy shade of red and his voice taking on a deeper, grimmer tone. “There’s all these people who look down on you if you don’t conform to society’s standards. I think the whole thing’s bullshit, but you have to conform if you don’t want this society to look down on you.”
After a few more sessions with Brown, his psychiatrist added seroquel to his daily regiment of medications. People diagnosed as bipolar, like Brown, and even those suffering from schizophrenia use the antipsychotic medication to treat their symptoms. Seroquel, depakote and other medications like them cannot completely cure a person. The patients may still experience elevated emotions even while taking the prescribed dosages.
But like the moon rules the tides of the world, emotions rule the lives of the bipolar. Although we have no control over the moon and the tides, people suffering from bipolar disorder may still attempt to seize control of their lives. New research indicates that nearly half of people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder between the ages of 18 and 25 may outgrow the condition by the time they reach 30 years old. A recent survey by the University of Missouri found a considerable diversity in the prevalence of bipolar disorder as people got older. Results found that 5.5 to 6.2 percent of the Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 have bipolar disorder, but drop to about three percent of people 29 and older.
“I know I need to function in society,” Brown said. “I can’t just be a high school grad, who got kicked out of the military, forever. I can’t function in society without the meds right now and that’s the bottom line. If this just takes time to go away then I’ll wait and hope for the best. That’s all I can do right now.”