What are my 10 signs of bipolar disorder? Do I really need to know?
Many mental health websites provide a list of symptoms for Bipolar disorder. Mainly, it is for psychiatrists to make their diagnosis, or as information for concerned family or friends to understand the illness better. What about mentally ill person, is it helpful for someone with bipolar disorder to know their symptoms or signs that a relapse is on its way? Yes, it is not only helpful, it is critically essential for bipolar patients to know their signs.
On that note, I like to share my observation on my signs of Bipolar II; how I track the course of my Bipolar episode; and why do I put an effort in knowing my warning signals.
Relatively speaking, bipolar disorder is a more severe mental illness. I thank God that my diagnosis is Bipolar II. Not that it is less dreadful and dangerous, just that I need not be fearful with hallucination or delusions. My Bipolar II has more spells of depression (low mood) than hypo-mania (mild elevation of mood). Observing and finding out the signs of depression is challenging, it will need patience and help from people who resides under the same roof. I am blessed to be close in proximity with my family. With their help, they can tell me straight in my face that my long sleeping hours in the day is indicative of a pending full-blown depressive episode.
sleeping 22 hours daily for 3-5 days in a week
skipping shower and shampooing my hair in this hot and humid weather
snacking on biscuits or crackers while watching excessively online dramas like a couch potato
laundry piling up for washing or not preparing nutritious and tasty meals for my family
all tasks are halted and only task(s) done is on a need-to-do basis.
The fine line separating my Bipolar hypo-manic and normal range is tricky to recognize, I have expressed my concern to the psychotherapist. In fact I was very worried whether I had been in the high mood range for the past 2 weeks. With a straight-face, I requested my therapist to let me know at the end of the session, was I in the normal or mania phase. Thankfully, I was in my normal mood range, I was happy to know my past doings were my ‘normal self’ .Often the confusion between ‘Am I hypo or am I in the normal range’ makes me anxious, and less confident to do things. I really dislike being someone who does not turn up for prior engagements. More importantly, my psychotherapist taught me how to differentiate my normal span and hypo-mania phase by asking four questions.
How many hours do I sleep?
Do you have racing thoughts or unrealistic ideas?
Do you feel energetic and not tired?
- Is your mood irritable?
So it means when I have 2 to 3 hours sleep daily with racing thoughts and awe-inspiring ideas, energetic and no signs of tiredness, very irritated when things are not going as plan, I need to see my psychiatrists preferably immediately. My Doctor will adjust my medicine dosage level to push my mood into the normal range.
My 5 warning signals of Bipolar hypo-mania
sleeping about 2 hours daily, and do not feel tired
reconnecting with friends whom I have not met for a long while
buying more things for home or more groceries for cooking (I enjoy cooking)
getting irritated when things did not go as plan
being more friendly than usual like initiating small talks with bus or taxi drivers, cashier ladies at the supermarket, or the person beside me in a queue.
The Proactive Way to Fight My Illness
Like a typhoon, my Bipolar causes damages to myself, and to my Loved Ones (especially those close in proximity). So knowing my 10 signs of Bipolar disorder will be essential and using a mobile app eMoods (Android; Amazon) to track my high, normal or low mood range on a daily basis is important. With these two strategies, I can reach out for help from my Doctor, and family or friends for support. In addition, a color warning system will be helpful for me to be on a proactive mode to counter high or low mood. Orange, Yellow, and Turquoise are the three levels of the warning indicators, where orange is severe, yellow is mild and turquoise is normal mood range. With a weekly mood report, I will know whether I have been mildly depressed or in an elevated mood for the past one to two weeks. This will give me a general sense what it will be like for the coming week. I will be able to carry out measures and be actively engaged to fight with my mental illness.
On a side note, these strategies can be effective only when I am taking medicine faithfully. For my case, medication is necessary for any above strategies to kick-in, to live a purposeful life. When I fall sick with a full-blown episode, either in depression with anxiety or in hypo-mania, I am fully occupied in being sick. There will be no way to monitor my mood and talk about noting it down. Medication is critically essential to place me in the normal mood range. It is an exclusive focus on be being well and competent.
To sum up, knowing my signals of BD and the information collected from mood tracking are helpful and essential for recovery. Together with medication, mood tracking and knowing my 10 signs of BD do put me in a better position to manage my bipolar disorder.
What about you, what are your signs of Bipolar disorder and your strategies to counter it? I am open to discussions. Do feel free to comment.