I'm now 43, and I was diagnosed Bipolar II within a month or so of turning 30, even though I knew something was wrong by the time I was 21 or so.
Bipolar II is characterized with long, deep depressions and brief times of hypomania (little mania). In 2004 Jane Pauley was diagnosed with this form of the disease.
It's much harder to diagnose Bipolar II than Bipolar I, although both can be difficult. In general, people with all forms of bipolar tend to seek help when depressed, but don't recognize the hypomanic or manic phases as a problem. Why should we? We feel GREAT during that time. :P
In fact, I used to think of my hypomanic phases as my "normal" times. It isn't until I look back at them that I can now see how destructive they could be.
I started to write this up, and it was becoming a long autobiography, which is not what I want. I do want to express some of the ways in which it has affected my life. Sometimes, I'll say something about being mentally ill or "crazy" or something and people will say things like, "Don't say that! You're not crazy!"
It seems that because I'm intelligent and articulate, I'm not allowed to also be mentally ill.
But for me, saying those things are a kind of. . . acceptance. It took me a long time to get there. It took several years to get somewhat stabilized on medications and accept that I needed them. So, I see saying things as an acknowledgment of where I am.
One of the primary areas it has affected is relationships. I would get into moods where I would need to be surrounded by people, feeding off of the energy of those around me, off of a party and music and everything. Considering how introverted I really am, this was new and different, strange even. But I was young, and at first just thought it was fantastic that I finally had an active social life.
The problem was that when I was in that mood, I would get into bed with almost anyone who paid attention to me. This led me to insist on a type of sexual openness in my relationships, because I did not want to lie or hide things about sex from my primary partner.
When I think about this now, the funny thing is that I also simultaneously believed in the mythical soulmate (although some people apparently think you can order up a soulmate like a cup of coffee).
I'm still not sure how I reconciled those things in my own head. I think it was that the "soulmate" was a complete relationship, body, mind and soul, whereas the others were just body, fun, not important.
The problem is, it's hard to let the primary partner know that he is not being used in the same way the others are. [For those who live a polyamorous lifestyle, I admire you, because I know how difficult it can be. More power to you if you can make it work.]
I know now that it was hypersexuality caused by hypomanic swings.
But the disorder affects friendships, too.
When I'm depressed, I withdraw into myself and push people away. The thing is, I want them to be available when I'm ready to climb out of my inner space. But spending months or sometimes years pushing people away is not conducive to having people around when you want them to be. It also makes it difficult to be there when they need you. And then, in the hypomanic phase, there's no . . . filter. It's hard to think before I speak, so I may end up saying one of those things that people think but don't usually say. That doesn't help keep friends, either.
And then there's money.
When I'm hypomanic, I can spend some money.
There was a point, in the early 90s when I got a chunk of back pay, around $4,000. At the time, it was the most money I had ever had at one tie. I went on a shopping spree.
I kept buying stuff and spending. To this day, I' not entirely sure what I spent it all on. And I kept spending. I kept writing checks and did not balance the checkbook. Within a few weeks, I'd spent over $7,000. And now I had bounced checks, and fees and all kinds of craziness to deal with.
So, I get into this destructive pattern with money.
When manic, I impulse buy and don't pay close attention to how much I spend, and sometimes end up with not enough to pay the bills. When depressed, I sometimes forget to pay things on time (I have a real problem with all sorts of paperwork and phone calls when depressed.) This causes increased fees and decreased credit scores.
The thing is, I know how to budget, save, and invest. I've researched the hell out of it. I've been an active contributor to a financial website/community for almost 14 years now.
But I still sometimes fall into these patterns.
These are probably the two biggest areas of my life that are affected, but there are others, too. This is getting pretty long, so I'm going to stop here for now. I may talk about other things at another time.