I have bipolar disorder (Note the distinction between I am ‘having’ bipolar disorder instead of I ‘am’ bipolar). I am thinking of writing about it, as in a book. After all, aren’t all we writers just a little bit ‘off?’
However, as I ponder this potential work, I cringe and here’s why: I do not want to write from the woe is me, life is so horrific standpoint. Because it’s not. Oh perhaps at one point it was, but isn’t that true for everyone? I mean, what’s the difference between severe PMS mood swings and bipolar mood swings?
I am not denying this diagnosis of mine, which was made just 8 years ago, and I do not mean to demean those who truly struggle on a day-to-day basis with the horrendous symptoms of some forms of this disorder. Rather, I think there are a ton of us who fall into some chasm between the limited categories of bipolar in the DSM book. As a consequence, some of us don’t so much struggle with symptoms as we do with the wondering, ‘do I really have bipolar disorder or am I just on the edge of what the DSM defines as ‘normal?’ In fact, I object to the word ‘disorder.’ Why not syndrome? It’s like when I was a kid and one day I questioned the names of colors and what people actually saw. For what we all call red, did we all see the same color? Or did some people see ‘purple’ or ‘green.’ Is there any way to know? Likewise with bipolar disorder. Perhaps those of us thusly classified are the true normal?
Okay, so there’s bipolar I, bipolar II and bipolar ‘not otherwise specified,’ or NOS, and this is what my doc has diagnosed me as. Here is the definition put out by the National Institute of Mental Health:
Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS) is diagnosed when a person has symptoms of the illness that do not meet diagnostic criteria for either bipolar I or II. The symptoms may not last long enough, or the person may have too few symptoms, to be diagnosed with bipolar I or II. However, the symptoms are clearly out of the person’s normal range of behavior.
So I then wonder, what’s the difference between this and ADHD? Or having an ‘edgy’ personality? Or simply reacting to a life with ups and downs, such as the severe economic depression we are now emerging from(?)
Anyway, back to the book. As I ponder it further, the drama – is it any more than anyone else experiences in their lives? The pain–how can we measure the comparative value of pain? The difficulty of navigating this life of ours – isn’t it difficult for all at some level or another?
So I ponder this book for those in the middle, those who wonder, question and hide their bipolar because of shame, embarrassment and doubt. And for those who on a daily basis say, “Do I or don’t I?”