Since Alexis was about 16 she had bouts with depression, irritability, doing poorly in school, crying and isolating herself. After awhile she seemed to get better, and started to engage with people, becoming the life of the party, talking a mile a minute. She would re-focus on her school work, stay up all night, and then CRASHHH. Down she would come again. These cycles would repeat themselves over the next 20 years. Alexis and her family were obviously deeply concerned when she became severely depressed. But after awhile she would seem to snap out of it, and become motivated, excited, researching university degrees online, talking to the academic advisors, imagining herself educating the youth of the world, going to volunteer overseas.
This would take place over a period of days, weeks or sometimes months. She would often not go to bed, as she would feel so rev’d up. She couldn’t stop talking about her ideas and in fact would often call people in the middle of the night to tell them about her exciting plans. Weeks or months later, she would again become depressed.
At 37, while Alex was on an upswing in her mood, she met a man, fell in love and got married. Her husband was aware in the first few years that she would have highs and lows. However, as time progressed he became increasingly concerned with her behavior. When she was feeling “on top of the world”, she would leave her husband and go out partying, and put herself in high risk situations. She would appear to be very dramatic, her hands gesturing wildly, her speech and thoughts coming out at a rapid fire rate that it was almost impossible to follow her train of thought. Her level of energy was excessive and she again required little sleep. Her plans for becoming a motivational speaker to enlighten people, came out of the blue, and she spent weeks writing out her speeches. As usual she eventually became so exhausted from all of this expended energy that she would once again retreat to bed for weeks at a time.
Also Alex would spend money excessively. At one point when she was married for about 6 years, her husband’s 50th birthday was approaching. Despite having a large mortgage , she thought that it would be a brilliant idea to buy a time lease on a condo in Mexico and buy a 1975 corvette that her husband had always dreamed of. When he came home from work and saw the Corvette in the driveway, and then was confronted with the condo brochure, he was confused, then excited thinking they had won a lottery, only to find out that their credit cards had been maxed out and their credit line depleted by $30,000.
At this point the arguments got heated. Her infidelity, depression, crazy schemes, spending their money foolishly, all became too much for her husband.
A year later they were divorced. 5 years later, without a stable base, Alex’s depression and highs started spiraling further out of control. She was hospitalized and it was discovered that since her teens she had been struggling with Bipolar Disorder. What others had judged as a flaw in her moral character, had in fact been a biologically based disorder that could have been treated with medication and therapy. If only others had known.
Alexis is one of many who have struggled with undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder. It could be our child, parent, co-worker or friend that has often left us confused with their emotional liability and extreme moods.
If we recognize the symptoms, we can at least question what is going on and seek professional advice.
Bipolar Disorder is often not easy to diagnose. We all have highs and lows, which is a natural part of the human condition. However, with Bipolar Illness, there are signs and symptoms of which one can become aware and ask a family doctor or therapist to assess further.
Bipolar Disorder is treated with medication. Only a Medical doctor can determine which medication is appropriate. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of the most highly effective treatments used today to treat both Depression and Bipolar Illness. Therapy is an integral part, alongside medication, to ensure that people are well educated on their condition and have the necessary skills to recognize, address and manage their symptoms in an effective manner.
If you or someone you love believes that the above scenario sounds familiar, please contact a family doctor or therapist.