A disorder is an irregularity characterised by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition; in the case of bipolar it is actually a brain one. Fortunately experts say it does not have to stop anybody from living a normal life, but one needs to know the devil they are dealing with to be in control.
“The word bipolar in itself means having or relating to two poles of extremes. It is a mental disorder characterised by periods of elevated mood and those of depression. The elevated mood is significant and is known as mania or hypomania depending on the severity or whether there is psychosis,” said Dr Mmabatho Bathusi, Clinical Psychologist at Princess Marina Hospital. She said during mania an individual feels or acts abnormally happy, energetic or irritable. They often make poorly thought out decisions with little regard to the consequences and the need for sleep is usually reduced. “During periods of depression there may be crying, poor eye contact with others and a negative outlook on life,” she continued.
Bathusi said when she motivates people with bipolar she likes to make reference to Richard Branson. “He is an English business man and investor popularly known as the founder of the well acclaimed Virgin Group which comprises of 400 companies. He is by far one of Britain’s high profile billionaires yet he lives with bipolar!” she exclaimed. She said she uses this example to demonstrate that the stigma that surrounds the condition is mostly unwarranted.
“Yes the diagnosis is bound to change the course of anybody’s life but it does not mean they can’t achieve great things,” said Bathusi. She said she strongly feels that at any opportunity the many misconceptions and myths that surround the symptoms need to be cleared. The one she finds most worrying is the common belief that bipolar sufferers will never be normal. “Many patients in the beginning feel like they won’t be able to accomplish their goals, that bipolar will prevent them from getting the job of their dreams,” Bathusi said. She said although one’s life might require certain major changes on diagnosis, they can still marry or pursue any dream. For instance her student patients normally take fewer classes every semester and take longer to graduate, but they still achieve their degrees.
“Creativity is one of the positive aspects to bipolar disorder. It has been found in many studies that people with bipolar disorder are highly overrepresented in creative fields such as music, writing, and art. Post-mortem diagnoses also point to the presence of bipolar disorder in many famous figures of the past,” she reassured. Bathusi said the most important thing is for one to understand their ailment and take it upon themselves to do all the necessary research towards acquiring knowledge.
“What might appear to you as confidence and clever ideas for a new business venture might be a pattern of grandiose thinking and manic behaviour. While you’re focused on your business experience, others may notice your mood and behaviour,” Bathusi said. She said this is the same with irritability, a symptom that often goes unrecognised; one may be more focused on feeling frustrated than looking inward. She could not emphasise enough the power of a strong support system in dealing and living with bipolar.