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Bipolar vocabulary

There’s a different vocabulary when you’re talking about bipolar.

Mood: normally when people talk about mood it’s to say things like “I’m in the mood for Chinese food tonight”. Even when someone says “I’m in a bad mood” what they may just be saying is “I’m dissatissified with something”. With bipolar people a mood could be something like “I’m in the mood to kill myself” or “I’m in the mood to reveal to the world that I’m Jesus”. When I talk to ordinary people about being bipolar they often fail to see that bipolar moods are far more extreme and consequential than normal ones.

High: my doctor and I speak of my mood as being high or low. He’ll ask me if I’m high, and it has nothing to do with drugs. It’s about my mood. When I’m high I sleep a lot less (3-5h), I have an increased sex drive, I want to buy stuff, I have a lot of creative ideas, and I’m a lot more reckless and aggressive. When I’m under a lot of stress I get very optimistic. Keep in mind that I’m on meds that control about 90% of my symptoms so I don’t have to experience the bad stuff (delusions of grandeur, profoundly reckless behaviour, racing thoughts, psychosis).

Low: when I’m low I need to sleep at least 8h per day (plus a nap), I have no sex drive, I have a hard time thinking at all, I’m very passive and I’ll do anything to avoid conflict. When I’m under a lot of stress I feel deep despair. Once again, the meds keep me from experiencing the bad stuff (paranoia, profoundly impaired thinking, hallucinations, self-harm, suicidal thinking).

Mixed mood: high and low at the same time. No one talks about this one much because it’s scary but this is why bipolar people need to take their meds. For me it means being aggressive, thinking I can do anything, having low self worth, and being in a very bad mood. The meds knock this down to a period of mostly harmless simmering resentment, which is fine by me.

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