This Is What Living With Bipolar Disorder Looks Like

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder close to 3 years ago but possibly lived with the illness for many years prior to that. Bipolar Disorder causes severe high and low moods. In the depressive state, you may feel sad, hopeless, and at times even suicidal. In the manic state, you may feel euphoric, invincible, and filled with energy. My primary objective in telling my story is to support anyone experiencing similar symptoms. I urge everyone to understand that mental illness should be treated like any physical illness and one should seek help without feeling ashamed.

For many years prior to my diagnosis, I went through extreme mood swings ranging from anger and irritability to sadness. It was only in October 2017, when I met my current psychiatrist (and saviour) that I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Prior to this, I had visited multiple psychiatrists who misdiagnosed me with Depression.

When I was depressed, there was no scarcity of advice from well-meaning family members or friends on how I should get through this phase. Being the determined and over-achieving sorts, I tried everything possible to fix myself. I meditated, joined a Buddhist chanting group, wrote gratitude journals, and met multiple counsellors. Yet, this feeling of restlessness or extreme sadness would not leave me. At its peak, it became so unbearable resulting in me considering options on how to end this pain. I was in a messy and very dark place. 

While Bipolar Disorder is a difficult diagnosis to accept, I felt some comfort in finally putting a name to the extreme sadness, anger, and recklessness I experienced for most of my adult life. It wasn’t a personality trait that could be fixed with the dozen mental wellness tools everyone suggested. It was a serious mental illness which required medical intervention.

Yet, on the outside, everything appeared fine. I had a good, caring husband and 2 beautiful sons. I had completed a 10k marathon, was baking regularly and meeting friends. The turning point was a day when I was in my manic phase, left my phone behind and drove from Mumbai to Lonavala. I checked into a hotel (all without the knowledge of family or friends). This triggered a series of events starting from my parents and brother rushing to Mumbai from Pune and Singapore respectively. I had disappeared for 24 hours and did not think for a moment what impact that could have on my family, including my 4 and 2 year old boys.

A couple of days after the Lonavala escapade, I visited my current psychiatrist and that was the first step of my long road to recovery. With the new heavy medication I was on, I would sleep 12 hours each night and still be groggy through the day. I gained a great deal of weight since the medications make you hungry and sleepy. That affected my self-esteem. More than that, however, I was coming to the realization that my life would never be the same again. No alcohol, no late nights. This felt like a harsh punishment for a social person like myself.

My new lifestyle includes taking medication daily, getting enough sleep, reducing the stressors in my life, prioritising nutrition and physical health and being present for my family. It was only once I accepted how much I have gained from adopting this new lifestyle that I felt at peace. I feel now I am a better wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. I am tremendously grateful to my husband and close family who intervened at the right moment and made sure I received the medical attention that I needed. There is no desire to run and find happiness elsewhere. I am content. I am home, exactly where I am meant to be.

Disha Parekh

Mom of 2 boys, baker, blogger and fitness enthusiast, Disha is an MBA from ISB.

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