(It’s not what you think. Naughty. 😉 )
A few posts ago I talked about how a rush of Dopamine can make the bipolar sufferer feel uninhibited, with keen senses and strong delusional beliefs.
They feel like a superhero when in fact, they’ve got themselves hooked up to an invisible IV of kryptonite and are very vulnerable indeed. This is mainly because the decision-making, risk-taking and hazard assessment centres of the brain get severely impaired.
So how can you detect this and help? Generally there are mood differences that are very obvious:
- Tiredness due to lack of sleep and overworked brain, “brain fog” or even low blood sugar.
- High energy with erratic attention span, starting sentences and not finishing them, changing subjects, going blank or “numb”.
- If they use any version of the phase “I’m too busy/tired/important/professional/strong to eat/drink/sleep/stop working/ask for help.”
- (For partners) changes, either way, in sex drive.
It is imperative that you support the person to address their immediate basic needs which it is likely that they have been neglecting. Eating, drinking, sleeping and generally getting away from the source of stress. No eating lunch in the office, or working through lunch and taking on huge piles of work.
People who are high/over-achievers get a buzz out of deadlines and for beating high odds. In essence, during Mania they become like gamblers: and they do not care WHAT they gamble with, especially if it’s ‘just them’ and their health. Being a superhero means you hide your humanity. Bipolar forces you to admit it.
When I was a teenager I was suffering stress during exam season and my Mum complained that she never saw me, and that she never saw me eat.
“I think you have an eating disorder.”
“But I never have time to eat!”
“How can I have an eating disorder if I never eat?”
I equated an eating disorder with excess, an unhealthy emotional connection to food and a lack of discipline. It works both ways. Self denial in the name of achieving professional ‘perfection’ is also an emotional driver for dietary imbalances. Whilst this is different from sensing bipolar triggers, it’s pertinent because you’re not listening to your body (this time in mental health terms) and addressing what it needs.
Bipolar sufferers are highly competent workers and it feels good to be relied on, but beware of taking on too much. It is important to learn to say ‘no’ and empower yourself by knowing where your line is – for the sake of your own well-being.
I wish someone had told me that it was okay to say no and that it wouldn’t damage my ‘standing’ in any huge way. Overall, to help a bipolar sufferer who is not seeming like themselves, show them the kindness, (in as respectful a manner as possible) that they occasionally omit to show themselves. You will be thanked.
~ Pola ~