During a manic episode, a person might impulsively quit a job, charge up huge amounts on credit cards, or feel rested after sleeping two hours.
During a depressive episode, the same person might be too tired to get out of bed and full of self-loathing and hopelessness over being unemployed and in debt.
Before you get smug and congratulate yourself on your good fortune, take a look at the typical queries doctors use to identify symptoms:
- At times I am much more talkative or speak much faster than usual.
- There have been times when I was much more active or did many more things than usual.
- I get into moods where I feel very 'speeded-up' or irritable.
- There have been times when I have felt both high (elated) and low (depressed) at the same time.
- I have been much more interested in sex than usual.
- My self-confidence ranges from great self-doubt to equally great overconfidence.
- There have been GREAT variations in the quantity or quality of my work.
- For no apparent reason I sometimes have been VERY angry or hostile.
- I have periods of mental dullness and other periods of very creative thinking.
- At times I am greatly interested in being with people and at other times I just want to be left alone with my thoughts.
- I have had periods of great optimism and other periods of equally great pessimism.
- I have had periods of tearfulness and crying and other times when I laugh and joke excessively.
An aunt was very unhappy living with her daughter-in-law. When latter was blessed with a child, auntie was ignored altogether. She was not allowed at the dinner table where everybody was fussing over the cute baby. She was not allowed to carry the little tot, as if she might contaminate the newbirth with germs old people carry. One day she blew up, screaming and yelling. A doctor was called in, saw an agitated old lady apparently out of control, and administered a jab of Risperdal, the first line of defence for schizophrenia. It works by changing the effects of chemicals in the brain. It took a few years before auntie was given a clean bill of health. She might be cranky, but she was not stark raving mad. A person charged with mental illness is seldom afforded a second opinion.
Here's something more cheerful from Helpguide.org:
Myth: People with bipolar disorder can’t get better or lead a normal life.
Fact: Many people with bipolar disorder have successful careers, happy family lives, and satisfying relationships. Living with bipolar disorder is challenging. But with treatment, healthy coping skills, and a solid support system, you can live fully while managing your symptoms.