When I sat down to write this article I intended it to be about missing my animal friends. I haven’t seen them in a very long time. My cat, my dog and my donkey all went away years ago. None of us were all that close. In fact, I never touched them. The closest I’d get was to see them out of the corner of my eye. I would turn to look at them and they would quickly go away. No matter how real they seemed, they never were really there. It’s sad for me to say, but they were just hallucinations and I do miss them.
Years back, when I started seeing a pdoc, I was diagnosed as bipolar I, then changed to bipolar II, back to bipolar I, then back to II and so on. In the end, it was my understanding that the definitive answer was that I was living with bipolar II disorder.
For those unfamiliar with the difference between the two, here are quick and easy definitions from John Hopkins University:
• People with bipolar type 1 experience mania consisting of distinct periods of persistently elevated, expansive or irritable mood. The mania may involve delusional ideas and impaired judgment. A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with three or more other symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, for one week, or longer.
• People with bipolar type 2 experience what’s called hypomania, a mild to moderate level of mania that is generally a less destructive state than mania. Hypomania may feel good to the person who experiences it and may even be associated with good functioning and enhanced productivity. Impaired judgment is rare.
My pdoc who first diagnosed me, moved out of the area so the county clinic switched me to a new doctor, who happens to be the head of the department. About two years ago, out of curiosity, I asked him if my diagnosis was still bipolar II and he responded with a chuckle and said, “Why does it matter if the meds are working?” I told him it’d just be nice to know and he just smiled. I’d forgotten all about that conversation, until now.
So I look at the page I have here that’s labeled, “Bipolar: What is it?” and I’m puzzled where I stand. On the surface I clearly fit the definition of a person with bipolar II, but there are aspects of bipolar I that apply to me. Not just any aspects, but ones that apply specifically to those who have bipolar I. In addition to hallucinations, I’ve stayed awake for days at a time, had delusions, and practicing risky behavior, such as promiscuous sex and gross overspending.
I feel silly at this point. I’ve been writing this blog about living with bipolar and it just dawns on me that I’m not even sure of my diagnosis. I’ve been living with what I believed to be bipolar II, but I’m not so sure anymore. Virtually every description I’ve found of BP I and BP II states emphatically that only BP I have hallucinations. Have I been wrong all this time? I think I’ll ask my pdoc again and see if I get a real response this time. What do you think? Does it matter?