What is a High-functioning Bipolar?
I have always had difficulties throughout the years getting my doctors to take my bipolar seriously since I am considered a high-functioning bipolar. First of all, high-functioning is projected by my psychologist to mean that since I have a job, I am not homeless and my marriage is intact, I am doing extraordinarily well and appear to have pretty much no symptoms or problems with the mental illness. Seeing as I am doing so well, my symptoms were not often seen as real or taken seriously throughout the eight out of the nine years since I have been diagnosed. The doctors just glossed over my complaints with some sort of lame excuse for a reason when I brought the subject up. Meanwhile, I have been misdiagnosed and provided improper treatment on countless occasions.
This is what was really going on these nine years:
1) Little did they know that it takes every ounce of strength and energy to make it through the work day. The profession I am in is very hard on me. I am exhausted when I come home. I want to be in bed by 7:00 p.m. every night. My current job is very stressful and has deadlines popping up like a game of whack-a-mole. I have to deal with people every day and that is like going over Niagara Falls in a bucket for someone like me who battles social anxiety. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I freeze in my chair. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I enjoy the challenges it throws at me and every day is different. But I often wonder if I am really so high-functioning when the job nearly kills me?
2) I hate the fact that doctors and therapists use homelessness as a benchmark for a high-functioning bipolar person. I have nothing against the homeless, it is just that I am one manic spending spree from going bankrupt and losing everything. I am one hospital visit away from losing my job and my only source of income as well as my home. At the very least with all the medicines I am prescribed, I am one decision to not take my medicines away from losing EVERYTHING. I often have the delusion that my medicine is nothing but water pills and there really is no reason for me to take them.
3) The superglue to my marriage is prayer. I am nothing what my husband signed up for and I am nothing what I hopped to give to him. Nobody is perfect. I have learned love covers all. So does patience, forgiveness, sacrifice….
Mood Diaries for High-functioning Bipolars
I have often used a mood diary to help to explain what has been happening since the last appointment with my psychiatrist or my therapist. I feel that most of my doctors could care less about the mood diary and thought it to be another example of how I am a high-functioning bipolar. But I encourage you do NOT be afraid to use a mood diary. Keeping one basically saved my life. What I would do is read through what you wrote with a hi-lighter or a red pen and hi-light or circle the symptoms that kept cropping up consistently since my last appointment. Then on another sheet of paper, I would write out the list of symptoms that were occurring the most. I might jot down some examples of what happened from the mood diary.
Dismissing the Symptoms of High-functioning Bipolars
When I brought up psychotic behavior like hallucinations and delusions, at first it was pushed aside. The doctors said there were all kinds of reasons why I was experiencing this psychotic behavior, but nothing that pointed to a diagnosis of bipolar 1 with psychotic features until this time last year. I knew that it was more than “a headache” or “my hormones”. I knew it was real.
Doctors do not realize that when they dismiss their mentally ill patients, they build up a wall one brick at a time. I may be “technically” a high-functioning bipolar since I am able to rise above the hurricane of moods that come and go, but this high-functioning bipolar needs a doctor to believe her and accept what she says as real.
Accepting the High-functioning Bipolar
I finally have found a terrific psychologist who is very knowledgeable of bipolar. My psychiatrist is a great listener and allows for my input, too with medication changes. It may take a couple doctors or therapists before you find the right one for you. It might take years. Be patient. Do not let your p-doc or your therapist to just say “You are doing well. You are a high-functioning bipolar” and then they stop putting the effort into treating you because they see you as “normal” without a mental illness. Do not settle for that kind of medical treatment. You are your best advocate. Be strong.
If anyone needs prayer about their mental health treatment or anything else, e-mail me at email@example.com. I would love to pray for you!
Here is a link to information pertaining to high-functioning bipolar.