How my bipolarity feels

Motoko Kusanagi from Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell manga and anime series.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after I turned thirty. This means that I sometimes have periods of hyperactivity and I'm almost always depressed. Dark thoughts, even suicidal thoughts, are part of my daily life. When I'm alone, I wake up with them and go to sleep with them.

Like many people with bipolar disorder, it took many years for doctors to understand my condition. We have tried different medications and dosages, and it is an ongoing process as the illness evolves with time, the seasons, and events in my life.

I am unable to foresee my energy and mood for the following day, making it challenging to make plans. People have much more energy than I do and feel rested with much less sleep than I do. They accomplish a lot when I struggle to do anything. To the point that they look like superhumans to me.

Financial instability

I loathe authority. I questioned every job I had: what to do, why, when, for whom, all the time. Being forced to do things that make no sense to me drive me crazy.

Everyone wants you to work because it brings financial stability. I have tried so many times, but work requires regular hours and energy, which my illness does not allow me to provide.

I am currently receiving financial assistance from the French government to help me live. It's less than half the current average salary in France, but when you have nothing, it's everything.  I'm grateful to live in a country where this help is available.

I survived for years on the Revenu de solidarité active (RSA), a French social welfare benefit. It was financially and morally very difficult. I had nothing else to live on and for 10 years I didn't know that my symptoms were due to bipolarity, which made all my employment plans fail.

French people younger than me have long-term jobs, own houses, some have children, travel abroad. I rent a 28 square meter studio, question the cost of my cheap food, buy second-hand clothes, objects and furniture. My parents lend me one of their cars because I can't afford one, even though I'm 37 and should have the means to buy one by now. This is what bipolarity does to me.

Sentimental desert

I've been single for 17 years because I was too depressed to attract women. Being depressed means not being able to communicate with people.  Being depressed means looking very sad, having a bad haircut and wearing bad clothes.  Being depressed means being slouched and hunched over, withdrawn. Being depressed means not going outside, except to buy food. Being depressed means going to social events extremely rarely and feeling like an inadequate ghost, so I leave early. This is what bipolarity does to me.


I had two bouts of this kind of hyperactivity.  During these long periods of several months, I slept much less than usual and worked very hard to achieve goals that were unrealistic. I was chasing a better financial situation and something that would stop my depression.  Mania always ends with me falling into a crippling depression. I have learnt the hard way that these intense episodes are due to my illness. My bipolarity is here to stay until science finds an effective treatment. I have to live with it, even though I often want to kill myself to stop the suffering.

My family

My great-grandmother had bipolarity. Many people in my family sometimes suffer from depression, but not bipolarity like I do. 

I am a burden to my parents. It's complicated to manage me, my depressions, my hyperactivity episodes, even though my mother is a former psychiatric manager. My brother and sister, like most people, have a hard time understanding how I function and what my daily struggles are.

Friends, acquaintances, people

Even my childhood friends who have known me for a long time don't understand my symptoms.

Sometimes I get the comment: "You don't look bipolar." This is the case when I take my medication regularly, and like all bipolar people, if I stop, I become completely unstable, irrational and it shows. Bipolar people must never decide on their own to stop taking their medication.

Apart from my parents, I'm alone with my illness. Friends, acquaintances and people in general have their own lives to live. Some of them show compassion, but they never help.

What's weird is that hell becomes your everyday life. When people ask you how your week was, you say it was business as usual, even though you often had horrible days and nights.

I sometimes think of poor countries where there are fewer than a few psychiatrists per million people. So many people with mental illness go untreated. It's frightening. I hope that science will develop fast enough to be able to completely cure all mental illnesses.