Bipolar disorder is one of the most misunderstood mental health conditions, especially in the Deaf community. Bipolar disorder is not about mood swings or moodiness. It is not about all manic episodes either. There is actually more than one type of bipolar disorder. And this is not a condition that diet and exercise can cure. Rose Ann gets real about her personal experience with bipolar disorder in this candid video.
Bipolar: A Deaf Woman, Rose Ann’s Story in ASL
[A white woman wearing glasses appears on the screen in front of a blue background. Her blonde hair is pulled in a bun and she is wearing a tank top with visible tattoos across her body. On-screen text reads “Bipolar: Rose Ann’s Story” and below that in smaller font, it reads “Deaf Counseling Center”.]
Hi! I’m Rosey. Before I share more about my journey living with bipolar, I want to explain what being bipolar means. Really, it’s a mood disorder. Most people who have it tend to have common types such as Type 1 or Type 2. Those who have Type 1 tend to have mania episodes, but depressive episodes are occasional, while Type 2 has both mania and depressive episodes. But mania for Type 2 is not as excessive or serious as it is in those with Type 1. This is called hypomania.
And when it comes to depressive episodes, you might have experienced it yourself or know someone who has been through it. Depressive episodes tend to include feelings of no motivation, no energy, worthlessness, unhappiness, and sadness. Mania is the opposite. It’s high energy, and you’re often impulsive, talkative… That’s what it is like. So, Type 1 is more prone to mania while Type 2 has both.
When I was 14, I was first diagnosed with manic depressive disorder. That is an old term that was used in the past, but today it means bipolar. When they first diagnosed me, I didn’t understand what it meant. There was no access to that information in ASL. My parents didn’t understand what bipolar meant either. And back then, there was no internet. I couldn’t google it myself to look into what it was. Plus, I felt ashamed too, because it felt like being bipolar meant I wasn’t normal and something was wrong with me. I was embarrassed. They tried to put me on medicine, and I remember the first medication they tried to put me on was lithium. I remember I didn’t enjoy being on it, plus I didn’t like feeling “not normal”. So I refused to take that medicine. They eventually decided to stop.
I graduated and went to college, and going to college is the first time you’re on your own. Plus I wasn’t on medicine. I didn’t understand my bipolar disorder. So, college was one wild ride. And I survived through it! Then over time in life, I would find that I required services, counseling or medicine. I didn’t understand it. Again, it had to do with pride. I disliked the idea there was something wrong with me.
I went on with life, and finally medicine progressed pretty well, until I moved to another state for my job and my medication stopped. My doctor wouldn’t prescribe me again because I moved and I needed a new doctor, but it was hard to find a doctor in that state. I kept calling many, and most wouldn’t accept new patients or they wouldn’t accept my work insurance. So I called everywhere, and I ended up being off medication for one year. I thought it wasn’t a big deal at first, but no, I faced many hurdles.
During that year off medicine, it was pretty much the end of me. It was the end of my job. My relationships. My marriage. Everything was gone. It got to the point where I realized I needed medicine so I had to show up to the ER and make it up that I wanted to kill myself. I had to say that to help myself, to receive services right away, and to get on medicine right away. They addressed it fast and gave me medicine the same night, and I was relieved to get back on medication. Then they assigned a doctor to me and released me.
I went on, and later, luckily I had a doctor and was finally back on medication, but one year was too late, so to speak. After that was over with for real, I decided to move back here to Texas. The reason I came back to Texas is because of the services, access, interpreting services, and medicine. But yes, I do deal with issues with medicine sometimes, like insurance not approving it and having to fight them or pay for it out of my pocket.
Plus, I want to explain that bipolar people tend to have similar experiences and similar issues. I noticed the most common issues are spending money. We’re bad with that. Also, risky sexual behavior. Also, abuse of alcohol and drugs. It could be this or that, it could be both. And feeling invincible, like we can get through anything and nothing will hurt us.
Some people with bipolar experience some but not all of these, and some might experience all of them. I did struggle with some. And still, every day is an ongoing battle. But in my life, I’ve seen that people often view bipolar disorder as a very taboo diagnosis and think that means a person with bipolar is crazy, dangerous, or unstable. But really, with the right kind of support and if you stay on medicine, eat well, sleep well, and don’t abuse alcohol and drugs… Because they can affect the medication itself too. Some drugs will contereffect the medicine’s effects. So, doctors tend to warn you to not do that.
And now, lately I’ve been doing research and there’s not much information on bipolar disorder for deaf people. That’s my concern. Where are the support groups for us? So I joined a hearing support group, and I realized that with many issues they discussed – that’s me. That’s who I am. That’s what I’m dealing with, too. Now I understand better. Now, in today’s time and age, when it comes to taboo topics like mental health diagnoses – it’s time to face them and be open minded, show support, and develop more resources and tools. So, that’s pretty much my story.
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