Imagine you're walking on a tight rope, if you lose balance- you fall. If you lose concentration- you fall. If you hesitate and make a wrong decision- you fall. Sometimes an unpredictable strong wind comes, and you fall. And you have to climb back up over and over again. 

Such is life with bipolar disorder, an illness with which affects approximately 8.7 million people in India alone. With these numbers, its shocking how little we know about the illness. Surrounded by myth and misconception, it usually finds itself in the middle of controversy. The stigma surrounding it is so strong that no wonder we find ourselves looking to movies and tv shows to understand more. 

On World Bipolar day, we find a window of opportunity to glance into how much we really know about this disabling disease. 

So, actually what is Bipolar? Quite simply, the brain like any other organ in the body, can fall sick. Due to certain chemical imbalance extreme mood swings result which are difficult to cope with. There are typically two 'poles' (hence the term bipolar) or 'phases'. The manic phase is usually characterised by increased energy levels, hyperactivity, talkativeness, increased sexual drive and grandiosity. The depressive phase, on the other hand, is seen as decreased energy levels, bouts of crying for no apparent reason, feelings of low self-worth, irritability, sadness and a loss of motivation. In between these two phases may be periods of stability. 

However, bipolar is not just limited to this. Individuals with bipolar are well-known to be more creative, experience a wider range of emotions, have greater resilience and are also more proactive about their health. 

Is there a cure? Like many chronic illnesses, there is no cure but there is treatment. With increasing interest and research, newer and effective pharmacological, psychological and lifestyle interventions allow the individual to have a fulfilling life. Unfortunately, due to the stigma and lack of awareness surrounding this disorder, very few people get the help they need leading to unnecessary loss of life.  

So what can you do? If you love someone with Bipolar, read up to equip yourself with knowledge and empathy.  Individuals with supportive families do very well, understand your role in their life and that their illness does not define them! So support them on this tight rope walk, and they (and you) will emerge better, stronger than ever before.