Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism often comes hand in hand with comorbid mental health disorders. Especially for people with a pre-existing genetic disposition towards certain mental health disorders, the stress involved in the trials and tribulations of sociality in day to day life can bring to the fore, or exacerbate, mental health disorders.
A recent study found the prevalence of Bipolar Disorder in adults with Asperger’s Syndrome to range from 6% to 21.4% of cases. In particular, the study found that because adults with both disorders showed ‘atypical presentation’, it often made diagnosis difficult.
People who have read the books, or know about them, will either know or have surmised that I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. What some people don’t know, is that since Freaks, Geeks and Asperger’s Syndrome was published, I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder myself.
I was diagnosed at around 21, and the process took the course of about 8 or 9 months. It was a tough process; certain behaviours were attributed to me being on the Autism Spectrum, and certain behaviours just seemed completely out of character. No, they were out of character. I went from being a complete hermit to being a social butterfly on a weekly basis.
The lows were the worst, and what made it worse, I was constantly catching up on the plans I’d made during the highs. I’d make huge plans, come up with big ideas, and spend money I didn’t really have when I was on a high, then when I crashed, I’d pay for those. I couldn’t follow up with the plans, I couldn’t afford the financial commitments I’d made, and the ideas just seemed pipe dreams. The highs were great, I felt invincible, but the lows were inarguable proof that what goes up must come down.
After diagnosis, I was put on a couple pretty strong types of medication, with some pretty strong side effects. One did help, it took the edge of both the highs and the lows. It took some time to get used to – and then my hair started falling out, in big clumps. The medication I was on after that just made me sleep. On the down times, I’d wake up, take my medication, and go to sleep. I’d sleep away my days. I lost weight, and after a while, I came off them. It just wasn’t healthy.
Now, I’m off medication and I’m able to regulate my mood in other ways. I have a system whereby I regulate my moods myself; my cycles tend to be every fortnight or so, so I go by the phases of the moon. It’s a little werewolf-ish, but it works for me.
Friends help, too. The people around me tend to help me through the worst times – my closest friends draw attention to when I’m too up or too down. Both self-reflection and outside influence are indispensable when it comes to regulating moods.
Bipolar disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome is a huge subject, and one beyond the scope of a blog like this. It’s full of contradictions, and something that takes constant management, but it is manageable.