Everyone has occasional highs and lows in their moods. But people with bipolar disorder have extreme mood swings which alternate between euphoric happiness and extreme sadness.Bipolar disorder untreated, can push a person over the edge into a hypomania or manic phase. Once this is triggered, it is irreversible.“It is like diabetes, once you have been diagnosed with it, it can never go away. You will have to deal with it for the rest of your life and take your medication for the rest of your life in order to try your best to lead a normal life,” said Maryke Gouws, a Support Group leader of the Bipolar Support Group in Despatch.Maryke facilitates free support group meetings for sufferers of depression, anxiety and bipolar to assist them in accepting and managing their problems. She is a South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) affiliated support group leader and has therefore been trained to assist with the topics of depression, anxiety and bipolar.“I was misdiagnosed and the wrong medicine was prescribed. I tried to commit suicide. Through the healing process I thankfully was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and received the right treatment and medicine,” said Maryke.“Statistics show that 69% of persons with bipolar disorder were initially wrongly diagnosed. Therefore I feel it is my calling to inform people about bipolar disorder and also to create awareness and support for those in need.”According to Maryke, most people start showing signs of bipolar disorder in their late teens. These signs may be dismissed as “growing pains” or normal teenage behaviour. Bipolar disorder may not be properly diagnosed until the sufferer is 25-40 years of age, at which time the pattern of symptoms may become clearer.“The good news is that with proper therapy, persons with bipolar disorder can lead stable and productive lives. Therapy is also more successful with strong support from family and loved ones,” said Maryke.The Bipolar Support Group in Despatch meets every second Thursday at Kleuterland, 20 Smith Street at 19:00. All interested are most welcome and attendance is free of charge.Owing to the nature of the support group meetings, they request the assistance of the public in terms of donations or resources. To find out exactly what basic resources or for more information about the support group, contact Maryke 082 320 9452 or SADAG 0800 21 22 23.