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This is the face…

14/11/2009

I don’t normally watch the news because it depresses me but it happened to be on the other day so I left it while I cooked dinner.  Then I heard a story that made me sad.  This was the story out of Boston (we get both Boston and Albany stations).  Basically a psychiatric patient with Bipolar disorder attached their Psychiatrist and stabbed her before being shot dead.  I felt awful for the psychiatrist but I was more annoyed with they type of coverage the media offered it.  All they could focus on was the fact that this patient was Bipolar and had attacked his doctor.  All the station kept talking about was how “bipolar people” act out like this.  What they should have focused on is the fact that this patient was not medically complying with the doctor’s orders and therefore was putting himself and others at risk despite being under the doctor’s medical care.  I guess this is what bugs me about media in general.  They have to sell a story in order to get the most sensational part of it on the air and forget the key sometimes (the health of the doctor and WHY the patient acted out).

 

What irks me even more about the airing of this story is that it is what people will remember when you think of when you hear the term Bipolar Disorder.  You won’t think of the hundreds and thousands of people who are diagnosed in a year.  You won’t think of the people who faithfully take their medications and work with their psychiatrists to maintain health and stability.  You won’t think of the people who know the difference in the quality of life that proper medical treatment can provide. 

***Basically you forget ….ME!***

bipolar

Yep this is the face of Bipolar Disorder.  And you’d never know to look at me that I’ve been bipolar since childhood and properly medicated since my teen years.  You’d never know that I had been hospitalized 3 times for various things related to my mental health and diagnosis each for a minimum of a week.  You’d never know the only reason I graduated early from High School is because I was manic and sped through all my assignments.  Honestly, you wouldn’ t know usless I told you that I was Bipolar.  Actually I’m not BIPOLAR… I am a person living with Bipolar Disorder.

 

With Bipolar Disorder being one of the new buzz topics with commercials, news and articles, I thought it was important to kind of let you know a little more about the disorder so that you understand where someone may be at if they struggle with it and offer you a personal perspective.

 

From WebMD:

  • What is Bipolar Disorder?  

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that is characterized by extreme changes in mood, from mania to depression. It can lead to risky behavior, damaged relationships and careers, and even suicidal tendencies if it’s not treated.  Women are more likely to suffer from Bipolar Disorder and it can be diagnosed to children as young as 6.

I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 16 but after discussion with my first psychiatrist they determined that many things from my childhood indicated that I had early onset Bipolar disorder.  I was finally diagnosed after having a manic break on Super Bowl Sunday right after I turned 16.

  

  • What are the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

The primary symptoms of bipolar disorder are dramatic and unpredictable mood swings.

 
Mania Symptoms

Mania symptoms may include excessive happiness, excitement, irritability, restlessness, increased energy, less need for sleep, racing thoughts, high sex drive, and a tendency to make grand and unattainable plans.

Depression Symptoms

Depression symptoms may include sadness, anxiety, irritability, loss of energy, uncontrollable crying, change in appetite causing weight loss or gain, increased need for sleep, difficulty making decisions, and thoughts of death or suicide.

My symptoms generally are pretty bad.  When manic I’m extremely angry and irritable.  I feel like my mind is going a mile a minute and I can’t keep up.  It gets really annoying.  When I’m depressed I can’t get out of bed and have a hard time making any decision.  I can sleep for hours on end and life doesn’t seem worth living.

  

  • Are there more than one type of Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar I

A person affected by bipolar I disorder has had at least one manic episode in his or her life. A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life.

Bipolar II

Bipolar II is similar to bipolar I disorder, with moods cycling between high and low over time. However, in bipolar II disorder, the “up” moods never reach full-on mania.

Rapid Cycling

In rapid cycling, a person with bipolar disorder experiences four or more episodes of mania or depression in one year. About 10% to 20% of people with bipolar disorder have rapid cycling.

Mixed Bipolar

In most forms of bipolar disorder, moods alternate between elevated and depressed over time. But with mixed bipolar disorder, a person experiences both mania and depression simultaneously or in rapid sequence.

Cyclothymia

Cyclothymia (cyclothymic disorder) is a relatively mild mood disorder. People with cyclothymic disorder have milder symptoms than in full-blown bipolar disorder.

I have a rapid cycling Bipolar I diagnosis.  I’ve had extreme manias in my past but my highs and lows can be within hours or  minutes of each other.  My version is actually called ultraradian cycling because of the short periods of time between cycles. 

  

  • What are the treatments for Bipolar Disorder?
Medications

If you have bipolar disorder, you will probably need medication. In reality, you may need bipolar medication for the rest of your life.

Therapy

Along with medication, ongoing psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy, is an important part of treatment for bipolar disorder. During therapy, you can discuss feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that cause you problems.

Treating Bipolar Mania

If you are suffering from mania, your doctor may initially treat you with an antipsychotic drug, benzodiazepine, and/or lithium to quickly control hyperactivity, sleeplessness, hostility, and irritability. Your doctor will also likely prescribe a mood stabilizer.

Treating Bipolar Depression

Today, the recommended treatments for bipolar depression may include lithium, an anticonvulsant, an antipsychotic medication, or a combination of these medications — all with the goal of modulating moods without igniting a manic episode.

I am a firm believer of better life through chemistry.  When I was first diagnosed I was not happy with the medications because they made me sick so I didn’t take them.  It took a good 6 months of working on just therapy and medications for my psychiatrist to find a combination that worked for me.  Since then I have little to no symptoms (if my meds are off I have the occassional bout with racing thoughts still but it is quickly fixed). 

 

I continue to do therapy sessions weekly because it helps me to sort out my thoughts with life and avoid stress that could aggravate my symptoms.  Honestly I think anyone, Bipolar or not, could benefit from a little therapy.  Who doesn’t want someone to listen to all your problems and help you solve them.  Money well spent in my opinion.

 

  • Are there non-medical things that that can help with Bipolar Disorder?

It’s important to realize that medication and therapy are the best treatements for dealing with the symptoms of Bipolar disorder.  However there are other things that can make it more managable.

  • Exercise. Studies show that regular exercise can help improve mood whether or not you have bipolar disorder. It can also help you sleep better. Talk to your health care provider about what kind of exercise routine you should try. Start slowly. Take walks around the neighborhood with a friend. Gradually, work up to exercising on most days of the week.
  • Eat a healthy diet. No, there isn’t a miracle diet for bipolar disorder. But a good meal plan can help you feel better and give you the nutrients you need. Avoid fad diets that force you to cut out food groups. Instead, focus on the basics: Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and grains, and less fat and sugar.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Being overtired can trigger mania those with bipolar disorder. So get into good sleep habits. Go to sleep and get up at the same times every day. Relax before bed by listening to soothing music, reading, or taking a bath. Don’t sit up in bed watching TV. In fact, experts recommend you make your bedroom a calming space, and only use it for sleep and sex.
  • Relax. Anxiety can trigger mood episodes in many people with bipolar disorder. So make a real effort to relax. Lying on the couch watching TV isn’t enough. Instead, try something more focused, like yoga or meditation.
  • Reduce stress at home and at work. Ask for help with some of the stressful things in your life. See if your spouse, family, or friends will take care of some of the housework and other hassles. If your job is proving to be too much, think about ways of scaling back some of your responsibilities. Do what you can to simplify your life and make it easier.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and drugs. Caffeine is a stimulant, which can keep you up at night and possibly exacerbate your mood. So cut back — or cut out — soda, coffee, and tea. Alcohol and drugs can affect how your medications work. They can also worsen bipolar disorder and possibly trigger a mood episode.
  • Get onto a schedule. Many people with bipolar disorder find that sticking to a daily schedule can help control their mood. Incorporate all of these things — exercise, healthy meals, relaxation, and sleep — into a pattern that you more or less stick to every day.
  • Even after being properly medicated I didn’t have a good handle on my health.  Sure I wasn’t experiencing symptoms but my health stunk and my weight meant I needed a higher dosage of medication.  When I finally got control of my physical health through exercise and diet I realized my mental health improved even more.  Now I know that know what non-medical things I can do I tyr to reduce stress as much as possible, avoid caffeine (I don’t drink or do drugs so those weren’t a problem), schedule my life well (my OCD helps with this) and get a good night’s rest.  I tend to notice I feel just a bit off if I don’t do these things for a few days.  That’s my cue to get back on track.

     

    I wrote this post not to divulge some deep dark secret because it really isn’t a big secret for me.  It’s part of who I am but doesn’t define me.  I wrote this so that you lovely blog readers will know a little bit more about the disorder.  So much is being put out in the media about Bipolar Disorder as the diagnosis becomes more and more prevalent.  It is important to recognize that persons who suffer from Bipolar Disorder can be normal functioning members of society just like you and me.  We walk among you and if we take proper care of our mental health we can live happy healthy lives.  Part of the reason I am so vigilent about my physical health is because it helps keep my mental health stable.  I hope you found this information to be helpful.  Back to the fun stuff tomorrow 🙂

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    10 Comments leave one →
    1. Mish permalink
      14/11/2009 7:04 AM

      Brave. Beautiful. Thank you.

    2. 14/11/2009 8:56 AM

      Thanks for this post. You’re right that it does help to see your story to understand more about it. Good for you!

      • 14/11/2009 11:09 AM

        Thanks Jenn. I think its important to know more than just the statistics and the news stories. We are real people 🙂

    3. 14/11/2009 1:31 PM

      Thank you for sharing and educating your readers. You’re so strong and brave!

    4. Mandy permalink
      14/11/2009 9:25 PM

      Just beautiful.

    5. Chelle permalink
      16/11/2009 10:55 PM

      I’m late reading this but I’m glad you wrote a post on this. I learned a lot. Thank you!

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