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Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar is short for Bipolar Disorder, or Manic Depressive Disorder. Bipolarity is another common word to use.

What NOT to Say to a Bipolar Person

Stupid things said to people with bipolar disorder

Bipolar Disorder has become a bit more recognized lately, most likely due to the “coming out” of celebrities with outrageous behavior.  This has been good in raising awareness about bipolarity somewhat, but it has been bad because a lot of people think they know all about it.

In addition to not completely eradicating the stigma – it is also highly annoying when someone says something mean, wrong, funny, or even just plain stupid about bipolar disorder.  If you aren’t bipolar – don’t give advice to people who are.  Here are some of the things you should not do:

Don’t try to “join in”

Soo DepressedDon’t try to tell me you “know how I feel”.  Don’t relate your stories about how you were soooo depressed when your dog died.  Don’t try to tell me about how bad your insomnia is.  Don’t try to tell me about how you seriously almost destroyed a poster once or how embarrassed you were when…. Don’t.  Unless you are bipolar, you cannot understand the depression, the agitation, the anxiety.  I can understand that you want to show concern and make me feel “normal” but don’t.

Don’t tell me I should do better

Don’t tell me I can fix this.  Don’t tell me that I brought this on myself.  Don’t tell me to try harder.  Don’t tell me that it could be worse.  Don’t tell me that only religion can make me better.  I am doing the best I can; I didn’t want this disease, and frankly, I don’t want to hear it.

Don’t minimize

Don’t tell me to “snap out of it” or “get off my ass.”  Don’t give me platitudes like “this too shall pass” or “cheer up.”  Don’t tell me Not to Bipolar People“tomorrow will be better” or “everyone has a bad day sometimes.”  My disease, my experience is as bad as it is.  You can’t make it go away by acting cheerful or sympathetic.

Don’t try to shame me into being better

Don’t tell me that I am a real downer or that I am “dragging you down.”  Don’t tell me all about my bad behavior and how being around me is so painful – like “walking on eggshells.”  Don’t tell me about life not being fun…I already know.  If you don’t like it, it would be better if you just leave.

Don’t blame every disagreement on my disease

Don’t say anything about bipolar “shit” in the middle of an argument.  Just because I am angry doesn’t mean I am off my meds.  It doesn’t mean I am crazy.  Using my illness to win an argument is just plain wrong.  I have a right to be angry sometimes, and sometimes I am.

These are just a few things you should not do.  We have a lot of rules – some of which change just like us.

Happy Day!

Melissa Lind

Bipolar Disorder and Facebook – To Tell or Not to Tell

To Tell or Not to Tell – Bipolar Disorder on social media

I am an avid Facebook user.  Mostly I use it to amuse myself, keep up with old friends, get to know people who should be old friends but weren’t, update family on my kids and such… But, I also enjoy reading “pages” … pages about funny things and pages about serious things that only “we” understand are funny.  I am talking about bipolar” pages.

Facebook - Like PagesBecause Facebook lists updates of what pages you have “liked”, my relatives, who know I am bipolar, have been able to see that I am not keeping my disorder as a big secret from my social group.  Most everyone who is on my Facebook page already knows (or would guess) that I have bipolar disorder.  To them, it is not a big deal, it is just part of who I am, and in some ways actually explains part of who I am – manic-depressive, why I am the way that I am.

I bring this up because one of my “relatives” actually sent me an email “warning” me that I should “be careful” about what pages I frequent, referring to the bipolar pages.

That was one bit of unwelcome advice.  Another bit of advice might be to “unfriend” him or hide my activity from him.  I am NOT Bipolar - I have Bipolar DisorderHe is a close relative so “unfriending” him might cause problems.  I could hide my activity but have made a personal policy that if you are my “friend” then you can see my page.  I haven’t taken advantage of the “close friends”, “friends”, “acquaintances” – feature of Facebook – but then I don’t let anyone on my page unless they are actually someone I know.

The last bit of advice would be to ignore him.  Luckily, he is such a close relative that I have made a practice of ignoring his advice, as a child would ignore a parent.  I did just that – ignore him.

This situation was easy for me to solve under these particular circumstances but can be a lot of trickier.  I also belong to bipolar pages on LinkedIn, Google+ and other sites, and I sometimes wonder about the impact.  Fortunately, I happen to be a writer, and I am not in a situation where an employer (or potential employer) can make an objection to my diagnosis.

For others that are not the case – and it was not always the case for me.  There is still a huge stigma against bipolar disorder.  Technically, making an employment decision based on a mental diagnosis is illegal – it is against the ADA.

Technically, the employer could be in trouble for violation of federal law, but how many times do employers say outright” “I am not hiring you because…(insert problem here)”?  Likely they will not say anything – they just won’t hire you.  In some states, they can fire you for no reason (“at-will” employment states) or “not-for-cause”.

Technically, they should not hold this against you – if you are stable, and if you remain stable.  The question is – will you?  Hopefully, I will, but I can’t guarantee that.

Bipolar BearsIf I were looking for a job – a “real” job, I would seriously consider curtailing my social media and public announcements of “I am bipolar“.  As a writer – I shouldn’t do that, and I don’t.

You have to evaluate your particular situation.  Know that it is against the law to be discriminated against.  Know your history and likelihood that you will remain stable in your bipolar disorder and be able to do your job.  Decide whether a legal fight is worth it to you.  It may be; it might not be.  Decide whether you really want to work for someone who will hunt you down and discriminate against you based on the information they find.

For me, I am happy not being in a “real job “.  The same relative, full of warnings, is not happy about my lack of “real” employment – but I can just ignore him.  Either way, I am still Bipolar.

Melissa Lind

Living with Someone Who is Bipolar

Living with someone who has Bipolar Disorder can be difficult

Living with Bipolar DisorderI try (like many others I am sure) to keep Bipolar Disorder from wrecking my family.  I don’t always succeed.  In a lot of cases, it comes down to taking my medication on a regular basis (which historically I have not always done).  Even at the best of times, living with someone who has Bipolar Disorder can be difficult.  In some ways, it is probably harder to live with someone who is Bipolar than it is to be Bipolar yourself.

Having Bipolar disorder is just part of who I am.  It isn’t “good”, it isn’t “bad”, – it just “is”.  There are good days and bad days, but I expect that.  Just because someone else thinks I am having a “bad day” doesn’t mean that I experience it that way.  I don’t really know what it is like to live with someone who is Bipolar.  I only know what they say and how they seem to react.

InsaneLong before I was diagnosed, a roommate said to me, “living with you is like walking on eggshells”.  That kind of made me mad – and my response was something like “Well at least I wash my clothes”.  This had nothing to do with anything – except that she didn’t wash her clothes.

My husband once said, “Living with you is like waking up with a rabid animal.”  My thought was, “Then don’t talk to me when I wake up”.  In either case, I still believe that I wasn’t doing anything particularly wrong – unpleasant for them maybe – but normal for me.
There are some things that you can do to help yourself deal with a household member that is Bipolar.  Know these hints will not solve the problem, but they may make things better.

•    Don’t say things like, “I am not putting up with this Bipolar shit!”  First you will make them angrier than they already are. Second, you obviously are putting up with it, and they may feel compelled to remind you that you both live there, which will make you angry.
•    Do keep an eye on whether they are taking their medicationNormal and MiserableIf you can check on it in a prominent manner – do so, but likely you will have to sneak around them.  You can’t easily force them to take their meds, and subtle reminders will probably create an explosion. But you have to decide if the explosion is worth it – or just be prepared in case it is not.
•    Educate yourself so that you can see what “the disease” is, and what the person is.  Know that the disease is also a significant part of a person. Also, know that a lot of what you like about them is because they are bipolar.  While Bipolar Disorder makes things difficult, it also makes things interesting.
•    If you can watch for disruptions, try to be there to compensate.  Meaning; make sure children and other responsibilities are taken care of.  It does not mean that you must do all the work but remember you aren’t necessarily doing it for “them” but for the others that depend on them.
•    Try not to be angry at them for being who they are.  Again, part of what makes them interesting is the disorder and for a lot of use – we like who we are most of the time.  If you don’t like us, then leave.
•    Lastly, and most importantly – if you can, be there to pick up the pieces when it breaks – because with most of us, it usually will.

Whether it is a spouse, child, a sibling or roommate, you will have to make a decision.  If you can put up with the mental disorder, that’s great.  You can help them, but you can’t change them.  They can’t change being Bipolar, and criticism never helps.

Melissa

Living With Someone Who’s Living With Bipolar Disorder:

Living with someone who is living with bipolar disorderA Practical Guide for Family, Friends, and Coworkers is an essential resource for anyone who has a close relationship with a person who has Bipolar disorder.
This book provides a much-needed resource for family and friends of the more than 5 million American adults suffering from bipolar disorder. From psychotic behavior that requires medication to milder mood swings with disturbing ups and down, this book offers a warm and often humorous user-friend guide for coping with bipolar loved ones, colleagues, and friends.

The book includes Guidance for identifying bipolar disorder symptoms and how to get the diagnosis confirmed Strategies for dealing with rants, attacks, blame, depression, mania and other behaviors. The book includes crucial information on medication and its effectiveness, potential side-effects and techniques for dealing with attempts to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

How many people with bipolar disorders can care for themselves, get help, feel supported and go on with their own lives? This important book contains real-life illustrative examples and a wealth of helpful strategies and coping mechanisms that can be put into action immediately.

Bipolar II – Really?

Is it Bipolar II – or just plain Bipolar Disorder not yet recognized?

Google “Bipolar” on the “news” tab and see what you find.  It is astounding how many semi-celebrities have come out and said “I have Bipolar Disorder”.  Unfortunately, the story is often about Bipolar II, which somehow makes it “better”.

Bipolar Disorder is still a serious stigma – prevents people from getting jobs and such.  Technically, as Bipolar Disorder is considered a disability, an employer who did not hire or fired an admitted bipolar patient based only on that fact would be in violation of the American Disabilities Act, but few people are willing to go to the carpet on that.  Plus there is the little issue of being “able” to perform one’s job.  I can perform a job if I am taking meds.  If I am off of meds, I become highly unreliable with a lot of other liabilities – risky behavior that I have decided not to discuss.

Only a couple of years ago, I was warned by a well-meaning family member against posting too much on social media about Bipolar Disorder – and this in his mind included “liking” too many Bipolar pages.  He was concerned about my ability to obtain a decent job.  I don’t know if I have a “decent “job today – I have made my own way which works out better for me – no boss to annoy, no dress code, nobody else’s time clock.  For the most part, I don’t worry about social media – I don’t think I will ever have a “real” job again – no more frequent flyer miles for me.

Bipolar 2I was once diagnosed as Bipolar II – but really, both the doctor and the therapist thought differently – they both knew that I had regular Bipolar Disorder but wasn’t ready to accept it.  Actually, I am pretty sure my doctor tricked me into taking Lithium for the first time by telling me that it would help boost my antidepressant activity.

In retrospect, I am astounded that I believed him since I know so much about medication – but I took the medication.  How many of these people really have Bipolar I Disorder and just don’t say so.

It is much easier for people to say and accept that they have Bipolar II.  In my opinion (which is obviously vast and knowledgeable – just kidding, no really), Bipolar II is a way of sliding by the real diagnosis.  As in “I have Bipolar Disorder but not really”.  “I have Bipolar Disorder but I am not crazy”.  “I have Bipolar Disorder but I am not dangerous”.  “I have Bipolar Disorder but I won’t embarrass you”.
When it gets down to it…wasn’t that true for all of us at one time?  Or at least didn’t we believe it at one time?  I still fit some of the criteria – I am “functional”, “productive”, “hypomanic” – except when I am not.

I often confuse my doctor when he asks how it is going by saying “good enough”.  What I mean is that I am not manic exactly, I am not depressed.  Actually it works better for me if I am teetering on the edge of mania.  If I am just crazy enough that I know that I am crazy – then I will keep taking my meds.  Because I forget.

I originally sought treatment for severe depressiondepression bad enough that I had to decide whether to kill myself or study (I had a big exam the next day).  In retrospect, I was actually in a mixed episode with plenty of energy but in a really bad mood.  Oh, and then there was the slight issue of the hypnogogic hallucinations which I denied at the time.  See, even if I know that I have Bipolar DisorderManic Depression – I still forget.

It would be easier for me to say that I have Bipolar Disorder but it is “just” Bipolar II.  I thought that too.

Melissa

Bipolar Disorder and Adolescents

Symptoms of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents may look like other disorders

Traditionally bipolar disorder has been thought to first show in early adulthood – and more often in females.  Bipolar disorder was considered to be quite rare as few as 20 years ago, to be more exact. The first emergence came in the early 20s, mainly in females. But, our knowledge about bipolar disorder has grown rapidly in the last 20 years.

Instead of the single manic-depressive diagnosis – which included diagnostic criteria of both depressive periods, alternating with manic periods – described as “euphoria”?

Those who did not have clearly rhythmic, alternating periods of a “happy” and frantic manic phase with a classic depression period were mishandled, misdiagnosed, mistreated, or dismissed.

Bipolar ChildrenIn addition, it wasn’t really known that bipolar disorder could start in adolescence or even childhood, or that there are different types of bipolar disorder.  Today, it still isn’t “officially” recognized in the “psychiatric bible” – the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but at least more practitioners do know that it exists.

Today, we don’t exactly know what causes bipolar disorder (only that there is a genetic link of some kind, and often some past trauma). But, we can at least identify adolescent and childhood bipolar illness.  We also recognize a variety of different types of bipolar disorder (Such as mixed manic episodes, rapid cyclers, people without a depressive phase, hypomania, dysphoria rather than euphoria and cyclothymia). We also have a “catch-all” type – Bipolar NOS or “not-otherwise-specified”.

Adolescent or childhood bipolar disorder is official known as: “early onset bipolar disorder”.  In fact, childhood bipolar disorder can be more serious than a similar disease in adults and may have slightly different symptoms.

Symptoms of bipolar illness in children can often be more severe, and the cycling period may be more frequent.  Children also have more mixed episodes.  Children also have slightly different symptoms – so even the depression phase of the cycle may not be obvious.

Pediatric patients (children and adolescents) with bipolar disorder may have:

Bipolar Disorder in Children•    Abrupt mood swings
•    Periods of hyperactivity followed by lethargy
•    Intense temper tantrums
•    Frustration
•    Defiant behavior
•    Chronic irritability

These symptoms have to appear in more than one setting (school and home) and cause “distress”.

The problem is that many of these symptoms may look like other disorders.  They might be disorders such as ADHD, childhood depression, anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, conduct disorder, premenstrual syndrome, oppositional defiant disorder and others. The danger might come from a misdiagnosis and improper treatment.

Bipolar disorder is treated with anti-manic agents (lithium), anti-convulsants (Depakote, lamotrigine) or atypical antipsychotics (Abilify, Risperdal).  In many cases, anti-depressant won’t be needed.  Treatment for other disorders like ADHD or depression may make bipolar disorder worse. Childhood bipolar disorder is something that desperately needs treatment as the distress caused to the patient, and the family can predispose the youngster to

•    Drug or alcohol abuse
•    Stealing
•    Involvement with law enforcement
•    Poor social integration
•    Poor academic performance
•    Suicidal tendencies
•    Premature sexual behavior

The Balanced Mind has a good self-check list of symptoms that can help a parent or a teen decide if bipolar disorder might be an issue.  Self-testing is not always accurate and should be discussed with a doctor, (preferably with test results in hand).  Not all doctors accept pediatric bipolar disorder. Parents may have to seek advice from more than one mental health professional and be aware that insurance may not cover the illness.

Melissa Lind

Ellen Forney – Bipolar Artist and Author

A bipolar book by the cartoonist Ellen Forney

Nearly 3 percent of adults in the U.S. have bipolar disorder – and that is known cases.  The question might be – how many people have it that don’t know about it?  Still, 3 percent is quite high, and the World Health Organization lists Bipolar Disorder as the “sixth leading cause of disability in the world”.

People with Bipolar Disorder face innumerable challenges – some personal, some professional.  Aside from the daily struggle to come to terms with the mental illness and manage symptoms, relationships and medicationbipolars often face stigma in the “regular” world.  Whether it is family members, friends or work associates, unless they have bipolar disorder, they are likely to have a skewed image and often little understanding.

Bipolar-1 Disorder - Ellen ForneyCartoonist Ellen Forney, of Seattle Washington, also a teacher at the Cornish College of the Arts released a graphic memoir – a graphic novel produced in a manner similar to her other published work.  In it, she describes what it is like to be bipolar from her perspective and how she struggled to find the right treatment.  Forney, along with her book; “Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir” were recently featured in the Huffington Post.

Being of an odd combination of scientist and artist – and particularly nosy. (some would call it inquisitive – but I prefer just nosy)

I have read a lot of books on bipolar disorder. I have read professional journals, research papers, self-help books, and books written by people with bipolar disorder – most of which were supposed to explain the illness, how to treat it, or tell what it is like to be bipolar.

Some of the books were well written, some were sadly misguided.  The most famous book by Kay Redfield Jamison, “Unquiet Mind” is considered “THE” book by many people, professionals and patients alike.  Though it is well-written, educational, and true – it doesn’t always fit, and many who are bipolar probably can’t read it when they need to.

Ellen Forney’s book is different.  It isn’t a manual; it isn’t a self-help book, it is simply a terrific depiction of bipolar disorder and even if you aren’t bipolar yourself, you should check it out. It is worth a look.

Melissa Lind

“Sex in Comics:” The bipolar Ellen Forney and R. Crumb

•    “My own BRILLIANT UNIQUE personality was neatly outlined right there, in that inanimate stack of paper.”
•    “My PERSONALTY reflected a DISORDER…”
•    “… SHARED by a group of people.”
•    “This sank in like the sun had gone behind the clouds…”
•    “… like I`d been covered by a heavy blanket, like a parrot…”