Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bipolar- That is me stop the Stigma! This is a Long One

One face that I have is that I am Bipolar, that is right bipolar. The term bipolar can be defined as "as disorder marked by alternating or intermixed periods of mania and depression" (Cromer, 2011, p. 218). Now I write this to give you my take on this disorder and there will be references but most of personal thoughts. The first thing there is a stigma around this disorder and needs to go away!!! There are multiple perspectives looking in on this disorder usually the: person who has the disorder, people around them (family & friends), and then the doctors and counselor who treats them. I explain these roles in a bit in a more personal way.

When I first diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder a typed of disorder marked by mildly manic or hypo-manic episodes and major depressive disorders (Cromer, 2011). I was in shock, in fact I was in denial I remember calling my mom and telling her. However, there were a couple of episodes that stood out in my mind. About a year after I was married, I was treated for depression and I cannot tell you why I was depressed I just was. I was given medication and counseling which was going fine then I just stopped going. I felt fine, threw the pills down the toilet and stop going to counseling. Now most people just do not snap out of a depression, there is usually a cause and they finds ways to get out of it. However, I just felt fine like nothing ever happen. Thing went fine for a few years, we moved and getting settled but then I felt out of it again. I thought it might have been to PCOS because they do say depression is a symptom of it. When I went to this doctor-I went through this intense screening to the point of irritation... However, when it was all said and done I was diagnosed with Bipolar II with rapid cycling. In other words I have four or more episodes within a year. When you are able to look back at it there are things that pop up in my childhood that make sense on why I acted like that or perhaps felt the way I did. Most professionals believe that most Bipolar symptoms appear between the late teens and twenties. However, I disagree with this I do believe sometimes warning signs do present themselves earlier. For example, I was at th fair with my family and we are all having a great time but when it was time to leave. I became upset at something, irrational at the drop of them dime. My parents said it was over a game-and that my very well be true but to this day I cannot recall what made me so mad. How in the world is that normal?

That is where the parents and friends come in. A lot of times people believe it is choices that we make to act the way we do. Which in someway may be true but for the most part I believe I was a typical teenager. However, I use to do stuff that when I look back may have made my parents wonder. A lot of times I could not sleep so I would rearrange my room furniture or able to stay up all night and watch movies and still function the next day. Then there were days that I could hardly get out of bed- my parents did not know this in high school but I had to force myself to stay awake and all I could think about was getting back to sleep, like I could never get enough sleep. I know this could be passed off as typical teenager the thing is I never grew out of it. I have heard people call me moody or I just have PMS-but news flash people I cannot have PMS for an entire month! Look the term up!

Now this is what the doctor sees:  It is very well documented the bipolar disorder is clearly  a disorder of the brain (there is still debate but as research progresses the still believe it is not is getting debunked) and it is genetic and biological underpinning is recognized and is still treated as a "mental Illness". There are people who still believe it is related to our personal choices or morals but I tell these people look at this way it is no difference then other chronic illness except my medication works in the brain. There is no medication out there to change my morals. In reality it is a complex interplay of a genetic background, individual biochemistry, and life stress (Milkowitz, 2002). There is promising in research in areas such as neurotransmitters, Ion activity, Brain Structure, and Genetic Factors (No I Do not Blame My Parents or anyone else I am Genetically linked too). I got to see a brain (PET) scan done on someone to shifting from depression to mania back to depression and if you are a scientific person, like I am it was amazing to see. There is little activity while the person is going through depression but lights up like a firework when they are in mania and then nothing again.

These are the Symptoms of Mania and Depression - Now no two people with Bipolar are the same so we all experience our symptoms differently ( I have highlighted mine and will explain what I feel)

The manic phase may last from days to months and can include the following symptoms:
  • Agitation or irritation: I become very agitated without any reason and the more I become agitated or feel irritable the harder it is for me to come down. Please know there is a difference, if I can tell you why I am upset then I am just upset nothing more.
  • Inflated self-esteem (delusions of grandeur, false beliefs in special abilities)
  • Little need for sleep
  • Noticeably elevated mood
    • Hyperactivity: I feel like I always need to being something, getting out of the house, or something, it gets worse if I begin feeling trapped.
    • Increased energy: kind of like hyperactivity except I tend to be really productive and just do, do, do
    • Lack of self-control
    • Racing thoughts: Well this is what it is, I have ideas out the ears, I have good and bad thoughts the problem is I cannot stop them.
  • Over-involvement in activities: I have a hard time saying "NO" I am willing to help and do things to the point of exhaustion.
  • Poor temper control: I believe this relates to my agitation but sometimes I just lose it one way or the other with the end results of crying.
  • Reckless behavior
    • Binge eating, drinking, and/or drug use
    • Impaired judgment
    • Sexual promiscuity
    • Spending sprees
  • Tendency to be easily distracted: This is why I have so many un-finished projects

    The depressed phase of both types of bipolar disorder includes the following symptoms:
    • Daily low mood: I am in this all day and Usually cannot get out it.
    • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
    • Eating disturbances
      • Loss of appetite and weight loss
      • Overeating and weight gain
    • Fatigue or listlessness: It is a struggle to feel any energy even after a decent amount of sleep.
    • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and/or guilt: I tend feel like I upset people or let them down in some way when I am stressed. 
    • Loss of self-esteem
    • Persistent sadness
    • Persistent thoughts of death
    • Sleep disturbances
      • Excessive sleepiness: Never feel like I can get enough
      • Inability to sleep: May seem like a contradiction but I become uncomfortable
    • Suicidal thoughts
    • Withdrawal from activities that were once enjoyed: I enjoy a lot of things like crafting and reading but I can sometime go weeks even month without doing the thing I love.
    • Withdrawal from friends: This one is harder for people to accept. I cannot explain why I do it but I do. They will either have to come to terms with this and understand it or just simply it is a choice I am making.

  -Here are some really good sources about the disorder-

Treatment honestly varies between person to person. What may work for does not work for the other. There is so much out there as treatment options, we are for the most part in good hands. The worst enemy of someone who is Bipolar, is ourselves. Each have there own tiff with the disorder to include myself and I have a couple of problems.

I have pulled myself off my medication twice. I say twice because when I was treated for depression and threw them down the toilet because I felt fine. Is a BIG sign of the disorder. The second time I pulled myself off of my medication was when my husband deployed once. I thought I was doing fine and I could handle his booze cruise (term for a MEU). However, within just a few weeks I was falling into a depression and it took a while to get out of it.

I have also been where my medication seem to longer worked (even though I kept taking it). I did not sleep for almost a week and if I was not with the counselor it could have only gotten worse. It was hard to understand why I was following the doctors orders and it was not working. It is often a trial and error process and I have come to accept that some times I need adjustments or a tune-up, it only happens.

Now what does this all mean- am I nut? Was there something in my family genes to allow this to happen? Did my husband marry an unstable woman? Do people walk on egg shells? Will I ever amount to anything? What happens next? Why did I write this?

I like to think what is normal? Can anyone define what it is to be normal? I like to think everyone has their own normal state, whatever that might be. My mom says I march to the beat of my own drum and I believe her. I will get to the same destination just my way. I really cannot answer the whole genetic thing yet but maybe that is one of my purposes of being here. I am a scientific person... and I am passionate about this subject so maybe I can help people understand.

My husband did not marry an unstable woman. Granted this diagnosis happen years after we were married. However, my husband does not love a part of me. He loves all of me, the good, the bad, the Courtney. He is very caring and passionate about this. He is still learning about this disorder and how to help me cope with it (but we all are and it is a continuing process that will never stop). He is a very strong man and he will help me get through any of ups or downs. He also has a great support system like my mom to help make sense of things that he may not understand fully.

A lot of people do walk on egg shells around me. I try not to throw them out there but some do it for me. I am fine, I do not have six heads very rarely do I react in a negative manner towards someone. If you want to know something about it just ask! I am not the only one with this disorder in fact there are a lot of famous people who have this disorder.

Actors & Actress: Patty Duke, Jim Carrey, Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Robert Downey Jr., and Rosemary Clooney

Artists: Tim Burton, Beethoven, and Vincent Van Gogh

Others: Buzz Aldrin (Astronaut), Sylvia Plath (Poet), Sting, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Praticia Cromwell (Author), and Winston Churchill

Please Note: Some of these people died before there time, it could have been related to the disorder or something else.

Now I am not famous by any means but I have done great things. I have just graduated college with BS is psychology and will continue into a master program after a short break. I also write what is on my mind, willing to try new things. I think in a way this disorder has help me some of these symptoms like my racing thoughts have sparked wonderful ideas and things that I thought I would never do.....

These are my final words and they are to the ones who have the disorder, please do not feel like you suffer do not burden yourself with guilt and self-blame because you believe your mood disorder is caused solely by psychological factors or even a weakness of character (Miklowitz, 2002).

Find your Survival guide and get through it and accomplish your dreams. I still have a long way to go but I know with my family and a few good friends I am in the right direction.

1 comment:

  1. Courtney what a great article to write. My family has been dealing with this for years and I think the hardest thing is that people on the outside just don't get it. They think it can be controlled or that it is an excuse. I say BRAVO to you and stay the course! Thank You! =]