An overview of bipolar disorder, from my perspective.
About Bipolar Disorder
added to Intro essay
Bipolar Disorder was previously called manic-depression. The new terminology is supposed to soften the blow of social stigma that people associate with a particular set of predictable behaviors. This disorder is a neuropathological oddity, meaning the bipolar brain works differently than that of most people. The structures of the brain and/or the biochemicals that work in the nervous system are different from that of most people. Because of this, moods often bounce between extremes--very high or very low--with little time spent in-between. Thinking processes work differently too. Thinking can be difficult because of one’s lack of ability to focus his attention on the matter at hand.
"The most dangerous aspect of manic depression is the danger of suicide. The suicide rate among people with bipolar disorder has been given as high as 20% -- which means a staggering number of bipolar people make unsuccessful and/or repeated attempts on their own lives, and even more than that consider suicide without acting on the urge. I found one website, www.About.Bipolar.com, which reports that 1 out of 83 people in the US have bipolar disorder.
“People with manic-depressive illness are often highly intelligent, extraordinarily gifted, and/or glowingly talented--people whose brilliance makes the world a better place, while they themselves are struggling every day to cope, to function, to stay alive." (Quoted from About.Bipolar.com, March 2012.)
Bipolars are people with a built in set of behavioral coping styles, which often turn a small problem into a huge one. The main symptom, in my opinion, is that one's mood will swing drastically--often with little or no warning. This is not necessarily something that the bipolar will notice about their own behavior, though close friends and family will learn to recognize changing moods.
I write this as a person who was diagnosed as bipolar eight years ago. Now, my psychiatrist provides an ever-changing anti-psychotic cocktail that I must partake of several times a day. The ingredients of this cocktail change as my symptoms change. As soon as I'm stable on my meds. something changes in my life, I'm not stable anymore, and I need my psychiatrist to adjust my medications again.
Theoretically, a pill will make a woman stop shopping. I say this because outlandish and overwhelming shopping sprees are a symptoms of bipolar disorder. Medications help to ease symptoms, therefore there is some med out there that deals with thinking and acting on shopping impulses. One behavior of bipolars in a manic state is a compulsion for shopping. It is difficult to stop the spending urge, even if you don’t have cash or credit
I take pills in the spring to break up my mania, according to my psychiatrist's instructions. Mania is a state where one feels like God's right hand, as if you can do no wrong. Usually a person in this state has the energy to begin a multitude of complicated tasks, but they all end up incomplete, and in my case, in various states around my house.. In this state, many others, and I will head off to the shopping center, and return with bags of w.at seemed like wise household purchases at the time. Bills mount upon bills until credit is no longer an option for me. It is a part of my disorder.
It never seems to work out for the best when one goes shopping while manic. All the clothes fit. All the accessories are perfect. The expensive perfume you always wanted is within grasp, knowing the feel of the beautiful bottle, within whif, and within reach of touching with my own hands the magnificent the bottle, with the tiny sprayer of a heaven scent., The bipolar is under an almost hypnotic buying spell. Medicating mania will help avoid compulsive shopping. Medicating bipolar disorder keeps most of the self-destructive symptoms at bay, most of the time. Most bipolars know this, and stay on medications prescribed by their doctors, even if they have to deal with a few side effects.
Internet shopping can be extremely hazardous to those with credit cards. I speak from experience, having purchased a lovely hand painted reproduction of Michelangelo’s "Creation of Adam" picture, which now sits on the wall above my mantle. It creates a lovely peaceful feeling in the room. It's amazing what research yields for you on the Internet! You can find anything you could possibly want, whether not not you have the funds to pay.. That's a scary thing for me to realize. My want button itches too much. My Mother still lectures me on the difference between a want and a need. It's the cause of divisive conversaion. What she thinks is a want, I always consider a need. But after years of the lecture, I do know what she means, even if I don't act like it..
When I opened the bill for my beautiful new painting, I was aghast. So much for the lovely peaceful feeling the painting had given me.
"Oh, my God! What have I done?" kills tranquility. My head beat in my chest and my brain, or was it my heart? "This was a big mistake. I don't have money to spend like this. I don't even have a part-time job. What was I thinking?"
It is a beautiful painting, still. It now hangs in my den, where I can admire the picture as well as reproach myself every day for the part it played in my financial debacle.
Somehow, those numbers seemed less expensive while viewing them on the computer’s shopping screen. They weren't realnumbers of real green money coming out of my wallet. Moods, and concepts of right and wrong, change for me over time. My attitude often changes in a short period. I don’t always recognize my mood changes.
Stability is a difficult concept for me. I personally have a problem with the passage of time. I can't keep up with the passage of time, like knowing it's been a month since I paid bills and I need to do it again. I forget appointments because they seem to fall off my too many personal calendars. My moods show up in my sleeping patterns. I have no control over numerous things that I do.
I'm presently going through a sleeping pattern change that's got my energy zapped. It's either that, or the meds my doctor gave me. I sleep deeply, and too many hours. I realize this, but I can't seem to do anything to change it. It's becoming a habit. This is a symptom of bipolar depression.
When you're in a dead sleep, flat on your back, and dog kisses in the face won't stir you, one knows something is different, wrong. People ought to come to life from sleeping a lot faster than I do. I sometime wake up figuring out when I went to sleep, if I need extra sleep because I was up working all night, or if I have to hurry someplace like a doctor's appointment. Forget about alarm clock help in this state. I've tried lots of things, but I just don't want to get out of bed. I can’t make myself. I will mention I'm the only human sleeping in the house. Though even when I've had a roommate, my sleeping in caused problems for the both of us, and it was my fault.
I can sleep for hours on end, until late afternoon. I turn over and go back to sleep through an entire day of sunshine and tropical temperatures. I cannot make myself get up to face the world. I get up and feed the pets, and go back to bed. I am depressed, in the down cycle, or spiral, of this mental disorder.
There doesn't seem to be a physical reason for all my sleeping. I have to sleep 12 - 16 hours at a time before my body will let me function. This takes quite a toll on daily productivity.
This sleeping pattern means I am falling away from my manic symptoms and more toward depressed symptoms. I sleep much less when manic--about four hours every couple of days. I feel I am much more productive, and happier when manic. That usually happens during the summer, or after an emotional upset. Mania is a happy self-destructive aspect of the disorder.
There’s a less severe form of mania called hypomania, where symptoms may be present but not in a debilitating way. I've gone from between two weeks and two months in this state. It's what my mother calls me being "normal." I feel like it's wishful thinking on her part--I'm not sure any time in my life could be labeled normal. One can't really tell the difference between hypomania and a person being in a good mood. It's almost a fraction of a perception. Mania is much more obvious. I suppose that's a matter of perspective, but of all my states, this one makes me feel like I've found my way on the road of life--or at least I can see a road of life worth traveling.
Unfortunately, in my case, mania is often close on the heels of the less dangerous hypomania. Severe mania may lead to a psychotic episode, which requires hospitalization to get the patient stable by having them take multiple medications. Sever mania may include delusions where the person hears or sees things that aren't there. I haven't had visual hallucinations, but when I start getting intensly bipolar, I will get auditory messages without a cause, except for the creativity in my head. Severe depression, like severe mania, can also lead to a psychosis that requires hospitalization. Within the confines of the hospital, the nurses can keep you safe from yourself if that is necessary, and the doctors' have you under conditions where they can control the prescription meds, over the counter meds, and needed vitamins and minerals. If a patient should have a bad reaction to a medication, help is close at hand.
It's like life is a game of bowling, and I'm the ever shifting pin in the loading machine. I never know exactly where I’m going to end up, but it doesn’t really matter. I'm going to get knocked flat eventually, and probably more than one time. This isn't pessimism; it's life. I’ve just learned that I always have to fight my way back when my body chemistry takes over.
How much trouble do you have with concentration, on a daily basis? Do you start more projects than you can ever finish? Can you carry an idea through a thought process, and come to some conclusion? Sometimes, I can't do these things. On a good day I can. My attention span is not always very long. I try to work around these things. Luckily, I work for myself, and I'm not a strict boss. I allow myself many sick days when nothing gets accomplished, and I nurture myself instead of docking me. I make lots of adjustments and special rules for myself in my bipolar world. I get by better that way, and I don't particularly have to explain to anyone.
I have to fight to keep my emotions positive, like I joust with the bed sheets every day or night pulling myself, fighting, out of bed and into a routine. In the other situation, I fight to stay out of bed, sometime escaping sleep for three—even four days. The longer I go without sleep the more severe symptoms become. A brain doesn’t function well without restful recuperative REM sleep. Bipolars often exhibit behaviors at both extremes of any given spectrum.
How many moods do you have in a week, or a day? How would you define mood? How is mood different from personality? Personally, I am unable to make a distinction between actions based on my mood, and actions based on my personality. Maybe someday the light bulb (the invisible one, on top of the head) will come on. I know others are more aware of my mood changes than I am.
In the meantime, I'll continue writing about myself and my misadventures, researching on the Internet, and getting by with a little help from my doctor, family, and friends.