99 Bipolar Disorder Facts

99 Bipolar Disorder Facts

Great list of truths from bipolarlives.com:

Bipolar Basics

1. Bipolar disorder used to be known as manic depressive illness.

2. It is a MOOD DISORDER characterized by MOOD SWINGS between the “highs” of bipolar mania and the “lows” of depression.

3. It is an episodic illness. In between episodes of bipolar mania and/or depression, there will usually be periods of stable or “normal” moods and wellness.

4. The usual age of onset is late teens to early twenties.

5. Bipolar disorder is NOT CURABLE and must be controlled by mood stabilizing medication. This is one of the most unpalatable but important bipolar disorder facts.

6. Despite being a life long illness, bipolar disorder is very manageable. In fact, it is one of the “best” mental illnesses to have in that there are many effective bipolar treatments available.

7. Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as depression in women or schizophrenia in men.

Reminder

Bipolar is frequently misdiagnosed so make sure you see an experienced psychiatrist.

8. Another common misdiagnosis is to pronounce someone bipolar when they really have borderline personality disorder.

9. Untreated bipolar disorder is dangerous and may lead to suicide during depression, or self destructive activities during bipolar mania such as wild spending, crazy business ventures, sexual promiscuity or infidelity and other high risk behavior.

10. Bipolar disorder must be diagnosed and treated by an experienced psychiatrist who specializes in mood disorders.

Bipolar resources you can trust

Bipolar disorder facts need to be distinguished from bipolar fictions.

The best source for bipolar disorder facts.

Use these reputable and independent sources for accurate information about bipolar disorder:

11. Facts on Bipolar Disorder from National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

13. Bipolar Disorder from the Mayo Clinic

14. International Bipolar Foundation

15. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)

Are you bipolar?

One of the most frustrating bipolar disorder facts is the difficulty of accurate diagnosis.

You may have bipolar order if you answer “YES” to ALL of the following questions.

If the following self-screen for bipolar is positive, you should see a psychiatrist who specializes in mood disorders to confirm ad discuss any possible diagnosis of bipolar disorder. One of the frustrating bipolar disorder facts is that it requires highly skilled diagnosis.

16. Have you experienced depression for an extended period (at least 2 weeks)?

17. Was this depression so serious that it made your usual activities such as work or study impossible, or only barely possible through great personal effort?

18. As well as the serious lows of depression, have you also experienced periods of “highs” – of being so “up” that it felt like more than normal happiness?

19. Have you experienced periods of needing only small amounts (3-5 hours at most) of sleep?

20. Have you experienced racing thoughts or rapid, pressured speech?

21. Have you ever engaged in reckless behavior such as shopping sprees, credit card binges or out of character promiscuous sex?

22. Have you ever had so much extra energy that you took on lots of extra projects, or needed lots of extra activity and stimulation or social contact?

23. Have these “ups” ever led to serious problems such as conflict at work or in your marriage or legal problems?

24. Do you have a close relative such as a parent, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, or aunt who has bipolar disorder?

25. Has a psychiatrist or other mental health professional ever suggested to you that may have bipolar disorder?

THERE IS NO BLOOD TEST, X-RAY, BRAIN SCAN, MRI, GENETIC TEST, OR OTHER “MEDICAL” TEST THAT CAN IDENTIFY BIPOLAR DISORDER.

Bipolar symptoms

Symptoms of bipolar depression include:

26. Persistent empty or “blue” feeling.

27. Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities.

28. Sleep changes – either insomnia or excessive sleep.

29. Lack of motivation and neglect of routine tasks such as personal grooming.

30. Indecision.

Symptoms of bipolar mania include:

31. Reduced need for sleep.

32. Grandiose plans and beliefs that are not realistic.

33. Racing thoughts.

34. Taking on multiple projects and marked increase in goal directed behavior.

35. Risk taking behavior and distorted judgment, for example crazy business schemes, reckless investments, sexual indiscretions, shopping sprees, gambling binges.

Causes of bipolar

36. Genetics. Bipolar disorder is NOT ALWAYS inherited and in even in identical twins, both do not always develop the disorder. Thus, although hereditary factors are a major risk factor in developing bipolar disorder, it is not a purely genetic illness.

37. Neurotransmitter imbalances and other brain chemistry disturbances.

38. Stress. Someone with a predisposition to bipolar may go on to develop the illness if triggered by stress.

39. Environmental factors such as seasonal changes or sleep deprivation sometimes precipitate the onset of bipolar episodes.

40. Pregnancy. Obviously pregnancy in and of itself does not cause bipolar disorder. However, like stress, giving birth can trigger the initial episode in a woman with a predisposition to the illness.

Types of bipolar disorder

41. Bipolar Type 1 is characterized by at least one manic or mixed episode. The mania in Bipolar 1 is serious and can even involve bipolar psychosis.

42. Bipolar Type 2 is characterized by at least one hypomanic episode, (hypomania meaning literally ‘below mania’), and one major depressive episode.

43. The third bipolar type is called cyclothymia. This is a serious mental and mood disorder that causes depressive and hypomanic episodes. Medically it is defined as recurrent cycles of sudden hypomania and dysthymic episodes.

44. If you do not fit into any one of these categories, you may be diagnosed as bipolar disorder NOS, not otherwise specified.

45. Some experts such as Dr Jim Phelps also consider the types of bipolar disorder to include Bipolar Type 3 – when an antidepressant causes the patient to switch into mania or hypomania.

Bipolar medications

46. Bipolar medications may be altered depending on the phase of the illness. A different combination of meds may be required for maintenance, as opposed to managing an episode of acute bipolar mania or acute depression.

47. Lithium is the best known med for treating bipolar because it is a MOOD STABILIZER and is effective in treating both mania and depression, as well as for preventing relapse.

48. Sometimes antidepressants are used to treat bipolar depression but this can be controversial because of the possibility of an antidepressant causing a switch into mania. This is one of the most misunderstood and under-appreciated bipolar disorder facts.

49. Some atypical (latest generation) anti-psychotics have been approved for treating bipolar disorder as research has shown them to have mood stabilizing properties on top of their utility for bipolar mania.

50. Another of the misunderstood bipolar disorder facts is that most people spend MUCH MORE time experiencing depression as opposed for mania, and the best treatment for bipolar depression seems to be a combination of Lithium and Lamotrigine (Lamictal).

Bipolar treatments

51. All of these bipolar disorder facts are important. BUT some bipolar disorder facts are more important than others. In terms of getting well and staying well, it is critical to understand that the most proven approach is to COMBINE MEDICATION AND TALK THERAPY. Not everyone wants to be psychoanalyzed, but there are other forms of talk therapy that are effective bipolar treatments:

52. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has a good track record as a bipolar disorder treatment. CBT helps us identify our self-defeating, unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and teaches how to replace these with more constructive, realistic and helpful beliefs and actions. This can be very useful in recognizing the stressors that trigger our bipolar episodes and learning to control them.

53. Psycho-education is all about learning as much as possible about bipolar disorder. Understanding your illness promotes treatment compliance (such as taking bipolar medications) and helps in determining the best treatments for you as an individual and also in recognizing warning signs of mania and depression so that bipolar episodes can be minimized and controlled.

54. Narrative therapy which helps someone with bipolar disorder understand the stories they tell themselves and to externalize their bipolar disorder in order to better solve associated problems.

55. Solution Focused Therapy which differs from some talk therapy in that it is oriented towards the present and future and to practical solutions, rather than exploring the past or dwelling on problems.

56. Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) is a treatment program that stresses maintaining a regular schedule of daily activities and stability in personal relationships. It is PROVEN to be very effective for people with bipolar disorder and is one of my own preferred approached. I would call it one of the best kept bipolar disorder facts secrets!

57. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) used to be one of the ugly bipolar disorder facts that nobody liked to talk about. Although still something of a bipolar treatment of last resort, ECT is now administered in much reduced strengths and so has far fewer side effects. It is worth considering when bipolar medications are ineffective or during pregnancy when medications may put an unborn baby at risk.

58. Natural Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

59. Bipolar Treatment Centers

Caring for a loved one with bipolar disorder

60. Take stock of your own mood patterns. One of the stranger bipolar disorder facts is the phenomenon known as assortative mating where studies have shown that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to couple with individuals who also have a mood disorder.

61. Carers need to be very well informed about all bipolar disorder facts. BOTH of you should work hard to learn as much as possible.

62. Put a “Wellness Plan” and “Treatment Contract” in place in case of emergencies.

63. Compliance is key. A relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder is much more “do-able” if they are taking their meds and participating in therapy.

64. Who cares for the carer? Make sure there is support there for the carer as well as the patient in case of a relapse into mania or depression.

65. Life and love with someone who has bipolar disorder is like any relationship, including challenges and rewards. Remember that this is a manageable illness. If treatment is followed then there will be positives such as a companion who is creative and captivating.

More bipolar disorder facts from Bipolar-Lives.com

66. Bipolar Disorder Statistics

67. Discovery of Bipolar Disorder

68. History of Bipolar Disorder

69. Bipolar Disorder and Creativity

Myths about bipolar disorder

70. A common myth is that bipolar disorder, once correctly diagnosed, is a distinct, precise illness. In fact there there are several types of bipolar disorder. In particular, Bipolar Type 1 as opposed to Bipolar Type 2. Bipolar disorder facts increasingly also require an understanding of soft bipolar and the bipolar spectrum.

71. Another myth is that mania is a fun high that is like an exaggerated form of being “the life and soul of the party”. Mania takes many different forms and can manifest as extreme irritability or even psychosis.

72. It is also a myth that bipolar people are crazy. They have a mood disorder and in between the highs of mania and lows of depression may have long and/or frequent periods of stable moods where they function well. The true bipolar disorder facts are that many people go months or even years without an episode.

73. Another common misunderstanding relates to workplace functioning. Although some people are disabled by their bipolar disorder, more than 75% are successful at work.

74. Medication myths go both ways. Some folks mistakenly believe that bipolar is untreatable, while others believe that bipolar medications are a “cure”. On the positive side, there are a variety of bipolar medications available and finding effective treatment just may take some people a little longer. A less palatable of bipolar disorder facts is bipolar medications control but do not cure the illness. It is necessary to always take meds, even when stable and everything is going well.

75. The myth that bothers me most is that bipolar disorder is not a real illness. Although bipolar disorder is episodic and very treatable, it is a serious illness and if untreated can lead to suicide and other terrible consequences.

76. Related to the myth above is the notion that bipolar is just a fashionable excuse for bad behavior and means whatever the “sufferer” wants it to mean. Bipolar disorder has a clear clinical definition and has been a documented chronic illness for over 2,000 years.

77. A myth I was WISH was true is that people with bipolar disorder are all creative geniuses. Although there is a VERY STRONG link between bipolar disorder and creativity, it is possible to have bipolar disorder and not be especially creative or extra intelligent.

78. This one is not exactly a myth. It is more like one of the most surprising bipolar disorder facts – having bipolar disorder is not all consuming. Sometimes I snap at my stepson because I am just another another mom having a bad day. It does not mean I am manic. Sometimes I cry during a movie. this does not mean I am depressed. If I drive a little recklessly sometimes it may be I am simply running late. If I ace a job interview, it may be because I was well prepared, not because of my “hypomanic edge”.

79. One of the most misunderstood bipolar disorder facts is that bipolar disorder is not linked to criminal or violent behavior. The truth is that someone with bipolar disorder is more likely to be a victim of violence or crime rather than a perp.

Bipolar disorder and physical health

Some of the most important, least understood bipolar disorder facts relate to physical health:

80. People with bipolar disorder are twice as likely to die early from a medical illness.

81. The main cause of premature death for people who have bipolar disorder are “lifestyle” or preventable/controllable factors such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

82. This increased risk of early death applies equally to both men and women with bipolar disorder.

83. People with bipolar disorder are over twice as likely to smoke (51% versus 23%).

84. Bipolar disorder is also strongly correlated with overweight and obesity. One study showed bipolar disorder to be the mental health problem most strongly linked to weight gain. Some research has indicated rates as high as 68% of overweight and obesity in bipolar populations.

85. These weight problems are also correlated with poorer overall mental health outcomes. For example, obese people with bipolar disorder have more episodes of both mania and depression, more serious episodes and more frequent episodes.

86. Bipolar frequently co-occurs with substance abuse.

87. Bipolar frequently co-occurs with alcoholism.

88. The new atypical anti-psychotics that have become popular bipolar medications have serious side impacts that impact physical health and are especially tied to weight gain and diabetes.

89. On March 12, 2002, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. ruled that bipolar disorder is actual a physical illness because it can be inherited, can sometimes be identified by brain scans, and is in fact a is a neuro-biological disorder characterized by chemical imbalances in the brain.

Living with bipolar – top 10 tips

90. Stay on your bipolar medications and do not make any changes without discussing your meds with your psychiatrist.

91. Do not use recreational or street drugs.

92. Minimize alcohol or abstain completely.

93. Maintain a regular sleep schedule.

94. Maintain a regular exercise schedule.

95. Control weight and mood swings by eating plenty of lean protein and vegetables, taking folic acid and fish oil, and avoiding sugar, “bad” fats, and simple carbs.

96. Join a bipolar disorder support group, for example through your local DBSA.

97. Make charting your moods on a Bipolar Mood Chart a daily practice.

98. Create a Wellness Plan and a Treatment Contract.

99. Read and learn everything you can about bipolar disorder!

Source: bipolarlives.com

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The Truth About Recovery

There is a misconception about mental illness and recovery. It’s not the same as recovering from the flu, or a broken bone. Recovery for a mental disorder is an ongoing process. It’s about managing the symptoms and finding the right treatment. I know for me, as I’ve gotten older, my illness has gotten more severe, thus requiring varying degrees of treatment in order to aid in my recovery process.

Recovery

Knock, Knock. Who’s There? Oh It’s You, Seroquel. 

I said I’d keep everyone posted on my recent decision to come off of Seroquel. (As you recall, I was dealing with weight gain side effects.)

Well I’ve been completely off for 2 weeks (after weaning down for 2 weeks) and it’s been a struggle. My moods are all over the place, I’m certainly not sleeping, and it’s put a strain on my family. My wife has endured additional stress and we have been fighting more. I feel badly about it, and of course I also wish she could be more supportive of my decision. But when it comes down to it, our long-time agreement has been in order for this marriage to work, I must stay on meds. 

When it comes down to it, I am excited about losing 5lbs. The scale hasn’t budged in so long, and this gave me hope. But I’ve weighed out my situation (no pun intended..) and have decided to go back on the Seroquel. I gave it a try, but I can’t help that my illness requires certain medications. I admit I feel defeated. But I also know this is just me being responsible. 

Thanks for listening to my saga. I know many of you have experienced Seroquel side effects and I thank you for sharing your experiences with me. Best of wellness to all of you. 

  

Buh Bye, Seroquel

So, I’ve made a decision to come off of Seroquel. The weight I’ve gained with it has overstayed it’s (non-existent) welcome.

Bipolar weight pills

I know what you must be thinking. And before you lecture me on quitting meds, please know I am making this move based on careful consideration. I have been on Seroquel for about two years now, along with Lithium and Abilify. My current dose is 200mg. When I first started taking it, I just noticed my extreme sleepiness. This was good, since I am a natural insomniac. I started on only 100mg, and after some time, went up to the current dose. I know people on higher doses, and folks on lower doses. Every individual is different. Dosages are based on brain chemistry, body weight, interactions with other meds, etc.

The Cost of Side Effects

I certainly don’t want to scare anyone out of taking Seroquel because it is a really effective drug, and it has absolutely saved my life in many ways. It’s just that I am at a point where the side effects are not worth my time anymore. Seroquel is known for weight gain as a side effect (several psych meds have this quality), and I have been researching many sources and forums, as well as discussions with my psychiatrist, and it is an unfortunate fact. I put on 20 pounds with this medication. Many other folks have put on 40-50 pounds. On my 5’1″ frame, 20 pounds is kind of a lot.

It’s a Personal Thing

I definitely battled with this decision. I already have insomnia, and Seroquel has helped rock me to sleep each night since taking it. I also haven’t had any full blown manic episodes since being treated with it. So, yes, coming off of it does frighten me a little. But, conversely, I am becoming quite dismayed at stepping onto the scale and not seeing it budge. I have completely changed my eating habits, which includes pretty much all health food, and small portions. I even signed up for a gym membership. Yet my jeans still don’t fit. I feel discouraged and it’s bringing me down.

Keeping Up With Progress

So far I have cut my dose in half and I am having a hard time falling asleep at night. I am not experiencing any mania or psychotic episodes, luckily. My wife is fully aware of my plan, and is on board. This helps with monitoring my moods, especially with the changing season.

scale
I have not yet spoken to Dr. B. about this. I plan to at our next appointment, which isn’t until May. Honestly, I want to see how well I do without his input right now. Also, I’m a little shy of trust for him and his office after the urinalysis incident. I just thought I’d share my current experience with you guys. We all know what a pain in the ass it is to find meds that work out for us in all areas.

Sources:
Seroquel XR Side Effects Study
(Just Google Seroquel and weight gain/side effects. There is a world of information on the topic.)

Ambush Drug Test at my Psych Appointment- Wait, What?

I’m still shaking off my first experience with Medication Monitoring. This took place a few days ago, and I was completely bombarded, with no explanation, no warning, no consideration for my personal space.

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My pdoc appointment went quite smoothly. I talked about my grandfather’s funeral, about the baby, about being a temporary stay at home mom. We went through the checklist about side effects, mood fluctuations, and if I have any thoughts of harming myself (I don’t). Pdoc agreed we should keep my medications the same as they’d been, and he wrote up the new scripts. I gathered my wallet and keys, and started for the office door. Just before I hit the front desk, he informs me that everyone is taking a urinalysis for medication monitoring. I was a little confused. He laughed and said it’s to make sure people are taking their meds, and not selling their Adderall. Well since I take my meds and I don’t sell anything, I just agreed that it wasn’t a problem. I was also under the assumption that he would write me a prescription to take to a lab for the test proceedings. Those of you on Lithium know about this all too well. Was that what happened? Nope.

Surprise! As I walked through the second set of doors into the lobby, a woman I’d not seen before was standing there waiting for me with a little piss cup in her hand. She gestured toward the waiting room bathroom. I felt ambushed. No opportunity for questions, no discussion. I’d been at this psychiatric facility for almost ten years and never felt so put off. Honestly, I felt as if I were in trouble.

After I provided my little sample, she had me sign a form, supposedly for them to bill my insurance. This is also when I was given an informational card entitled, “Medication Monitoring Explained”.
Some key points given include:

  • Helps to understand what medications you are currently taking which could interfere with your prescribed medications.
  • Provides essential information for the safe and effective use of your medications.
  • Your doctor will determine how often you will be tested based on your medical needs.

The kicker in my situation is that in all definitions of the term, I failed my drug test. Yes, I had other substances in my system. I had been treating two pinched nerves in my back with a narcotic pain reliever for about three days, and I occasionally self-medicate with marijuana. During my grandfather’s death and funeral days, I smoked pot in the evenings. (For those of you just tuning in, I’ve always been a cannabis advocate.) The biggest clincher here is that I would have absolutely disclosed this information to my doctor had I any idea it would be relevant. (*Note: I do not promote the notion of self-diagnosing or self-medicating. In my instance, I have had much experience with these substances and I know how my body reacts, on prescribed meds and off.)

All in all, I understand and agree with new advances in patient treatment. If urinalysis is a tool in helping doctors help patients, then I support it. I really think, in my case anyway, that there needs to be a much different procedure in collecting the samples. I already feel vulnerable, as it is when working on my mental health, so in some ways I felt my trust had been violated.

Have any of you had experiences with medication monitoring? I’d like to hear your stories.

Kindly Disregard my Absence, for my Brain Has Been All-Consuming

Hey hey everyone. I didn’t mean to ignore you recently. I’ve been riding the train of instability. a.k.a. mood swings, hallucinations, irritability, and  suicidal thoughts. My mind is currently numb and I’m a little lightheaded, but allow me to get you up to speed.

64743d1eacbd79e683a776b1ee3c34f6Suicide Stuff Again…

I know I talk about my suicidal ideation pretty often, so I apologize that I’m bringing it up again. I’ll make it brief, I promise. The last couple of months, my mind has been stepping into the dark territory again. It automatically starts developing plans and twisted theories. ( Example: “If I do it while my son is still a baby, I won’t give him an abandonment complex.”) I would try to get these things to stop entering my brain, but like clockwork, every morning, I obsessed about death. This has been constant for at least two months. It usually fades into the afternoon, so I would just try really hard to not allow it back in. I spoke of it only a little bit with my wife because I know she hates when I talk about it. She thinks I’m morbid (duh!) and it brings her down. Not my goal at all. She did make me agree to a no-harm pact before she and my son went out of town for the weekend, leaving me at home. I agreed to it. It gave her peace of mind.

WTF is THAT?!?!

Never in my life have I had visual hallucinations. I mean naturally. I’ve battled auditory hallucinations for years. Usually I hear voices speaking to me, or chatter, or music playing. About three weeks ago I saw a spider. Then I saw another spider the next day. The day after that I saw a spider on the wall. Okay, no bid deal, right? I live in the Midwest and spiders are part of the woodwork. Except these spiders didn’t start off as spiders. An imperfection on the wall. A leaf. A piece of lint I spot from the corner of my eye. They all grew legs and started moving around. They were in my kitchen, my car, my bedroom, bathroom, even at the office. I did tell my wife about the spiders and she looked panicked, but remained calm and urged me to talk to my pdoc.

The Appointment…

I’m not crazy about my psychiatrist. I mean, he’s alright, but I don’t love him. I’ve been seeing him for over eight years now and we have a customized payment plan, which I appreciate. He is very educated and has many, many fancy plaques on his wall. He dresses in funky plaid suits and hates the government. And he makes me feel like he thinks I’m crazy. No joke, I tell him about the spiders and his eyes widen, almost in disbelief. Really? Like isn’t he the ONE person obligated to not make me feel crazy? Anyway, I suggested increasing my Seroquel. He decided to put me back on Abilify. I just got him to take me off of it a few months ago, and now I’m back on it.

Drugs Drugs Drugs!

It’s been five days and the side effects are certainly present. I don’t feel better yet. But I am hopeful. My next appointment with Dr. Plaid is in a couple of weeks, and I am to call him next week for an update. Until then, my upper body is tingling, my arms are tingling and restless, I feel lightheaded, and my body temperature is fluctuating. So far I’m not experiencing akathisia or twitches, like I did when starting Abilify last time. This is also a pretty low dose, so we’ll see.

 

Okay, thank you all for listening. I hope you all are well!  (I’m sorry this isn’t a better written post.)

 

 

Interview with Nectar Madness

Hey everyone, a little while ago I did an interview for ‘My Bipolar Roller Coaster’ about my bipolar disorder diagnosis, and my experiences with the illness. If you want to know more about yours truly, check it out. Also, check out this awesome mental health blog.

Take a Chance with the Side Effect Dance

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I know I’ve written about side effects in the past, and this is one topic we all seem to be on the same page about. Side effects suck! My latest endeavor has been trying to lose weight. Over the last year, I have put on a bit of weight, and am having a more difficult time than usual in getting rid of it. I examined my timeline of events- I went on my current cocktail of Lithium, Abilify, and Seroquel about a year and a half ago. And then last fall/winter my wife was pregnant and I know I can attribute some of my tummy to joining her in prego eating. Okay, between those two variables, I put on about 30 pounds. I realize to some, this doesn’t seem extreme. However, I am only 5’1″ and I have a petite frame. None of my clothes fit. I feel uncomfortable. The CDC rates my BMI as overweight. Yeah it’s time to take action.

I gave up sweets and other junk food. I stopped drinking soda. I don’t eat red meat, and I adopted a strict regimen of vegetables and fruits and lean protein. Nothing fried enters my mouth. I exercise. After a few months of this lifestyle change, I dropped barely 5 pounds. I couldn’t believe that my weight was hardly moving despite my efforts. I was really discouraged and trying not to become depressed.

This is when I decided to go further, and research my medications. I learned that two of the three meds I’m on have a tendency to contribute to weight issues. These weight issues include gaining of weight, and/or difficulty in losing excess pounds. Immediately I flashed back to about 12 years ago when I was an inpatient in the psych hospital, and I had gained a good 30 pounds within a month’s time. But that time Depakote was the culprit. I never want to go back to that feeling again. So I knew at that moment I had to consult with my psychiatrist. I hate the way I look. I’m tired of feeling bloated. If I can’t look good, then I don’t feel good.

I decided to ask him about alternatives to Seroquel. This was scary because the Seroquel really does seem to be a miracle drug for me. I figured the Seroquel had to be the problem child since I am on a medium to high dose. I am on a very low dose of Abilify so I didn’t think it was contributing as much. When I went to my last appointment, I expressed my concerns and explained the efforts I have been trying. He asked me to honestly tell him which of the two helps me more. Of course his question presented a battle internally for me- my own self-fueled convictions say “Seroquel makes you fattest”- but I knew the truth, and that was Seroquel helps me the most. Nights when I don’t take it, I cannot sleep and the next few days I’m completely thrown off. If I skip Abilify, I barely notice. I was honest with him. Clearly this resulted in his decision to wean me off of Abilify, and continue my Seroquel.  He even informed me that Abilify is actually more prominent in weight issues than Seroquel, even at a low dose. He also mentioned that Zyprexa (which I had been on in the past) is not a good alternative to Seroquel when weight is a concern because it’s even worse thatn the other two.  He said to continue what I have been doing in regards to eating and exercise, and in a couple of months I should notice a difference in my weight.

So, it has been a week. I’m watching what I eat and weighing myself. I came off the Abilify pretty smoothly. At this point we shall see. I’ll keep posted. If anyone has any stories of weight gain as a side effect, please share!

 

Saying it Aloud Makes it Real

Apparently I’m fighting mania. Apparently I didn’t realize this until I talked about it. Apparently.

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I knew a few factors were surfacing, but I didn’t realize just how many signs of mania were actually present in my life until I shared my current state at my DBSA support group meeting last night.

Let’s begin by examining the facts – the manic stuff.

  1. It’s Spring. My witching season. Well, the start of it anyway. Summer is equally lethal. Warm weather heats my blood something good.
  2. I’m suffering from chronic boredom. Bored with work. Bored socializing. Bored at home. Bored in my marriage.
  3. I’m overstimulating in order to combat the boredom. Drinking. Music. A dozen social networks. Heavy involvement with friends.
  4. Becoming hypersexual. Collecting new erotic photography. Flirting. More self-stimulation than usual.
  5. Planning. I’m planning a mini vacation by myself next month to stay with a friend and attend my favorite band in concert. Okay- my obsession in concert. Which brings me to number 6.
  6. I can’t help the obsessions. Tegan and Sara have been my loves for over a decade. I can’t get enough. Literally. I’m also obsessing over my marriage. And the lack of sex.
  7. My mind is racing. I struggle to focus at work. My ideas are flying around. I’m quite forgetful.
  8. Irritability. I’m moody and irritable. I seem to get annoyed easily with customers. And traffic. And television. And a few acquaintances.
  9. Fleeting desire to skip meds. I don’t want them. I don’t like them. So there.
  10. Spending money. My wife is our financial manager, but I have managed to find an unusual amount of reasons to need money lately.

Let’s examine things further – the not so manic stuff.

  1. I am indeed still taking the meds. I toy with the idea of stopping. Regardless of those thoughts, I comply with treatment. My wife is mostly to thank for this.
  2. I have a job. And I go to it. Every day. On time. It’s often difficult to function with a spinning head and chronic restlessness. But I’m there.
  3. I take excellent care of my son. For some reason, this part really works for me. He’s healthy. He’s happy. He’s dressed, changed, fed, and snuggled. I manage to drop him off at my sister’s every morning. It’s a miracle, maybe.
  4. I’m not as bad as I’ve been. Maybe the meds are preventing me from falling into full-blown mania.

What is my next step? Well, that is a good question because I am conflicted. Right now I am incredibly tempted to succumb to the manic triggers that pacify my boredom. I flashback to last summer- too much booze, too much pot, too much fraternizing for a married woman, never needing sleep, and rounds of fighting with my wife. I look at how things are right now and I’m not where I was last year.

Am I heading there? I guess I can’t say for sure. I will try to vow to stay on the meds in order to prevent it. My psychiatrist already doubled my Seroquel to balance me out. The fact that I really am chronically bored and I crave excitement may be what drives my actions. It’s a vulnerable thing to feel so unpredictable.

 

Not in the Mood for a Mood Disorder Right Now

I am losing it. I cannot focus on anything, I’m irritable, I’m restless, and my mind feels like it’s traveling in circles at super speeds. I’m disinterested in my work and I’m mean to my wife. With each moment that I try to function normally, I seem to feel worse. My moods are up and down. I really wasn’t prepared for brain chaos right now. I’m even more pissed off that I’m dealing with this altogether. I’ve been enduring a plethora of change lately, including the season changing, and I tend to experience mood swings when things change. I mentioned this in a previous post.  I should call my psychiatrist, but of course, I’m reluctant. I don’t want more medication. I realize my reluctance is a symptom. My immaturity is waiting for my wife to push me to see him. I’m ashamed of my immaturity because it highlights my lack of responsibility. I hate myself because I was so stable these past several months. I don’t know why I think I can control when things get out of whack. I understand I can only treat it. Each night I go to bed and think tomorrow it will go away, but it hasn’t yet.

Changes, Changes, Moods, & Changes

So much change going on right now. Change makes me moody. Change frustrates me. Change leaves me forgetful. Change makes things not boring. I hate change as much as I love it.

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My current whirlwind of change:

Hello Spring. That’s right, the good old change of season has bestowed us. My bipolar always switches gears when there is a seasonal change. I know I have been reacting to the warmer weather and having more mood swings than usual. I feel it and I know everyone around me feels it.

This past week I returned to work after a five month lay off.
I have a love/hate relationship with my job. Well, mostly with having a job, but yes, with my job too. As it turned out, much to my surprise, I was really good at doing the stay at home mom & housewife thing.

My wife began a new job after not working for three years. I’m really happy for her for landing a good job where her skills and degree can be utilized. It’s just so different because I’m used to her being home while I’m at work. And this was even before we had a child. While this is definitely a positive change,  the new busy lifestyle will take some getting used to. It doesn’t help that I’ve been rather moody with her lately.

I had to drop my baby off at the sitter’s for the first time. This has been really emotional for me. I especially enjoyed spending time with him over the winter, and I was so fortunate to be able to have this quality time during his first few months of life. People don’t prepare you for the emotions you go through as a parent. I miss him constantly.

My sleep schedule has been completely rearranged. Obviously having a baby in the house alters your sleep already, but having the baby with each of our work schedules, puts our mornings and nighttimes into a whole new category. I must go to bed so early now just so I can wake up early enough to take over baby duty since my wife leaves at 6:00a.m. I now take my nighttime pills around 8:30p.m. so I can be asleep no later than 9:30. I know it’s manageable, but it’s just different. And a bit challenging.

 

I don’t know exactly what steps I need to take in order to get everything under control. Maybe I can let it ride out and fall into routine. Maybe I should talk to my psychiatrist. I guess I’ll see how bad the mood swings get as time goes on. There is just so much going on that it’s hard to even focus on everything each day. Surely I’ll keep posted as I monitor my crazy self.

 

Bipolar Valentine Part 3: In Sickness and Health, Mania and Depression

I love you. I hate you. I want you. Don’t touch me. Marriage and bipolar. Is it a toxic combination? According to NAMI, statistically 90% of marriages with at least one bipolar spouse will end in divorce. That is a sobering number. You can’t deny that it’s a bit discouraging to those not yet married, and scary for those of us who are. So before we go any further, let’s ask- is there even a point? Absolutely.

b3265cde38e270325fd8828a36e074f0In lieu of Valentine’s Day, I’ve pieced together a three-part series on various aspects of bipolar disorder and love. This is meant to be informational with a shot of perspective, and a smooth aftertaste of personal connection. Please feel free to leave feedback or share your own experiences.

It is possible for people with bipolar disorder to endure successful long-term romantic relationships, and even marriage. There are many factors involved because every individual and every relationship is different. What works for one couple may not work for another, and vice versa.

Factors to consider:

One factor to consider is the time of diagnosis. While the symptoms are usually present for a period of time, we all know getting that official diagnosis makes a difference. It provides an answer and treatment options, as well as a name for what is going on. (I don’t like the term “label”). For several couples, the diagnosis comes years into their marriage. They receive the news together and unless they’ve already suspected BP, it is brand new information. What usually happens in these cases is a sense of relief, followed by frustration, and a new sense of responsibility. Changes must be made in the every day routine.

Other couples have it a little bit differently when the person was diagnosed prior to their union. In this instance, the non-bipolar partner entered the relationship knowing something was unique about it. In my last segment, Bipolar Valentine Part 2: Adventures in Dating, I discussed how to tell your new partner about your BP diagnosis, and about my own experience with my wife. Both types of couples face challenges.

“Following a diagnosis, the first and most dominant response from a spouse usually is sympathy, says David A. Karp, professor of sociology at Boston College and author of The Burden of Sympathy: How Families Cope with Mental Illness (Oxford University Press, 2002). “But further down the road, a spouse may experience emotions they don’t think they should be having—anger, frustration, and even hate.”

Indeed, caring for someone who has a mental illness can be more draining than caring for someone with cancer, says Dr. Karp. When a spouse does something for a mate with a physical illness, they are usually met with gratitude. People who have bipolar disorder, on the other hand, often deny the diagnosis, are unwilling to comply with medication, and—worst of all— treat one’s spouse like the enemy.”

Another factor to consider is if there are any children in the picture. Since bipolar disorder has ups and downs that can be unpredictable or inconsistent, it is especially vital to double up the top priorities to both the bipolar spouse’s needs as well as the children’s needs. Kids should never feel like the mood swings are their fault. And in reality, sometimes the hustle and bustle around the house is what triggers an episode. It is important to have a strong partnership with your spouse when you are not functioning at your best so the kiddos will have stability.

How can we make it for the long haul?

I give my wife a splintering headache every single time I go hypomanic or full blown manic. I lie about my meds. I drink. I stay out all night. I argue with her. I hate sleep. I become very self-involved. And I no doubt make her feel like shit. When I get depressed, she can’t get me out of bed. I ignore my responsibilities and don’t even care. I know she knows when my patterns will start. I know she goes through hell. But…we make it. We get through it and carry on. Have we come close to ending it all? Oh hell yeah we have. But chose to work really hard instead. Here are a few tips that really work.

I swear by education. Read about bipolar disorder and have your spouse do the same. One book I recommend is Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, by Julie Fast.

Finding the right doctor, usually a psychiatrist, is imperative. Make sure your partner joins you so he/she can become acquainted with your doctor in case of any future emergencies. A good doctor is someone who listens to you, addresses your concerns, and explains the recommended course of treatment. Both of you having a good relationship with your doctor is important for your relationship with your spouse.

Other factors in your treatment include the right med cocktail, and any support groups you join. It is mandatory to get your partner on board with all of it. This is one thing that has held my marriage together these last 7 years. My wife is my medication manager and during my rough times, she sorts and distributes it for me. Even when I’m able to administer it to myself, she is my daily reminder of when I’m supposed to take it. Without her, I know I’d forget or choose to not take my pills. Without the pills, I’d be a hot freaking mess! She also encourages me to attend my biweekly support group.

One of the absolute most important things in a bipolar marriage is having rules. Yes, rules suck. But in this case, rules are the glue holding the package together. Establish grounds for when to call the doctor, to disclose suicidal thoughts, to have your partner notify you of red flags, when to go to the hospital, to communicate your triggers, and a commonly broken rule- to always take your medication! In my house, my wife has given me the medication ultimatum that if I refuse to take it, she will pack up herself and our son, and go stay somewhere else. That thought kills me. So I stay motivated to comply.

My last biggie is communication. More specifically, speaking the language of bipolar. Make it clear what “highs” and “lows” are and what things you might verbalize differently in each of these states. This way there is no cause for alarm if you are transitioning moods.

Enough of the technical stuff, where’s the love?

d55dc7e5bb39d7d2ed43d96fe7dd2663I can’t say this enough- do not make your bipolar the center of your relationship! For any marriage, with or without mental illness, it is important to nurture the relationship in order for it to grow. It’s just like any living thing. If you stop feeding it, it wilts and dies. The bipolar is just a part of it. Your relationship consists of many other parts. Give these a try:

  • Re-examine your core values and what brought you two together in the first place.
  • Carve out some time in your busy lives for a date night.
  • Have passionate sex.
  • Laugh together.
  • Go on a road trip.
  • Renew your vows.
  • Say “I love you” often.

If you haven’t already, check out the first two parts of this series, Bipolar Valentine Part 1: Is It Love or Just Bipolar?  and Bipolar Valentine Part 2: Adventures in Dating.

Lithium’s Ugly Side Effect: Acne

Occasionally I bring up the topic of medication side effects, and this is one that affects my daily life. I’m referring to acne as an irritating side effect of Lithium. Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 5.38.09 PMLithium is the most widely used and studied medication for treating bipolar disorder. Lithium helps reduce the severity and frequency of mania and helps stabilize moods. It has a list of common side effects, including hand tremors, increased thirst, weight gain, drowsiness, muscle weakness, hair loss, decreased thyroid function, and acne.  While the side effects are not always easy to live with, Lithium can be a life-saving medication for so many people. The side effect I want to focus on is one that is often overlooked because it is not always considered medically troublesome. This side effect is acne.

I have been taking Lithium for almost a year and a half now and my skin hates me for it! Prior to taking this medication, I would have an occasional breakout, but nothing like I do now. At the time of being prescribed the Lithium, my psychiatrist didn’t really explain any side effects. I think this is due to the fact I was in crisis mode, suffering a severe mixed episode. He also prescribed two other medications to take with the Lithium, while discontinuing the meds I was already on. There was a lot of change going on and I probably wouldn’t have been able to fully comprehend anything too detailed anyway.

When I first started noticing my skin breaking out, I didn’t connect it to my medication. I used several different drugstore brand cleansers and ointments. I make sure to drink plenty of water and eat healthy. I wash twice a day and remove all makeup at night. I learned how to use concealer and other makeup tricks. I cried on occasion and I sometimes avoided going out with friends. My biggest problem wasn’t necessarily that I had the acne, but I really wanted to know why I had it. Then I started thinking that maybe things I put on my face aren’t working because it has to do with what I put in my body. The chemicals I put in my body. Since I don’t smoke or drink or anything like that, the only chemicals I’m really ingesting are my medications. After doing some research, I found that acne, sometimes chronic, is definitely a side effect of Lithium.

Not everyone who takes lithium develops acne, but many do. The reason lithium triggers acne is counterintuitive. It increases the activity of the immune system which in turn increases skin inflammation.

Lithium causes a condition called leukocytosis. The technical definition of leukocytosis is an increase in white blood cell (WBC) count due to any cause. When people who have bipolar affective disorder take lithium, the drug causes them to produce more stress hormones (which is actually a good thing) when they are depressed. These stress hormones make it easier to find the energy to function day by day.

Stress hormones in the skin, however, increase inflammation. They trigger the release of histamine from storage packets in the skin. Histamine is the same chemical that causes allergies. It breaks down skin cells or cells in the membranes lining the nose and throat to remove foreign bodies and germs. When the release of histamine is induced by stress, however, histamine destroys healthy tissue that has not been penetrated by foreign bodies or infected by germs. The result is redness, itching, and even pain in the skin that is worse in pores that are affected by acne. http://www.facingacne.com/lithium-acne/

Okay so now we have a cause for the ugly blemishes, but how do you get a handle on the situation?

If your acne is bothersome, decreasing your lithium dosage with your doctor’s consent can often help your skin improve. If that’s not possible, it’s best to consult a dermatologist about acne treatments, since lithium-induced pimples are generally harder to get rid of than other types of blemishes.

One possible treatment for this type of acne is tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova, Atralin), a topical drug that works by unclogging pores and promoting peeling of the affected skin. However, it is important to talk to your doctor about possible side effects before using this medication.

The drug isotretinoin (previously marketed as Accutane, but now available only as a generic) should be considered only if absolutely necessary, since its reported side effects include birth defects, depression, and psychosis (feelings of delusion and hallucination). This can be especially dangerous for someone with bipolar disorder. “You should proceed with caution so you don’t have some sort of manic or depressive episode,” says Amy Derick, MD, a dermatologist in Barrington, Ill.

Having a good anti-acne skin care routine can also be helpful in fighting breakouts while you are taking lithium. An over-the-counter cleansing product that contains salicylic acid, which reduces swelling and unclogs pores, should be used twice a day for optimum results.

When buying beauty products, such as moisturizer or foundation, be sure that the label says that the formula is “non-comedogenic,” meaning it has been formulated to not clog pores, which can lead to breakouts. Also, choose a sunscreen that uses titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as a physical barrier against the sun, rather than chemicals that absorb UV rays. “Those types of sunscreens are usually better for people who have acne problems,” Derick says.

Finally, try not to get too down about your acne. Some patients on lithium have found that their skin problems decrease after about six months of treatment, as their bodies adjust to the new medicine. “It can get better,” Derick says. http://www.everydayhealth.com/bipolar-disorder/when-lithium-causes-acne.aspx

So what am I going to do? While I would like to be able to decrease my Lithium, it simply isn’t an option. I will continue to practice healthy habits like washing twice a day, using clean towels and pillow cases, and eating healthy. I also ordered an acne cleansing system, Proactive Plus. (I do not endorse any products.) This product has gotten good reviews, so I figured it can’t hurt to give it a try. I don’t expect to get rid of the acne completely. I just want to feel attractive again. I hate being self conscious over my skin. I feel a little less stressed about my complexion since knowing the assumed cause of the issue. Hopefully this information helps out any of you with similar side effects.

New Year, New Baby, Creative Non-Resolution

Big changes for the new year over on my end. First- A NEW BABY! Yes, our little bundle of baby boy was born December 17th. Another change for me right now is my lack of work. I have been laid off for the winter season, left to collect unemployment benefits. What’s more, I seem to have lost my creative edge and/or motivation to write- poetry or blogwise. Perhaps my priorities have just been in other directions. Or the lack of sleep is getting to me. Whatever the reason, I hope it passes quickly. I try to avoid blogging hiatuses such as this last one.

But anyway, yes the wonderful new element in my life is my precious, perfect baby boy! Since he is our first baby, my wife and I have been absorbing so much as new moms. Being a parent truly makes you examine your life, and everything that’s real. Priorities change so much, and you suddenly no longer tolerate things such as other people’s drama. The important things in life are if my son is hungry, how to soothe him when he cries, and what’s the best way to hold him to make him feel comfortable. I am feeling emotions like I’ve never felt before. A whole new kind of love.

It has been both beneficial and frustrating not going to work this past month. Of course with the baby, the lay off couldn’t have come at a better time. It gives me the advantage that many new parents don’t get, and that is to be a part of my newborn’s every day life, all day, for a few months. For that, I am grateful and count the blessing. But of course as a person with bipolar, not having my routine for a lengthy period of time can be problematic. Even with the baby and all the visitors we’ve had, I have found myself getting bored. Getting restless. I like going to the office. My schedule keeps me on track, and my disorder in check. When I don’t have structure, I tend to be more subject to triggers. So far I’m doing what I can to tend to the baby, the house (I clean it daily), coordinating guests, and whatever small projects I can find. The holidays were a nice distraction, even though we just stayed in and had a relaxing Christmas with our little guy.

I did not make a resolution this year. And I don’t intend to. I am, however, hoping that this creativity slump passes soon and I spew out some poetry or something. I realize I haven’t contributed anything to this blog in over a month. Therefore -in a non-resolution way- I intend to pick up on my slack. I aim to become motivated. I have no doubt that this little angel will provide me with new levels of inspiration. So, you’ll be hearing more from me soon.

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