May You Rise, Patty Duke

Actress and mental health advocate, Patty Duke dies at age 69 on March 29, 2016.

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A true hero in the mental health community, we say goodbye to the talented academy award winning actress, Patty Duke. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she has openly discussed and written about her struggles with depression and mania. Patty Duke was one of the first celebrities I read about upon my diagnosis years ago. Please let’s all take a moment, also in lieu of World Bipolar Day (March 30th), & send some thoughts to her loved ones & cherish her memory.

Patty duke book

Commitments, Intentions, and the Bipolar Guilt Dance

Commitments, Intentions, and the Bipolar Guilt Dance

First, I need to thank everyone who is still following this barren blog. So many times I intended to recover from this 6 month hiatus. That desire manifested into way too many thoughts questioning what I could actually handle.

Those thoughts led to guilt for ignoring this site for so long. Then I became overwhelmed. So I avoided logging in altogether. Which made me more overwhelmed. Then I became angry with myself for the avoidance.

The 3 year anniversary of Nectar Madness came and went. I renewed my domain but decided I wasn’t ready to continue on with this commitment. And all of this is so silly because I really do enjoy being here! I’ve always felt connected to others in the blogging, as well as the mental health, communities.

I just feel like I have let down my regular readers. (Who might not be regulars anymore.) I feel bad for ignoring all of the notifications I received these past 6 months from readers with questions or looking for guidance on important matters.

Today
What I’ve Been Consumed With

What have I been doing? I don’t know if it actually matters since I’m rejuvenating the flow of this blog for present day, but here’s a synopsis.

June-August: Manic! Manic! Manic! Wonderful, addicting, dangerous bipolar mania. Things evened out & I continued treatment. I’m also still employed at my job. My biggest accomplishment this summer was cracking down on my writing, specifically poetry & fiction. It’s kept me very busy.

September: My baby boy started the toddler Montessori program. I’ve been a busy mom.

November: My second airplane ride ever. (Side note: my first was in 2009 from Michigan to California and it set me off into the most manic, anxious, erratic episode imaginable.) I was nervous, especially since I’d have to keep composure for my toddler, whose 1st flight this was. Obsessive organization is all I’ll say. And actually I will put together a bipolar travel post.

December: Seasonal depression. Yay. It helps that I’m a seasonal worker and get to stay home with my son for four months before returning in April.

Despite whatever reasons I had for not doing what I love on here, I am back. Today is the day! Now here’s a little bit about the thinking processes of people with bipolar.

Bipolar Thinking: The Shoulds, The Obsessions, The Remorse

Those who live with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, and other psychiatric disorders experience thought processes differently than folks who are not suffering from a mental illness. Of course everybody experiences guilt, obsessive thoughts or worry, and remorse. It’s part of the human condition. A person with a mental illness might develop a thought based on something somebody said to them. Whether positive or negative, the thought will play over and over and over and over again until it has infested its way into every other thought that person has.

Here’s an example:
Tammy mentions to Paul that Aunt Beverly said he never calls her. Paul automatically feels guilty for not keeping in touch with Aunt Beverly. He goes home & can’t get it out of his head. Especially the fact that Aunt Beverly said something to Tammy. Paul now thinks he should call Aunt Beverly. But then she would think he is only calling her because Tammy told him to, not because he genuinely wants to. His anxiety is rising. Paul has now let this go on for three days. Each day he feels more and more guilty for not picking up the phone. He actively avoids making time for a phone call and makes excuses of why it’s not a good time to call.

From a bipolar standpoint, a few different things could happen here:

Depression: The stress and guilt Paul is feeling could trigger him into a depression. If this is the case, he might sleep or isolate to avoid the developing symptoms. He may never call Aunt Beverly, or speak to Tammy either.

Mania/Hypomania: The anxiety and escalating obsessions could trigger mania or hypomania in Paul. He could be restless and experiencing insomnia from the symptoms that have developed. He could either continue to avoid Aunt Beverly, or present her with a grand gesture, such as buying her an extravagant gift.

Of course this isn’t a real situation, but bipolar thoughts are real. Thinking obsessively can really wear a person down. In that moment, there is no escape. Feelings of guilt tend to snowball once they start. Depending on where someone is in their illness, whether they are depressed or manic, or rapid-cycling, for instance, plays a major role in the receptiveness of any toxic thinking.

What You Can Do

It is tough, but there are ways to alleviate these thoughts. As always, I stress that keeping in contact with your doctor is imperative. Please take your medication! I know- I have been there. And every single time I am med non-compliant, I become a hot mess. Another great tool is practicing meditation. It forces you to clear your mind. Try relaxation music and deep breathing. Select a mantra to focus on, such as a key phrase or positive affirmation. Continuous mantra meditation will slow the obsessive thoughts down and begin to eliminate how often they pop into your mind.  Staying busy helps you forget the feelings of guilt or remorse. Spending time with people who are positive and make you feel good helps as well. Lastly, I will quote my mother, “Do the thing you dread the most and have a better day.” Basically, stop the excuses and call Aunt Beverly. Just do it.

 

 

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

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

Today is National Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day

What does it mean to be aware? To spread awareness? I mean, have you ever really thought about those words?

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Merriam Webster lays it out:

aware

adjective \ə-ˈwer\

: knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists

: feeling, experiencing, or noticing something (such as a sound, sensation, or emotion)

: knowing and understanding a lot about what is happening in the world or around you

Let’s take the given definition and apply it to bipolar disorder:

First, do we know that bipolar exists? I mean we probably do, since many readers here either experience it themselves, or through a loved one. But what about those who use hurtful phrases like, “snap out of it” or “stop being so dramatic”. Do they know bipolar disorder is a true, often harrowing disorder? Sadly, many do not recognize it as being real.

Second, to ‘feel, experience, or notice’ bipolar disorder is actually pretty intense. Those of us who live with it most definitely experience all facets of the disorder, no matter how unique each of our experiences are from one another. What about the uneducated? Your loved ones who keep asking questions? The general public with stigmatized views of bipolar folks? Sure they may have residual feelings from their own perception, but think what a world of difference it could make if they had a true grasp on the bipolar experience, or had a clear idea of what to take notice in.

The last part of this definition emphasizes knowledge and thorough understanding of notions larger than oneself. In this case, do we (you, me, they) allow our brains to penetrate past the point of comfort and acceptance, and into the realm of higher learning? Are we hungry for knowledge on something that makes up our daily lives? Are we okay with a large percentage of the world being ignorant of mental illness? Have we really thought about the fact that we are often discriminated against, are faced with shame, with embarrassment? That is what is happening in the world around us. That is why this movement of bipolar disorder awareness is so very important.

What you can do:

  • Get educated. Seriously, tap into the internet (see links I have listed on the side of this page), go to the library or snatch an ebook such as Bipolar Disorder for Dummies .
  • Educate others. Start a conversation with your friends. Tell your parents how your disorder makes you feel. Don’t be shy.
  • Remember that bipolar disorder and other mental disorders are just as important as physical illnesses such as diabetes or cancer.
  • Address the issue of stigma. Don’t allow others to incorrectly label or generalize serious mental health issues.
  • Never use mental disorders as slurs, and correct others for doing so as well.
  • Share links to blogs, books, websites, advocacy groups, sources from mental health professionals on your social media.
  • Share your own experience through a creative outlet, or even a speaking engagement.

Let’s all commit to making a change this time around. Let’s all push a little harder to make our voice heard. Awareness exists for a reason, so let’s use it as a vessel to deliver our message.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2014

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Every 40 seconds, someone in the world dies by suicide. And every 13.3 minutes in the U.S. Don’t become a statistic. YOU HAVE A PURPOSE! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK

For information on suicide, grieving, warning signs, coping, and how you can help spread awareness, visit the following links:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
To Write Love on Her Arms
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

 

(Gif image via Tumblr)

 

The Breaking Point of a Legend

Like many, the death of Robin Williams surprised and saddened me. His means of death- suicide- interested me even more.

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To some of you, this will sound completely morbidly fucked up. To others, it will be hitting the nail on the head. But whenever I hear of someone dying as a result of self infliction, it triggers my own suicidal ideations and obsessions. Am I saying Mr. Williams is a role model for committing suicide? Absolutely not. But I am saying that I get it. I understand that point of hopeless desperation. Of despising yourself so greatly. Of thinking that your absence will only make things better for those around you.

Depression Doesn’t Discriminate

It has been confirmed that Robin Williams battled drug and alcohol abuse throughout the years, and sought help for it on a few occasions. It is also reported that he had a long battle with depression. I’ve read a handful of articles claiming he had bipolar disorder, but nothing was solidly confirmed on that, so I won’t make claims on it either. Nonetheless, depression can be absolutely crippling. It is the job of folks in the entertainment industry to wear a face for their audience. To act. To become someone else. I remind myself that these entertainers are part of the same human race that I’m a part of. And I could not imagine wearing a new face all the time, hiding a harrowing illness. Not to mention living their life in the spotlight, under a microscope. I know when depression grabs a hold, there are days I don’t leave my bed. There are days I am not mindful on what clothes I wear in public or whether my hair is washed or not. Sometimes I can’t make it to work. Now I look at someone like Robin Williams, who has been in the spotlight for decades, that he no doubt has people watching him in public, judging his every move. Of course that’s the life of a celebrity, and some might argue that celebrities choose this lifestyle, etc., but when it comes down to it- celebrity or not- nobody chooses mental illness. It doesn’t matter if you’ve won numerous awards for your comedic and dramatic acting skills. Mental illness can still sink it’s teeth in. And sometimes it can get so bad, that -celebrity or not- you lose sight of hope.

Let’s Take a Minute to Talk

Okay as many of you know by now, I swim in the pools of suicidal thoughts, ideations, fantasies, and even a few well thought out plans. It is an ongoing nagging battle that I fight. These notions entertain a spectrum of how obsessive they are, and how desperate I feel. It’s not unusual for those with bipolar to have this. So, it may seem a little odd for me to post this next segment about suicide. Truth is, I don’t love that I have this part of the illness. It’s a horrible way to think, and education on suicide and suicide prevention is imperative to living a mentally healthy life. Plus, it could help save the lives of people you know.

Understanding Suicide: Myth vs. Fact

To understand why people die by suicide, and why so many others attempt to take their own lives, it is important to know the facts. Please read the facts about suicide below and share them with others.

Myth: Suicide can’t be prevented. If someone is set on taking their own life, there is nothing that can be done to stop them.

Fact: Suicide is preventable. The vast majority of people contemplating suicide don’t really want to die. They are seeking an end to intense mental and/or physical pain. Most have a mental illness. Interventions can save lives.

Myth: People who take their own life are selfish, cowards, weak or are just looking for “attention.”

Fact: More than 90% of people who take their own life have at least one and often more than one treatable mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and/or alcohol and substance abuse. With better recognition and treatment many suicides can be prevented.

Myth: Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide will put the idea in their head and cause them to act on it.

Fact: When you fear someone you know is in crisis or depressed, asking them if they are thinking about suicide can actually help. By giving a person an opportunity to open up and share their troubles you can help alleviate their pain and find solutions.

Myth: Teenagers and college students are the most at risk for suicide.

Fact: The suicide rate for this age group is below the national average. Suicide risk increases with age. Currently, the age group with the highest suicide rate in the U.S. is middle-aged men and women between the ages of 45 and 64. The suicide rate is still highest among white men over the age of 65.

Read more from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention…

Risk Factors and Warning Signs

Risk factors for suicide are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take her or his life. Suicide risk tends to be highest when someone has several risk factors at the same time.

The most frequently cited risk factors for suicide are:

  • Mental disorders, in particular:
    • Depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder
    • Alcohol or substance abuse or dependence
    • Schizophrenia
    • Borderline or antisocial personality disorder
    • Conduct disorder (in youth)
    • Psychotic disorders; psychotic symptoms in the context of any disorder
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Impulsivity and aggression, especially in the context of the above mental disorders
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of attempted or completed suicide
  • Serious medical condition and/or pain

It is important to bear in mind that the large majority of people with mental disorders or other suicide risk factors do not engage in suicidal behavior.

Environmental Factors That Increase Suicide Risk

Some people who have one or more of the major risk factors above can become suicidal in the face of factors in their environment, such as:

  • A highly stressful life event such as losing someone close, financial loss, or trouble with the law
  • Prolonged stress due to adversities such as unemployment, serious relationship conflict, harassment or bullying
  • Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide (contagion)
  • Access to lethal methods of suicide during a time of increased risk

Again, though, it is important to remember that these factors do not usually increase suicide risk for people who are not already vulnerable because of a preexisting mental disorder or other major risk factors. Exposure to extreme or prolonged environmental stress, however, can lead to depression, anxiety, and other disorders that in turn, can increase risk for suicide.

Read more from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention…

 

My final words to you on this topic is to please talk to someone if you feel you are a danger to yourself. If you are feeling hopeless, allow someone to show you hope. If you think there is nobody to talk to, call a hotline number. There is always someone available and willing to hear what you have to say. On that note, we say farewell to a legendary performer, a legendary person, Mr. Robin Williams. May he finally be at peace. And may we remember him for what he loved to do- make people smile.

 

Suicide Prevention Resources:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

 

My Rapist Just Sent Me a Friend Request

Suddenly the room closed in on me and my head was spinning. There it was on my computer screen. His name. I froze, glad his profile picture was not his face. 13 years passed and I hate him more today then I did back then. The fact that he would even send a friend request was shocking. I chose to ignore it until I better knew how to handle what I was feeling.

TRIGGER WARNING! Before you read any further, please know I will be talking about a sensitive issue involving sexual abuse. While I will not discuss anything graphic or in detail, the subject matter may not be suitable for all readers. I want all of my readers to feel comfortable on this site. Thanks.

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 Early Signs

I was barely 18, and I worked as a banquet server at a nice Midwestern country club which was owned by a tight-knit Italian family. I loved my job and I made a lot of friends there. Many of us would hang out after work on the weekend and have parties. The social groups were somewhat segregated by whichever position you worked. For instance, the servers were not heavily associated with the chefs or the dishwashers. Which brings me to the beginning of my nightmare.

I thought it was odd that one of the chefs- we’ll call him C- took interest in me. I immediately thought he was disgusting. He was 10+ years older than me, he smelled nasty, had teeth resembling toilet scum, and had a very aggressive demeanor. At first I just played it off like whatever. I was a very outgoing and wild young person, so my attention was everywhere else and I thought nothing of it. Until the day I needed a ride home from work. Due to circumstance, I had no car or reliable transportation this particular night. C offered to give me a lift. I thought this was generous of him and I did appreciate it. I climbed into his pickup and we began the 20 minute drive to where I lived. As we were approaching my neighborhood, C pulled into a nearby parking lot. And locked the doors. He proceeded to unbuckle his seat belt and inch his way into the passenger side, where I was sitting. I remember asking him what he was doing. He said he knew this was more than just a ride home. At this point his body was crushing me. I asked him repeatedly to just take me home. Amazingly, he released me and drove me home. What happened next? I went into my room and I got incredibly angry. At myself.

Clearly I had provoked him somehow. How could I be such an idiot? Such a whore? What was wrong with me?

I made a vow to walk home before I ever let this sleaze give me a ride again. I know most would think I was crazy for blaming myself. But you need to realize I was already a teenager suffering from a mental illness. I was also already a survivor of sexual assault when I was victimized at age 16.

Then it Got Dark

He left me alone for awhile after the truck incident. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I changed how I did things at work. I tried to avoid him when I was in the kitchen. That worked. For a few weeks. Then came my education of just how physically strong C was as he lifted my 5’1″ self and carried me into the walk-in cooler. It was so dark in there. And sound proof. He pinned me up against shelves of ranch dressing, and shoved his toilet bowl mouth on mine. His hands grazed, as if checking out the merchandise he might consider stealing at a later date. What was probably 5 minutes, but felt like an hour, finally aborted when he had to return to his post.

I was dizzy. I was nauseous. And I knew everything had just changed. He wasn’t done with me. And I knew it.

To complicate things further, C’s mother was a manager at this country club. Being that the club was family owned, and considerably prestigious, C was highly regarded by the traditional elderly Italian man that ran the place. I was a teenage banquet server. There were 20 more just like me. The head-honchos didn’t know my name. And I wore a name tag. I was not highly regarded.

The next antic C pulled was, again, physically carrying me to a vacant space. This time it was the laundry room. I remember pushing with all of my might, against his huge arms, to try to get free and make my way for the door. He over-powered me and even though he was only restraining me at this point, I now realize that he was grooming me. Breaking me down. Showing me that he has power over me. Conditioning me for what I didn’t even know was to come next.

The first time C forced me to have sex with him, he was very strategic and made sure nobody was in this particular part of the building. Like usual, he hauled me over his shoulder and scooted off with me. His ragdoll. At first, I’d try to fight. I’d kick and push his arms. He was never phased by my resistance. I found myself in a vacant banquet room. He jammed the double doors and held me down on a round table. I tried to get up, he pushed me down. I tried to roll off the table, he pinned my shoulders down. I knew I could scream, but no one would hear. I could kick him in the balls, I could scratch his eyes out. But honestly, I was terrified. C was very strong and had a boiling temper. I’ve witnessed the dents he put in various doors in the kitchen. So I jumped into the only survival mode I knew, and I just let go.

I quickly adopted the mentality of “the quicker I just let it happen, the quicker it’ll all be over”. And he raped me.

This pattern had been going on for a little while when people started to talk. Friends and other co-workers were noticing us emerging from desolate areas, clothes a mess. The gossip train had come a chugging, and suddenly we were a hot topic. I was so sick inside. I wanted to tell people what was really happening. Surely someone would believe me, right? I see him attempt to flirt with other girls, and smack their butts, and do other piggish, unwarranted gestures. But I was scared. I didn’t think saying anything would get anywhere due to his status in the company. Also, I had a reputation for being wild, which some managers knew about. As far as I was concerned, I was doomed. And I had brought it upon myself. I felt I probably deserved it. My mental health was already in varying lows, with low self-esteem, so this abuse was only making me worse off.

On top of being afraid to say something, I was embarrassed. It was very humiliating to be over-powered and used. I was trying to hold onto every ounce of pride and dignity I could muster. And I revisited my survival mode many more times while he had his way with me. Forget dating. I tried to date, but every time he put his hands on me, I felt like I was getting filth on me, and thus my love interest shouldn’t touch me. I pushed people away.

Breaking Point

New Year’s Eve 2001. The country club held an annual gala. Hundreds of fancy people eating fancy food, drinking fancy drinks, dancing to fancy music, wearing fancy attire. Also a mandatory work night for all staff. The event was taking place in the center of the building, in the Grand Ballroom, the largest of the rooms. All managers on duty, with walkie talkies. Every person in that building was in the Grand Ballroom, leaving all other areas of the building dark and vacant. Something that most wouldn’t even care about, but caused severe anxiety for me. I knew I would end up in one of these dark corners at some point that night.

I remember feeling particularly depressed this New Year’s. My bipolar was spiraling and I occasionally self-harmed. I was a student at the community college, and I had made some new friends there. These friends were giving me a new light, and were actually making me feel better. We had fun together. And we had plans to bring the new year in together that night, once I was off work.

C was more aggressive than usual that night. He caught me the second I was released from my shift. The liquor stench radiated from his nasty mouth. At this point, I knew it was close to 11:00, and I had to meet my friends. He took his time. He was loud and cocky. I wanted to scream so badly, but I knew all bodies were in the Grand Ballroom with fancy champagne and fancy mini-cakes. I just remember feeling so weak and exhausted. I attempted to get in touch with my inner self and make a New Year’s resolution. But I couldn’t even do that.

At this point, I just shut down mentally. I heard the muffled sound of a countdown and the “Happy New Year!” I was too numb to be disappointed that I’d missed my plans.

That night I dragged my body into my bedroom. And into the drawer where I kept my medications. And I took them all. Every last pill.

I curled up in bed beside my mother and just cried. My body was shaking. I wanted nothing more than to just disappear. This is the suicide attempt that landed me in the psychiatric hospital. That was also, by some miracle, the last time C touched me. I never told anybody about this. Until recently.

Demons Came a Knockin

A few days ago I logged into my Facebook to feed my social media addiction and post some new photos of the cutest baby ever. My mood somewhat chipper, and nowhere deep. Until I hit my notifications and there he was. The monster who used to drag me to dark rooms and press his super strong manhood onto my teenage body. That fucking asshole had the audacity to request permission into my life. My sacred, blessing-filled life! There was no way in hell I would ever allow him to smear his filth anywhere near my world again. I left it alone for a minute until I was collected enough to write him a private message:

You have some nerve sending me a friend request. After the shit you used to pull on me when I was barely 18 years old. I hate you and I think you are a disgusting piece of shit. You forced yourself on me. More than once. Of course you knew I couldn’t say anything because your mommy was a manager & you were a hot shot cook. I was just a dumb little banquet server with a wild reputation. Nobody would ever believe me. I’d lose my job before you would ever get in trouble. And you knew it. Do you know the last time you forced me to have sex with you- on New Year’s, in an empty banquet room- I went home and tried to kill myself. I overdosed because of you. I ended up in the hospital. And still- I couldn’t say anything. I just had to go along with whatever everyone else said about us. In reality I hated you. You made me feel like shit. I thought it was my fault. You knew you could prey on me & you did. I know you did this shit to others too. You tried to make it out like it was consensual, but it never was. I just had to shut up & take it because you were stronger than me. I would never touch you voluntarily. You are a pathetic waste of flesh. I hope I never have to see you again. My life is amazing now. I’m doing great & I’m happy. So help me god, if we ever cross paths, you will regret ever laying a hand on me.

I know this was a long and harrowing story. But I felt I needed to share my experience. I am so much stronger in many ways than I used to be. It’s oddly cathartic to have sent that message to him. He has not written back. I don’t even care if he does. He can’t hurt me anymore than he already has. There are too many precious things in my life now. I truly hate him.

Also, if you are EVER in a position where somebody is forcing them self on you, or making you uncomfortable, please tell somebody. I was very sick mentally, and became lost. Don’t lose yourself. Speak up about sexual assault.

Thanks for listening.

World Autism Awareness Day

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April is Autism Awareness month and today is Autism Awareness day. In support for Autism Spectrum Disorders, I’ve posted this list of myths and facts found on autism.about.com. I thought this was pretty informative.

1. Autistic People Are All Alike

Myth: If I’ve met an autistic person (or seen the movie Rain Man), I have a good idea of what all autistic people are like.

Fact: Autistic people are as different from one another as they could be. The only elements that ALL autistic people seem to have in common are unusual difficulty with social communication.

2. Autistic People Don’t Have Feelings

Myth: Autistic people cannot feel or express love or empathy.

Fact: Many — in fact, most — autistic people are extremely capable of feeling and expressing love, though sometimes in idiosyncratic ways! What’s more, many autistic people are far more empathetic than the average person, though they may express their empathy in unusual ways.

3. Autistic People Don’t Build Relationships

Myth: Autistic people cannot build solid relationships with others.

Fact: While it’s unlikely that an autistic child will be a cheerleader, it is very likely that they will have solid relationships with, at the very least, their closest family members. And many autistic people do build strong friendships through shared passionate interests. There are also plenty of autistic people who marry and have satisfying romantic relationships.

4. Autistic People Are a Danger to Society

Myth: Autistic people are dangerous.

Fact: Recent news reports of an individual with Asperger Syndrome committing violent acts have led to fears about violence and autism. While there are many autistic individuals who exhibit violent behaviors, those behaviors are almost always caused by frustration, physical and/or sensory overload, and similar issues. It’s very rare for an autistic person to act violently out of malice.

5. All Autistic People Are Savants

Myth: Autistic people have amazing “savant” abilities, such as extraordinary math skills or musical skills.

Fact: It is true that a relatively few autistic people are “savants.” These individuals have what are called “splinter skills” which relate only to one or two areas of extraordinary ability. By far the majority of autistic people, though, have ordinary or even less-than-ordinary skill sets.

6. Autistic People Have No Language Skills

Myth: Most autistic people are non-verbal or close to non-verbal.

Fact: Individuals with a classic autism diagnosis are sometimes non-verbal or nearly non-verbal. But the autism spectrum also includes extremely verbal individuals with very high reading skills. Diagnoses at the higher end of the spectrum are increasing much faster than diagnoses at the lower end of the spectrum.

7. Autistic People Can’t Do Much of Anything

Myth: I shouldn’t expect much of an autistic person.

Fact: This is one myth that, in my opinion, truly injures our children. Autistic individuals can achieve great things — but only if they’re supported by people who believe in their potential. Autistic people are often the creative innovators in our midst. They see the world through a different lens — and when their perspective is respected, they can change the world.

For more information on Autism, visit these links below:

Autism Speaks

Autism Society

About.com Autism Spectrum Disorders

 

World Bipolar Day!

Today is World Bipolar Day & I want you to go on a journey in your mind to the places you’ve been, the changes you’ve made, the strengths you’ve developed, the people you’ve loved, & the person you’ve become. Take this time to nurture yourself & celebrate you. You are beautiful!

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Is Instagram the New Port for Mentally Unhealthy Behavior?

TRIGGER WARNING. I advise you to take caution before reading this. There are photos and material containing heavy content.

It takes a lot to shock me. So when I decided to innocently search for ‘bipolar’ on Instagram, I was shocked at how shocked I became. Photos of girls consisting of skin and bones in their underwear, pictures of sliced and bloody arms and legs, declarations of suicidal desires, the list goes on.

The only way to really express what I’m referring to is to show you. (These images were taken directly and anonymously from Instagram. I do not have ownership rights.)

photo 2 (1) photo 3 photo 1 (2) photo 3 (1)
These images are just a few of many that I saw. All I typed in was ‘bipolar’ with the intention of finding something valuable for this blog, perhaps a quote or whatever. Instead I discovered an entire underground network.

I began to click on various profiles with names similar to ‘anas_helper’, ‘selfharmerr’, and ‘lifeish0peless’. As I read the comment feeds, I saw a true camaraderie between young sufferers. For those battling eating disorders, the support is unbelievable. By support you may be thinking encouragment for recovery. While I’m sure there is positive support on Instagram, that’s not the kind I’m talking about here. On more than one account, I saw users post what seems to be a crest of the eating disorder community.

photoThe picture encourages followers to like it, in exchange for an hour of fasting. It’s sobering to see how many people liked the picture because these people really want this girl to accomplish her goal of not feeding her body. One can only assume that they are just as ill as she is. Other things I noticed were Instagram users giving each other tips on how to hide food so their parents would think they are eating, how to hide a scale in their room, tricks to boost metabolism, and more. These self proclaimed anorexics and bulimics even have weigh ins.

Another community with a heavy influence are those who self injure, specifically those who cut themselves. You find many photos of young folks who have hacked themselves up something awful. It appeared to really be a story of one cutter triggering another. photo 4 (1)

From the various accounts I saw a lot of the same names supporting one another, and thus posting their own bloody pictures. Some of them were suicidal, some were just content with the razor blade release.

Now, I’m not going to talk about the dynamics of self harm, or even eating disorders in this post. This is simply to expose a community of no doubt, thousands of suffering people. This is simply for awareness.

You may be wondering what role Instagram plays in this. I decided to test out a couple of different hashtags to see what came up and here’s what I got whe I typed in “cutting”:

photo 1

And here’s what popped up when I typed in “anorexia”:

photo 2

I was surprised and glad to see that some advisory is in place for potentially dangerous situations. I also know this is a CYA, otherwise known as ‘cover your ass’ for the company. But I guess it isn’t their responsibility to make sure everyone is safe on an open sharing network. I did not select the ‘learn more’ option, so I can’t say for sure what anyone would be learning, or if it gives help options or what. And it is very easy to just select the ‘show posts’ option anyway, which I did. For shits and giggles, I tested out a few other hashtags, ‘sex’, ‘nude’, and ‘fuck’. For each of these, IG clams there are ‘no tags found’.

I don’t know if any of you already knew of these underground support systems, but it is scary at how uncontrolled an environment this is. I know it is extremely difficult sometimes when dealing with a mental illness. I do. I just found this interesting and wanted to share it with you. Please leave a comment on your thoughts.

Updated March 26, 2014
I’ve received a lot of feedback on this article which has raised some questions.

Why did I write this article? Well, I simply wanted to raise awareness to something very serious that is occurring in social media, in this case, Instagram.

What do I hope to accomplish with this post? The awareness needs to spread to the people who can stop these underground communities. If enough of us are made aware, then real action can occur.

What help can I offer? While this was written as primarily informational, not necessarily clinical, I do want to address these topics of self harm and eating disorders. If you or someone you know is harming themselves, or is suicidal, or is starving, binging/purging, then you or your loved one need to get help right away. Here are some resources that may be useful to you:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
National Eating Disorder Association

I hope this helps to clear up any confusion. Thank you all for stopping by. I know this is a tough one to swallow. Take care.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2/23 – 3/01

Eating disorders are serious illnesses, not a lifestyle choice. I’m taking this on a different note for a moment, to bring awareness to an important topic. Please join me in Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2014. NEDAWPartner500 I understand this is primarily a bipolar disorder blog, but I believe in overall awareness for mental health issues, and would like to take this opportunity to spread some awareness on the issue of eating disorders. On top of that, somebody very close to me has suffered from an eating disorder, so the topic hits a little close to home.

The Basics
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), these are the basic characteristics of some of the most common types of eating disorder:

Anorexia Nervosa:

  • Restricting food intake to below the requirements for a particular individuals physical requirements
  • Intense fear of weight gain and obsession with weight and continual behaviors to prevent weight gain
  • Inability to recognize true body shape or recognize the seriousness of condition
  • May or may not use binge eating and/or purging behaviors

Bulimia Nervosa:

  • Eating an unusually large amount of food at one time followed by compensatory behaviors (such as vomiting, taking laxatives and/or excessive exercise) to prevent weight gain
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge-eating occurrence
  • Self-judgment largely based on weight and shape

Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Recurrent situations of eating an unusually large amount of food at one time
  • A feeling of being out of control during the behavior
  • May have feelings of shame or guilt towards eating which can lead to eating alone
  • May eat until the individual is beyond full to the point of discomfort

Note: There are several other types of feeding or eating disorders outlined in the DSM-5. Many people may not have every symptom of a disorder, but may still receive a feeding or eating disorder diagnosis.

Eating disorders – such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder can include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. It can affect women and men of varying ages and backgrounds. Eating disorders can be triggered by familial or genetic factors, media influences, or even trauma. ED’s are very common among athletes and dancers as well. (about.eatingdisorders.com)

Women LearnMalesEDMyths About EDs
These are some common beliefs about eating disorders. Please help to educate others on the realities.

Everyone with an eating disorder is really thin. Although people with anorexia nervosa weigh well below their ideal body weight, this is not true for people with bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder: these sufferers may be at or above their ideal weight range.

Eating disorders are a female illness. While most cases tend to be prevalent among females, about 10% of those in the United States with eating disorders are male.

It’s a youth thing. Research has shown that the majority of eating disorders develop during adolescence — a period of rapid physical and social change for most people. It is sometimes assumed that people ‘grow out’ of eating disorders, and they are not an issue once middle age approaches. The truth is, several middle aged women (and men) seek treatment for an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are for white people. It’s no secret that historically, the face of eating disorders belongs to the Caucasian person. But know that the rates of eating disorders all over the world are rising, even in places like China, India, Mexico, and South Africa. Within Western cultures, eating disorders are found in all ethnicities. Note that African American women have lower rates of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, as it is believed that their cultural body ideal is heavier and more voluptuous. However, they experience the same rates of binge eating disorder as Caucasians.

Eating disorders are caused by dysfunctional families. Recent research has shown that eating disorders develop primarily as a result of biological and genetic causes, in conjunction with social and environmental pressures, which may or may not include familial stress.

Get Involved
Here’s how you can learn more about eating disorders and promote awareness.

NEDA
National Eating Disorder Association
eatingdisorders.about.com
National Institute of Mental Health – Eating Disorders
A Day in the Life of Someone with an Eating Disorder

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.

Bipolar Valentine Part 2: Adventures in Dating

You have mastered the art of first impressions. It’s easy to reel them in and land the date. As long as what’s underneath doesn’t creep it’s way to the surface, that is. How does a person with bipolar disorder survive the dating world? My answer: mindfully.

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In 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.

The noise in your head is louder than the conversation between you and your date, but you somehow manage to keep your composure. Your date is beyond attractive. You still cannot believe you are here. Your head is getting louder and you can’t feel your tongue. Now this could sound like any first date jitters, but the difference between jitters and what you are experiencing is the fact that any chance of a future with you and this person, in reality, includes you, this attractive person, and your bipolar. The three of you. Admittedly, knowing this can be discouraging.

Dating in itself is hard. It is full of anxiety and expectations. Dating when you have a mental disorder creates it’s own set of difficulties because the disorder isn’t typically visible to the naked eye. Mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or depression, or even anxiety disorders don’t necessarily have symptoms all the time. Mood swings and triggers induce symptoms that result in behavioral changes. Understandably, this can be a huge pain in the ass when in the market for a mate.

So, what makes for smooth dating?

First and foremost, make sure you are ready to date. I’m not saying all of your ducks need to be in a row. (I mean really, who’s are?) I’m referring to having your mental health in check. Are you stable? Have you been consistent with your medication? Are you depressed? Manic? Having thoughts of harming yourself? You know the rest. It is so very important to be in a healthy place before bringing someone new into your life. If you are not really ready, then it’s not only unfair to that person, but it’s unfair to yourself. Besides, dating is fun and the point is to enjoy one another. You can’t do that if you are sick.

Another key to dating is to know yourself. Know where you stand on issues such as marriage and children. Odds are they will come up at some point and it’s no secret that bipolar disorder can complicate these things. But please know bipolar is not poison to domesticity! (I can tell you first-hand.)

When do you spill the beans?

No doubt this is the scariest part. The part of dating when you have to tell your partner about the thing that you try to not let define you. The thing that can turn you from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde in a matter of minutes. The thing that allows you to hear colors and taste sounds. The thing called bipolar disorder.

It’s tricky because it is possible to reveal your bipolarity too soon, and it is also possible to reveal it too late. The best time to bring it up is as the relationship has reached a level of intimacy where you are ready to be exclusive and make a commitment to one another. When you are entering a deeper trust mode.

When talking about bipolar, be mindful that the person you are talking to may not have had previous experience with it, at the same time they may have had a bad experience with it in the past. This is also a highly stigmatized disorder. Be delicate, but make it clear that what you are about to talk about is important and personal. Gauge the conversation as you go, and try not to react to their reaction if it is not what you expected. Go ahead and tell them about your treatment regime and your feelings with having the diagnosis. Try not to use a ton of technical medical terms so it’s a little less intimidating, and easily comprehensible.

d9d34d2303b499e42364119e0aef7cacBack in 2006, when my wife and I were just dating, I remember being pretty nervous about telling her my diagnosis of bipolar type 1. I really liked that girl a lot and was so scared she would think I was defective or crazy or something. I waited until we had been dating about a month. At this point we had grown exceptionally close and developed intimacy. We went on a camping trip and I basically blurted it out at the campfire. She didn’t freak out or judge me. I learned that she had previous experience with her mother being bipolar. Her life growing up with an untreated bipolar mother was mostly dysfunctional, so she has seen the ugly side of the disorder. Of course because of this I thought she would run, but instead she was very knowledgeable and chose to give me a shot. It’s about learning to trust one another and take chances.

What about the dreaded psych hospital?

So you and your new mate have been dating for a handful of months and all is peachy. And then it happens. The dreaded episode. It could be depression or mania- doesn’t matter, either is shattering. And you find yourself in a psychiatric hospital. Perhaps you’ve been there before or maybe it’s your first time. Either way, on top of regaining stability and utilizing treatment, you are going mad over the fact that you have to tell the new girl/boyfriend that their partner is in the looney bin. What is the best way to handle this situation?

Well, for starters, make sure you keep your partner in the loop prior to any hospitalizations. Granted, that may be awkward since it’s still in the beginning stages, but it may help to bring up treatment options and discuss the possibility of being admitted into the hospital for a medication adjustment.

I was first hospitalized when I was 18. At that time I was dating a wonderful girl who treated me well. While we weren’t that serious yet, after a couple of months I could see it going somewhere. Maybe it’s because I was young, or because I was freshly diagnosed, I never told her about my bipolar disorder. I think she got used to my moodiness so when I didn’t call her for a few days, she wasn’t concerned. I didn’t tell her I was in the hospital. I was too ashamed and didn’t want her to see me like that. When I didn’t call her for even longer, she figured that I just didn’t want to see her anymore. When I was finally discharged, I assumed she didn’t want to see me so I didn’t call her. For years I regretted not contacting her and I wondered what could have been. (Side note: We did reacquaint years later and she wished I’d have talked to her about what was going on with me. We have since drifted, but I was able to gain closure. And I have since been happily married to my wife.)

Try these suggestions for dating done right:

If you see things going in the positive direction with your new partner, encourage them to educate themselves a little bit on bipolar disorder. There are a lot of good books and websites available. This could make it a little less overwhelming for them and establish a connection between the two of you. It also makes it easier when you do open up about what you are experiencing.

Be honest about what you need. For instance if you are feeling depressed, maybe you don’t need someone to try to cheer you up. Maybe quiet meditation serves a better function. Make it clear what is helpful and what isn’t.

Share your positive qualities. We all know having bipolar also comes with some intriguing qualities as well. We’re vibrant, creative, passionate, and unique!

b08191d09ac31c91ed1f84e56576f8eeCan it become more?

So you really dig this person with whom you’ve been canoodling and you’re starting to feel the urge to utter the little ‘ol “L” word. Good for you! Of course there is so much running through your head. It’s no secret that relationships with a bipolar partner tend to not fare well. Statically 90% of bipolar marriages end in divorce. That’s depressing in itself. Don’t let the statistics scare you. It is possible to take it to the next level. Just check in with yourself often and put forth the effort to maintain stability.

I will be focusing on marriage and long-term relationships in the third and final segment, Bipolar Valentine Part 3: In Sickness and Health, Mania and Depression. And if you haven’t already, check out my previous segment Bipolar Valentine Part 1: Is It Love or Just Bipolar?

Bipolar Valentine Part 1: Is It Love or Just Bipolar?

You feel sexy. You feel on top of the world. Your heart has never been more full. You’ve never been so turned on. You want attention- and you’re getting it. It’s euphoric. It’s definitely love…or is it?

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In 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.

Well, is it love? Or is it bipolar?

Picture that you just met someone you are insanely attracted to. You notice every single detail about their perfectly angled face, the tiny dimple on the left side near their mouth, and their adorable laugh. You are dizzy with intoxication by the very scent of this perfect human specimen. Upon this meeting, you are charming, so very charming. And you are drunk on your own sex appeal. You are suddenly very aware of your flesh. You take notice of every detail of the night air, senses beyond heightened, and you are convinced that that very moment was created especially for you. You and this person with whom you share a heavy fondness. Not only are you practicing your most seductive moves, you desire to make love all night long, and release yourself into the throes of passion. Sighhhhhh. Sounds like a scene straight from a romance novel. Could it be love? Perhaps. But in someone with bipolar disorder, these feelings could be symptoms of hypomania or mania. Common signs of mania include feeling unusually high and optimistic (or irritable), grandiose ideas, racing thoughts, impulsiveness, impaired judgment, little need for sleep, unrealistic beliefs, delusions, acting recklessly without consequence, feelings of euphoria, and increased sex drive, also known as hypersexuality.

“When you’re in a hypomanic or manic state, you’re also more likely to feel you’re in love,” says Elizabeth Haase, MD, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and a member Human Sexuality Committee of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry. “You may then act on that feeling when making major long-term life decisions, not understanding your state had something to do with what you were feeling.”

For someone enduring a manic or hypomanic episode, sex is often the main course in a banquet of other amplified feelings and behavior. Hypersexuality is when someone experiencing bipolar hypomania or mania has an increased libido or is excessively interested or involved in sexual activity. The thing is, a high sex drive isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, most of us would think that is quite wonderful! It becomes problematic when there is no regard for consequences that could become of the sexual activity. This can include extramarital affairs or cheating on your girl or boyfriend. Sexually transmitted diseases are a tremendous concern as well, especially if someone is sleeping with multiple partners. Regret and shame are often the result of impulsive sexual activity. Hypersexuality can also trigger a sex addiction in some people. And don’t forget about the interpreted emotional connection people tend to believe they are feeling with their sex partner. The bitter aftermath of manic sexual relationships typically end in heartbreak, one side or the other.

29d9c9b8a66dc439b71fa7773c55575cI do recall experiencing a pretty wild manic episode in my early twenties where I felt like I was on fire. I was feeling hot, looking good, and my moves were working for me. (I was also delusional, had extreme grandiose ideas, drank too much, did too much cocaine, and felt on top of the world.) I was very in tune with my sexual side and ended up dating four girls at the same time! In my mind I was a sex goddess. Who needs sleep when you can do other things all night long? Of course I also felt I had an emotional connection with each of them. Everything was intense and special. That is until I started to come out of my mania. I first had a breakdown, then like most manic episodes, I had a huge mess to clean up. Needless to say, people got hurt and I was confused, emotionally.

So, how do you know the difference?

It is important to know what triggers your episodes. Examine all other areas of your life. If any of the symptoms of manic or even depressed episodes seem to describe your life, then something is off balanced. If you are on medication, make sure you are taking them as prescribed. If you take them as you are supposed to and are still experiencing manic symptoms, then it is imperative to talk to your doctor for an adjustment. And if you are comfortable with the path you are leading, regardless of how reckless, I urge you to use protection, for reasons I don’t need to explain.

If you are in the clear and pretty balanced, but still have feelings of intense passion and attraction to a certain special someone, then it sounds like you have a hot, steamy case of romance! If done right, both lust and love are very rewarding. Those intense feelings are consistent with the beginning stages of romantic relationships.

ecee8e6b34c6c1f06bd39cb5ea18f657I can’t say it enough, it is so healthy to know yourself and your bipolar patterns. New love is on the list of common potential triggers. There are so many emotions and changes that even non-bipolar folks act like fools when they are smitten by a beautiful new face. Also, don’t ever be discouraged because you have bipolar disorder. There are many bipolar people in successful relationships. I will be exploring bipolar dating in my next segment, Bipolar Valentine Part 2: Adventures in Dating.