Thoughts On New Bipolar Drama, ‘Black Box’

Tonight I finally had a date with my DVR and the pilot episode of the new ABC series, ‘Black Box’.

The show is about Dr. Catherine Black, a neuroscientist who works at The Center for Neurological Research and Treatment. This world famous doctor has bipolar disorder. She hides it from some, while others can’t escape from it.

Catherine, played by Kelly Reilly, has a non-compliance issue with taking her meds, which the show made prevalent when she decided to come off of them. Her mania was triggered, and she experienced symptoms such as delusions of grandeur, hypersexuality, hallucinations, increased energy, rapid speech, and grandiosity. She ended up hurting her boyfriend/(sort of fiance), and she almost messed things up at work. The show features Vanessa Redgrave as her psychiatrist, and shows them meeting often to discuss Catherine’s mental state and returning her to stability.

My Thoughts
I really liked it! I had been obsessing about watching it for weeks before it premiered. So far, I can absolutely relate to Catherine, in terms of bipolar, and I can even say I idolized her a little bit. Yes, her actions made me think about my own non-compliance issues and I suddenly felt a desire to cut the drugs and free myself into a colorful mania of my own. I may or may not have made a comment about this, and my wife, who was watching it with me, gave me one of her famous “I don’t think so” looks. We have a deal that if I can’t stay on meds, she (and the baby) can’t stay with me. Okay, well that’s more of an ultimatum than a deal, but for the most part it works.

Anyway, I think that bipolar disorder was represented very well (except maybe the rapidness of the episode onset), and Dr. Catherine Black’s character was portrayed beautifully. I, personally, feel the symptoms are accurate and I have had most all of them myself. I think ‘Black Box’ is groundbreaking in the sense that bipolar disorder has never been seen before in this light. We have all dealt with such an incredible stigma due to our illness and this show expresses the rawness and truth of what manic and depressive episodes can be like. It is a very vulnerable and necessary place to be.

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The Time My Mania Impulsively Bought A Hot Rod

I was nineteen and in the early years of my bipolar diagnosis. I was old enough to know better and young enough not to care. And I was manic. I held a part time job, went to community college, and drove a perfectly fine car for a young person. But I was bored. I was always bored. I stumbled across a photo of a bad ass hot rod in the paper, and decided I had to have it. This vehicle was a Cougar with custom leather seats, bright blue velour upholstery, custom airbrush graphics of skulls on the interior panels, under carriage lights, a chrome skull on the grill, and was lowered two inches. This tinted-window beauty was a retired show car, also the winner of over fifteen trophies, and named ‘Car of the year’ by Hot Rod Magazine. Amid the purple and blue flames on the body, was a tiny grim reaper, and beside him read the air brushed slogan “Evil shouldn’t look this good”. The name of the car was also printed on the back, “Wicked”.  I know it sounds cheesy as hell. But back in the day, it was hot.

I immediately drove the hour to Wicked’s home, and took her for a long test drive. The sound system was kickin; the breeze in my hair. I fell in love with the chrome rims and skull shaped shifter. The owner even threw in a matching lighter.

Boom. I handed him a fat wad of cash. It was everything I had won from a lawsuit the previous year, probably in savings for a reason. But who cares?  Wicked was mine!

I drove her home, feeling the biggest rush. I could sense everyone on the road looking in my direction. This car was hot. It made me hot.

When I showed my mother, whom I was sharing an apartment with at the time, she was in shock. She reminded me that I already had a car and didn’t need two. She couldn’t believe I’d spent all my money. While she made an effort to be happy for me, looking back, I can see she was uncertain it was the best idea.

I was in love with the attention I got. This was exactly what I needed to fuel my manic high. There was no other vehicle like this on the road. I was unique. And very grandiose.

I landed myself a fair share of tickets over time. It got backed into once, causing some damage. It had also been broken into on multiple occasions. The car was even stolen once, but oddly, I found it myself. While Wicked was beautiful (and the exact drug i needed), I wasn’t able to take proper care of her and ended up selling her to a drunk guy in the dark.

Have you ever made an impulsively large purchase while manic? 

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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.

 

Sometimes I Get So Angry…

Oh my goodness I need to rant right now. I don’t know what it is but my wife is seriously pissing me off today. For no apparent reason. I’m trying to put this situation into perspective. She just started a brand new job last week after two years being home, while I just returned to work this week after a five month lay-off. We have a four month old baby. We’re super exhausted. And I know with the seasonal changes upon us, my bipolar tends to remind me of it’s existence. I don’t know what to do. Maybe I’m making excuses for our fighting. Maybe not. I hate feeling so angry. FRIENDS-FIGHTING

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.)

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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”:

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

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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

So Very Vivid is the Art of Bipolar Dreaming

I felt her embrace, her breath. Her words were crystal clear. She said “Please stay. You can’t go”. And she held me tighter. And I did stay. It was a mind-blowing, surreal night. And it was with another woman. She was radiant. Magnetic. And I didn’t have a care in the world. Mostly because it wasn’t real. It was all a figment of my tortured imagination. And the female is simply a musician (who I will probably never meet) whom I happen to have a crush. When I dream a dream, I go all the way to produce the most vivid dreams I can, even if that means removing normal elements -such as the fact that I’m married- from the situation. If I’m lucky, I am able to remember the dream in the morning, which often then lingers in my thoughts for the duration of my day.

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Dreams are so interesting because it’s been known that most everybody has them, yet there is no solid reason why. Several interpretation theories have surfaced throughout time, and some commonalities have been determined. While everyone has dreams, some of us have much more vivid dreams than others. There are links between vivid dreams and mental illness, including bipolar disorder.

One reason is dreams and nightmares occur during REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep. In normal sleepers, there is more deep sleep at first, and then as the hours pass, periods of REM sleep become longer. This general pattern, however, can be distorted or disrupted by any one of a number of sleep disorders or disturbances, many of which have been shown to be associated with bipolar disorder. (bipolar.about.com)

The most common sleep disorders include insomnia and hypersomnia. Other factors that disturb your sleep include medical conditions, antipsychotics or antidepressants, other over the counter medications and prescriptions, environmental factors, stress, and your sleep schedule.

Vivid vs. Average Dreams

For the most part, everybody has dreams. The majority of dreams are forgotten by morning, and those remembered are usually in fragments. About 80% of dreams are in color, but some are in black and white. Vivid dreams are like a typical dream on steroids. Basically it is so incredibly lifelike that upon waking, it is difficult to distinguish the difference between the dream and reality. It is easier to recall vivid dreams, as they leave such an imprint on the dreamer’s mind. I know I can recall each sensory detail of my most vivid dreams.

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Lucid Dreams and Nightmares

Lucid dreaming is an unusual state of consciousness where you are having a vivid dream, but you are aware that you are dreaming. This allows the dreamer the choice to exit or remain in the dream. Sometimes lucid dreams can be confusing and the dreamer may believe items or people in the room are in fact something other than what they are. This can be entertaining to the dreamer, as well as potentially embarrassing. For instance, had I acted out my steamy dream from last night, my wife would have probably wondered what was up!

Lucid nightmares are exactly like lucid dreams, except they are terrifying. What’s worse is the dreamer knows they are dreaming, but are struggling to wake up. Often feelings of being trapped or being attacked are common.

Sex It Up

According to a recent study at the University of Montreal, sex dreams make up about 8 percent of all dreams for both men and women. (Me!)  Society’s openness regarding sex, coupled with our growing interest in understanding dream content has taught us that, according to most theorists, sex dreams are rarely about sex at all – no matter how hot they might be. It is believed that the mind is hungry for the kind of psychological union represented as a physical union in the dreaming mind. I say this is an interesting theory, but I’m pretty sure many of my dreams are merely about getting down and fucking dirty!

Sleep Plays a Role

Sure, us folks with bipolar have more intense (& sexier) dreams (sorry- I’m still reliving last night!), but there are some things to keep in mind. Sleep is affected by many factors that need to be controlled. Getting quality sleep also helps regulate moods and prevent episodes. These suggestions are a challenge and I admit I struggle to follow them, but they are ideal goals and can be really beneficial.

  • Go to bed & wake up at the same time each day
  • Take meds as directed
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol 3-5 hours before bed
  • Refrain from computer, TV, or phone screen use
  • Read or meditate to wind down
  • Establish a routine for evening and morning

If you get some good, quality slumber tonight, then I wish you all some intense vivid dreaming! It’s also fun to write your dreams down in a journal to preserve the absurdity. Feel free to leave comments on this or share your dream experiences!