Touched With Fire: Bipolar Movie Review

My review of ‘Touched with Fire’, a film about bipolar disorder.

I saw it twice. Last weekend, and again today. I don’t get to see many new films and I hardly ever go to the movies. But I’ve been waiting for this to hit theaters. And hit it did. For me anyway. The first viewing of TWF ignited so many emotions in me. I admit my expectations weren’t high considering the media doesn’t paint mental illness too favorably. I guess my guard was up. I was rooting for this film so much before even seeing it. I was rooting for the bipolar audience.

Synopsis

Meet Marco, played by Luke Kirby, and Carla, played by Katie Holmes. Both of are incredibly talented writers. Both of them are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. From my educated opinion, research, and personal experience, I would say they have bipolar type 1. Bipolar disorder type 1 is characterized by extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression), and can be accompanied by psychosis. Both Marco and Carla are patients in a psychiatric hospital when they meet and they form an intense bond. Together they ignite each other’s fire. They sneak around in the hospital, and eventually form a relationship on the outside, which is front and center to a whirlwind rollercoaster.

Writer/director, Paul Dalio based the characters off of himself, and the film from his own experiences with bipolar. He incorporates the strong influence of art, poetry, famous people with mental illness, and the bipolar queen, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. Dr. Jamison even has a cameo in the movie.

Critique

One reason I saw TWF a second time is to make sure I wasn’t going to review it based solely on my rush of emotions. But the truth is, Touched With Fire is actually very emotional. Dalio represents a very realistic insight into the bipolar life. Manic episodes are unruly, impulsive, unbelievably creative, and indescribably passionate. These episodes are just as defiant and destructive. We see this in both Carla and Marco. We also see them crash. Again, each action and thought from the characters ring into true suicidal depression. As someone who’s lived with type 1 for over 16 years, I could absolutely relate to where these characters were, in each moment. I can’t imagine that the rest of the audience didn’t feel this spilling from the screen as well.

Another area that Dalio dove into is the realities of medication non-compliance. Non-compliance is a serious symptom of the illness. (I still fight my wife about taking my meds.) The film gives Carla and Marco an opportunity to demonstrate their views on why they don’t like to be medicated. Once off of the meds, there is a gradual deconstruction of their mental states, showing what happens when someone with severe bipolar disorder is not accepting treatment. It also involves their parents, who all seem to be pretty supportive and caring, while showing how the manic and depressive episodes affect them.

Katie Holmes makes a return to the screen, playing Carla, and her performance really did give me goosebumps. Luke Kirby was born to play the part of Marco. Both actors portrayed the challenge of channeling the characters’ emotions, actions, impulses, thoughts, desires, and talents. They nailed it.

My only less than positive critique is that this film is not for everybody. I guess this isn’t really critiquing the film, but rather the audience. For people who know absolutely nothing about mental illness, or who are not here to learn about it, go see something else. I was biting my tongue each time the woman down my row would obnoxiously laugh at the psychosis Marco was experiencing or the manic love the characters had. She took no social cue that nobody else was laughing until about a third of the way through the film.

Last Words

The first time I watched Touched With Fire, I got choked up so many times. I felt Paul Dalio was pulling material from inside my head. The moon plays a heavy influence in the film, and I have a huge obsession with the moon. And I’m sure many, many bipolar folks are writers with moon obsessions, but in the moment, it spoke to me. The frustration of Holmes’ character as she tries to learn of her life prior to becoming sick, to Luke Kirby’s character philosophizing every single thing. My mania has dragged me to that point too many times. I was crying at many points during the film. I was scheming on which medications to stop taking. The second time I saw the film, it was much more cognitive. I studied their behaviors and of course, compared myself to some, but mostly just watched the transformation from hypomania to mania to severe depression to being stable to impulsively triggering instability.

Overall, an excellent film. I will be adding it to my personal library. It’s only in select theaters right now, but if possible, go see it.

TWF

 

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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

When my Bipolar Starts Speaking in Rhymes

Sometimes I feel a little needy,
But I’d never let it show.
To quench my thirst makes me seem greedy,
I guess you’re not the last to know.

I’m trying not to get stoned,
And I really want a drink.
Well, at least just for tonight,
I’m trying not to think.

Bipolar pills mouth

My free spirit has been building high,
Tattooed wings inside a cage.
I smuggle sunshine in my mind,
And shove the blame on manic rage.

I’ll try not to get too stoned,
And I want a second drink.
Well, at least just for tonight,
I’m trying not to think.

Desperate urges send electric shocks,
Pharmaceutical relief.
I contain my soul inside a box,
Swallow them with no release.

I’m already way beyond stoned,
And I regret that other drink.
Well, at least just for tonight,
It’s impossible to think.

Music Therapy – Tegan and Sara, “Not With You”

This song brings on strong emotions for me for some reason. Maybe you’ll get something out of it too.

“Not With You” – Tegan and Sara

I can’t believe I’ve let you in
And now here I am
Telling you that I’m suffocating in here
Just like the drugs you are keeping me
I felt shark teeth underneath my socks
Before I lost much blood

Around this world will I be enough?

From the liquor stores
To the train stop floors
Your filthy room your drama blues
I am nothing if I’m not with you
I’m always right always wrong
Dressing bad is like loving you
There is nothing I haven’t worn
Nothing I haven’t said before

Your fluid is thick against my sheets
When you look at me
Oh so angry I know it’s true
My strength has come from loving you
Behavior I just can’t grow into
So you fake and you flaw
For your cops and your cause
It makes no difference to me
It’s love that you stole, that you stole

From the liquor stores
To the train stop floors
Your filthy room your drama blues
I am nothing if I’m not with you
I’m always right always wrong
Dressing bad is like loving you
There is nothing I haven’t worn
Nothing I haven’t said before so here I am

Around this world will I be enough?

This is nothing I haven’t said before
You are nothing I haven’t felt before

All Aboard the Manic Train!

The train horn induces an ear-to-ear grin type of euphoria. Maybe it’s the heat with the sun shining the brightest it’s ever been. Maybe it’s the Tegan and Sara I’ve been playing on repeat for days. Maybe it’s because I will attend their concert in less than 24 hours. Maybe it’s because this is my first time traveling alone. Maybe I’m just excited to see my good friend and stay in her Chicago apartment.

(Side note: I ‘met’ this friend during a slightly manic phase about four years ago. Actually, I anonymously sought her out online because I liked the way she looked and thought she seemed cool. I randomly sent her a friend request. She surprisingly accepted. I initiated conversation until she eventually let me in. Exchanged numbers and life stories. And we’ve officially met in person twice now. Today will be number three.)

What caused this mental tickle to develop may be a combination of all the above. I don’t know. But I do know that I keep singing aloud on this hushed locomotive. I’ve also laughed aloud a few times. I just feel so amazing! I truly have so much excitement in my little self that I may explode! I am absolutely in love with everything and everyone right now.

20140617-204402-74642712.jpg

I don’t know if I should be taking notes on these incredible feelings. I kind of want to say fuck it, and just allow myself to really feel everything. Either way, I’ll check in at some point.

Saying it Aloud Makes it Real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Selfie: A Social Trend or Mental Illness?

Selfies. Love them or hate them, they’re everywhere. Certainly if you are not taking them yourself, you know someone who is. I shamelessly confess that I, too, indulge in a good selfie on occasion. I will share some studies on the psychology behind this photographic phenomenon, as well as my views on the history of the self portrait, and this wildly explosive trend.

What is a ‘selfie’ anyway?

sel·fie: noun. A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.

PUBLISHED by catsmob.com

 

This isn’t a new trend.

Take a look at some of history’s most profound artists. Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, and George Harrison. What do all of these famous names have in common? They all have at least one self portrait in their collection. When I say self portrait, I refer to a piece of work featuring him/herself as the subject. Many of these I named were paintings, and some of the paintings were done before photography was even an art form.

I absolutely put to test that these early self portraits were indeed an origin of the self portrait of today. I presume these artists painted themselves while placed in front of a mirror. (I’m not an art historian, so I may be wrong.) But I do think this is where it began, and then led into the days when having a 35mm camera was a common household device, in which we utilized to take more photos of our own pretty faces. I remember being a kid and on Christmas every year my parents would dress my sister and I up in our fanciest dresses, then my dad would pose us all in front of the tree, set his 1980’s style Cannon on the mantel, and push a little timer button. We’d eagerly watch the blinking light, and then snap! The family self portrait was complete.

A few years later, when I was in high school, I remember buying those disposable cameras and my friends and I would flip the camera to face us, with our arms extended on a 45 degree angle above our heads, attempt to all line up within what we assumed was the tiny viewfinder, with the hopes nobody’s head would be cut out of the final print. Yeah those self portraits were selfies too.

What the experts say.

According to some experts, taking excessive photos of oneself can actually be a sign of mental illness. Dr David Veale, a consultant psychiatrist in cognitive behavior therapy at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and The Priory Hospital, told The Sunday Mirror: ‘Two out of three of all the patients who come to see me with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) since the rise of camera phones have a compulsion to repeatedly take and post selfies on social media sites.’

BDD is characterized by a preoccupation with one or more perceived flaws in appearance, which are unnoticeable to others.

Dr Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Research Centre in Boston Massachusetts, said: ‘Selfies frequently trigger perceptions of self-indulgence or attention seeking social dependence that raises the damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t spectre of either narcissism or very low self-esteem.’ ‘Preoccupation with selfies can be a visible indicator of a young person with a lack of confidence or sense of self that might make him or her a victim of other problems as well.’ She believes that excessive or provocative taking of selfies is a form of ‘acting out’ in young people and can be a cry for help.

It’s important to point out that there are two different acts being analyzed here. One, is the taking of the photo. The other is the sharing of the photo. People take and share for different reasons. This leads to another concern that is associated with the excessive posting of selfies, which is that young people may be putting too much weight on what kind of response their photo may or may not get. In today’s realm of social media, many young people base their own self value on what their followers and online community say.

Obsessive selfie takers may take 50 selfies, for instance, and then critique each of them, deleting all but one, which is the photo that gets shared on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. If this is happening all the time, then this person is shaping the image that people see of him/her.

I admit, I do this. I only post the pictures in which I approve, usually in the best light, and after I’ve utilized a filter or blemish correcting photo app. Is this problematic? Perhaps it is. Perhaps we are spoiled (drowning?) in all of the technology and options available to us on our smartphones and tablets.

Lastly, the phenomenon of “if there’s no photo, it didn’t happen”. This isn’t literal, but many people act under this pretense that if anything- or nothing- is happening, it must be documented. At what point is is too much? When is it unhealthy?

Good selfies vs. bad selfies8b4799f4fe3d1be1ae8cb4d421171ad1

The last thing I want to touch on is the difference between when it’s okay to take a selfie and when you should reconsider. This is just my opinion, but I really like progression photos. For example, the pregnant belly growing or the weight loss and/or exercise shots are really fun to look at. If you need a profile picture, but have no one around to take it for you, then take a selfie where you fill the frame evenly, and where your hand placement disguises the fact that it is being taken by the person in the frame. I also like the ones that are silly and fun, as long as there are not a ton of them posted.

DO NOT take selfies in the bathroom mirror, especially where you can see the toilet. I know everyone does bathroom pictures, but seriously, they are tacky. If you choose to do one anyway, then close the toilet! And finally, please don’t do the duck face. I think the duck face can fit into a condition of it’s own. It’s not attractive. At all.

I don’t foresee the selfie trend going anywhere any time soon. The more we utilize technology and social media platforms, the more the reason to pose, snap, and share.

Just for fun, check out this dance hit by The Chainsmokers:

Source: Mail Online UK

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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My Not So Mental Health Day

Maybe it’s because I went to bed at 2 AM, maybe it’s the 4 mind-numbing hours of Tegan and Sara videos I watched, maybe it was the weed, the six cups of coffee, the humidity, or the moon. I don’t fucking know. All I know is when I woke up this morning, my first thought was to take a personal day. I never do that. But all I could think was that I had laundry to do. And vacuuming. And scripts to call in, mail to sort, and whatever busy thing I could think of. Not to mention the gnawing fact I really need to start jogging to work off this pseudo baby weight I’ve acquired since my wife became pregnant. Clearly I had a full day ahead of me. Mostly I woke up excited to listen to the music I added to my iPod around 1 in the morning. I’m lying. I woke up utterly obsessed with the songs on my iPod. In fact that’s what I really wanted to do today. It’s embarrassing, but I get extremely lost in my head sometimes when it comes to certain music. I try to hide when I go into obsessive phases. I also know obsessions coincide with hypomania with me, sometimes triggering full blown mania. At this time I am fine. As long as my ears don’t have to go without the syrupy melody of what I love most.

I have a hard time admitting when I’m being obsessive because my father was an obsessive individual, he also was compulsive with his obsessions, resulting in compromised living situations in his latter years, when it was most out of control. I think his problem has created a weariness in my own self-monitoring. I don’t want to fall into his footsteps. As of now, I secretly listen to the same song several times throughout the day. Music gives me permission to get lost in my head. Getting carried away by that kind of mental liberation is like crack. I love the feeling, I crave it, I need it. When I remove myself from myself, and enter my mind, it produces a sort of euphoric effect. No joke. This may sound crazy, but it’s really quite beautiful.

Anyway, my wife reminded me of the fact we need money, so I went to work, and attempted to have a normal day. Okay- normal didn’t happen. Thankfully I work in an office alone, so my music accompanies me on a daily basis. This helps me remain in a good mood and keeps my energy flowing. However, my biggest problem today was severe distraction. As busy as my mind was when I woke up, it only worsened as the morning progressed. I got fucking nothing done today! I did, however, play the same 22 songs incessantly for 8 hours. I kind of feel like I’m floating a little bit, and I’m blissfully unaware of anything going on around me.

Missing Manic Kind of Day

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Missing Manic

Swings devour you, so must I.

Delightful destruction, all riddles and lies.

Ride the coaster, fury fit.

Vanilla scented bull-shit.

Wrecking ball admiration,

Trapped by a heavy sensation.

Craving energy draws me near.

Evolve in contrast, feeling unclear.

Pin-prick bleeding sweet seduction,

Inflated ego, burned to reduction.

Swinging on this perfect high,

Do I dare feel so alive?

Moving fast, she spirals round.

Cruel enthusiasm meets cold ground.


If You Have A Bipolar Loved One

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Very recently I was asked for advice on something that is very important regarding Bipolar Disorder and loved ones. How do you talk to someone with Bipolar Disorder? What can you do to show support to a loved one with Bipolar?

Most of us reading this know that it’s a sensitive subject and all too often someone will say the wrong thing and we may react in a manner that is the start of the next world war. It is imperative to have a solid support system. Loved ones who you can trust to be there for you no matter what, and who can help you out with your Bipolar Disorder during an episode.

I’ve compiled a list of some ways loved ones can show their support in the most effective manner possible.

Validation.
Validate the disorder and take your loved one seriously. This is possibly the most important thing to remember, and could make or break your relationship with your person. Validate that what they are feeling is real and not ‘just in their head’. Accept that they have some limitations and that the limitations are part of the Bipolar Disorder. If there was something they could do yesterday, but cannot do it today, believe that it’s true, and accept that it is part of it, but that it will be okay.

Reassurance.
Tell your loved one that you are there for them and that you love them no matter what. Bipolar Disorder is a very involved illness and every individual with BP is unique, with unique symptoms, which may progress over time. They need to know that you are not going to judge them or become annoyed with their disorder. Many people with Bipolar tend to experience feelings of guilt. Offer that reassurance that it is not their fault, and you do not blame them for them having BP.

Education.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and for your loved one is to learn about Bipolar Disorder. This includes the different types, the symptoms, the treatments, and everything involved. There is no cure for Bipolar Disorder- only treatment, meaning BP will be in your loved one’s life for the rest of their life. Encourage them to help you learn. There are many excellent books, websites, and organizations that provide resources.

Practice Patience.
Bipolar Disorder is not an easy diagnosis to swallow, nor is it that easy to live with. Try to remember for all the frustration and irritation you may feel, your loved one feels it even more so. They may even feel guilt for being sick, or experience low self-esteem. Bipolar people can be easily distracted, have difficulty with concentration and focus, and be forgetful. Expressing anger and frustration will only make a bad situation worse. It is crucial that you have patience.

Be Respectful.
Show your loved one respect when it comes to their Bipolar Disorder. Please watch that you do not treat them as if they are less-than or stupid. Don’t say things to make them feel like they’re crazy. Bipolar is just like any other illness and you wouldn’t look at someone with Diabetes or high blood pressure like they’re a damaged good. It’s the same thing; just instead of a physical, medical condition, your loved one has a mood condition- or chemical imbalance in the brain. Another way to show respect is to take your loved one for their word and don’t try to push them. If something is bothering them, don’t make light of it and assume that it is petty, and expect them to move on. Respect that if they get into a certain mood, and have to handle a situation their own way, that this is probably preventative and they are controlling a potential trigger.

Be Helpful.
You can help your loved one not just by saying you’ll be there for them, but by actually being there. Participate in things like scheduling appointments and offer to help organize things at home. If he or she needs help managing medications, go ahead and offer your assistance. My wife counts mine out each week and assigns the proper pills into the daily pill sorter. As trivial as it may seem to someone without a mood disorder, may of us with BP have a hard time with medications. (And many of us have a harder time admitting it.)

Trust.
Do your loved on a favor and trust that they can still make their own decisions, even about treatment. Sure, sometimes they may need a little bit of extra help, but they can still function at a high capacity when they are well. Please do yourself the favor of trusting him or her, otherwise you will feel like the crazy person trying to keep up with every possible mood, emotion, swing, and trigger.

Here are a few tips:
• Not every swing is an episode.

• Consider external factors before jumping to conclusions.

• Don’t assume someone knows when he or she is having a manic or depressed episode, conversely, don’t assume someone doesn’t know when they is having a manic or depressed episode. Talk to them.

• Don’t get upset if he or she is forgetful. BP affects the memory, as do medications that treat BP. Try to be patient if they don’t remember things.

• Don’t assume someone is overreacting for no reason or “just being dramatic”. Overreacting is a symptom of bipolar disorder, which may lead to a dark depression or fit of rage.

• Make your friend or family member recognize and take responsibility for their illness and actions, should they become irritable or say something unkind. Then forgive them and love them regardless.

• It is not okay to joke about Bipolar Disorder, even if your loved one does so him or herself. It is a defense mechanism and their right to do so.

• Work together to recognize triggers and develop a confidence system, where you can be open with one another if you notice any behavior or thought patterns that may be unhealthy.

• Respect boundaries and don’t hover.

• Be positive and praise the progress your loved one makes.

For additional information, see: What Not to Say to Someone With Bipolar Disorder

What Not to Say to Someone With Bipolar Disorder

There are several hurtful things that you could say to a person with Bipolar Disorder that will make them feel like garbage, destroy their self-confidence, and possibly contribute a trigger for an episode. So learn what they are and don’t say them!

What not to say to someone with Bipolar Disorder:

“You are crazy/insane/abnormal/psycho.”
This can be taken as nonsense if it is clearly meant in terms of slang, but for someone who is newly diagnosed, or having a hard time with their diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, they may take it as meaning “completely unable to think clearly or behave properly”, which is pretty offensive.

“Bipolar Disorder doesn’t exist.”
This revolves around validating the diagnosis. Validate the disorder and take your loved one seriously, otherwise you not taking them seriously could be detrimental to their treatment process.

“Snap out of it.”
BP is a real illness and nobody can just come out of it, so don’t tell them to. It’s just plain ignorant!

“It’s just hormonal/PMS.”
While hormones can make BP worse, BP is a disorder independent of any other. Don’t offend someone & mix it up with a different diagnosis. You will come off as ignorant and like you don’t care to learn the facts.

“You have Bipolar, so you’re lazy/stupid/whiny.”
None of these offensive words are used to describe Bipolar Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. That’s all I’m going to say about this one.

“You’ll never have a real life.”
That is simply not true. While living with BP certainly isn’t always easy, most everyone can have a very active and fulfilling life with the proper treatment and medication.

“There is nothing wrong with you, everybody has mood swings.”
While it’s true that even among those who do not have a diagnosable disorder that has mood swings, people have changes in mood. The mood changes are usually due to circumstances in life, home, and health.

“But you seem so normal!”
That may very well be. First I ask “what is normal?” Then I need people to understand that someone could be in between episodes, could be on medication that produces ‘normal’ behavioral results, or maybe you don’t see this person very often or haven’t known them very long. People can go years between episodes. Also, hypomania is very charismatic and attractive to others, so in that state someone with BP can potentially make several new friends.

“Isn’t that what serial killers have?”
Probably not. Honestly, a serial killer is much more likely to have Antisocial Personality Disorder, or be a sociopath or psychopath.

“Just take medication and you’ll be fine.”
While medication helps tremendously, it doesn’t always help everyone, and it certainly does not get rid of the disorder or treat all of the symptoms.

Please do not be afraid to talk to your friends and family members about their Bipolar diagnosis. This was just meant as a guide to help the ease of conversations between you and your loved ones.

Stay tuned for some helpful tips on how to offer support to your Bipolar peeps!