This is the 31 day bipolar meme created by theblahpolar It's a long post...
1. What flavor of bipolar are you? What does your diagnosis mean to you?
Bipolar I. As I understand it's supposed to mean I have full blown manic episodes (as opposed to hypomania) and that I may have several. Which means I might stay less time in bipolar depression. Since I have had only one full blown manic episode after my first son was born, I tend to doubt the diagnosis a bit. Even though just one manic episode is enough to "qualify" you for bipolar I. I spend most of my time in depression. If it weren't for paying the price of mania (plummeting to a long lasting depression), I sometimes think I wouldn't mind some more up times.
2. What is your baseline mood/state? How does that impact your life?
Depressive. I have trouble getting motivated, being spontaneous, being adventurous, and getting out of my comfort zone. That takes energy and there's anxiety for trying something new. I think it makes me a moody downer for my family. I worry it colors my son's outlook on life. I try to be silly and laugh a lot around my family.
3. How old were you at the onset? How old were you at diagnosis? How were you given the diagnosis and are you satisfied with the way it was handled?
Onset probably about 21. Diagnosis 32. I was given the diagnosis during my first manic episode while I was in the hospital. I guess I was satisfied but it felt like anyone with any familiarity with bipolar could have diagnosed me. "Wow you are sleeping an average of 2 hours a day and won't shut up. Your brother is bipolar. Hmmm... maybe you're bipolar?" Yeah, no shit.
4. How do you feel about people who diagnose themselves online and then treat themselves for bipolar?
People do that? That's fucked up... double fucked up. People should get a diagnosis from a professional (maybe multiple). How do you treat yourself? Without therapy and/or medication what are you left with? Fish oil and exercise? No way that's going to be enough.
UPDATE: I have thought more about this. I meant to update this post months ago. I've been lucky to have family and doctors that helped me get a diagnosis. However, we all should have figured it out years before. I had to go full blown manic first. If I had educated myself and tried to self-diagnose, I may have been able to avoid that. I've had to rely on psychiatric nurses and doctors that just threw medicine at me without a full history and a proper diagnosis. They prescribed me anti-depressants for years which could have made me go manic. I was recommended the tumblr post "What anti self dxers don't understand". It is an excellent summary and I agree that my attitude is not well thought out, classist, and racist.
5. What treatment, therapy etc do you do?
I have taken medication daily since my diagnosis and am proud to say I have been compliant for going on eight years (besides an accidental missed dose here and there). I have also been in and out of personal therapy most of those years. I have never tried group therapy and there is not a bipolar specific support group in my area.
6. What do you wish you’d known when you were diagnosed?
That I wouldn't be exactly like my older brother with bipolar. He was the only example I had and was not managing his life well at all. I thought bipolar had caused so many of his problems so I was destined to have those same problems. He smoked pot constantly, harassed my parents, felt sorry for himself, was deep in debt with lousy credit, and was just generally unhappy.
7. What are the worst things someone can say to somebody who is bipolar?
I have only told family and close friends who are supportive. I have not personal experience with a horrible comment. I suppose the worst thing would be, "That's not a real disease. That's a made up disorder for people who can't cope." One of the most annoying things is when I am moody and the immediate next topic is whether I need to adjust my meds. Sometimes it would just be nice to have a sympathetic response rather than someone jumping into problem solving mode.
8. What do you dislike most about the disorder?
Depression, depression, depression. Lack of energy, low motivation, feeling overwhelmed. It's also quite unnerving to be horribly depressed one day, have nothing change in my life, and wake up the next day feeling like everything is going to be OK. It's emotional whiplash. Feeling like I can't identify with my thoughts and emotions and they are only the product of being bipolar. There's not much to identify with when you are better off not trusting your own thoughts.
9. Are there any benefits to bipolar for you?
Absolutely none. If I was creative and had frequent bouts of hypomania I suppose I might see some benefit in increased creative output. People can be creative of course without being bipolar so I think that's a load of shit. And the toll you pay for hypomania (a much longer depressive period) doesn't seem worth anything.
10. Do you tell people you’re bipolar? Why/why not?
No. My family and three friends know. Which is kind of all my close friends. With casual acquaintances it just seems too heavy to let them know. They have children and maybe they'll be afraid of me. Who knows what they'll think. Maybe they're going to be real assholes about it. There's the shame and stigma. I'd also rather not have it cloud people's judgment of me... like that's how they'll think of me.
11. What resources do you recommend and why? (Books, documentaries, websites etc … anything at all.)
I am only now searching for resources so have not researched everything (obviously!). The magazine bphope and its website seems like a good general resource. There is also the International Bipolar Foundation. I just ordered the Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide book and this looks like an excellent starting point for someone who just received a diagnosis.
12. Who was/is your favourite doctor (any kind) and why? Skipping.
13. Who was your least favourite doctor and why? Skipping.
14. What would you say to your younger self if you could?
You're bipolar, not depressed. You need to stay on medication the rest of your life. Get into therapy. Stop smoking pot. Stop drinking. Drop out of the master's program and get a job. You don't belong in academia.
15. What would you ask your future self if you could?
Am I on a good medication regiment or is there some other medication combination I should try? Is Michael (my son with autism) going to talk? What is his level of functioning going to be? Do you know if Jacob (my eight year old) has mental health issues?
16. If you could plan the best possible treatment strategy for your bipolar self, what would it look like?
The perfect drug combination that doesn't poop out. A counselor versed in CBT, DBT, and ACT that knew which one was best for me. A less stressful job.
17. If bipolar was a real thing or being, what would it look, sound and behave like?
I wrote a post about what depression feels like to me. But it's tough to characterize all of bipolar. My blog tagline is "Me riding the snake of bipolar". Let's go with a snake. A giant venomous two headed snake. You have to stay in the middle of the snake. One head goes up (mania) and if you follow it, it's going to bite your ass. The other head, of course, is sinking down to depression.
18. If big pharma was actually listening, what would you say about bipolar meds?
Categorize people as different "flavors" of bipolar and study drugs on those groups. Create studies for people for which one medication fails, what medication they start instead that is successful. All we have is anecodatal accounts of this. Of course, it's not in the interest of one company to recommend another drug. Nevertheless, I think we need these kinds of studies.
19. What don’t people without bipolar understand about people with it?
It doesn't affect me all the time. I have normal mood fluctuations all the time that are not related to bipolar. For example, every time I'm irritable or impatient doesn't mean I'm hypomanic or depressed. Maybe I'm just pissy at the moment.
20. If religion and/or spirituality is a part of your mental health regime: what, how and why? It's not.
21. Do you consider yourself creative? How do you express that? What piece of work (or whatever is applicable) are you most proud of?
I wrote poetry in high school, but who didn't? I guess that is the stuff I'm the most proud of. I don't write any more, don't draw or paint, don't play music. Would likely be a great coping mechanism if I did any of those things.
22. Are you content with it being called bipolar affective disorder, or would you rather revert to manic depression, or rename it completely? Why?
Manic depression is a weird label and I think there's too much romanticism with it. It sounds to me like the "depression" itself is "manic"... so like a mixed state. I would prefer something like "Bipolar Spectrum Disorder" (like autism) which emphasizes not only that there is bipolar I and bipolar II but the potential for many kinds in between. There is bipolar NOS. And people can cycle weekly and even daily. Those are all different.
23. Side effects … what meds gave you the worst one/s, how did/do you treat it/them, and do you still get any side effects now?
Seroquel boosted my depression into a suicidal disassociative state. Remeron made me sleep for about 20 hours. I count myself extremely lucky that I have no intolerable side effects. None really, except maybe some restlessness.
24. Why do you blog about bipolar?
I think I started because I was looking for a way to cope. I have felt more controlled by bipolar in the past six weeks than in a long time. I am not seriously suicidal and I realize that my emotions/thoughts are not my own but stem from being bipolar. Nevertheless I am feeling hopeless. To try to cope I began reading other blogs, reading CrazyMeds, ordered the Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide, ordered An Unquiet Mind, stopped drinking, changed my medication, even took a walk.
25. How much of your life has been stable/euthymic, depressed and hypo/manic?
Classic manic - about two weeks. Hypomanic - maybe four or six months here and there over decades. Depressed - I'd say I've been stable at a mild state of depression for about 60% of my life if that makes sense. Suppose moods range from 0 to 100 with 50 being "normal" and 10 meaning you have to be hospitalized with depression. I'm probably stable about around 40. At least that's what it feels like. So that's stable, just not where I'd like to be. I've been severely depressed for months at a time and it still happens 1-3 weeks at a time probably 2-3 times a year.
26. What state are you in right now, when did it start and what are your goals and hopes about it?
Addressed this a bit in question 24. I am currently very depressed with perhaps bouts of mixed state. I am productive and up with many areas of my life (e.g., housework). But I am struggling not being distracted at work. Being prone to distraction is a tricky symptom as I think it can indicate anxiety/depression, ADHD, and hypomania. As with any shitty state, my hope is for it to end.
27. How do you see your future beyond the state you are in currently?
I will get through this. I may adjust my medication in a significant way soon.
28. What do you see as the most important thing in your treatment regime, and why?
First, medication because I think there are neurological components to bipolar that are difficult (if not impossible) to affect significantly. Second, counseling because it gives me perspective and a confidential environment I can say things I would not want to burden loved ones with. Third, exercise... except I don't exercise. If I did I think it would be third. :P
29. To what extent do you tell people that you’re bipolar, and why?
Only my family (close and extended) and about three friends know. In a severe lapse of judgment I told my boss. I was trying to explain why I was going to be absent from work. There was no fallout from that though and I still have my job years later. I count myself lucky there. This is a question I've been thinking about a lot lately. I feel ashamed and scared to not share it with more people. Today I read this article and thought it made some very good points about why to come out of the "bipolar closet".
I've recently been considering when and how to do it. Social media seems shallow and ill-advised. That could come back to bite me. Do I really want to mention it to fifty people at once? I have been in a group of parents for a long time and this seems safer and more appropriate. They are acquaintances and not close friends. Nevertheless I do feel like I am hiding something significant about my life. I think if I told anyone knew it would be this group. I'm excited, scared, and interested to see if it would change anything.
30. Of all the famous people (dead and alive) who are allegedly bipolar, who would you pick as your favourite, and why?
This is a tricky one because the key word is allegedly. I don't have a favorite. It seems strange to diagnosis someone without them officially announcing they are bipolar.
31. What meds are you on now? Have you found your ‘magic cocktail’?
I've got a section on the front page for this. I have no idea if it's a "magic cocktail" or not. I tend to think it's not.
32. Have you attempted suicide? What, when, why, how and what did you learn?
Way too much for one question. I have been there. I learned I want to live and don't want to die... no matter how much I might feel otherwise.