What is Bipolar?
So, You Came Looking for Answers...
Of course you did because we're all here looking for a few answers. Let me just say upfront, the Internet is not always the best place to find the answers you seek, not if you're looking for accurate information that is. Don't get me wrong, I love surfing the Information Super Highway! Unfortunately it's not always easy to sift through it all to figure out what is fact and what is a glob of fiction that is simply copied and pasted from one site to another and another and another without anyone checking to see if any bit of it is correct or not. Sadly, I find the problem continues to get worse instead of better.
STOP!Please read the disclaimer BEFORE reading any further.
ALWAYS read the fine print
I am NOT a doctor, though the money would be nice. If you suspect that you or someone you care about is bipolar, please GO SEE A PSYCHIATRIST!!! A family doctor or a general practitioner is a good place to start but ultimately you will need to see a specialist. If you don't like the first one you see, go to another one.
While I'm not a doctor, I AM someone who lives with bipolar. I was diagnosed at 27-years-old, but according to all information available, I was probably born with it. My son also has bipolar and we believe my grandmother had it as well, though she was never diagnosed by a doctor. Still you don't know me from the next weirdo on the Net, so do your own research, read books, ask questions and as always, listen to your gut. If you are too ill to do that, have someone else help you that can accurately listen to his/her gut for you.
Bipolar is a Mood Disorder - raise your hand if you are moody sometimes?
This applies to everyone, not just women! That just happened to be on the poster from this seminar back in 1999. The latest statistics report that bipolar affects both women and men equally.
Do You Know Anyone Diagnosed With Bipolar?
This means a medical doctor has actual diagnosed the person, you haven't just decided they act like they have it!
So who is diagnosed with bipolar (any type, I, II or NOS)?
Do you wonder what's wrong with you?
but can't quite figure it out...
I spent almost fifteen years reading self-help books (starting from the age of 13) and wandering around to therapists or taking classes in an attempt to figure out my problem. Sadly everyone would tell me that I was perfectly "normal" and that everyone feels sad after a break up or experiences anxiety after a car accident or whatever it was I was going through at that moment. They weren't lying. As humans, most of us experience a range of moods over the course of our life. The highs the lows; the ups the downs, the zigs the zags; it's just a part of life as we have come to accept it.
Something kept nagging at me though, telling me that I wasn't quite the same as most of my peers. I seemed to feel things in ways that others didn't understand. From 3rd grade until my sophomore year in high school I was called weird or sometimes scary. I was only ever in one physical altercation, which I never laid a hand on the other girl, but everyone seemed to be afraid of me, yet I cry at sappy commercials and after school specials. I remember in the first year of middle school, laughing when a friend told us her mom had cancer. I still don't know why I reacted that way. I wasn't using it as a coping mechanism or trying to be mean, it just came out of nowhere. My biggest obstacle was that I was extremely high functioning.
I know, you still want answers...patience grasshopper, I'm getting to them
When You Can't Deny the Truth
how I finally got some real help
After many years of being successful, my world fell apart in just over a year. A botched suicide attempt that resulted in a some stitches and then lies to the ER staff didn't seem to get my ex-husband's attention (you'll have to read Anyone Can Marry A Psychopath! to learn more about that) and it wasn't until a second suicide attempt was eminent, after I had been perched on the sofa for months without hardly moving, that it became extremely clear I needed some serious help.
When you're suicidal and you can't recall ever being happy, no less extremely happy, you're thrown into the depression pot and stirred around with a stew of antidepressants until you see life through some pretty rose-colored glasses again (well, I'm sugar coating it, but that's the crap they feed you and they call it stew). Oh look, I think I see some depression symptoms looming below!
Depressive Side - same criteria as depression
Yes, bipolar is a mood disorder that by literal translation means two poles, much like the north and south poles, one high and one low. Some people with bipolar fit the category of bipolar II, which means they do not have full manic episodes, merely hypomania, but do have severe, debilitating depression as classified by the DSM-IV. A lot of people don't like the DSM-IV classifications but don't fear, the DSM-5 will be out in May 2013 which will provide new fodder for arguments. The symptoms must persist for a certain length of time and must significantly impair day to day life.
- Depressed mood, sadness, profound feelings of emptiness all or most of the day
- Lack of interest or inability to take pleasure in usual daily activities
- Sleeping more than or less than the usual amount over an extended period of time
- Physical and mental sluggishness, inability to concentrate, fatigue or loss of energy
- Significant unplanned change in appetite or weight either up or down
- Thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, planning or attempting to commit suicide
When Things Get Weird
and you want to get out...NOW!
After a few months of being stirred in the stew, my pretty rose-colored glasses turned bright red, and I went through the worst thing I'd ever felt in my life. EVER. I woke one night, or I should say that I never was able to get to sleep one night, and finally disturbed my then husband's sleep because I was trying to claw my way out of my skin. Not literally on the outside, but from the inside. It's nearly impossible to explain unless you've felt it, and trust me, you don't want to feel it. I wouldn't even speak to the psychiatrist when he called and by morning I was in the hospital for the first, and not the last, time.
Then I was given the news that I had bipolar. Over the years, I have talked to many upset people who were newly diagnosed, but after years of trying in vain to figure out what was wrong with me, it made perfect sense that I had bipolar. As the years have passed and I've gained more knowledge about this illness, it continues to fit my behavior patterns. Will you look at that? Looks like manic symptoms just below this!
Manic Symptoms - the opposite pole of depression
Some people with bipolar never have a full blown episode of mania (placing them into the bipolar I category), but will have a less severe episodes called hypomania, which typically places them into the bipolar II category, characterized by more frequent and more severe episodes of depression, or the bipolar NOS category which is a catchall for those who don't fit a classic category. The symptoms must persist for a certain length of time and must significantly impair day to day life.
- Inflated sense of self-importance, grandiose ideas, feeling invincible
- Decreased need and/or ability to sleep
- Racing thoughts, inability to concentrate or focus on an idea
- More talkative, pressured speech and overly sociable (more so than usual)
- Impulsive behavior, unpredictable, reckless or risky with no regard for consequences
- Easily distracted by trivial tasks
What Do I Do Now?Take a Deep Breath!
It's only a big deal if you make it one & remember,
this is just something you're reading on the Net.
The symptoms above are some of the common ones to give you a place to start. If you think you or someone you know may have bipolar, I encourage you to go see a psychiatrist, preferably with a background in neurology, psychopharmacology or some other bipolar related field. Don't freak out until you get the official word from a doctor, and even then, don't freak out because it's not the end of the world. New advancements are being made all the time! Listed below are helpful links to other resources on the Internet. I will add more to these as I find them, since many are tucked away in old files that are not on this computer. I am also available by going to the bio page and clicking on the contact me button. Some days I respond quicker than others, some days it takes months. It's weird being me sometimes.
My Favorite Links - the NO BS list
The links on the list are organizations, hospitals, references, etc., that I personally use that I feel comfortable passing on and telling anyone that you can trust the information you find within their website. You won't find any crap here.
- NAMI's Bipolar Home
The home page on NAMI for bipolar information. They've really made it look nice now and it's full of good information on medications and treatment ideas.
- Mood Disorders Clinic
This clinic is at Johns Hopkins and is run by the some of the top people doing bio-genetic research in the field, including J. Raymond DePaulo, as well as two of my favorite authors, Kay Redfield Jamison and Francis Mondimore, plus a host of other do
Some Other Cool Links - but you may find BS here
These are great fun places to go and I have even contributed to sites like these, but again you don't always know who the people are behind the computers so you want to double and triple check what you are being told by asking your doctor. The information may be 100% correct, but it never hurts to make sure first.
- Bipolar World
This site has been around forever and I wrote articles back in 2001 for them. I knew the owner before she retired and they are great people with some great resources and terrific support groups if you need to find someone to chat with who understands
It Helps to Read! - and read and read and read and read some more
These are books I've read and used myself, or come highly recommended by friends.
The best workbook ever and the one that helped me get a grasp on what was happening to me! it was the only one available at the time. Now it's not used as much as the next one...though I feel this one is more accurate because you don't get to live without bipolar (manic depression) if you have it.
Newer version of the one above.
The book I use for helping to survive my son's bipolar.
Written by a personal friend about her suicide attempt.
Written by a couple of the first "experts" about bipolar in children. (I haven't read this one.)
Bipolar I, II, or NOS
What type of bipolar do you have?
Really we're all just nuts, trying to avoid being dipped in chocolate and sold as a box of candy!