Bipolar Disorder and Aging

Do people who have bipolar disorder get worse as age increases?

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SOME HARD TRUTHS ABOUT BIPOLAR & AGING

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it is possible for bipolar disorder to worsen as a person ages. But this does not mean that previous medications and therapy were failures. It just means that it is possible to have a setback. It is a bit like a cancer patient being declared cancer-free and then, years later, their cancer reappears.

This is not necessarily bad news, according to my psychologist. She says that as we grow older our self-awareness increases and we become in tune with the signs and grow more familiar with the patterns of our episodes over the years. Inherently we begin to sense when a setback is approaching. Some people recognize that certain times of the year may trigger symptoms for them. Others may feel more subtle signs such as a sudden need to stay awake all night.

This knowledge allows us to take the necessary steps, such as a med change or increased therapy, to push us back into the safety zone. In younger years, we may have lacked the experience to recognize symptoms and make this correction. If you are nearing senior years, ensure that you refresh your knowledge of the warning signs of mania and depression. If you feel you are slipping out of “the zone,” discuss your symptoms with your therapist and/or psychiatrist for potential med adjustments. Remember, we are our own best mental heal advocates,

Learning The Warning Signs

Symptoms of mania include:

  • Excessive energy, activity, restlessness
  • Racing thoughts and rapid/excessive talking
  • Denial that anything is wrong
  • Extreme high or euphoric feelings
  • Easily irritated or distracted
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Unrealistic beliefs in one’s ability and powers
  • Hyperactivity and excessive planning
  • Uncharacteristically poor judgment
  • Unusually high sex drive
  • Drug abuse–particularly cocaine, alcohol or sleeping medications
  • Provocative, intrusive or aggressive behavior

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Sad, empty or anxious mood that won’t go away
  • Irregular sleep
  • Persistent lethargy and fatigue
  • Change in weight and appetite
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Aches, pains, constipation & physical ailments
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Poor ability to focus, concentrate and remember
  • Suicidal thoughts and expressions
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness.

The impact of living with bipolar disorder over a lifetime is not clearly known. What IS known is that proper management of the disorder is the key to living a full and productive life.

One of the challenges of living with bipolar disorder, or any other chronic illness, is managing the uncertainty over time. A good strategy for this is to influence those aspects of life you can. Be sure to exercise; eat well; control cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar; and keep doing things that exercise your brain. Your goal is to be the healthiest person living with bipolar disorder that you can be.

I hope that you’ve found this to be helpful to you. Wishing you the very best of mental health wellness–Dori

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Other posts by Ask A Bipolar That Relate:

Bipolar and Aging by Angel

Bipolar Disorder and Menopause by Shari

Does Your Ability To Stabilize Your Bipolar Change As You Age? by Vicky

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ASK A BIPOLAR!!!!!!

869510_red_and_gold____4Wow.  I can not believe that Ask A Bipolar just turned 7! It seems like just yesterday that I was google chatting with founder, Marybeth Smith and she asked me if I could write a post for her. It was actually a few months I asked her when the deadline was and she said ASAP because it needs to be the post for today.  I took that challenge,  and it was then I was inducted into the “Ask A Bipolar author circle.”  It was a few months after Marybeth had started the website, and I had been looking for some support and education after my fairly new diagnosis of Bipolar II.  I had been looking for quite some time before I discovered an amazing resource.

 Ask A Bipolar.

It had everything that someone who had just been diagnosed, or friends and loved ones, who didn’t really know much about the illness and were afraid to ask, or didn’t have anyone to talk to about their diagnosis could have wanted.  It gave answers to so many questions, some that may not have even been thought of yet, and it gave those with their own questions a place to submit a question and receive an answer from someone who has the illness and can answer from your perspective.

I love this site.  There is so much information and advice that has been given through other people’s questions and our author’s answers that it has become a resource that I refer to often.  This site also gave me and some of our other authors opportunities to work with other organizations and write for other websites as well.

This site helped so many people in so many different ways.  There is so much good that has come from this website and I am proud to be part of the Ask A Bipolar team and even more proud that we have reach its 7th birthday.

I know that the site has been pretty inactive with new content recently, but I thought that exploring some of our past posts, the ones the have just been sitting in our archives, it would be a good way to revisit some of the topics we have addressed previously.  In the last several years, we have had a whole lot of great authors on our website as well as great posts and I thought it would be great to check those posts out again.

Happy Birthday Ask A Bipolar!  Here’s to another great year!

(and, a lot of new content as well)

Christi

Postponing Treatment

I’m taking an antidepressant in the morning and evening, but I still have severe mood swings and irritability. I can go from feeling “normal” to being irritable in a matter of seconds, days that I’m oversensitive to other people’s statements and then the low mood starts again.  I alter between being very productive, granon compliance medicationndiose ideas and multi-tasking to slow reaction time, foggy head, forgetfulness, low motivation and little self-confidence. I have had my boss and husband comment about me being on mars and then coming back to mother earth and I sometimes completely lose track of time. My mother also was diagnosed with Bipolar I and writing everything down it makes me more aware that I have symptoms of Bipolar disorder.

My handwriting also changes from time to time and wonder if anybody else might have experienced the same?  I know it is time to get an educated answer and help but is there something holding me back in doing so?

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**DISCLAIMER – WE ARE NOT MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS AND CAN NOT GIVE A DIAGNOSIS**

DO I HAVE A BIPOLAR DISORDER?

Statistically, if one parent has a bipolar disorder, there is a 30% probability that you may have the disorder as well. (This can only be determined by a medical professional!)

Your description of having mood swings which range from a spectrum of “grandiose ideas and multi-tasking” to “low motivation and self-confidence” are similar to how one might describe the bipolar highs of mania and lows of depression. If your family is noticing unusual changes in your mood, as you describe, it may be a good time to check in with your primary care provider and ask for a referral to a psychiatrist.

Because here’s what happens if you do nothing. You continue your sporadic, unexpected behavior. Your family and colleagues view you as unpredictable and not present in the moment. Nagging thoughts persist. Do I have bipolar disorder like my mother, am I depressed? Or am I just moody and daydream a lot? What if there’s something really wrong with me?

Knowledge is power. A simple assessment appointment can give you the answers to these questions and help you learn about yourself. This type of appointment is nothing to be fearful of, it’s simply a matter of describing to a professional what you are feeling, symptoms, and thoughts, and explaining your family history. A psychiatrist will also want to know of any medications you are currently taking. This is critical for bipolar disorder, as the wrong medications can launch us into mania, increase depression or cause suicidal thoughts.

The good news is that if you should happen to be diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, and given an effective medication regimen, you will not be experiencing your symptoms of high irritability, over-sensitivity, and it should help you become more focused. Add to this a commitment to therapy to learn coping skills for when these issues do try to come back (and they will) you will be prepared to address them in a healthy manner. Therapy is where you may want to bring up the changes in your handwriting and discuss possible reasons why this might occur. And for insurance–eat well, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. Everyone deserves a happy, healthy life. Go ahead, take that first step to claim yours!

Wishing you the very best of good mental health–Dori

Medication good, non medicated bad?

How can I convince my friend who has bipolar that it is essential that they take their medication? (They refuse to.)


498987_pillsFirst, I think it’s important to establish why your friend is not taking medication.  Ask if there are side effects they doesn’t like.  If that’s the case, they should be honest with their psychiatrist.  Finding the right meds can often be trial and error.  I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder thirteen years ago.  I can honestly say that the right meds (combined with other things like therapy) have saved my life, but it took a year before we found the right medication.

Second, in cases where the person has been sick for years and still refuses to take meds (or frequently stops) even though they demonstrate symptoms and experience consequences, it may be something called anosognosia. THIS CONDITION MUST BE DIAGNOSED BY A DOCTOR! That said, this is the most common reason for medication non-compliance. Anosognosia is when an ill person is physiologically incapable of recognizing he or she has an illness, therefore, they see no point in taking medicine or going to therapy. The person is not in denial but rather has malfunctioning frontal lobes. Efforts to get people with anosognosia to admit they have an illness backfire and are often met with anger which is why it can be more effective to start by asking the person what goals they have, rather than to forcing them to admit they have bipolar disorder. (For example, a person would tell themselves, and others, that they take meds so they can feel better and finish their degree, but not say it is because of bipolar disorder.) If this is the case, with a supportive attitude, it is possible to get someone with anosognosia to seek treatment and take medication.  One method is called LEAP. You can learn more about the LEAP® model used to treat it by Dr. Xaviar Amador here.  LEAP® stands for Listen-Empathize-Agree-Partner.

Once you find out why they are not taking their meds, you can then begin finding ways to encourage them to take their medication.  You could give them specific examples of situations in which you enjoyed being with them because they had been taking their meds and give a similar situation you did not enjoy being with them because they had not been taking their meds and their behavior was different.  For example, “Remember when we (insert example here). It was so much fun!  But, the other time we (insert example here) it was not as much fun because (give them an example of  a behavior that you didn’t like such as, “your anxiety was too high”) Suggest to them that perhaps taking their medication really was helping because your experience with them in the first example was so much better for both of you.  By giving them real examples of how things were different, it may put things in a better perspective for your friend and they may begin viewing taking their medication in a  more favorable light.

Sometimes, when you plant the seeds and the person decides to do the action on their own, it is more successful than getting into an argument about it or making them feel like they are being pressured to or forced to do something. I know that I personally get irritated and frustrated when someone who does not have bipolar, or similar illnesses, as I do tries to tell me what I need to do or what I shouldn’t do.

A lot can be resolved by just asking why they choose to not take their medications.  Start with that,  and hopefully some of these other suggestions can help as well. Good Luck

Jessica

Helping Someone With Bipolar and Anorexia

I do not actually know if my friend has bipolar or has anorexia, but she won’t talk to anyone and denies she has a problem.

She has been somewhat stressed recently (identity crisis, landlord selling house), and back in January I noticed a slight change in behavior and she wasn’t as joyful.  She took a planned 2 week trip to India at the end of January and when she had returned, she had lost a ton of weight, refused detailed conversations, and her mood was off and on until it just went completely down.  She reasons that food is not a priority, or she doesn’t want tight fitting clothes, etc.  She’s been given several resources but refuses to get help.  She stands by her computer at work and has actually fallen over. Her skin has become blotchy.

How do you help someone who doesn’t think they need help, but is starving themselves to the point of fainting, assuming she won’t answer the phone, text, or doorbell.

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443373_lomo_girlFirst, and most important, I think your friend is very lucky to have someone who is concerned about their health and seeking out ways to help.  Many have family and friends that either ignore changes like these, downplay them, or run away as fast as they can when things like this appear.

Eating disorders are very tricky illnesses.  They creep up on you and can spiral out of control before you even realize what is happening to you.  Others may see you withering away, but you can only see your own distorted perception staring back at you in the mirror that shows the complete opposite of withering.  How can you help someone with an eating disorder or even with bipolar disorder if they do not think they need help?  The blunt answer? You can’t.  Sort of like the saying “You can lead a dog to water, but you can’t make them drink.”   The only way your friend will get help is when they are ready to admit there is a problem and are willing to make changes and get help.  Does that mean that you sit back and do nothing?  Absolutely not!

You can express your concerns to your friend, however, be advised, it is very common that people with eating disorders will deny, deny, deny.  They may get angry, agitated, and frustrated if you repeatedly force the issue and might even end up causing them to pull away from you, leaving you feeling even more helpless than you already do.  When approaching your friend, it is best to not come at them in an accusatory manner.  If you do, your friend may become very defensive.

Start off by mentioning that you have noticed she’s been a bit different since her return from the trip and you wanted to make sure she was ok.  Let her know that you are concerned because her health seems to be affecting her at work and offer to be there for her if she needs to talk.  Eating disorders are not as simple as someone just deciding that they do not want to eat or that they aren’t hungry.  There is usually something much deeper going on.  Telling her how terrible she is looking or trying to force feed her will most likely make the situation worse.  While she has been given many resources and has declined to use them, offering to be there for her as a friend and allowing her to confide in you and trust in you, she may feel more comfortable talking things out with you as a friend one on one and not jumping right into something as big as going to a therapist.  If you can get her to feel safe with you and open up to you, there is a greater chance that you can get her the bigger help she needs by going about it in a “baby steps” type method.  Just like an eating disorder doesn’t become a disorder overnight, neither will the realization that there actually is a disorder.  It will take some time and patience in order to get her to see what really is happening.  You all might see it plain as day, but for her, it slowly became a way of life for her and a way to cope and the only way she will get better is when she realizes that things have gotten out of control and she could do some very serious damage to her heart, or bones, or various other internal issues may arise because of this behavior.  She will not see this overnight though, and she will definitely continue to push away all efforts that are thrust at her because she is in denial.

I wish there was more that could be done, but aside from offering to be there as her friend, you can’t force her to eat and you can’t force her to get help when she can’t even recognize there is a problem.  In extreme cases, parents and caregivers can intervene and if it is serious enough, there are ways to get your friend involuntarily hospitalized to get the help that is needed, but that is something that is a worst case scenario type of option.

I hope this helps a little bit!  Feel free to contact us again if you have more questions!

~Christi~

How Do I Get My Mom To Believe My Mental Illness Is NOT for Attention?

One minute my mom is serious about my mental illness, but the next, she tells me that even my doctor from the hospital psychiatric department thought I was faking that I have bipolar and bulimia.  I don’t know what to do.

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MY BIPOLAR AND BULIMIA ARE NOT FOR ATTENTION!

 “Will you just snap out of it?”

“Are you in one of your moods again?”

“What do you have to be depressed about?”

“You look so thin. Are you eating?”

At times it seems there is no end to the “Momisms” that come out of the mouths of Moms.

Help covering the quick sands of timeIf you got as far as a stay in the “Pajama Hilton”, as my friend Amy calls the psychiatric department, and a diagnosis of  bipolar disorder AND an eating disorder–these are illnesses that are not easy to fake. And why would you even want to fake this? Bipolar disorder is a complicated mental illness with lifelong mood swings that require medication for stability. An eating disorder represents even more complications and is a serious health threat to you.  No, one would not want to fake these illnesses.

Convincing your Mom is one thing, but getting treatment is even more important. I hope that you are seeing a psychiatrist on a regular basis who will confirm your diagnoses and prescribe the necessary medications; and are working with a psychologist/therapist to learn the cognitive skills you will need to become and stay healthy.  Ideally, your Mom should be involved in these appointments.

Your Mom may be serious at times, as you describe, and doubtful at other times, because she may not fully understand these illnesses herself. This could be causing her questioning something one doctor said, behavior she’s seen, or even misinformation she has heard. Scheduling an appointment together with both your psychiatrist and therapist will help her understand more about your diagnoses and how she can help you.

During an inpatient stay I had once, I completely disagreed with what the staff psychiatrist had to say about me. From my perspective, he spent very little time with me, basically just read a file on me, and was more concerned on getting me stable enough to leave in 48 hours than concerned about my long term mental health. By comparison, I’m now with my own psychiatrist who spends time with me and prescribes medications based on how effective they are for my bipolar disorder. It takes time, and it’s trial and error, but I know he has my best interest at heart, as opposed to a hospital staff psychiatrist that I’ll likely never see again. My point is that not every doctor is correct in their opinion. It is possible that the psychiatric hospital physician could have misled your mother and caused her doubts; or she may have just misunderstood him or her.

So this is about why your Mom may be reacting the way she does, and a few ways she can learn more. Now, a little bit about your diagnoses, because the day WILL come when you will not have to convince your Mom that they are real. You will be an adult, in charge of yourself, and responsible for your good mental health.

Bipolar disorder, without treatment, will cause mood swings of depression and mania, irritability, anger, and many other symptoms. Stability is possible with regular psychiatrist visits; an effective med buffet taken as directed; therapy to learn cognitive coping skills; a healthy diet; exercise; and consistent sleep habits.

Bulimia will also involve psychological counseling, and may require an eating disorder specialist. The first psychiatrist you see for bipolar disorder may make a referral for you for this specialist. You may also be referred to a nutritionist or a specialist along those lines. Over a long period of time, and with commitment to your treatment plan, you may return to a healthy eating lifestyle, but it might not just go away.  You may have to keep an eye on it for a while as it may creep up when you least expect it.

In addition to psychological and nutritional counseling, joining a support group may help you find a connection to others who feel as you do. Peer support can be very powerful. There are also positive support groups on social media, such as Facebook and Tumblr, where you can find positive affirmations and body acceptance support. You can also go to the National Alliance on Mental Health at nami.org and look for personal support groups you can attend.

I hope that some of these observations and suggestions are helpful to you. Wishing you the very best in good mental health

~Dori

 

Welcome 2015… I know its been awhile….

Hi everyone! Happy New Year!  If you are reading this, then you made it through the holidays, which we all know can be a pretty rough time.  I’m not saying we all made it unscathed, but, we made it!

askabipolarnewyear2015

 

The standard thing to do at New Years is to make resolutions, but another thing we all know is that many of those resolutions never make it through the entire year.  We make resolutions to better ourselves like eating healthy and exercising more.  We make resolutions to be kinder to others and to be more productive.  We say we are going to spend less and save more.  All of those are great things, but they require consistency and commitment and having bipolar, consistency is not always in our vocabulary.  We have ups and downs, soaring and crashing, you get the idea.  That can make it really hard for us to keep our resolutions, a little more so than the average person.  I know I always make the same resolutions to eat healthier, exercise, save more money, and to write more.  I say that I am going to keep on top of this site and my personal website.  I tell myself that I am going to read more and be a better person.  Again, in theory, all great resolutions, but they require consistency and commitment.

I know that last year this page pretty much fell off the map.  That is my fault.  In January I spiraled into a black hole and only peeked out once in a while, but not long enough to keep up my end of running this site.  For that, I apologize.  Of course my resolution last year was to keep this page up and running and to stay on top of things.  There are a lot of people that come to visit this site looking for help, advice, encouragement, and information.  This past year, there wasn’t a whole lot of new material despite the messages to the inbox, so, as with other years, another unkept resolution.  The only difference with that resolution compared to my other ones is that others count on this site.  If I fail to keep up my end, I’m not just letting myself down and not keeping a promise to myself, but I am letting all of you guys down.  If I resolve to eat healthier, exercise, etc., those resolutions don’t impact anyone but myself if I fail to keep it the entire year.

I let you guys down this past year.  For that, I am truly sorry.  This website means more to me than I could ever put into words. When I was first diagnosed in 2006, I didn’t go looking for information or support right away. I figured I had my doctors, meds, and therapy group and that once my therapy group was done, I would be just fine.  WRONG!  It took me a few years, but at the beginning of 2011 I made a resolution to myself that I would learn more and figure out how to deal with this illness, so off I went looking for information on bipolar disorder and to find something that would help me understand what I was dealing with, learn how to deal with it, and be reassured that I was not the only one in the world who had this diagnosis.  As a result, I found the Facebook page for Ask A Bipolar.  Ask A Bipolar had just started in July of 2010 and was still a pretty small page. Despite its size, it was filled with not just information, but with people who also had this same illness and *gasp* had similar stories to mine and could relate to a lot of the things I felt that I was the only person in the world who could be feeling or experiencing them.  It was like I had found the buried treasure!  Ask A Bipolar became a part of my life, it was like one of the missing pieces to the puzzle of who I am had been found.  At first I just observed and soaked in the feeling of finally finding a place I felt I belonged.

Very shortly after though, I felt so comfortable, I wanted to get involved as much as I could, so I became an author for the site.  I had no prior experience with writing except the poetry I had been writing since I was 15 and had kept to myself, and a little blog I had where I just spoke my mind and told stories of the ridiculous things that would happen to me or the random thoughts that would run through my head.   Only a couple of my friends even read the blog, so to me it was more like an online diary.  Getting the chance to actually write something that would be helpful to others and would be read by more than my closest 3-4 friends never would have crossed my mind before then.  One day, I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook and saw that Ask A Bipolar was looking for authors.  On a whim (yes, impulsivity is one of those pesky symptoms of bipolar, shocker!)  I submitted the required things, not even thinking that I would actually be considered since I had no previous experience.  Well, Marybeth saw something in me and gave me a shot and it was the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me at that point in my life.  Not only was Ask A Bipolar helping ME, but now I would be able to return that and help others.  Almost immediately, Marybeth and I became great friends, best friends.  Not a day would go by without us talking or messaging a least a dozen times.  I became friends with the other authors and I was finally starting to feel comfortable with my diagnosis and had found myself the perfect support team.  It has been that way ever since.

Now, here I am, 4 years later, trying to make my New Years resolutions.  The only way to do that is to reflect on the past year and see where I could improve.  I looked at the Ask A Bipolar site and immediately felt disappointed.  The place that had been so helpful and such a big part of my life had been almost abandoned because I spiraled into a dark hole and wouldn’t come out.  I felt horrible because if I had felt that way about Ask A Bipolar, surely others felt that same way and I had let them down as well.  I looked at the inbox and all of the questions that people had written, hoping they would get some answers or at the very least, some sort of guidance or encouragement, and felt even worse.  People counted on this site just as much as I had, how could I have just left all of those people hanging?

So, this year, a lot of new and exciting things are already coming my way.  With that, I have not just made a resolution to myself, but I am making a formal commitment to ALL OF YOU, that I will be committed to this site, I will keep it up and run it just as good as Marybeth had for the years she ran it, and not let another year go by with this website being untouched.  I’m dusting off the cobwebs and while I personally will be embarking on a new journey, I am committing to ALL OF YOU ASK A BIPOLAR READERS that I will not leave you behind.  I will not leave this site the way I have.  I owe it to all of you to keep this that same place that I found so much solace in when I felt I was missing something.

As I said before, resolutions require consistency and commitment.  I can’t promise that there will be a post every day or that there won’t be some times of up and down.  To do that, I would be setting myself up for failure since the nature of the illness is that even as hard as we try to remain consistent and committed, we can’t always predict our brain chemistry.  What I CAN promise is that I will do my absolute best to remain as consistent as I possibly can and I am committed to this site.  This site saved me and I want to provide the same for others with the help of an amazing team of authors and volunteers.

If you have submitted a question to the Ask A Bipolar inbox and have not received a response, I do still have those questions and they WILL be answered.  For those that will be submitting new questions, please keep in mind that we are a bit backed up, so you may not get an immediate response or post, but we will answer it as soon as possible after we catch up from our backlog.  Thank you for your patience.

To a fabulous 2015…….Let’s get AaB rockin again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

~Christi~

Scared Mother

My son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 22. He was taking Focalin at the time for ADHD. He took Depakote woman-on-sofa-having-headache-100111995for a while but stopped after about 6 months because he said it didn’t help.  He had a good job then, but was having very bad anxiety so he quit. Things got worse after that. He is 24 now and hasn’t worked in 5 months. He said he can’t because of anxiety and can’t think. Does bipolar disorder “peak” in mid 20’s, or get worse? He is now taking Lithium and that is scary too.

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This is a very good question. Being a mother who has Bipolar and just had her son diagnosed with Bipolar not too long ago I can relate to this question. This can be a scary time in both the parents and the child’s life. It’s quite common for teens and young adults such as your son to be diagnosed at this time. I am not sure what causes the diagnoses to be common in early 20’s, could be the stress of school or the stress of transitioning from child to adulthood. What we do know is that Bipolar seems to be intensified with stress, that is why I attribute the commonality of diagnoses or onset of the illness in young adults such as your son because the 20’s can be an overwhelming and stressful time in their life.

In my experience it can take years to get the correct cocktail. So to answer the question “Does Bipolar “peak” in mid 20’s?” I would say no. What may seem like a peak could be the difference between not being able to find the right medication and succumbing to the illness. Depression and anxiety if not treated can be debilitating. When your says he can’t think, he possibly means his mind won’t shut off and therefore his thoughts are attacking him making concentrating on tasks difficult.

Sometimes during the treatment of Bipolar, other disorders can pop up causing treatment to become more challenging. After about 8 years of different medicine my doctors determined that I also had A.D.D. Once they added Concerta (a medication used for A.D.D. and A.D.H.D.) to my treatment plan I was able to concentrate and focus. Don’t lose hope.  The doctors will have to keep trying until they find something that works for your son.

Lithium, like Depakote, is a common mood stabilizer that is used for bipolar treatment.  It’s about the oldest medicine out there and they have the most research and information on it. Lithium can be scary because you have to be vigilant with checking on your levels, just like Depakote.  Levels can quickly rise to toxic levels causing physical illness. When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar, Lithium was the medication of choice, however after 6 weeks on it I ended up having toxic levels that left me quite ill. I had to get off Lithium and try a slew of other medication combinations.  Depakote may not have been working, but there are many medications on the market, such as Lithium, and the truth is, some work and some don’t.  It all depends on the individual, what may work for one person, may not work for someone else. Fortunately for my son he is being treated with the same medications I am on and it seems to work out pretty good for him. I do, however, understand that not everyone has the luxury of having a relative or parent diagnosed before their child is to help with navigating through all the information and questions about this disorder.

My advice to you as a parent would be to keep researching!!  Even if you have to attend doctors appointment with him,  keep trying!! Although it can be frustrating when the medications don’t work, or cause more annoyance than they help, there IS a combination out there that will work for him.

~Christine~

How do I help my sister who has bipolar so that her kids don’t continue to suffer?

My sister has bipolar and has no motivation to do anything for her or her five children. Yesterday, she accidentally help-10013871locked my nephew in the car and it was no big deal to her.  Another time she was about to feed the kids raw meat until I intervened and re-cooked it for them. My mom and I have to do everything for her while she just sits there and watches us. How can we help her to start functioning again?

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Your sister is so blessed to have you in her corner.  For everyone with bipolar disorder, there is a learning curve.  I am now able to do things for myself that I once needed help with.  Sometimes doing the little things (helping with laundry if she’s in a depressed mood swing or all the things you mentioned) can go a long way.  At the same time, she needs to get treatment, which involves psychotherapy and (if prescribed by a psychiatrist) medication.  Support groups and exercise can also be helpful.  Developing individualized coping strategies over time (examples: music therapy, support network of friends and family, blogs like this one, Facebook groups, faith, etc) can help her become more functional over time.

Here are other things you can do:

  1. Educate yourself about the illness
  2. Listen—just having someone to vent to or cry to can be therapeutic
  3. Encourage healthy habits (sleeping on time, routines, eating healthy foods, consistent therapist appointments, consistently taking meds) and
  4. Watch for “triggers”—what precedes/causes her mood swings?  Help her be proactive in seeking help before these episodes get out of control.

Every chronically ill person needs to develop a support network—friends and family she can rely on for help.

 In the future, she may be someone who needs extra help during mood swings but is functioning “normally” half the time, or she maybe someone who consistently needs help.  Time will tell.   I cannot give you an easy answer.  While I can’t give you guarantees, having a supportive family definitely increases one’s chances of managing bipolar disorder well.   Here is an article that talks more about the role of family.

~Jessica

 

He Lost His Battle with Mental Illness …

chatrapati-shivaji-maharaj-1057875-mThey say it all the time, “He lost his battle with Heart Disease.” or “She just couldn’t beat that Cancer.”

BUT

You never hear, “He lost his battle with Mental Illness.” or “She just couldn’t beat her Bipolar.”

Why?

Why does it always go something more like, “He committed suicide.” or “She killed herself!”?

Because that IS what it goes like every time. She offed herself, he hung himself, he put a bullet in his brain, she went and OD’d. There is so much disgust in each and every one of those statements. So much shame. So much disappointment.

A well-known young adult author, Ned Vizzini, died yesterday. “According to the Los Angeles Times, Vizzini committed suicide.” Which is not only sad and heartbreaking, it is also a tragedy that it has to be said so plainly, so bluntly and in such a way that it shames his name.

I know, I know. I’m being a bit dramatic, but I can’t help it.

FACT – Almost 2 Months ago exactly … I almost lost my battle with bipolar.

FACT – I somehow rose above the lies my mind was telling me and decided to get help.

FACT – Without the army of support and resources I had by my side, the outcome may have been very difficult.

I am NOT condoning taking one’s life, and I hope no one gets that from what I am saying here, but I do know that it does happen sometimes. And I also know, from experience, sometimes without someone else putting that voice into your head saying, “You can have a better life. Just seek the help you need!”, that it’s not always possible to win.

However, let’s be honest, in some of the more tragic cases, even with support and help, your own mind wins regardless. Our minds are powerful. They can have us believing the most ridiculous of things. Sometimes it’s impossible to discern fact from fiction and unfortunately the things we believe are facts, are anything but.

BUT

That doesn’t mean we don’t try to fight. Or at the very least we SHOULD try to fight. We should fight like hell actually. I know I fight like hell. And so far I’ve kicked the shit out of this battle. I’ve pretty much told my illness it can go shove it … and where! If I am able, if I am coherent, and if I am not of a delusional state, you can bet I’ll be fighting.

BUT

What if I am not able? What if I am not coherent? What if I am having delusions? What if I just can’t fight anymore???

Those what ifs ARE a possibility. For anyone suffering from any mental illness that includes at the very least depression, those what ifs can disappear and become statements … I am not able. I am not coherent. I am having delusions. I just can’t fight anymore.

If those things happen, is that person who fought like hell up until that point any less valiant because they lost the battle? Do all the battles that had been won get swept under the rug? Does he or she no longer get to be known for their strength, but instead for their weakest moment?

Well I can tell you for certain, if (and I hope that if is a NEVER) I ever lose my battle with mental illness … I sure as hell hope that I am known for going out as a fighter. Because just like a cancer patient getting chemo and having surgeries, I too have sought out treatment, taken meds and even been hospitalized. I have fought. I will continue to fight. Still, if I ever do lose the battle, I know it will not be because I gave up, it will be because my mental illness was bigger than  me.

So, to Ned Vizzini, I am so sorry you lost your battle. May you rest in peace and please know, though you were not able to beat your illness, you fought valiantly, made a huge difference, and went out as a hero!!!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you are thinking about harming yourself, or know someone who is, we advise you to get help immediately by doing one or all of the following:

  1. Call your doctor.
  2. Call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room to get immediate help or ask a friend or family member to help you do these things.
  3. Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.
  4. Make sure you or the suicidal person are not left alone.