Did your family impact your diagnoses?

Erika,

Are you Bipolar I or Bipolar II? Was there any question along the way about which you were? And does it run in your family at all? I’ve been diagnosed with Cyclothymia. Some call it Bipolar II and some separate as a separate diagnosis similar to Bipolar II. I’ve also been told it’s Rapid Cycling. The upshot is that there is clearly some sort of spectrum and all kinds of little subsets of bipolarity. I believe my grandmother had it (undiagnosed and wrongly treated as depression, with disastrous results). And I’m wanting to be watchful for signs in my own children as they grow older. So, can you talk about the medical history in your family in that regard, and if/how it provided a clue or road map in your diagnosis?

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Currently, my hospital discharge papers state that I am Bipolar 1 (technically, the diagnosis I Schizoaffective, Bipolar 1 Type). Through the years of me being sick, there has been a lot of questions about diagnosis, from the debate of 1 or II, to what mood disorder it was, and before that, if it was a mood disorder. For a lot of it, I wasn’t even entirely sure, and if I was honest with myself, still am bracing myself from the next diagnosis. To what it may change or if at all, I have no clue. What I do know is that my symptoms are so lengthy and complex, that there are overlaps everywhere. Bipolar, while my primary one, is not my only diagnosis.

It isn’t entirely clear if Bipolar Illness specifically run in my family; however, it is obvious that mood disorders do, and I am just the first to be diagnosed and treated. My father has experienced severe depressions since adolescence, and he also has periods where he is revved up, has racing thoughts, extremely irritable, and can’t get to sleep. My grandfather, whom I never met, was depressive according to my aunt; but he also spent ridiculous amounts of money, and would go into violent, abusive rages – even when completely sober. A great-grandfather of mine, I have heard would be set off by the slightest thing, and rage aggressively. All had alcohol and drug problems, which for my father was is way to self-medicate.

I’m not sure I agree Cyclothymania is rapid cycling, as anyone on the Bipolar Spectrum can do so; but you’re right, it is an entire spectrum, with some only having a few signs of it and other completely non-functional. To be blunt, I don’t think I’m quite 1 or II, as neither completely match me (though DSM-wise, I am 1), instead hover somewhere in between. Thus is why I hate how black and white medicine, especially psychiatry, can be. Very few things are so clear, and most of live in the gray. The only think about my illness that is black and white, is that I got it from somewhere other than fate or luck.

Hearing my father speak, we are so alike it is flat out scary. We have so many of the same problems, both in and outside of Bipolar. As he is not diagnosed, and because he hid everything so well with his drug problem (thus, my Mom only saw that), it was not a factor in my diagnosis for a very long while. By the time it was, I had already been diagnosed with it, and my father and I’s similarities only helped to get the specifics and co-morbidity straight. My mom also has severe anxiety and emotional instability, which I have also picked up from. Once again, because she doesn’t have a diagnoses, it didn’t contribute until I could speak up for myself and share her experiences with my doctors. I wish they had recognized it in themselves, as I showed a lot of early signs that they did also. Right now, as you are doing, I just hope I can look for it in my kids and, if needed, get help as quickly as possible.

With Love,

Erika

2 thoughts on “Did your family impact your diagnoses?

  1. Thank you, Erika! I do think a bright side of having a diagnosis of some sort, however complete or incomplete, is that while you don’t have to assume your kids will inherit your mental health issues, you can be mindful that it’s in the mix of their roots. It sounds like your parents/grandparents didn’t have diagnoses and therefore didn’t have the same ability to contribute to your mental health roadmap that you will have if you one day have kids. I’m glad to hear that you feel that the parent being in tune with their own diagnosis can be really helpful for kids, not a curse put upon them. We’re really very fortunate to live in an era where mental health issues are decreasingly stigmatized. And it’s things like this website that contribute to the change!

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