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Human Bipolar Disorder

 

Bipolar disorder can be devastating to those around us.  Those around us feel disheartened and discouraged, as the person they once knew is no more.  This can be very destructive in a marriage.  When you marry someone you do not expect them to change into a virtual stranger.  You may have turned into a raging lunatic and you both won’t understand why.  If you have Bipolar Disorder you will change. 

Some people simply aren’t equipped to deal with mental illness. Nor are they equipped to deal with the loss of their dreams due to your illness.  This can create a very destructive environment for both people concerned.  In my experience, for example, if I and yelling, I think I am not being heard so I get louder. You may experience the same thing causing strife in your life.  People do not understand your need to speak loudly, or outright yell.  All you as the bystander want is your spouse back.  It can feel rather lonely on both sides. 

What about the kids? They hear and see everything.  If you have changed from the person you once were, they will be confused as well.  So, what about the kids?  They are the ones who suffer the most.  If you have been recently diagnosed with this rare illness you will have to make the changes that will bring harmony back to your home and workplace. 

Bipolar Disorder has been a very rare disease in the past.  But with more and more people being diagnosed with it, it is becoming very popular to be Bipolar.  The cause of the increase in diagnoses is two-fold.  First, you have to understand that if the chemicals in the brain are subjected to long term stressors, they will change to adjust for the new circumstance. For example say you have a very stressful job, if you stay under the stressors of that job your brain chemicals will change in time and you will need medication to correct it.  With this in mind, your brain will change and it will show up in symptoms that are behavior related.  If a person demonstrates the typical behavioral symptoms today, they are effectively labeled Bipolar when it could be a hormonal imbalance instead.  Be aware that this illness is a chemical imbalance.  Secondly, most of the psychiatric mediations help with other illnesses, so you may start feeling better after taking an anti-depressant, but you may not really be Bipolar.  You may have another illness that is behavior related.       

To become comfortable in your new brain chemistry, you will need to learn how to relive.  You will also need an understanding family, boss, friends, and co-workers.  First and foremost you must accept that it is an ILLNESS.  This means that a person cannot help their symptoms on their own. If they get the help they need, they will also need your support.  This means understanding, compassion, and learning about the illness.  Learn as much as you can about the illness and practice your newfound understanding when dealing with the person afflicted.   This is what the person needs.  Sometimes tough love is in order.  This dissipates their bad behaviors.  Do not sustain their out of control urges by ignoring the behavior.  If they are not behaving in a way that is med-compliant, encourage them to take their meds.  If they do not, do not put up with their actions.  If simple encouragement does not do the trick try to help them.  Here are some ways you can help:

 

1.   Get a weekly medication dispenser and fill it with their meds to help them remember to take them.  This is a simple box, divided into sections, with the days of the week on the top of each section

2.   Remain firm when dealing with them

3.   Go to doctors’ appointments with them, if they will allow you to, this will give you a deeper understanding of what they are going through and you may be given the chance to ask questions of your own

4.   Attend therapy appointments to have the opportunity to voice your opinion as well as learn more about them, if they are agreeable to this and the therapist allows it

5.   There are numerous support groups for the family and friends of people with this illness, these support groups are most abundant on the internet and most helpful because they are anonymous, join one

6.   Have compassion for the disease, it is an ILLNESS

7.   Voice your concerns and opinions about the symptoms in a loving manner, this will help the person afflicted to gain a greater understanding of what YOU are going through as well

8.   Seek treatment from a trained professional to learn more tools in how to deal with it, it’s not a failure to seek help.

9.   Do Not play into their symptoms, try to help and if they do not want help, you must practice tough love

10. If they simply do not want YOUR help, try to find them the help they need by seeking a therapist or a psychiatrist.  The person you seek must be a trained medical professional with Bipolar experience.

If after doing all or some of the above you are still having trouble dealing with the illness rest assured you are not alone.  1 in 5 People have some sort of mental illness.  With this number being so high, chances are you know someone with a mental illness.  Whether it is a family member, a friend, or a co-worker, the outcome is the same.  You are part of the picture whether you want to be or not.  The best thing to do is accept this fact and practice supporting the person afflicted as well as getting some help of your own.  You may end up having to see a therapist yourself to deal with the trauma often created by the person afflicted.  Please do not see this as some sort of failure to seek help.  Talk therapy is a very effective tool when dealing with a mental illness.

In my experience, I went through 3 psychiatrists, and so many therapists that I cannot count, before I found the right one.  So don’t be discouraged if the 1stattempt is unsuccessful.  Try and try and try again until you are able to find someone to help.  Don’t be afraid to be honest.  You have valid concerns and they should be addressed appropriately and they MUST be validated in order to maintain your sanity.  My therapist notices even the smallest detail to my psyche, from the color of my face to my weight.  She is always in constant contact with my psychiatrist, which helps in many situations. There have been times when she has turned me over to him when I have been to manic for the session to be therapeutic.  It is very important to seek a professional that is humble enough to realize when they are in over their head, or simply cannot help at a point in time.  Make sure that they can be at your disposal. This may mean your therapist giving you their home number if necessary for times of crisis.  Of course you don’t want to abuse their generosity, however it may be necessary.  You will need to get them to a hospital for proper treatment, whether they want the help or not.  It is better to be the overzealous family member or friend, than to lose them entirely to suicide.  Many who are Bipolar are lost to suicide while in a depressive state.  Watch them carefully when in this state of mind for signs of giving up.  This will help you to know when to give them help.    

Please understand that most if not all of us don’t want to be sick.  Therefore we go through pain when we have hurt others.  They may have suicidal ideations.  You are told to talk about it when you are going through the suicide ideations but often time’s talk is the last thing you want at the time. Therefore you don’t get the help you so desperately need.  We often feel as though we have already put our family and friends through enough if suicide has been an issue in the past. Therefore we simply sink lower and lower into the depression until a plan forms and we attempt it.  A suicide attempt is usually a cry for help. 

You may experience this with the person you know.  If you do, do not expect them to open up when they are in it.  What you need to do is become aware of their normal body language. If they are not acting in the normal way, they may be suicidal, or close to it.  Open the conversation on your own.  Don’t let them sit in their depression to the point of actually attempting suicide.  This only gives into the illness and you may lose them forever.

We lose far too many people to suicide in this world.  The statistics say by the medical professionals that suicide ideations are limited to the youth in our country.  Although this is an important issue to address, it is far too ordinary for the medical society to overlook the effects of adults with the illness.  I have found this to be the case in my research.  The adults also have suicide ideations, and many times it is because of the very medications we are made to take.  This only makes it harder and harder to control.  If you are one of the many who have suicidal ideations, please talk to your family, or health care provider, do not become a statistic.  If you feel that someone you are close to is close to this, please, I beg of you get them the help they need.  Even if they don’t think they want it.  You must be persistent and keep a watchful eye for the symptoms.  Know your spouse, partner, family member, co-worker or friend closely and help them.  Too often we don’t want the help when we are in the depression.  Many of you who have had a person die from suicide and are reading this book to understand, please get that it is not your fault nor is there anything you could have done if they went about their life ignoring the symptoms.  If you know someone who has attempted suicide, they are a greater risk of a 2ndor 3rd attempt.  So be aware.  And try to get them the proper medical attention.  Get INVOLVED, even if they seem or say they don’t want the help, you may be saving a life. 

Suicide is a sin, as we all know.  Although death seems to be the only thing that will take us out of our pain when we are in depression, it will only hurt those who we love if we are successful. Suicide is a reality in the world of Bipolar.  When you are in the depression you feel as though all hope is lost.  You don’t think about the loved ones you will hurt in the event that you are successful.  You don’t think about the things that would stop you.  You only want to die to kill the pain, emotional or physical.  You think that if you are dead then the people in your life will be better off not having to deal with you.  You think this is the only way to get peace. 

Another thing that you can do to be helpful is to listen.  When we are depressed, we tend to be negative.  This is an indication of where we are headed.  Take heed to this.  Try to learn the symptoms and proper treatment.  Give them enough space to be comfortable, but not enough space to get on the pity pot.  This only leads to suicidal thoughts.  This can be a very dangerous neighborhood in their head.  Another thing you can do is treating them with kid gloves at this time. This is not to say that you are to baby them, however they need care and attention.  Understanding is first and foremost in this state of mind, even if you don’t understand at that point, you will in time and you just have to fake it till you make it. 

If you feel that they are at a point that you cannot handle, call in the medical professionals. As confusing as it is for you, it is even more confusing to them.  When they are in this frame of mind, they don’t know what else to do.  Even if we are well educated about our illness, it’s not always easy to snap out of it.  Understanding is what is needed to fix the situation.  Make recommendations.  Make the calls to the medical professionals, tell them something is not right with the person you love.  But most of all BE AWARE.  I cannot stress that enough.  BE AWARE. Read similar articles to this and apply the lessons you learn.  Don’t make the mistake of burying your head in the sand. 

I hope that I am being of help to you if you have a loved one with the disease.  I hope that you do not just sit back and rest on your Loral’s.  I hope that this article helps you.  Remember I have the disease and I know what I am talking about.  I am educated about it.  It is part of the depression side of the disease.

On the mania side, there are many things that can be done to help the person going through it.  Please understand, and I can’t stress this enough, it is an illness.  We do not want to be this way, we are just given this plight to live out or die with.  When we are manic, we may act hyper, out of control and beyond reason.  And we actually are if it is a particularly high manic episode.  Some of the things you can do to help are:


1.   Ask to see if they have taken their medications properly

2.   Check to see if they have taken their medications, by counting pills

3.   Encourage them to seek their health care professional, as many times the health care provider does not experience the manic side of the illness.

4.   Make the call the health care provider yourself

5.   Get out of their way and let it run its course, they will eventually come down

6.   Help them to come down by talk therapy of your own

7.   Make a positive experience of it and suggest something you can do together, sometimes this can make the extra energy run its course

When they are in this state nothing else matters but what they are doing at the time.  In my case I spent hours upon hours painting. This is a good way to focus. However it can take a turn for the worse if it gets out of control or is not supported by the loved ones.   

When you go into a manic state of mind, your thoughts are racing and you have to do something with yourself.  You are full of massive energy.  Your blood pressure rises and this is not good for your health.  It is the other side of the illness.  We need to do something with ourselves at this point. Excessive energy is yet another symptom. If we let it run away, like a locomotive train, our thinking becomes distorted.  We begin to think this is normal behavior.   It is not.  As a loved one of the person with the illness you learn to either participate or ride it out. This has its good and bad points. A good point to it is that you can become closer in your relationship.  A bad point is that you are contributing to the disease, which means participating in the mania.  You should not do this, as it only aids in the person with the illness thinking it is ok to be this way.  Medication is needed to bring a person down from a manic episode.  If you have not sought medical attention yet, now is the time. 

People with Bipolar Disorder become distorted in their thinking and tend to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in order to control their symptoms.  This is the time to seek professional help.  If you are self-medicating you need professional help. Get it as soon as possible.  If not for yourself, then do it for those around you.  It will only help you. 

Mania is described as acting in a way that is hyper active.  This is not normal.  With the mania symptoms we tend to be irritable.  Therefore it may not be possible to participate in a project with the person going through the mania phase.  My manic episode is helping me write.  So there is a positive side to the mania as well.

Irritability is a symptom.  It can also be an early warning sign to an impending depressive episode. This may make it hard to be around the individual.  If a person is irritable, they are not easy to get along with. They may snap for all the wrong reasons at all the wrong times.  Feeling irritable, you are short tempered and the slightest thing can set you off into a rage.  If you are experiencing this with the person that you love take it as a warning sign. With women, it is not always PMS. Although some of the symptoms can be similar. 

I have the tendency to be manic more than depressive.   Although my last depression lasted for 5 years, the mania has been the biggest part and was the defining factor in my diagnosis.   I was manic to the point of being short of breathe.  They did a multitude of tests on my breathing capacity and found nothing wrong.  It was Bipolar Disorder that was causing my breathing problems.  This is why I was finally diagnosed correctly.  I used to get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, it was like a painful flight of a thousand bees flying up from my stomach to my throat.  It was very painful.  I do not experience this very often anymore but I do on occasion, because I am medicated now.

Beware of over medication.  Many times I have seen my friends with the disorder be put on 6 –7 different kinds of medications.  One to remedy the side-effects of another and so on and so forth until they are simply taking too much.  One person I know was on 12 different medications, this is too much, in my opinion. I will not allow my doctor to put me on more than 3 medications at a time.  If I have a particular side-effect, like weight gain, I just live with it. This is particularly the case when you are seeing more than one physician.  You need to pick one and stick with him/her and tell all.  A good therapist can help to keep you in line with your meds.  Keep in mind that a therapist, good or bad, cannot dispense medication nor are they well versed in medication.   A good one, however can zero in on the symptoms and make a recommendation as to whether or not you need a medication adjustment.    This can also be a symptom of the illness.  When you have episodes, manic or depressive, become irritable or your behavior changes drastically, you may need a medication adjustment.

I recently had that happen to me.  I was prescribed a medication, I became irritable and short tempered.  I didn’t pick up on it at first.   The new medication affected my current medications. So we had to do a med-adjustment. So, be aware of this too.  Stopping smoking also contributed to my mood changes.  So if you are a smoker and want to quit, watch for the symptoms.  You may have to play with your medication doses to get to a therapeutic level.

When I was undiagnosed I used to fly off the handle at any given moment when things didn’t agree with me.  I was out of control.  I would run and run and run, never running out of steam.  I was uncontrollable.  And when I was diagnosed, life changed drastically.  I have had this disease for 3 decades, with only the third decade being diagnosed.  I often feel sorry to those I have hurt in life.  I regret a lot, but such is life.  Then I was diagnosed with the broken back and I couldn’t run and run and run, literally.  I hit a brick wall at this time, and it took the 5-year depression to put me on the track to healing from this episode.  Writing is helping me as much as I hope it is helping you.

You see people with Bipolar Disorder can lead healthy normal lives.  I use the term normal loosely, as what is normal anyway?   I strive to not use the word normal because of the implications.  Is the high-powered executive normal or suffering from undiagnosed mental illness? Is the depressed housewife going through post-partum depression, or is she undiagnosed with a mental illness? It is not a horrible thing to have Bipolar Disorder.  You just have to realize that your life will definitely change.  Or at least your outlook on life will.  

Mental illness in the work place is a travesty.  Many people with mental illness can lead productive lives by working in a regular job setting never get diagnosed properly.  When this is the time they should be diagnosed the most.  About 1% of US workers experience Bipolar Disorder. It is a rare disorder but is becoming more common and I think it is due to the stressful world we live in.  Bipolar workers account for 96% of lost days due to the illness.  This has an impact on your co-workers in that they have to carry the load in your absence. Often times a person who has the disease and is functioning in the workplace, doesn’t seek treatment out of the fear of being found out.  This is called a stigma.  So, the high-powered executive in a high-pressure position goes about their business and acts as if nothing is wrong.  While on the inside he/she is falling apart.  Worried that they won’t cut the mustard, wrestling with anxiety, and faking it for the most part.  If they get the help they need they must keep it a secret because of the stigma attached to mental illness.  Isn’t it a crazy world?  Bipolar Disorder actually makes more lag on the workplace then major depression. Studies show that people with Bipolar Disorder account for 96 million lost workdays and $14.1 billion in lost salary compared to 225 million workdays of so called normal people.  In the workplace the depressive side is more likely to show. A study showed that about ¾ of the workforce has associated major depression, another 63 % also have manic fazes. This means that the workplace suffers greatly from undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder workers.

Those who work with a person who has Bipolar Disorder may not understand why the afflicted worker can get so staggeringly much more done, when it is simply a manic episode that is the driving force.   They may also wonder why this person is so moody.  Work proficiency suffers due to the depressive episodes.  This is misunderstood in the work place.  After all how can you work so well one day and so badly the next.  Bipolar Disorder!  This goes on, on a regular basis.  The misunderstood worker is simply labeled as moody.  They are correct in this assessment as Bipolar is a mood disorder. But what do you do about it.  On the days that the person afflicted with the disease is depressive, their work is unproductive, on the days that they are manic the work gets done at a fast pace and is sometimes inaccurate.  This causes strife between workers and the afflicted person has 2 options, get help and tell the boss (which often times leads to the mental illness stigma vortex) or keep quiet and work on getting another job. I was faced with this choice in one position.  It just happened to be the one position that I had held for 5-years, the longest period I have held a job to date.  I was diagnosed and told my boss that I had an anxiety disorder (which wasn’t the whole truth) and he looked down on me from then on.  I was fired with-in a year.  My co-workers never understood why I would sit there and talk for hours at times (excessive talk) or become so agitated (irritability) over the smallest of things.  I was also extremely meticulous in this position, which my boss felt was a waste of time. 

Since it is misunderstood in the workplace, many go undiagnosed.  The co-workers either spend time making up for the productivity of the afflicted or spend time being jealous that their work is done so much more timely.  It is so VERY important to get an assessment and determine whether or not you are Bipolar. For those around you in the workplace count on you and the disorder wreaks havoc on the person afflicted as well as confusion of those who work with them.  Often times the Bipolar person is simply fired because they do not act "Normally”.  And that person may not be diagnosed at the time, so they may not know that they are being discriminated against.

Thus the condition of Bipolar Disorder is very confusing to those around us, however it is just as confusing to those of us with it.  If you suspect someone you know is Bipolar please, I beg of you, urge them to get the proper medical attention.


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