Yup, it’s the gift-giving season. I’m buying some gifts that I can’t afford and others that I don’t like. Ah, the holidays.
But the question is, are there gifts that are actually appropriate for someone with bipolar disorder?
Actually, yes, there are.
As I’ve said many times, people view me as a high-functioning bipolar. And to a large extent, this is true. I do many things every day that many people with bipolar disorder can’t do because of their illness. I do battle with my bipolar demons and win more than some others. But here’s the thing: I still find bipolar disorder, and life, to a large extent completely overwhelming and I feel paralyzed by it.
Recently I wrote about the phenomenon of “earworms” which (if you ask me) is a type of obsessive thought. It’s when music gets stuck in your head. It’s something that everyone experiences, and it’s annoying but I suspect that earworms are a type of obsessive thought that occurs in those with bipolar disorder more than for other people. (There isn’t evidence of this, but there is evidence that those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) get more earworms and bipolar disorder may be linked to OCD.)
I’m often asked by people, “I want to die. What should I do?”
It’s very, very sad.
But it is a reality for so many. So many people want to die at one point or another in their lives. It might be related to a mental illness like depression or it might not. But regardless as to why a person wants to die, it’s critical to know what to do if it’s happening to you or someone you care about. (Suicide and suicide attempt resources here.)
How Does One Choose a Psychiatrist?
The other day I was searching for a hairstylist. My hair is hard to keep up, very challenging for a stylist and thus, very expensive, so if I leave the salon with anything but exactly what I want, I’m more than a little peeved. I’m the client and I want what I paid for.
And as I was looking at various salons and considering which stylists might do a good job, it occurred to me, I’m spending more time on this than most people spend on finding a psychiatrist.
So how does one choose a psychiatrist anyway?
I am not happy. People who know me well, know this about me. Sure, I act happy, because what choice do I have considering societal norms, but happy I am not.
So the question is, can a person with bipolar disorder by happy?
Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to give a presentation on mental illness to a group of ninth-graders through the Bipolar Babe project. I spoke about stigma and my personal story of mental illness. I told them all about my bipolar disorder, my diagnosis, treatments, treatment failures, vagus nerve stimulator, electroconvulsive therapy and more. And at the end of the presentation, the kids had a chance to fill out feedback forms, and one of the words they used surprised me – inspirational.
Hypomania. People haven’t generally heard of that word, but once they have, they want to know, what does bipolar hypomania feel like? This is a reasonable question with a completely unreasonable answer.
I get a lot of feedback on my writing. I like feedback. Some of it’s positive, some of it’s negative, but it’s always interesting to know what other people are thinking of my writing.
But one of the types of comments that drives me absolutely nuts goes like this, “I lived with a bipolar person for 20 years and I don’t understand why people with bipolar are so angry,” or they’re “so violent,” or “so manipulative,” or “cheaters,” or whatever.
Here’s what drives me crazy about it – living with someone with bipolar disorder does not make you an expert on people with bipolar disorder; it makes you an expert in one person. Not all of us.
And Why You Shouldn’t Tell People about Your Bipolar Medications Either
At least once a week someone asks me what medication I’m on or what my bipolar treatment plan is, but I have a policy not to talk about my treatment plan or medication. I typically won’t even get specific about my experience with specific medications. I don’t tell people what medications I’m or what my treatment plan is for a good reason – it’s no one’s business but mine and my doctor.
I get a little peeved that people ask me about my medications and treatment plan because it’s private people. But people think that just because I’m a writer I’m a public commodity and people should get to know whatever they want about me. Well guess what, you don’t. You get to know what I choose to tell you, nothing more, nothing less.
Saturday, after sharing the story of someone who had been through electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). someone named Michele Montour left me this series of tweets (shortened words lengthened to improve readability):
Nothing will ever convince me that this barbaric, antiquated butchery is proper treatment. We know almost nada about the brain. Scientists admit very little known about our brain – even diagnoses are guessed. But zapping it and not REALLY knowing and irreversible!? I think ECT treats us like animals. Repackaged to remove ITS stigma. Let’s just go to the ice-pick lobotomy again! #disgusted
To this, I, admittedly shortly, responded:
That’s a convenient perspective when you’re not dying.
Well, Michele Montour did not like this response and it led to a bit of a diatribe on her part wherein she, among other things, called me a stupid and ignorant bitch.
I thought, perhaps, this stupid bitch could take a moment to explain her opinion.
[Note: I am running a survey on real patients’ experiences with, and perspectives on, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). If you’ve had ECT and want your voice heard, please take the survey here. More detailed information on the ECT survey can be found here.]