mental illness issues
Bipolar disorder is an inescapable mistress. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you work, no matter how many medications you take, she is always there, ready to hit you over the head with a 2 X 4. True, some people are lucky enough be experiencing remission. In that case, the mistress is forced to take a few steps back. But for people not in remission, people in full-blown bipolar disorder, that mistress is relentless. Every minute of every day she steals your brain and makes life unbearably painful.
And I have found that if you also happen to be bipolar and anhedonic, almost nothing allows you escape from that reality. Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure and when truly anhedonic, no matter what you do, no matter how theoretically pleasurable that activity is, you will not feel that pleasure – no matter what. This is a concept that most people cannot fathom but believe me, an inability to feel pleasure is real.
I have, however, found one tiny escape. It’s something I do all the time. It’s a little embarrassing, actually. I manipulate physical sensations and responses. Yes, I have orgasms.
When I’m feeling particularly sick with bipolar disorder I am excessively tired. From the time I wake up in the morning until the time I blessedly get to go back to bed at night, I’m exhausted; and every moment my eyes are open is a struggle. (And yes, fatigue and tiredness are symptoms of bipolar depression.)
And after more time than I can fathom feeling like this, something occurred to me. It occurred to me that I get more than tired. I get to a place where the pain is forcing me to search for a drug to escape. And sleep is my escape. Sleep is my drug.
Bipolar disorder is essentially your average emotions – only amplified. So bipolar is sadness, but to a level 11. Bipolar disorder is energetic, to a level 11. And so on. And, of course, as a human isn’t designed to run at a level 11, many other symptoms accompany those exaggerated experiences.
And while many of these exaggerated moods are related to no external stimuli at all and just appear out of the blue, some exaggerated moods are the result of something happening in the environment. Near as I can tell, bipolar disorder isn’t just an exaggeration of normal emotion it’s also an exaggeration of normal reactions to emotional situations.
The Bipolar Burble welcomes Ka Hancock, a psychiatric nurse and author of Dancing on Broken Glass, a book that delves into issues relating to bipolar disorder through a captivating story. Ka shares with us her thoughts on bipolar disorder in relationships. Leave a comment to be entered into a draw to receive a signed copy of Ka’s book.
I’ve had bipolar disorder for more than a decade – at least. Some might argue I’ve had signs of it since I was a child. That’s a very long time. That’s so long a time that it’s almost impossible for me to imagine myself without bipolar disorder. I suppose I can imagine it but it seems so farfetched that it’s barely worth the bother.
And for most of that time, the bipolar disorder has not been well-controlled. I’ve not only had bipolar, I’ve been manifesting those bipolar symptoms for most of my life. And while bipolar is not all that I am, it occurs to me that it absolutely is a part of who I am.
Earlier in the week I posted a piece by the lovely Hyla Molander on surviving death and depression. I thought in this piece she said something rather profound. She said that taking her antidepressants meant “choosing happiness.” And I think this is a really important point. Taking medication often means choosing happiness over pain or simply choosing life over death.
I once wrote an article on high-functioning bipolar disorder. High-functioning bipolar disorder is bipolar disorder where the person can still function in the major areas of his or her life. So people with high-functioning bipolar disorder hold down jobs, pay their rent, have food in the fridge, shower, and maintain social relationships.
Many people with bipolar disorder do all those things. The thing is, many people don’t. And the tendency is to compare a person who functions highly to one who may not be able to work or pay bills or shower. When this comparison is made, it is assumed that the high-functioning person must not be that sick when compared to others. This leads to doctors not taking the illness seriously of the higher-functioning person. And this is too bad because it can lead to people with high-functioning bipolar disorder get suboptimal treatment.
So how do you get your doctor to take your bipolar seriously if you’re high-functioning?
One of the big criticisms people have of psychiatry is the lack of empirical testing involved in the diagnosis of mental illnesses and antipsychiatrists seem to hang their hats on this lack of biological testing. But finally there is an approved brain scan that stands in the face of this critique. Finally, there is an FDA-approved brain scan to be used in the diagnosis of a mental illness.
I like to think of myself as a premier source of information on bipolar disorder (maybe that’s just my ego), but really, occasionally people need more medical, more comprehensive information on bipolar disorder. In fact, I too need sources of information on bipolar disorder for when I research the myriad of articles I write.
To that end I want to share with you the top five sources of bipolar information I know of.
Some people say there’s no way that someone without a mental illness can understand what a person with bipolar disorder goes through. I suppose there is some truth to this; I’m sure I don’t understand what it’s like to be paraplegic even though I have a sense of what it would be like not to be able to walk.