mental illness issues
I was sitting in my living room today starting at the wall. I spend a surprisingly large amount of time staring at the wall. It’s not that my walls are even vaguely interesting, it’s just that I spend a lot of time depressed and when depressed, even considering watching TV seems overwhelming.
And I was sitting there, depressed, staring at the wall, and the thought occurred to me: I just want to be like everyone else. I just want to go back to a time when walls were just the things you painted and not sources of non-entertainment. I just want to go back to a time when I couldn’t define bipolar disorder and psych medications were something I would never even have considered. I just want to go back to a time when I was just like everyone else.
It’s very natural to be angry when something egregiously bad – like getting bipolar disorder – happens to you. It’s not necessarily rational, per se, but it is normal. And when we’re mad about something we look for someone or something to blame. We look for someone to blame for our bipolar disorder. Again, this isn’t a rational, or even conscious thing, it’s really just a natural reaction to an extremely unfortunate situation, but it really isn’t healthy.
Today on the Bipolar Burble blog Melanie Williams brings us a piece on something that isn’t talked about nearly enough: postpartum depression and its relationship to bipolar disorder.
Jon Avnet, the creator of the Web series “Susanna,” told CBS News the reason he created the show was because of how prevalent postpartum depression is, yet nobody talks about it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10 to 15 % of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression within a few weeks of their child’s birth. The condition, however, can affect women up to a year after giving birth. It is also not exclusive to females. The Psychiatric Times cited several clinical studies and said up to 25% of new fathers also suffer from postpartum depression.
The tragic death of Miriam Carey, the 34-year-old new mother who was shot and killed by Washington, D.C., police in early October, brought much needed attention to a condition that affects so many people. Seek immediate medical attention for any noticeable or even subtle signs of postpartum depression in yourself or a loved one.
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.