Anxiety · Bipolar Disorder · Depression · Mental Health

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

I was really triggered this week by the news of Kanye West publicly going on “rants” and saying a lot of things that seemed “out there” to people. I noticed a lot of hate against him and a lot of memes making fun of him. Kanye was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about four years ago and publicly had a manic disorder which is symptom of bipolar. I am not excusing hurtful words he said or words that anyone says during a mania episode, but it is important we understand the mental illness aspect. A lot of people struggle with bipolar and some people are misdiagnosed and some know they are bipolar but are to embarrassed to share that they have it or struggle to believe that they do. To be honest, I have called Kanye crazy and have been like what is going on with this guy!? It is human nature to judge when we don’t understand the full gravity of the situation or what is truly going on with an individual. He is a celebrity and so it is easy for the media and people to tear him and his family apart. This is why empathy is so important to have and I have to even remind myself this as well.

The thing is, why did this recently trigger me? I have had an unbelievably emotional past couple months. Well let’s be real the past ten years. My mom was diagnosed with Bipolar a few weeks ago and so this hit extra hard. I have dealt with her for all my life but in the last ten years it has been very difficult to have a relationship with her. It has been difficult for her to want to live because of her intense mood swings. My mom used to go to a Psychiatrist back in Iowa who was pumping her with prescriptions but not finding the real problem. She has always been very depressed, anxious, excited, mood swings, sleeps for days, manic episodes, delusions, obsessions, rants, conspiracy theories, etc. A few weeks ago, she was suicidal because she just wanted the pain to go away and didn’t think she would ever get better. This broke my heart to hear and scared the heck out of me. I immediately called the suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255. I was able to speak to a trained professional and figure out what to do. When someone says they don’t want to live anymore WE HAVE TO TAKE IT SERIOUSLY! This can be so overwhelming and in the moment of panic it can be hard to know what to do. They were able to recommend a hospital for her to put her on a 72 hour hold, then to inpatient, and hopefully outpatient after. Finally, the Doctor said my mom has diagnosed bipolar but was never diagnosed properly. He said he can’t believe that previous Doctors never diagnosed her before. I did a lot of research on bipolar so I could better understand it and now it all makes SO much sense.

Here is some of my research on bipolar to help everyone better understand it and to spread awareness about it but tune in to the bottom where I share more of my experience of being the daughter of someone who has it and how it has mentally impacted me and my family.

What is Bipolar?

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks (National Institute of Mental Health, 2020)

Bipolar, is also known as manic depression, and is a chronically recurring condition involving moods that swing because the highs of mania and the lows of depression. Depression is the most pervasive feature of the illness. The manic phase usually involves a mix of irritability, anger, and depression, with or without euphoria. When euphoria is present, it may manifest unusual energy and overconfidence, playing out in in the bouts of spending or promiscuity, among other behaviors.

Misdiagnosed is common; the condition is often confused with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, or borderline personality disorder. Biological factors probably create vulnerability to the disorder with certain individuals, and experiences such as sleep deprivation can kick off manic episodes. (Psychology Today, 2020)

(This part really got me because my mom was diagnosed ADD when she was in Iowa and they pumped her full of medication for it and a very high dose. The Doctor makes a lot of money on Pharmaceuticals and so instead of caring for the patient it can be all about the money, unfortunately. I even thought my mom was schizophrenic because of her intense conspiracy theories; which schizophrenia is usually diagnosed in these situations since they don’t look into further testing for bipolar)

3 Types of Bipolar Disorders

  • Bipolar I Disorder– Defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depressive symptoms and manic symptoms the same time) are also possible.
  • Bipolar II Disorder– Defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypo-manic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes that are typical Bipolar I Disorder.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia) – Defined by periods of hypo mania symptoms as well as periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least two years (1 year in children and adolescents)

Signs and Symptoms

During manic episodes they may:

  • Feel very “up,” “high,” elated, or irritable or touchy
  • Feel “jumpy or “wired”
  • Have decreased need for sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Talk very fast about a lot of different things
  • Feel like their thoughts are racing
  • Think they can do a lot of things at once
  • Do risky things that show poor judgement, such as eat and drink excessively, spend or give away a lot of money, or have reckless sex
  • Feel like they are unusually important, talented, or powerful

During depressive episodes they may:

  • Feel very sad, “down,” empty, worried, or hopeless
  • Feel slowed down or restless
  • Having trouble falling asleep, wake up too early, or sleep too much
  • Experience increased appetite and weight gain
  • Talk very slowly, feel like they have nothing to say, forget a lot
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Feel unable to do even simple things
  • Have little interest in almost all activities, a decreased or absent sex drive, or inability to experience pleasure
  • Feel hopeless or worthless, think about death or suicide

(Sometimes people may experience both manic and depressive symptoms in the same episode)

Diagnosis

Proper diagnosis and treatment can help people with bipolar disorder lead healthy and active lives. Talk to a Doctor or other licensed health care professional first. The Doctor can do a complete physical exam and medical tests to rule out other conditions. A mental evaluation is important as well and then referral to a trained mental health care provider, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker.

Treatments

Certain medications can help manage symptoms of bipolar disorder and it may take trying a few different medications before finding one that works best. These generally include mood stabilizers and atypical anti psychotics. Other medications can help with sleep and anxiety. Health care professionals will often prescribe antidepressant medications to treat depressive episodes. Combining the antidepressant with a mood stabilizer can help prevent a triggering manic episode.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, is also called talk therapy and can be an effective part of the treatment plan. Psychotherapy is a term for a variety of treatment techniques that try to help a person identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. They can provide support, education, and guidance to people with bipolar disorder and their families. Treatment may also include CBT or Cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Everyday things you can do to help

  • Regular Exercise
  • Keeping a life chart: keeping track of moods and talking with a licensed provider
  • Therapy
  • A structured and regular schedule
  • Healthy environment
  • Safe outlets to talk to

What causes Bipolar Disorder?

Genetic and environmental factors can create vulnerability to bipolar disorder. Life events like childhood trauma are thought to play a huge role in bipolar disorder. Research know that once bipolar disorder occurs, traumatic events precipitate its recurrence. Incidents of interpersonal difficulty and abuse are most commonly associated with triggering the disorder. I have noticed that unresolved trauma really plays a part in bipolar which is important for individuals to try and work through the trauma, in order to help manage the manic or depressive episodes.

Resources

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 which is available 24/7

Crisis Hotline: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7

If you are thinking about harming yourself or thinking about suicide

  • Tell someone who can help right away
  • Call your licensed mental health professional if you are already working with one
  • Call your doctor or health care provider
  • Go to the nearest hospital emergency department or call 911

If a loved one is considering suicide

  • Do not leave him or her alone
  • Try to get a loved one to seek immediate help from a Doctor, health care provider or nearest hospital or call 911
  • Call the suicide hotline (that’s what I did and they were a wonderful help)
  • Remove access to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including medications

Coping with Bipolar Disorder

  • Get treatment and stick with it. It takes time and its not easy but it is necessary
  • Keep medical and therapy appointments
  • Take all medicines as directed
  • Structure activities: keep a routine for sleeping and eating, and exercise
  • Learn to recognize your mood swings and warning signs, like decreased sleep
  • Ask for help when trying to stick with your treatment
  • Be patient; improvement takes time. Social support helps
  • Avoid misuse of alcohol and drugs.

How it has impacted me and my family

I have been dealing with this emotional roller coaster since high-school but my mom has lived in Iowa and hasn’t physically been around for years. I always prayed for her and hoped one day we could have a good relationship. There are other factors of why we haven’t had a relationship but I know a huge one is because of mental illness. It has been hard for me to be emphatic to her because of some hurtful things she has said to me and how she has been missing out of my life for the past 10 years. We have gotten into a lot of arguments and it can be difficult on me and on her. I get mad when she sleeps all day and get mad when she does other things that I don’t agree with. I am frustrated with the mental health system right now. I finally got her some help and she agreed but the inpatient facility she was in was horrible. The workers treated them bad, there were constant fights that would break out, and my mom felt unsafe so she left. I don’t blame her but it’s so disappointing how the system failed her. When someone doesn’t have money they are put into terrible facilities and really just comes down to money. We aren’t rich and don’t have the means to put her in a good treatment center but I wish she could get actual help. I know she would succeed if she was in the right environment that cared for her and made her feel safe. She has always been a great mother and she has a heart of gold. She means really well and she is one of the most selfless people I know. I wish she knew how wonderful she truly was and how we all need her. My brother and sister love her a lot too and I am thankful to have my sister to talk to about all of it. We will not give up on our mom. We know that she can be better but sometimes it gets very discouraging that she won’t. When she recently came back into my life in Georgia a few months ago I was so excited to have her around but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. It wouldn’t be easy to be to connect right away, it wouldn’t be easy to relive a lot of past pain and trauma, it wouldn’t be easy for me to watch her suffer, it wouldn’t be easy for me to watch this roller coaster of emotions, and it hasn’t been easy. I struggle between wanting to do everything I can to help and feeling like I can save her or fix her but then I struggle with knowing that I can only do so much.

Loving someone who has mental illness is really freaking hard and especially when you deal with mental illness yourself. I am diagnosed with anxiety, panic, depression, and PTSD. I am still working through some of my own experiences and trying to heal and be the best person I can be. For years, I stayed away from my mom and other people because I had to set boundaries for my own physical and mental health. To be honest, I am scared to even speak on this publicly for the retaliation I may get. I know that this is personal and some of this isn’t my story to tell, but my heart strings are pulling on me that it needs to be shared. People need to start to do more research, ask more questions and have more empathy. I am trying to have more empathy but the fact I am a very emphatic person means I need to set boundaries and make sure I am taking care of my mental health and myself first. These past few weeks have been really draining and I have had a lot of anxiety. We don’t know what the outcome will be but I will keep praying and hoping for recovery and for change. I will keep learning about bipolar and many other disorders. For the ones who are feeling like me, just know you are not alone! Make sure to go to therapy, journal, baths, walks, breaks from your phone, learn to say no, and take moments for you.

Thank you for reading and I hope this blog post can spread more awareness and help someone in need. Feel free to comment or reach out to me if you would like to discuss this more!

Love & Light,

Tuscany

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