Mental health is a topic that shows up on occasion in both my personal experience posts and my fiction. There are many types of mental illness, but because mental illness affects a people in very personal ways, they are sometimes hard to diagnose and treat. This also makes the illnesses difficult for the sufferer and their friends and family. When answers are difficult to come by, and understanding is vague at best, misinformation, misdiagnosis, and faulty treatment run rampant.
I have struggled with Bipolar Disorder since I was a teenager. Of course, I didn’t realize what it was at the time, and it took on different characteristics as I aged. It began as mood swings (mainly involving irritability and anger) that my parents simply assumed were caused by raging hormones. Then it re-birthed itself as anxiety, periodic impulsiveness, and depression. When I made it to college, it finally hit its peak with my first truly manic episode. I wasn’t hospitalized, nor have I ever been.
To learn the difference between Bipolar I & II (and other related illnesses), please visit this page from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
I decided to add this page because I have received questions over the years and know that there is both interest in and confusion associated with Bipolar Disorder. Hell, even those of us WITH the disorder are often in the dark about the what and why of our actions and feelings. Often, a person in a manic or depressive state isn’t fully aware that he or she is even in that state until the damage has been done and there is time (and ability) for reflection — independently or with a therapist.
Also, as research progresses, new information is uncovered. For example, doctors now know that antidepressants (alone) can actually aggravate Bipolar symptoms and trigger manic episodes. I was on antidepressants (alone) for quite some time, until a psychiatric nurse intervened and prescribed a mood stabilizer (lithium). The problem was, lithium made me visibly shaky. I felt like I was on a quadruple dose of caffeine for most of my day, and so I stopped taking everything and attempted to deal with my mental health issues through acupuncture, meditation, and counseling. It worked for a time. But relapses are common with Bipolar Disorder, and medication is often the only way to really manage the effects.
I am not a doctor, so if you need information about symptoms, diagnosis, or treatment, please check out the following resources:
If you are interested in personal accounts of life with Bipolar Disorder and other related mental illnesses, check out these excellent memoirs. There are actually so many out there, and the number is growing and people open up about their mental health issues and it becomes less stigmatized in our culture. The more we talk and write about it, the more we will understand it. And the more we understand, the more we will accept and heal.
Here is a list from bpHope – “10 Must-Read Memoirs from People with Bipolar Disorder”
And a list from Bookglow – “5 Must-Read Memoirs about Bipolar Disorder”
Are you a loved one or friend trying to figure out how to deal with or support your loved one with Bipolar? Check these out:
If you have great resource suggestions that have helped you or those you love, please email them to me and I will add them to the list. I believe the more we share, the more we do to help one another understand ourselves and each other.