When I was depressed for so many years I tried constantly to find people to hang out with and watch sports. American football was actually very hard as there was usually a ‘discussion’ regarding what game would be on what TV and which one would have sound. The bartender always controlled the remote in a way I found stressful. Now I have found what I was looking for- I’m glad I didn’t quit. I found a soccer community to watch my favorite sport: European football. There are many reasons to love this game. I love the camaraderie and the room filled with guys in soccer jerseys. There are other reasons to like soccer as well. It’s essential that those of us with bipolar disorder find a place to go when we are down and people to talk to when we are lonely.
It amazes me that Gabepentin (neurontin) is still prescribed for bipolar disorder. It’s used in jails and by health care professionals who might not know the facts. I wrote the blog below in 2012. How is it possible that four years later, the drug is still being used for people with bipolar disorder? I’d like to hear your experiences.
Here is a very interesting article regarding the drug gabapentine. Known mostly by it’s brand name Neurontin, the drug was touted as a medication for bipolar disorder. In reality, it often caused suicidal episodes – even though it took doctors a while to catch onto this. I was given Neurontin in 1998- it was my 22nd drug and by that time I had so many drugs in my body, this one only made things worse. I became immediately and dangerously suicidal. No one believed me then!
As you all know, I believe in drug therapy for bipolar disorder. I took Lamictal (lamotrigine) for many years and it improved my life. But we have to be very careful- Lamictal and Neurontin are in the same family of anti convulsants- which proves that medications are not alike just because they are under one family.
Click here to read the article about the Kaiser Lawsuit over Pfizer’s mis-representation of the drug Neurontin.
PS: Do you feel that we are often just guinea pigs at the whim of drug companies? We need the drugs and many of us love our drugs for how they help us get on with life, but I wish we were more respected as human beings instead of money generating machines.
Get ready for the holidays- today! I know, it’s not even Halloween yet here in the States, but planning ahead really works.
I’m planning my winter holidays right now. I tend to get overly stressed when I don’t plan ahead for holidays. There is so much cheer around me! Holiday cheer! If only regular people knew what it’s like for us. Especially those of us who have some odd family dynamics.
What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Where will you go for the holidays in December? Do you have plans for New Year’s? No matter where you live, December and January are usually on a different schedule. Bipolar disorder doesn’t like schedule changes!
Loneliness and suicidal thoughts can peak during the holidays. If we plan now- In October- we can make things really different this year and have some holiday cheer ourselves.
If you want to be with PEOPLE during the holidays, I highly suggest the website MeetUp.
Did you know: Bipolar disorder is much more than mania and depression? We have psychosis, anxiety in all of its forms with a great emphasis on OCD behaviors, ADD problems, physical restlessness and an overall intellectual curiosity that causes us to continue seeking the truth in life even when bipolar slaps us in the face.
What Partners, Family Members and Friends Need to Know
Partners and family members of a person with bipolar disorder face many of the same challenges. They often have intense loyalty towards the person they love, but at the same time there may be anger, frustration and fear. For partners, the main concerns are usually whether the relationship can survive the illness and how bipolar disorder will affect children. For family members, the main concerns are usually the safety of their loved one and worry over how the illness is affecting the family dynamics. If one of these describes you, or if you simply aren’t sure how the illness may affect your life, please know there is hope. This page addresses some of the issues you may find yourself in today and suggests ways you can help your loved one get better. There is a link at the end of the article that will lead you to more information on my family and partner coaching.
Essential Information for Family Members and Partners
Communicating during a mood swing is the number one relationship problem when a person you love has bipolar disorder.
Up to 50% of people with bipolar disorder refuse help or refuse to accept the diagnosis (yet you still have to live with the symptoms).
Loved ones with bipolar disorder may be enthusiastic one day and withdrawn the next for no obvious reasons.
50% of people with bipolar disorder have trouble with alcohol and/or drugs. Often this is an effort at self-medication.
Bipolar medication side effects can be very detrimental to a romantic relationship due to sexual mood changes and body changes.
This list may seem frightening, but it’s important to know that relationships can definitely be repaired, even after dangerous and life changing mood swings. Solid and loving relationships based on open communication are possible. And even if you love someone who can’t get well or isn’t getting well, you can learn how to help yourself first and then work with them to improve your relationship. In my work as a family and partner coach, I see miracles every day.
When my partner went into a three month manic/psychotic episode in 1994 and then into a suicidal depression, I truly didn’t know if he would ever get better. Would bipolar disorder change his brain so that he couldn’t work? Would I have to be his caretaker from now on? Where would we find the money to pay for his care? Would he always need medications? Would he live? I remember being scared every day. The reality was that he did get better. He was able to work again. And our relationship survived.
Denial of the Diagnosis
The most often asked question I get from family members is, “How can I help my loved one accept that they have bipolar disorder?” Before answering this question, let’s look at some of the reasons many people with bipolar disorder may be in denial of the illness.
One reason is that it can often be too painful for someone to face the future. Imagine what it’s like to have a lifelong illness that affects the way you think and feel, and that requires daily management and major lifestyle changes. For many people, the changes may feel too great. “Stop going out? I can’t do that! Quit my high pressure job? Are you joking? Stop drinking? Stop staying up late? Do you want me to be a monk?” Bipolar disorder often requires sweeping lifestyle changes in order to stay healthy, and it can be a lot easier simply to deny that there is a problem than accept this reality.
Denial can also be a symptom of bipolar disorder itself. People who are in great crisis because of bipolar disorder and yet still refuse to admit they have an illness may appear to be stubborn and/or self destructive, but in reality it’s often the bipolar disorder that’s in control at this time—not the person. Even when you can clearly see that the illness is destroying their life, they may not be able to because the bipolar disorder won’t let them.
Mania also plays a large role in denial. When someone suddenly stops their medication and denies they’re sick, this often indicates a manic episode and needs to be taken seriously. Mania often feels very good and can make a person forget the times when they were severely sick. Your loved one may believe they no longer have bipolar disorder, or that they never had it at all but were just depressed. Mania can actually change a person’s thinking from reasonable to extremely unreasonable and dangerous in just a few short days. It’s therefore important for everyone involved to recognize the signs of a manic episode before it goes too far. If you know for sure that your loved one has stopped taking their medication due to mania and they refuse to discuss it with you, it is time seek advice from a health care professional. This is especially true if the person is also showing signs of psychosis.
A dual diagnosis can also contribute to a person’s denying they have bipolar disorder. “Dual diagnosis” means a person has a diagnosis of drug and/or alcohol addiction as well as bipolar disorder. Drug and alcohol abuse are the number one reason for “non treatment compliance” and “poor treatment outcome.” What this means is that if the person you care about drinks or uses drugs (pot included), they may deny the diagnosis even more, because they would have to not only accept that they have bipolar disorder, but also stop their drug or alcohol use.
Take care of yourself first!
These are just a few of the reasons a person may deny a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. There are many others, and it can be extremely frustrating for partners and family members when their loved one refuses to get help. I work with many family members and partners in this situation and I always ask them, “If your loved one won’t get help right now, what are you going to do?” I don’t mean what are you going to do about them, but rather what are you going to do to help yourself? There are many options. The first step is to create a management plan that you and the people around you can use when you have to interact with your loved one. There are ways to communicate with your loved one even when they are in a severe mood swing. You can learn to stop fights, deflect accusations, deal with destructive behaviors and be there for the person you love whenever possible—all without losing yourself.
When someone just isn’t getting better
There are also many people with bipolar disorder who do accept the diagnosis and are open to treatment but are simply not getting better. They may have tried many medications, but their mood swings are still raging. In this situation they may turn to their partners or family members in desperation for help. Often the only thing family members know how to do is seek further medical advice and hope that love and support will be enough to make things better. Unfortunately, this is usually not enough. When a person isn’t responding well to traditional treatment, a comprehensive management program is an absolute necessity, one that addresses specific behaviors and symptoms.
If you are in any of the situations mentioned above, you probably do not know what to do. It is not innate to know how to help someone manage bipolar disorder. Most treatment books on bipolar disorder are only for those with the illness, or else they are fact-based books explaining bipolar disorder on a technical level. While these books can be helpful, what family members and partners need most—especially once the illness is in full swing or if the person they love has tried everything and can’t get better—is a practical, hands-on management plan to deal with all the various situations that arise.
I coach partners and family members of those with bipolar disorder. My goal is to help you get a loved one into treatment and then started with a management plan. My success rate is high. I understand what you are going through. Here is a link to learn more about my coaching: Family and Partner Coaching.
It can be hard to love someone with bipolar disorder. What you may have learned in the past about maintaining stable and loving relationships simply doesn’t apply when faced with this illness. You must therefore learn everything you can, including the various bipolar medications and how they work, the full spectrum of symptoms, triggers and behaviors specific to the person you love, etc. You must also learn effective ways to communicate with your loved one around the illness, especially when they are in a mood swing. And you will need to create a plan for yourself that you can use with your loved both during and between mood swings.
I have a lot of work to do today. I created the work. I want the work and darn it, I’m going to do the work. Getting myself in a space where the work is possible is a challenge. Here is what I’m going to do.
1. Notice the position of my shoulders. Yep. Up against my ears. I just lowered them. Doing this helped me take a natural and deep breath.
2. Focus on breathing. I put my arms behind my head and clasp them together. I push my shoulders back and breathe.
4. Create a short to do list. Get it Done When You’re Depressed reminds me that to do lists can be short and in the moment. I have one task, to answer email and bill my clients. I have five hundred other things I need to do as well, but this is what comes first. So my to do list can be short. Answer email. Send invoices. I don’t have to make the list any longer than this.
5. Feel the anxiety and do it anyway. Work anxiety is my bugaboo. Grand goals send me out of my body and into a universe of worry. Getting myself BACK IN MY BODY helps me focus on what is in front of me instead of what might happen or what might go wrong.
6. Praise myself all day long. I do my best. You do your best. We are doing our best. Bipolar disorder is a challenge we can rise to and meet.
We are strong. What project do you want to start today? What are the first three, tiny steps. Do those little steps and go from there.
I can do it. You can do it! We can do it!
This is the Mental Health Bipolar Disorder Brigade from my upcoming book Hortensia and the Magical Brain.
This Brigade is there to help kids with their wayward thoughts. I love this fun sketch from my amazing illustrator Kaytie Spellman. (There is more info on this book project in earlier posts below.)
Remaining playful during a panic attack helps. Yes, I just talked myself through a panic attack. You can do the same!