1. Heightened artistic ability. The only way to know if this is mania is to compare your artistic ability to when you are stable. I NEVER draw when stable. I can barely do stick figures. The picture below definitely shows the manic brain at work.
2. You have ideas for big projects that you would normally find impossible. Stable people clean their rooms. When we are manic, we design a new organizing system for our room, go to the store and buy all of the supplies and then stay up all night building something that gives us a lot of pleasure. Everyone who sees this thinks, “What the heck is going on here? I have never seen her build anything in her life!”
3. Everything is sexual. Songs sound sexy. Men AND women look attractive. We really notice how people look. “Here hair is so shiny, I have to touch it!” “Look at those lips, I wonder what it would be like to kiss them?” And of course, the story of one of my manic episodes where I saw a man in Starbucks who had obviously just played a football match (soccer game) and I had the thought: “I’m going to get down on my hands and knees and LICK HIS CALVES!”
In the past, I would have given in to all of this EUPHORIC mania and fueled it with sex, booze and rock and roll. Now, I just prevent it.
I am MUCH happier.
What about you? When was your first manic or hypomanic episode? What did you think say or do?
We often talk about signs of mental health disorders in children. I want to start a conversation by listing the habits of stable kids so that we can truly see the difference between a child who is going through the terrible twos, growing pains and finding independence vs. the kids who do need help for mental health symptoms.
Seven Signs of Stable Kids
1. When you say, “You need to put that away now,” the child grumbles a bit, but puts the item away.
2. When you say, “We need to stop what we are doing and get ready for bed,” the child complains minorly and then does what you ask.
3. The child tests, but ultimately respects parental authority and understands that there is a difference between questioning authority and refusing to do as you ask out of defiance to all rules.
4. The child does not destroy property that matters to another person in order to get back at the person.
5. If the kid steals something, he or she is able to see that stealing is probably not the best idea and there are consequences.
6. The child experiments on an average with kids of a similar age. When you explain that something is dangerous, the child listens and changes over time.
7. When you explain your feelings, the child is able to slightly see your side of the story. They grow into more empathy as they age.
Stable kids will definitely get overwhelmed and have temper tantrums… but they will never throw themselves on the ground in public, flailing their arms and legs, screaming and yelling that you abuse them and then refuse to get up. They will not call the police on YOU.
Stable kids experiment with everything, but they tend to understand when something is not in their best interest overall.
Stable kids can get very upset, but eventually they self sooth and come down to dinner.
Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder and Get it Done When You’re Depressed. She writes for Bp Magazine for Bipolar, the Psychology Today blog and was the original consultant for the Claire Danes character on Homeland. Her next book, Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Depression and Psychosis is current on Kickstarter. The video is below.
High Tide, Low Tide: A Very Human Condition
by Martin Baker
Click here to read Martin’s first guest post on his book High Tide Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder.
In my last post for Bipolar Happens, I described how the book I wrote with my American best friend Fran Houston came about, and the four year journey that brought our dream to fruition. I’d like to thank Julie for inviting me back to talk about how our book is changing lives.
“High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder” was published last September. Four months on, it is doing well and attracting positive reviews. We believe it has the potential to appeal not only to friends, but also partners, parents, and adult children keen to help those they love. Julie has also highlighted its relevance to siblings. “There is a great need in my work for such a book,” she wrote recently. “There is nothing out there for them.”
We’ve had interest from Mental Health First Aid instructors, and professional groups such as Online Events (www.onlinevents.co.uk) and The Counsellors Café (www.thecounsellorscafe.co.uk). A retired clinical psychologist with forty-five years’ experience wrote:
“All professional and pre-professional care-givers and those who suffer with illness can learn much from this collaborative memoir, and medical schools, graduate schools, hospitals, and other institutions that educate practitioners in the fields of health care would be wise to include it on reading lists.” (RZ)
One reader recommended it to his support worker, who bought it for his organisation’s resource library. Another is purchasing a copy for her therapist. Knowing our book is making a difference to people moves us profoundly.
“The vast range of emotions you will experience while reading this book might surprise you even if you have never experienced mental illness.” (MC)
“Anyone who has suffered from any form of depression, however minor, can relate to this book and will gain strength and reassurance that it is ok to feel the way they do.” (DB)
“The symptoms of mental illness can make it hard to maintain friendships; the stigma and shame around mental illness make it even harder. This book shows us that it’s okay to admit it’s hard, and it’s okay to struggle, but that it’s so worth it in the end.” (SL)
It might be surprising a book like ours has general appeal, but people find the strategies and approaches we describe directly relevant to their lives— even where no illness is involved.
(Hi, It’s Julie. I really believe this book can help siblings who grew up with a brother or sister who has bipolar disorder. Sibling relationships are often like friendships.)
“Not only are they [the authors] helping us to understand invisible illness, they are helping us learn in this world of technology and instant gratification that we can use technology to enhance and deepen the relationships we have currently in our lives.” (L)
“But what surprised me most about this book was not the elegant writing, or the brutal honesty of the subject matter, but the fact that not only could I relate to it, but that I found so much in it that touched me at a personal level. Fran and Marty’s story, as unique as it is, could be anyone’s story. There will be moments as you read this book where you will recognise yourself. Thankfully, the strategies, and painful lessons they learned can be applied to our own lives and our own relationships.” (AG)
Such responses confirm our belief that “High Tide, Low Tide” is not really about me and Fran, or even mental illness. It is about being there for someone, and accepting each other for who you are. Ultimately, it is not about medical conditions, it is about the human condition.
“High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and selected booksellers.
About the Author
Living in the north-east of England, Martin Baker is an ASIST trained Mental Health First Aider and Time to Change Champion. A member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mind, and Bipolar UK, he is primary caregiver and lifeline to his best friend and coauthor Fran Houston. Passionate about making invisible illness visible, Fran lives in Portland, Maine.
by Andrew Turman
I have a form of bipolar disorder that is rapid cycling. I can go from being depressed to being manic in a matter of hours. Early on in the onset of my illness, I was depressed more than I was manic. That is not to say that I did not become manic; rather, it was not as intense and did not last as long. However, these days, since I turned 35 or so, mania has become the predominant problem. Again, I do get depressed, but it is not as crippling as I have previously experienced. At its peak, my illness caused me to cycle every other week. One week up, then one down, then back up for a week, then back down, for periods of months at a time. This type of cycling can be exhausting, not only for me but for the people around me.
Now, I work hard to counter the effects of my brain chemical imbalance. I no longer drink a lot of alcohol or smoke that much pot. I have tried to limit my caffeine intake, and cut back on how much I smoke cigarettes. I am trying to keep a sleep schedule. This has proven to be the most difficult of all. When I start to cycle up, I have a decreased need and want of sleep. My mind is buzzing, and I have so much to do, the drive to create is overwhelming. When hypomanic, I am a prolific writer and artist, although I rarely finish any of the numerous projects I start.
My current wife is the best barometer of my emotional temperature. She recognizes the behavioral symptoms and can identify the trigger events which are the antecedents to my becoming ill. When she points them out, I often discount what she is saying to me, label her as “pissing on my parade,” and often act out even more. I am trying to get better about trusting her judgment, as mine is skewed most of the time.
A discussion we had recently is actually quite telling. We were talking about perceptions of reality, and I stated that I seemed to experience three separate realities—one manic, one depressed, and one thin sliver of “true reality.” She countered that the three are actually one. Instead of three separate realities, distinct from one another, they are all entangled with one another. She stated that it would be possible to be creative while in the normal and depressive mood states. It would take work, she assured, but it was possible.
Together, we came up with the following strategy: When I am manic, I come up with a lot of painting titles (which would also make great names for a punk rock band!). Instead of the numerous lists I had, I now write them in a blank journal, two to a page, leaving space to take down any ideas, in written notes or quick sketches. This also gives me space to document who I have given the painting to, or who commissioned me to do it. Now, I am organized and I can remember my manic visions of what my art should be. When less manic, I am more able to concentrate my artistic skills on a better product, instead of the visual vomit that is often the result of my manic episodes. Brilliant! A little bit of organization and work, with long-lasting benefits.
Together, my wife and I can brainstorm for other creative solutions. The real point here, is that I must listen to my wife when calls me on my manic symptoms, and try to de-escalate my mood as I know I can, before it gets out of control. I will always experience the highs and lows, but how far they go, up or down, is basically my decision. I have taken responsibility of my moods. It doesn’t always mean that I make the right choices, but at least I am confident in the fact that my illness is not in control of me, I am in control of it.
Wm. Andrew Turman
Zen Daddy T
Writer, Artist, Mental Health Advocate
W.A. Turman was an “Army Brat,” and that explains a lot. Man of no accent, but also of every accident. Life has not always been easy for the artist and writer we affectionally call “Zen Daddy T.” A gonzo journalist along the lines of Hunter S. Thompson, an artist well-versed in the school of Ralph Steadman, including favoring beers from the Flying Dog Brewery, Andrew is an acquired taste. His abstract expressionist works bleed protest and contentment. His recent series, “Art for Airports” has drawn critical acclaim.
If the marching and events that happened in the United States today and around the world are too stressful for your bipolar disorder to the point they can affect your sleep, it is ok to turn of the computer- turn off the social media- turn of the Facebook and Twitter and TV and…
– read a mystery novel.
– go to a movie.
– talk with a friend.
– take a nice bath.
– play with an animal.
– if you are lucky enough to have this option, put some loving hanky panky in your life.
I treat bipolar disorder first. If I read what is on Facebook right now, I will get upset. It’s ok that I don’t march. I love it that others can do it for me. It’s ok that I’m not political online, my friends and family know my beliefs.
My concern is the mental health of those of us who have an illness that is triggered by stress.
I take care of myself first. Good night social media. I will see you tomorrow. And I will be stable.
PS: All it takes is turing off the device and moving on to something more conducive to stability.
The health information contained herein is provided for general education purposes only.
This site should not be seen as a substitute for an official diagnosis or for professional health care.
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