Hello again! As most of you know, I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. What some of you may not know is that I also have bipolar disorder, the exact variation of that diagnosis being Bipolar II Disorder (more on that in a minute).
I first noticed symptoms of having bipolar disorder while homeless in Boston (December 1996). However, I didn’t begin receiving treatment for it until August or September 2006. It can be a very debilitating disorder, especially when combined with schizophrenia.
What is bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic-depressive disorder)? How does it affect people (including children)? Finally, what can be done about it? How does bipolar disorder affect me and why didn’t anyone (myself included) recognize for it 9 1/2 years after I first received treatment?
(1,2) Like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder is a largely genetic disorder. People with this disorder were born with the genetic predisposition to be vulnerable to getting it. Perhaps, for some it is purely genetic; for others environmental factors trigger an episode (usually there is a genetic predisposition that rears its ugly head once certain environmental factors are experienced).
In short, bipolar = mood swings. Sometimes there is psychosis involved. More often than not, this psychosis has some sort of grandiose thinking to it, which is experienced when a person is in the manic phase (“up”). During a manic phase, a person might go on spending sprees, have a decreased need for sleep, and think that they possess the potential to be something they aren’t (a revered religious figure, President of the United States, or the ability to do things they really can’t do like single-handedly win the War on Poverty).
To be sure, the euphoria of feeling powerful can be addictive, and most who have this disorder lack the capacity to realize they are sick…until of course they fall into the seemingly bottomless pit of clinical depression. The energy and focus they had during the manic phase disappear to be replaced with a darkness that can only be appreciated by someone in its throes. The contrast between mania and depression is very striking.
For more info on bipolar disorder, check out this website:
Think children can not be affected by bipolar disorder? Think again:
(3) Medications are a must when treating bipolar disorder. Some of the more common mood stabilizers include Lithium, Tegretol, Depakote, and Abilify. Sometimes, an antidepressant will be used to mitigate the effects of the depressive phase, though some experts and findings have claimed that the use of antideps actually encourage and magnify the effects/symptoms of the manic phase.
Psychotherapy by a trained mental health professional is also very helpful in treating this disorder, especially in training the individual to recognize when she is about to begin a depressive slide or a manic blast-off.
(4) How does bipolar disorder affect me? My particular variety (there are two) of bipolar disorder is called Bipolar II Disorder. I experience the same depths of clinical depression as someone with Bipolar I Disorder, however my “highs” are not quite as magnanimous as those who have Bipolar I Disorder. My “high” is called hypomania (literally, little mania).
Hypomanic episodes are fun. I have a lot of energy and focus. I can stay awake and alert for up to 1 1/2 days…sometimes up to 48 hours. Needless to say, I tend to be very gregarious and accomplish a lot of work during these periods, which unfortunately only last a couple of days and are then followed by either a dive into the deep end of depression or a latent period which precedes the depression. Where there is mania, depression is not far behind. During a depressive episode, I tend not to be very affable, I tend to isolate a bit more and my reactions to things going on around me are much less productive. I am drained of energy, focus, and interest in things that I usually find enjoyable. Whereas hypomanias are fun (and relatively benign), depressive states are just the opposite.
As I mentioned above, medicines and psychotherapy are key to coping with and partially recovering from bipolar disorder. I take an antidepressant (Wellbutrin XL) and a mood stabilizer (Depakote ER). I’ve been noticing that I still cycle somewhat. I had an appointment with my psychiatrist today; he upped my Depakote. Hopefully, the tidal flow of my moods will calm down a bit.
Any questions? Don’t hesitate to fire off an e-mail my way! :o) )o: