Archive for December, 2011

December 31, 2011

Taking inventory step 2

Now that you have made a list of the people in your life and thought about whether you believed they are healthy or unhealthy people in your life it is time to dig deeper.

Look at the side of your list that says healthy people.  Think about what it is about them that you believe makes them healthy.  Make a list of those behaviors.  This is an important task.  Being able to identify healthy behavior in other people can also help you identify healthy behavior in yourself and behavior you can mirror.  But wait!  Before you carve that list in stone take the time to discuss these behaviors with your therapist.

It is important to get feedback  from an outside person because what you may think is healthy may not be.

For instance, let’s say you wrote Jill is always there when I need her.  Is that healthy, or do you just like that behavior?  Perhaps you need to expand on why you think that is healthy.  Is Jill at your every beckon call?  Is she the go to person for everyone?  Or is she just a great person to talk to because she never judges or give advice – she just listens?

Discussing these behaviors with a therapist can help you identify what is really healthy and what is not.  Your judgement may be skewed, colored by bipolar disorder!

Eventually you will be able to trust your own judgement!  It will come and with that trust you will heal enormously! Trusting yourself is a very important step in bipolar no more!  We will cover how to work on trust soon!  Promise.  But for now… lets work on that list!


December 28, 2011

Taking inventory step 1

Now that you are on the road to bipolar no more an important step is taking inventory of your life.  Not to overwhelm – we will take this in steps.

The first step is taking an inventory of the people in your life.  Making a list of the healthy people and the unhealthy people in your life can be very difficult.  Identifying the healthy people can be life changing, but identifying the unhealthy people can be life saving.

So on a sheet of paper make two columns: one that says healthy and one that says unhealthy.  Take your time placing each person into a category.  Include family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances.  Don’t rush, give each person considerable thought.  Think about what they add to your life and whether it is more positive than negative or vice-versa.  If you are not sure which side to place a person on – give yourself a couple of times to interact with that person before you decide.  Now that you are becoming aware of how a person affects you and your life you might notice some things you had not before.

As a bipolar prone person, I believe, most are not aware of the people in their lives and how everyday interaction with those people affect their mood.  Bipolar humans, in my experience, are pretty self absorbed.  Maybe out of necessity, basically as a survival strategy just trying to keep up with ones own mood and whether they are up or down.  Whatever the reason, in order to be bipolar no more I believe you must access the humans in your life and take action in order to create a stable world for yourself.

As for taking action, well we have a journey ahead of us.  So for now make your list, I will move onto step 2 in a few days!

December 26, 2011

Make a list

Understanding your medications and how they affect you is an important first step.  Often, I have found talking with other people who are bipolar and on medication for bipolar disorder, people take the medications their doctor prescribe them without questioning why they are taking them.  I admit, I was just as guilty.  We just want to be fixed!

In order to reduce medications, to eventually eliminate or perhaps just to maintain better control, first you must understand why you are taking medication.  I know, to be better!  But that is not all. Are you taking med X to stabilize your mood or for anxiety.  Once you know why you are taking med X find out what the side effects are.  Then if you plan on reducing or eliminating med X find out the proper way to stop taking it.  NEVER COLD TURKEY!  Cold turkeying a med can lead to severe consequences!  Including extreme mania, hallucination, extreme depression, seizures, etc.  So before deciding to take a big step, step into your doctor’s office and talk to him or her first.  But go in prepared!  You will more than likely not be taken seriously if you walk in ill-prepared.

So make a list!   Make a list of the meds you are currently on and every thing you know about them.  Explain why you want to reduce or eliminate the drug and if you are med reducing period state that you are not looking to replace it.

Secondly, talk to your therapist about what you are about to do.  Ask him or her if they are willing to support your decision.  Explain that you have a plan and discuss your plan with them, also discuss your med list with them! (If you do not have a therapist, I do not suggest on embarking on elimination of medication.  You will need a therapist – so go and find one!)

So the list, what to include:

Take for instance Topamax — Topamax is prescribed as a mood stabilizer to individuals who suffer from bipolar depression, but is actually an anti-seizure medication, so what does that mean?  Topamax blocks certain chemicals and promotes production of GABA, which regulates neuronal excitability throughout the entire nervous system.  Basically it smooths out the nervous system.  The side effects are: Sleepiness, pins and needle effect usually in the arms or legs, carbonated drinks no longer taste very good, weight loss, memory loss (sometimes severe cognitive impairment).

Find out what the half-life is and how long it takes to get out of your system, as well as how you should stop taking the medication.

Again, lets take Topamax.  The half life for Topamax is approximatiely 24 hours.  So every 24 hours half of the Topamax is gone from your system.  It is recommended the you reduce Topamax by 25 – 50 mg per week until you reduce down to nothing.

Knowing this information shows that you are taking responsibility for your own welfare, that you are not being haste, and that you understand this is not an overnight process.



December 20, 2011

Us vs them, choices and consequences

I know I said my next blog would be how to approach your doctor, however, I came across a comment on another blog and I felt compelled to address it here – on my blog.  When I was in the full throws of bipolar depression I viewed the world and me (my mental illness) vs the world (the normal people) but I realized after reading this I never had the thought of “them” being able to choose and “myself” not being able to choose. This reinforces the need for a good therapist that is willing to help make the connection between the choices that are made and the consequences of those choices!  It can be done, however it will be some work.  Just like training a child with autism to mirror behavior or a person who suffers an injury, either at childbirth or as an adult, to learn to walk again, a person with bipolar disorder has to learn the connection between choices and consequences and learn how to make the choices that will lead to the consequences they desire.  Including the mood they desire.  I choose to be stable and have learned how to make choices that will lead to a stable life.

This is a comment on another blog I read. It is incredible insight into the disconnect between choices and consequences that people with bipolar disorder have.  (I have permission from the author ( of this comment, thanks so much for letting me use it!)

“I think the key difference between “us” and “them” is choice. A norm can choose to drink, shoot up, smoke a joint, run a marathon or whatever to change their mood, but we don’t get that choice – our mood changes of its own accord, often in response to triggers which a norm can choose to ignore. When we’re triggered by a shift in cycle or by a mood altering event, we don’t get a choice as to whether our emotions are affected – they inevitably are. We don’t get to choose not to let it get to us, or snap out of it, or put on a happy face. Sure we can try to deal with the sudden change in emotions, we can remove ourselves to prevent snowballing reactions, or we can pop a pill to calm us down, or we can use some techniques like CBT or ACT to deal with the emotions that are suddenly coursing through us. But we don’t get to choose whether we experience the reaction or not. My psychiatrist explains this using an analogy of a nerve which responds to certain triggers (which can encompass all sorts of things from multiple stimuli like musak as well as someone talking, trying to do more than two things at once, several different objects moving simultaneously in one’s visual field) and that the “normal” nerve responds a little, but in our case the response is blown out of proportion as a result of our biological predisposition. In other words we “can’t stop feeling that way when something happens” – all we can do is try to avoid a situation in which we’re triggered, deal with the feelings once they’ve occurred as best we can, and/or take something to steady us when our mood destabilises.”

Making choices and understanding the consequences can lead to a stable life.  Perhaps we “can’t stop feeling that way when something happens” , but if we can predict the outcome with some certainty by identifying the choices we made that triggers the high or low or anxiety we can modify and/or change that behavior.

Choices and consequences – learn them, understand them, identify them… the author of the comment is right – this is the difference between “us and them”!  But where he is incorrect is we can choose – we just have to learn how!

December 17, 2011

The very first step to bipolar no more

Regardless of the why – you can take control of your own life.  No matter the reason why people are bipolar the one thing I have found, talking to many people who suffer from bipolar disorder, there is a disconnect between making  choices and the consequences of those choices.

First, find a good therapist and if you already have one, ensure they are willing to go with you on the journey.  Ask them if they are willing to hold you accountable for the choices you make. In other words, when you make a statement like, “I did whatever” they will help you change your thought process by saying, “You chose to do whatever.”  After awhile every time you make a statement you will say “Today I chose to go to the store, eat pizza, whatever!”  Once you begin to understand that every action, thought, or process you do in the moments of a day are your choices, you can then begin to understand the link between your choices and the consequences in your life.  When you write in your journal, use the words “I chose” or “I am making a choice” or “I am going to choose”  and follow it with the consequences or what you believe they will be.  Then follow up and see what the consequences actually were.

Something else you might want to ask your therapist to do is to help you come up with a mood chart.  You can do this on your own as well but it was helpful for me to go over with my therapist.  Basically, every day for a couple of months you will need to track whether you are anxious, up, down, or flat.  And correlate that with events in your life and, most importantly, with the choices you make.

For instance: Today, I made a choice to talk to a police officer that was working with my neighbor as they were making an arrest, who is also a police officer. I just happened to be walking by with my dogs.  One of my dogs recognized my neighbor and I was fighting my dog to not run over to my neighbor.  The other officer was tickled by Riley, my dog, and I said, “He wants to run to him, he is my neighbor.”  My neighbor was visibly not happy with my choice.  So if I was keeping a mood chart I would write this event down and say I felt anxious.  Then I would write what, if anything, I will choose to do about it.  And the answer is, I will apologize when I get the opportunity.  Let it go, and move on.

You would be surprised at the choices you make and the consequences of those action and how they affect your mood.  Something as simple as going for a walk and making a unremarkable statement created anxiety.

Acknowledging your choices and the consequences they have can start a lifetime of balance.  But the most important part of the whole choice and consequences journey is acknowledging when you made a good choice and patting yourself on the back.

Always, always, always give yourself credit.  With every good choice you make, the next will come easier and so on!

And when you make a bad choice, acknowledge it as well, decide what you could have done differently, make a choice to do corrective action, if any,  that makes you OK with your choice, AND MOVE ON!  Remember, balance.

Next, I will go over how to talk to you doctor about reducing or removing medication and the steps to take before you even walk in his or her door!

December 15, 2011

Why? Nature or nurture?

People will argue whether bipolar disorder is nurture or nature?   Well, maybe it is both.  Thinking about why is one key to understanding how not to be or at least how to control it.  So years ago I started doing research into the why of bipolar disorder and here is what I came up with:

Some disorders, such as tourettes, muscular dystrophy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth, Pompe disease and others do not become apparent until the  late teenage years or early adulthood.  All of these disorders are genetic disorders.  So couldn’t bipolar disorder, and depression be genetic disorders that have an onset in late childhood or early adulthood?  When were you first diagnosed?  What age were you when you first new something was not right?  When did you realize what was going on in your head was not “normal”?  If you said anywhere between late teenage years or early adulthood you are not alone. The average age of onset is 21 to 25 years old.  For me, I was in my early twenties when I first heard the words “manic – depressive” now known as bipolar disorder.  So what if these mental disorders are just bad DNA coding?

As to genetic coding, maybe bipolar disorder is like sickle cell anemia.  Sickle cell occurs more commonly in people (or their descendants) where malaria is or was common. This “defect” in the cell shortens a life span but on the other hand if you are born with a single allele it may increase life span because you are almost immune to malaria.  So lets apply this concept to bipolar disorder.  You say there is no positive side to bipolar disorder?  I disagree.  I am going to go way out there for a minute, but stick with me here!  What if you are a hunter that live 1000’s of years ago.  You are sent out on a long hunt and to sleep would be your death.  So you adapt.  Your brain not only compensates for lack of sleep, but the extreme stress you are facing.  You become creative, daring, you take chances but it is all for the survival of you and your tribe. Mania! Once back home, after days perhaps longer of no sleep, your brain has to find a way to reverse what it has adapted to do in order for you, once again, to survive.  So you sleep.  Which may have evolved into depression.  This adaptation is now a “defect” that can shorten a life span but could have increased a lifespan 1000’s of years ago.

Here is another thought, perhaps bipolar, or depression are inheritable disorders. Like getting your Mom’s eyes or your Dad’s nose.  How many people in your immediate family have a mental disorder?  I can tell you, for myself, it is quite a few.  Perhaps we were all born this way.

Or not.  Maybe the passing down of a mental disorder is all about nurturing.  I mean if your Mom or Dad suffers from bipolar disorder, and their Mom or Dad suffers from depression, and your Grandmother or Grandfather suffers from either one, wouldn’t it makes sense that each generation teaches the next. Perhaps they do not have the life skills to teach the next generation life skills and so on.  Perhaps you or I were taught inappropriate ways of handling stress or not taught a way to handle it at all.

Or lastly, maybe it is a combination of nature and nurture.

So now that all the maybes of why have been covered, lets move one to what steps should be taken before you make the choice to be medication free.

December 15, 2011

As promised, bipolar no more!

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places. – Ernest Hemingway

First, I am not a doctor, a psychiatrist, a therapist, a geneticist, or a medical expert in bipolar disorder.

I am, however, an expert in being bipolar.  I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder in my early twenties.  I was medicated for years.  The list of some of the medications I have experienced is as follows: Welbutrin, Klonopin, Tegretol, Clomipramine, Thorazine, Desipramin, Depakote, Trileptal, Effexor, Elavil, Prozac, Dalmane, Halcion, Tegretol, Haldol, Lamictal, Lexapro, Lithium, Topamax, and Trazadone.  Sadly, that is not a complete list but you get the point!  Sometimes a psych would put me on several at one time; an antidepressent, an antipsychotic, an antianxiety, a mood stabilizer and the list goes on and on.

I am also an expert on not being bipolar!  Yeah, you read it right… not being bipolar!

I have not only been med free for many years but I am NOT bipolar anymore.  How can I make such an extreme statement you ask?  Well, without extreme mood swings, extreme highs and lows, in my opinion that constitutes a bipolar no more statement!

Don’t get me wrong, I realize I have a tendency, a genetic predisposition, or a history of extreme highs and lows.  But that realization helps keep me balanced.

Finding a place to start with this chapter is difficult.  Should I start with my last hospital visit. Well I already have, Part 1 God  This is a four part series where I discuss my last hospital visit.  I encourage you to read it before moving on with this chapter.

In this chapter I will walk you through every step of being bipolar no more.  I will answer any questions you have so ask away.  I will tell you what I believe is the cause of bipolar disorder and why some (most actually) people with bipolar disorder can live without medication.

One last note before I go for the evening.  Finals are over, I still have my 4.0!  School starts in a month so I am going to try and post every couple of days!  Closure is important and I, more than some, understand that!

December 11, 2011

Finals and a new chapter

This next week is the last week of school. I will be completing my AA as of next week. I never thought this time would come. Soon I will be moving on to Sam Houston State University to work on the next stage of my education. I am excited and afraid. But I have come this far and that is an awesome building block to help me move forward.

Starting next week (after finals) I am going to start a new chapter in my blog. I have been thinking about this so much and I feel it is time. I will use my break to tackle this new chapter. It will be controversial, it will probably receive some criticism, but I just feel like I am doing myself and many like me a disservice not to write it.

My next chapter, debunking the bipolar myth. The myth that every doctor will tell you – you will be sick forever and that you will always have to be medicated.

See ya next week. It is time for me to study for my finals.

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