Posts tagged ‘Mental disorder’

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 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.

November 11, 2011

The Trade

I have been reading blogs of people who are in the full throws of manic depression.  Some embrace it and that is their choice.  I realize there is a trade off to living without manic depression.  The trade of being stable is the loss of creativity.

I used to paint.  I used to take beautiful pictures.  I used to write fabulous poetry.  

But, after reading someones blog who does embrace being bipolar, I realized I no longer do any of those things.

I traded stability for creativity.

As I have said time and time again… mania is awesome!

Funny how the mind works.  I had forgotten.  I had forgotten how I would drive for hours and hours just to find that perfect picture.  Or how I would paint the same picture over and over again until I loved it!  I did not even care what anyone else thought.  I loved it!

I had forgotten how I would paint dark pictures when I was on the other side.

Sometimes with a glimmer of hope somewhere in the painting.

Never perfect, but it was there.  



Painting my moods was often the case.

A flower in the darkness, held in a frame, unable to grow, no longer living, alone.


Do I miss being creative you might ask… sometimes – yes. I actually feel sad writing this. But I will never miss the chaos.

For me, it is just not worth it!

January 26, 2011

Every Choice You Make

Me in 2003affects the people around you.  I chose to overwhelm myself.  I chose to place others needs in front of my own.  I chose to lock myself away from those that I blamed for my dissent into a chaotic world.  For part of 2001 and 2002 I made choices that not only affected my mental health, but the mental health of everyone around me. To prove the gravity of my self-destruction, one of the many effects for me was a weight loss of almost 75 lbs.  The effect it had on others is unmeasurable!  Some say that people inherently know right from wrong, I agree with that statement, however, I have witnessed what one person’s insanity can do to another.   How it can change a person.  And although they realize their actions are not “right”, the line of right and wrong becomes fuzzy, skewed.  My line had been that way since childhood, Mike’s line became that way in adulthood.

For every action there is a reaction.  It is the domino effect.

Mike reacted.  He reacted by first trying to fix it!  It could be anything and everything.  And when he found he could not fix anything he turned on himself.  He started to self destruct.

Mike is one of the kindest, most gentle humans you will ever meet.

But he became explosive.  And our home took his wrath.  Windows, walls, etc….  but never me!  His self-destruction did not stop there, but out of respect for my darling husband I shall stop there!

Mike became afraid of who he had become.  And we decided to separate.  About a month later…. I filed for divorce!

And I emerged from my self-induced seclusion.

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