A couple of summers ago I was asked to be a contributor towards a college textbook for master’s level aspiring counselors. The topic I appreciated researching about for this project was Bipolar. Formally entitled Manic-Depression, Bipolar carries with it moods of all sorts for the person that is living life with it. It is marked by shifts and mixes of depression and high-energy with at times anxiety. Reality testing is a big component in that sometimes what others outside the person with bipolar see are interesting ideas and thoughts that can lead to greatness or if trending to far in a direction, disaster.
This past spring I attended a mood disorders conference at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, which excitedly was open to professionals and the general public. Dr. Kaye Jamison, a pioneer on this disorder as she herself has it, was one of the presenters. She outlined beautifully her more recent research of giftedness and geniuses among poets, actors, and musicians that have been noted as having Bipolar. Some examples of individuals that have been noted as having some form of Bipolar disorder are Hans Christian Anderson, Richard Dryfuss, Mary Lambert, Robin Williams, and Catherine Zeta-Jones we have gotten wonderful works.
Magazine: If you have Bipolar there is more research and support than ever before. BP magazine would be one place to start your journey of learning. Each addition host articles about other people’s journey throughout life with the disorder as well as share tips and suggestions about research oriented items to consider. For example it has been noted that folks with Bipolar disorder can be more sensitive to seasonal changes or the daily rise and set of the sun. This can affect medication management during different times of the year.
Book: Another resources that I thought was written in quite a humorous way but very well is the book Two Bipolar Chicks by Wendy Williamson and Honora Rose. Throughout this small manual these two women with Bipolar outline different practical things to consider from stylish types of pill cases to how to have your loved one understand what a mood shift looks like and what to do next.
Blog/Theatre: If you are someone that learns about yourself by sharing with others you may want to consider thisismybrave.org. Started by Jennifer Marshall a fabulous mom to two children, and wife extraordinaire whom blogs on bipolarmomlife.com, Jennifer knows all too well the life of bipolar and creates a national theater platform for others to take center stage and share about their journeys.
Film: At the Hopkins conference I had the pleasure of listening to and meeting Filmmakers Paul Dialo and his wife Kristina Nikola. Paul wrote the movie Touched by Fire a tale of two individuals with Bipolar that meet in a psychiatric hospital. Paul and his family fully know first hand what Bipolar is because he works diligently at keeping his own moods level with his Bipolar. He shared that while he note only listens to his doctors about staying on Lithium, he drinks a certain helpful vegetable juice, talks walks every day, and is so rigid about his bed time that he was told if either of his two children were born after 10pm then he simply shouldn’t be present for their births. He loves and trusts his wife who is one of the first people that would notice if his mood was trending in a direction he may not be aware of. From his speech I took home the concept that you should not give up hope. And that while folks with Bipolar have a flame for life it can burn very beautifully as long as it stays within the parameter of the campfire. Spouses, kids can start to notice when embers are jumping out. Dr. Kaye Jamison noted that once a brain is at the outer level that this is dangerous and residual damage can be occurring. When those embers start to jump out be careful to allow others to help you from your forest fire beginning.
Medications: So far among all the research that I have done, lithium continues to be one of the main drugs of choice for many individuals with Bipolar. It can vary in dosing, does unfortunately mean blood tests to make sure that your system is not collecting toxic levels, but can come in tablet, pill, or liquid form. This is important to discover what works best for you as the taste has been something folks have mentioned can vary and prompt food choices about post ingestion. Ask your physician about any of the uni-polar medications used for depression, because the literature to date indicates that certain ones can prompt a manic episode to begin.
Non-medication: Fisher Wallace Stimulator noninvasive electrical brain stimulation. There are mixed reviews about if this items works, but there is enough positive commentary about this machine and it can be used in the comfort of your own home, that I would want you to do your own research about and talk with your physician if this is something you feel would be appropriate for your life.
Food: I am not going to tackle this in this blog as I will be for sure talking more about this is other blogs. There is no doubt in my mind that food is fuel and the type we put into our bodies can for sure affect some of the reactions are body puts out.
Support, support, support. Did I say it enough? Overall I want you to know that you are not alone. There are tons of people with bipolar and tons of people willing to help you along your life with it. Reach out! This is not a disorder you will live well with if you isolate. You don’t have to be an extrovert, but you need to build a small tribe of trusted folks so you can teach them about your needs.