Bipolar Awareness

Bipolar Awareness

Today is National Bipolar Awareness Day

Education is key.

March 30, 2020

Some things you should know about me: I am Bipolar Type I. I had my driver’s license taken away by the state of Massachusetts without cause in May 2016; that was why I moved to Oregon. I figured it was someplace I could get a job and be financially independent whether or not I was able to get my license back. (And yes, I did get it back by the way.)

I have always considered myself a success story. A poster child for treatment and medication. And I’ve been able to achieve a lot in the past 20 years since diagnosis.

A friend who suffers from anxiety and depression told me, “I  figured you had all of the same problems as me, only worse.”

No, not really. I don’t have a personality disorder. I never really had any serious issues with trauma until a year and a half ago.

One in 23 Americans experience bipolar at some point in their lives. Many bipolar people experience no symptoms at all with medication. They are able to go back to normal life.  Most people with bipolar disorder are closeted, and that is because the stigma is so bad. We are always at risk for gaslighting. Many people will not willingly associate with us. Yet I have close friends, clients, and professional colleagues that knew me for years before I ever told them my diagnosis. They said they said they never would have guessed.

I happen to believe that stigma, even more than the disease, is why our death rate is so high. How high? About 15% over a lifetime. To put that in perspective, annualized over the first 50 years after diagnosis, the risk of suicide if you are bipolar is about one third as high as the risk of dying from COVID-19. They are comparable.

The bipolar death rate is probably quite a bit higher in actuality, as many suicides are not reported as such and because the disease strikes people most commonly in their teens and twenties. I am told that if you can make it past middle age, symptoms decrease, particularly for women. This has proved true for my mother, who is also bipolar.

For me a lot seems to do with having access to the right formulation of Lithium (brand name vs. generic).  Switching to brand name Lithium (Lithane) worked wonders for me, probably because the quality control and dosage standards are much higher. The catch is that this formulation is at present only available in Canada. I am working with a Vancouver local to get my prescription picked up and shipped to the U.S.A. Wish me luck.

What is it like to have a manic episode? It’s hard to describe. A mild manic episode is disorienting and disabling — you can’t really work except for simple tasks like housework or cleaning. Inhibitions are lowered. You might do things you would do if you were drunk, like have a fling with someone or buy stuff you don’t need on Amazon.

A full-blown psychotic manic episode is very different. It’s more like a hallucinogenic drug trip — and we’re not talking microdoses. It puts you in a different reality. For example, I might wander outside my house and onto the bridge nearby, not really knowing what I am doing or where I am. I might get on a bus and just ride for half an hour.

There is a mystical component. You feel like you are at one with the universe. Music sounds amazing. Colors and tastes are more more intense. Some bipolar people enjoy the “high.” I have never sought it out. For that matter, I’ve never tried any drug stronger than pot. It’s not that I’m not curious. Just too risky with my brain chemistry.

For me, mania has always been highly correlated with insomnia and sleep disruption. Psychotic mania can be treated successfully at home, if you have the right drugs. The safest option is probably to go inpatient.

Not much happens in a mental hospital. There are no miracle drugs or aggressive treatments. You just take your Perphenazine and mill about in a safe place where you can’t do (much) damage to yourself or others, eat bad food, try to focus your concentration enough to play a card game or read a few pages out of a book, and wait until someone decides you’re well enough to go home.

To be honest, it feels a lot like… now.

Like the Coronavirus Lockdown.

The same boredom. The same impatience. For those who have never been through something like this before, the only advice I can give is to try to keep yourself occupied, and try to be courteous and respectful to the people around you. This too shall pass.

 


 

For more resources, articles, and advice on living with bipolar and being present for the bipolar people in your life, visit my Quora page.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have scaled back my coaching practice considerably. I have a limited number of phone and video entrepreneurial and coaching slots available. Full professional resume and credentials available on request.

Crisis Resources

Crisis Resources

We’ve put together a list of helpful national and local Portland, OR and Seattle, WA resources for mental health and suicide prevention, updated for COVID-19. Please let us know if any of these links are broken, or if you have new ones to suggest. Thank you, and be well.

Helplines

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Telephone and online chat available.

https://oregonyouthline.org For teens, they can call, text, chat and during certain hours can talk to peer support.

https://www.crisistextline.org Crisis Text Line, text HOME to 741741.

http://communitycounselingsolutions.org/warmline  A peer-run program of Community Counseling Solutions.

https://www.translifeline.org – Peer support, hotline, and resources for the trans community.

https://www.thetrevorproject.org – A national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth.

1-855-227-3640 – Caregiver Help Desk Hotline

Clackamas County Mental Health Crisis Line (503) 655-8585


Multnomah County Mental Health Crisis Line (503) 988-4888


Washington County Mental Health Crisis Line (503) 291-9111


Thero Directory

Seattle Mental Health Crisis Line (866) 427-4747

Suicide Prevention Cards - PDX Local

Community Resources

https://www.nami.org NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. Oregon NAMI Chapter: https://namior.org/

http://gettrainedtohelp.com – Suicide First Aid. Free trainings in suicide prevention for the general public, youth workers, and more. Includes the ASIST curriculum. Trainings temporarily suspended.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/stjohnssuicideprevention – St. John’s Suicide Prevention Team. A community group helping reduce the incidence of suicides in Portland, Oregon and the St. John’s neighborhood.

https://multco.us/mhas/mental-health-crisis-intervention – Multnomah Crisis Intervention Resources (includes walk-in clinic).

https://www.co.washington.or.us/hawthorn – Walk-in trauma intervention program in Washington County.

http://www.seattlecrisis.org/counseling.html – Counseling and mental health resources for Seattle, WA.

https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org – Nationwide organization providing training to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis.

https://www.samhsa.gov/ebp-resource-center/ – Federally funded Evidence Based Practices Resource Center for mental and substance abuse disorders.

https://www.drugrehab.com/guides/suicide-risks/ – A guide to understanding the connection between Substance Abuse & Suicide.

Coaching

https://bipolarlifecoach.com – A Portland-based practice offering one-on-one coaching to individuals with mood disorders, and their family and loved ones. Sliding scale spots available.

http://www.juliefast.com/ – A Portland-based site offering books and resources to individuals living with bipolar. The author also offers coaching services.

Suicide Prevention Cards - PDX Local

Hashtags

#endsuicide #worldmentalhealthday #suicideawareness