Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What, That Was Today?

 One of the most difficult things I deal with, almost on a daily basis, is remembering scheduled appointments.  Yes, I know today is Tuesday.  Yes, I know I have an appointment at 10:30 a.m. every Tuesday. But, when 10:30 rolls around I have trouble realizing that the date and time and my actions are connected.  Hard to explain and hard to understand, yes.  For example, tonight is pack night.  That means I have to get myself and my kids ready, go early,  help set up, participate, and clean up.  But, as the day goes on I forget so, when 6:30 arrives, do I realize that I need to do something?  No.
 Many people who suffer from mental health issues often have this same problem.  Memory troubles are common with bipolar disorder and manifest themselves differently in individual cases.  We may seem confused, forgetful, irresponsible, or inconsiderate.  Yes, that is true, but we have a real excuse.  Connecting time and place with action is a skill I have to constantly work on.
 Do you have funny memory issues?  Most women with children have them.  But that does not mean you have mental health issues.  Good luck remembering today and may pleasant memories fill you day. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

Signs and Symptoms

 In the future I will not predict my posts.  Sometimes, when the time comes, I don't want to write about the things I said I would.  Living with bipolar disorder is like riding a roller coaster.  The ups re so much fun, if not embarrassing, and productive.  The difference is that the downs are not fun, but the are scary.  Most of the time the ride fluctuates quickly and suddenly.  I never know what I am going to wake up to--if I ever slept.
 In an effort to help everyone understand more fully about bipolar disorder, here is a list of symptoms of manic episodes and depressive episodes.  Please, no self diagnosis from these lists.  If you are worried about yourself or someone you love see a mental health professional or your physician.  The list is from http://www.incrisis.org

Symptoms of a Depressive Episode
Persistent sad, down or empty moods
Feeling helpless, hopeless and pessimistic
Feelings of guilt or being worthlessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities
Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being "slowed down"
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
Restlessness or irritability
Sleeping too much or excessively
Loss of appetite and weight loss
Increased appetite and weight gain

Symptoms of a Manic Episode
Increased energy, activity and restlessness
Racing thoughts and rapid speech
Denial that anything is wrong
High risk behavior
Impulsiveness or reckless behavior
Excessive "high" or moderately positive feelings
Poor sleep or decreased sleep
Unrealistic beliefs in one’s ability
Poor judgment
A sustained period of behavior that is different from usual behavior
Increased sexual drive
Abuse of drugs and alcohol
Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Can We Do?

photo credit:  www.emory.edu
 I was asked after the first post what friends and family can do to help and if time will make it better or are there other factors.  I can only speak for me and what helps me.  If you have other suggestions let's hear them.
 My ups and downs are linked to my hormone levels as well as situational factors.  I can push through the lows if I have something really great to motivate me, i.e. people.  I am as extroverted as you can get, so I love company, visits from friends and family, walking group, craft day--you get the idea.  I scoured my whole house for Thanksgiving because my parents were coming.  Anything less special couldn't get me to do it.  It helped that I was on the up part of my mood cycle.  If I am down I will not perform if I do not feel loved, supported, or understood, which drives my husband to distraction.  I just want to stay in bed and sleep or read.  It takes a huge amount of mental effort to get out of bed and get dressed.  Showers are optional and aren't taken.  I use the excuse that my skin just comes apart if I bathe too often (which is true), but showering for church is not often enough.  I have goals that never seem to get met.  Time does not heal all wounds, it just passes.
 If you would like to help, be there for me.  Ask me how I am and really want to know.  Be patient with me.  Encourage me.  Support me; love me.  Invite me places or come visit me.  Do not cover my responsibilities for me or I will never try.
 Next post I will do some research and find out what helps others with their bipolar disorder.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What Is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is more common than we realize.  Millions of americans suffer in one way or another.  Most families are not given the tools necessary to properly support their mentally ill loved one.  Most aren't even aware their loved one has a treatable problem.  Sometimes families and friends think that the loved one's behavior is just their personality, that their illness isn't a disorder it is a character trait.  In some cases that may be true, but in someone suffering from mental illness those personality traits are disruptive.
 According to http://www.nmha.org
"A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines. 
There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.  Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal."
 Many other problems can result from a mental illness and your mental health can be caused by physical and emotional problems.  Stress can cause a temporary change in normal behavior, or it can bring out a more serious problem  Physical illnesses may bring on mental health issues and may continue to be a problem after physical symptoms are cured.  Our bodies are inseparably linked; when one part is affected the whole body is affected.  Genetics are also a major factor in the presence of a mental illness.  Chemical imbalances may be corrected with a variety of treatments, medical and non-medical. 
 Becoming more educated about mental health issues helps the individual and their families and friends cope better; knowing what you are facing helps considerably.  Sharing your experiences with each other helps as well.  

 In a future post, I will offer some of the warning signs that you or a loved one has mental health issues and not just an extreme personality.  I warn that self-diagnosis is a major problem and you should never self medicate.  
 Seeking professional, competent help if suspicious that a mental illness exists is imperative.  You or your loved one can never get better without proper treatment.  Trying exercise, eating healthier, and involvement in enjoyable activities is one way to treat the problem yourself without danger.  If the problem persists, then seeking medical advice may be necessary.  

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Reasons For This Blog

 As a long time sufferer of bipolar disorder, I feel the need to share what I have learned through my experiences, schooling, research, and the experiences of others.  Mental illness can either build a stronger character or it can destroy a persons' character and life.  It all depends on how we deal with the problem.  Impaired judgement often accompanies mental illness and it is, therefore, difficult to make good choices that improve quality of life.  Through posts on this blog, I intend to help those suffering with mental illness, those who love or know someone with mental illness, and those who wish to become more informed on the subject.
 I am not a therapist and I am not qualified professionally to give advice.  I did receive a Bachelor's degree in Family Science from BYU.  I intended to get my Master's degree in Family Therapy, but I became deathly ill with the pregnancy of my first child instead.  My physical and mental health declined from there.  It seemed I was always pregnant, nursing, or recovering from the experience for nine years.  Most of my life during that time is a blur.  I did keep a sporadic journal that reminds me how dark those days really were.  If my husband was any less of a man I would be divorced, in jail, and probably suicidal.  He stayed by me through all of my troubles and he is still there supporting me even still.  I have been lucky and blessed in my ongoing recovery and I wish to pay it forward.
 My specific problem is instability in my thoughts, moods, and behaviors.  I have fewer ups than downs and it takes a great effort on most days to get out of bed.  I finally went to my doctor and he prescribed Citalopram, the generic for Cellexa.  The medication has helped take the edge off of my ups and downs so that I can take more control over my life.  It also took away the ever present anger.
 Citalopram is not the only medication I have tried.  The others were for just the downs and made me, well, crazier.  I am so grateful there are many different medications, for those that actually need it, that provide relief from many different symptoms.  Medication need not and is not part of the solution for many people.  For some, medication does more harm than good.  Other strategies, in combination with medication or not, do more for some people than any other effort.  I plan to offer a well rounded approach and many ideas that have helped people and may help many more.
 Let's make this journey together so that we may learn from each other's experiences and lessen the impact of mental illness on the world.  Let us be free.