Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thinking about My Readers

Dear Readers and Friends,
While I usually only post once a day, this morning when I awakened I realized that today I need to post a second time. I had intended to spend the next few days focusing on Writing to Heal, but after dreaming about a few blogs I'd read last night (I sometimes dream about things that are bothering me or causing some level of discomfort or concern), and about my response to Periwinkle's comment from yesterday, I've decided to address a few other issues.

So, here goes. First, I need to tell you that my experience with bipolarity is different than others I've read about, and from many of the bloggers I read. Initially I was diagnosed as "atypical bipolar II," but it's quite possible that was a misdiagnosis. Prior to taking medication, I had never experienced a hypomania or mania. My current therapist and I believe I was probably misdiagnosed.

Subsequently, I did experience a lot of bipolar symptoms, but they were medication-induced. So, while I know how awful it is to rapid cycle, now that I'm off most medication, I don't experience it any longer. And while I know what it feels like to act in an erratic manner, and feel overly emotional or grandiose, I no longer have those symptoms as well. While I have experienced intense anger over inconsequential remarks, that, too has gone--with the medication that caused it. And, of course, there is so much more.

The reason I tell you this is because when people write to me about behavioral patterns they are exhibiting, while I may know what it feels to act that way, it isn't something I ever experienced before I starting taking medication. So, it's not a part of my biochemical make-up. And since I wasn't diagnosed or medicated until I was 43, I lived most of my life without exhibiting any of these patterns.

In an odd way, my experience gives me a somewhat unique perspective. In a way, I know what it's like to manifest an entire array of bipolar behavior without truly being bipolar. What this means is that I view other's behavior as somewhat of an outsider.

Having said that, I'd like to share a few additional thoughts. 1. Periwinkle, I hope I didn't hurt your feelings when I responded to yesterday's comment. From my perspective, the behavior you're describing is a "bit off." But, I truly believe we can all change our behavioral patterns. As far as I'm concerned, the problem with bipolar treatment is that the focus on medication is far too great, and there is a lack of focus on therapy, understanding behavioral patterns and changing them, keeping mood charts to see whether medication is improving our condition or causing it, and so much more. And I do believe--that finding an insightful therapist--can make a huge difference in our lives, and I'll post about this later this week.

2. Wendy, I'm not sure if your moods changed as significantly before you began taking medication. But when I read yesterday's post, I wanted to say, "It's very painful to switch moods every few days, and it suggests to me that your medication isn't working as it should." I also believe there are other methods of controlling moods so that you don't just cycle from depression to hypomania and back. The most thoroughly researched treatments are yoga and meditation, and there has been a lot of research confirming their value, and I'll post about it later this week.

3. Catatonic Kid, I believe that post traumatic stress is a huge issue, and one that hasn't been researched enough in terms of its relationship to bipolarity. I'm glad you're writing about it this week.

4. Marja, I believe that depression so skews our life view that it's very difficult to feel competent and capable even when we know we are. I've often wondered if self-hypnosis could help us deal with this, and I'm going to research this topic further.

5. Gianna, As always, I'm thinking about you and hoping your recovery is going well.

6. Tamara, I'm thinking about you as you take time off to deal with your loss of Wyatt,* and to "recharge your batteries."

7. Nancie, I'm thinking about how exhausted you've been, and I'm hoping you're feeling much better.

8. Katie, I'm glad you're feeling so much better after a lengthy depression, and a tough time dealing with Sophie's* illness.

9. Emma, I'm so glad we've become online friends, and I've been praying for you and Molly.*

10. Mariposa, I know you're doing fine, but I decided I should mention how glad I am that we've become online friends. Your comments are always so heartening for me. Ditto for Paula Joy, who's moved on to other things, but was so thoughtful when I was feeling depressed. And welcome to Florida Sue, and welcome back to KJ.

For everyone who reads my blog, I realize how exhausting and devastating it can be to deal with bipolar symptoms--particularly ones that don't go away. I spent years trying to cope with this behavior--even if it was medication-induced. And while a lot of it has disappeared along with the medication that caused it, some of it has remained--to a much lesser degree.

And I certainly know what it feels like to cope with depressive episodes because I've been working at that for 40 years--25 of which were undiagnosed.

Ever since I started writing this blog, I see a great value in sharing our experiences with each other, seeking advice, and sharing techniques that work and those that don't. I believe it's very important to know that whatever we're feeling, we're not alone. And however difficult things seem, they do improve--with time, treatment, insight, and a lot of hard work. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who's struggling to find wellness!

P.S. The names with an asterisk are all people-dogs as Annie used to call them.


Mariposa said...

I feel such relief reading this post. Now I can move forward a bit and say, I've been off medication for years now! And I've never felt so good...

I never had major depression in my life...and what brought myself to getting diagnose with bipolarity was the fact that I was too "manic". Now, that was not a problem...as some people just seem to be more enthusiastic than others, but what triggered that was my horrific headache...and my health was affected because I simply don't rest! Hmmm...

Anyway...I have learned to slow down...without medication. I have learned to listen to myself and exert effort to consciously find my center everytime I feel I'm about to swing to the other side...so far, I'd say, no one would think I have these issues unless I tell them.

I am too apprenhensive and scared to tell people I'm off meds because most of them would think I have to. Well I don't think I need it and my life now spells that.

I, however, as I keep saying here bombard myself with B Complex and sometimes get Myers Cocktail shots...that is because I take coffee everyday which drains vitamins from the body and after my seemingly manic days, I experience fatigue which the B Complex can address.

I am also watchful with my diet and activities. I try to entertain nothing but wholesome thoughts...and I never considered myself different from the rest. If I have issues at work, I attack issues, never the people, never my diagnosis years ago.

I am now living according to the reversed of the golden rule, I treat myself the way I want to be treated. I don't want people to see me as Bipolar, so I try to slowly remove that from my system. Gianna calls it undiagnosing oneself...and I love her post on that!

My apologies for the long comment.

I share your prayers...

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Mariposa,
Thanks so much for sharing your experience and feelings about this. I think it's really important for us to let each other know about our diagnoses, treatment, and the way we have each learned how to handle our moods.

I believe that labels, by their very nature, are limiting, and I don't believe in them. Whether I truly ever was bipolar or not, I'm glad I don't think of myself that way, and wished I'd never sought help from psychiatrists for my depression.

But, since I did--and had to experience so many years of medication-induced illness--I'm grateful that I finally realized how horrible it all was (for me).

However, as I've said many times before, there are other people with other symptoms who do need medication, and I'm glad it provides relief for them.

Still, I believe that even if medication works, it is just one part of a larger wellness program, and that's what I intend to write about this week.


Gianna said...

Hi Susan,
Just want to say I understand about feeling a bit of an outsider...I've never fit the stereotype of bipolar at all except that I had a manic episode that was drug induced.

I have a post undiagnosing myself that I'm sure you've read...but after I was diagnosed, I, like you (in some ways) lived the life of a highly medicated psychiatric patient. My symptoms were mostly drug related as well...

the thing is I think there are many more of us than one might think. While some people may exhibit some "bipolar" like symptoms prior to medication there is a lot of research that suggests many people who have classic bipolar symptoms also worsen over time with the misuse of medication.

A journalist who is renowned is publishing a book next year...I am one of his subjects and the whole book is about how meds cause many people to worsen over time and decompensate more frequently...it's all heavily documented with studies.

this DOES not mean EVERYONE fits in his critique either, but I'm afraid many many more of us than are part of this picture...

it's frightening and I had my life stolen because of it...though I swear to make it work for me and help others from what I've learned.

thanks so much for thinking of me today.


catatonickid said...

I agree, Susan. Though with PTSD one has to keep in mind that it has only been a recognised disorder since 1980 so we're still playing catch-up with it.

The research studies around it are slowly broadening, and I suppose things almost always get tough when you're talking co-morbidity.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I believe it's really important for people who are newly diagnosed to have this information so that they can make an informed decision about treatment.

And it's equally important for those who are currently being treated to know that others have been able to go off medicine--however painful and debilitating it may be--and live productive lives.

Finally, there are those for whom medication works. But, it's important to understand there are options, and unlike what they've been told, everyone doesn't need to be on medication for the rest of their lives.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear CK,
Thanks for the information. I will follow your series to learn more about it!


Wendy Love said...

Once again your comments are sincere and so well thought out. I admire that about your writing. One of the important comments you make is that we are all different even if we share a similar diagnosis. A diagnosis is just something doctors have to give names but there are so many variations under each 'name'.
I have always experienced mood swings, even as a child. They were never debilitating until my thirties when it presented itself like PMS and for 3 out of 4 weeks of every month I experienced a huge range of uncontrollable negative emotions and behaviours which made me want to lock myself in a room so as not to cause damage to others. After having a hysterectomy at the age of 42 and giving up my job at the same time, I experienced stability for the first time in many years. That only lasted for three years until my unexpected divorce and I hit my first full-fledged deep depression (which all seemed very understandable at the time). Not knowing that I had mood swings the doctor gave me antidepressants which helped sometimes and then stopped helping. This went on for years. Finally it dawned on me that I might be bipolar and I began to get a different kind of med and lead a different kind of life. I am still managing that life and there are days when I wonder if I am any better. However, I no longer hit a pit of depression that lasts for days and weeks and months. That is progress. My manics do not become angry rages or ridiculous projects. That is progress. Instead of living at a 10 or a 0 I now lives at a 7 or a 3. I would prefer to live at 5, right in the mniddle all the time, but at least I have made progress. The medication has given me some stability but is not a total cure. There are very few medications I can take. I either have a severe reaction, or no positive reaction. It has been quite a journey. All this to agree with you that we are all so different and to thank you for treating us that way too, as individuals. You have a gift for caring, and for putting it into words, well-thought out words. I hope my too long response may be of use to someone else.
Thank you Susan!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendy,
Thank you for you response; I agree that it's valuable for others to read about our experiences. And I so appreciate your honesty and candor.

What's really interesting to me is that when you were in your thirties your moods were so clearly tied into your menstrual cycle. It's not something I know anything about, but it would sure seem to be an important area of research.

Then, after your hysterectomy, things seemed to level out for awhile. Again, it would seem like all of this might somehow be related to hormones.

Of course, one can understand how a depression would result from an unexpected divorce. And I'm so sorry yours was so painful!

Again, situational events often cause debilitating depressions But, since so much of psychiatry is focused on medication rather than talk therapy, at best, the drugs can dull the pain, but they rarely help with resolving all the emotional issues causing the pain.

After all this time, it would still seem like hormone therapy might be a possibility.

Again, this isn't something I know about, but I'm sure you can find info on this, and perhaps others do know about it.

In my own experience, I find that once you're labeled "bipolar," then no one thinks about treatments that are outside the box.

Anyway, Wendy, thanks for sharing. When I feel better, I'm going to do a little preliminary research on the relationship with menstrual cycles, hysterectomies, and bipolarity. Maybe, there's a wealth of information I'm just not familiar with.

And again, thank you for writing.


Wendy Love said...

Yes,those moods were hormone related and went away with a hysterectomy but I was able to take estrogen at that time. Then the depression hit and then I developed an inability to handle most medications including the estrogen which had been so supportive for years. I even had side effects from natural hormone therapy, and on it goes. But you had a good point there!
Wendy Love

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendy,
Alas...it made sense to me, but I'm sorry it "pooped out."


John FW said...

Hi, Susan -

I agree completely about labels. Learning I have depression doesn't tell me anything I didn't already know - it's purely descriptive and doesn't explain a thing. It was useful, though, to find that there was such a condition and that it was widely recognized. There's always relief in learning that you're not unique in what you experience. The diagnosis also helped me see that the way I felt wasn't a fixed part of my nature but something that could be changed.

In retrospect, I can see that spending years on ineffective medications did cause new problems while leaving the old ones untouched. How misguided and corrupt that whole system has become!

Despite the initial helpfulness of a diagnosis, I found that recovery could only begin after I'd stopped believing in it and unlearning the idea that my condition was treatment resistant and would always be with me. How powerful belief is - changing it can make the difference between hopelessness and optimism.

Thanks for your wisdom and understanding - this post has been so helpful - as so many of yours are.

My best to you and here's hoping that you feel better soon.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear John,
Thanks so very much for your thoughtful and insightful response. I agree with you on every level. And you bring up other issues that I feel are critically important.

However, since I really don't feel well today (But, as I said to someone else who commented, physical illness is just an annoying inconvenience after all I've experienced), I'll address those issues in a follow-up post as soon as I'm better.

Again, thank you!