Monthly Archives: February 2013

Good Doctor, Bad Doctor

I have been lucky in finding a general physician who I really trust and like, but lately it seems like others have suddenly caught on -his schedule has been packed leaving me seeing someone else for a recent sinus infection.

It never ceases to amaze me how great one doctor can be, and how awful the next might be. I found myself met with zero bedside manner, a doctor who downplayed my symptoms, and then prescribed me (knowing I was uninsured) the most expensive medication possible for my ailment.

Now, I just wanted to take a brief moment to remind you that seeing a doctor should be like any other business. I expect to be a customer who is listened to and respected, and when I am not, I do not give repeat business.

There is no way to know what a doctor will be like until you work with them firsthand, but I urge you all to stand up for yourselves to demand a level of care you deserve. If a doctor is treating you poorly, chances are there is another doctor out there who you can work with more comfortably.

Finding a good doctor may mean having to deal with busier scheduling on their end, but in the end it is usually worth it.

As true as I believe this to be with my general physician, I think it is twice as true with my psychiatrist. Psychiatry is a very complicated practice, and finding a good psychiatrist who treats you with respect is often worth their weight in gold.

I just wanted to leave a reminder today that you are worth being treated with respect, but it is also up to you to find a doctor that treats you fairly.

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Eggs From Bipolar Donors Rejected in UK

This article was an interesting way to start my day, over at Express (a news website over in the UK) I found an article about IVF clinics rejecting eggs from female donors who have bipolar disorder. 

Personally, I am not surprised at all. I admit, there was one point in my life that I looked into the notion of donating eggs because, as someone who doesn’t want children myself, I thought it a little unfair that I could have them when others couldn’t. I dare say I am fairly bright and not entirely unattractive, but I had the door slammed in my face as soon as I mentioned anything to do with bipolar disorder. Granted, this was years ago, and my symptoms were not even remotely what they are today, so I was rather hurt by getting the brush-off so immediately.

There is a profile of a woman in the article who pretty much tells the same story, except in the UK. Her conclusion as to why she was denied?

They would not want a child who was “mentally unstable.”

Now, this article opens up a pretty intense can of worms. Fertility treatment pioneer Robert Winston goes on to criticize the clinics stating the lack of proof that bipolar disorder is hereditary, and then adds that many of the world’s creative geniuses have had bipolar disorder.

I know many people that are pleased with the fact that they have bipolar disorder, that they gain greatly by having it in many ways, and I’ve met several people who believe bipolar disorder has something to do with the direction of human evolution.

At the same time, I believe that saying bipolar disorder is easy is not the truth (for the vast majority of us anyway) and there is still so much fear in the world that this will hopefully start a conversation. Are these decisions being made out of stigma or is this fear actually warranted? I think as a population, we are only beginning to talk about it, and it will take time to find out.

Cresting the Loop

The Bipolar Loop

The Bipolar Loop

It is my belief that bipolar symptoms run on something of a loop.

(My computer is broken, so please excuse the sketch I took directly from my journal.)

At the lowest point on the loop, we are at our worst (health-wise), while at the crest of the loop it can easily feel like we are normal, every-day human beings, functioning regularly.

Nearing the crest of this loop is one of the most dangerous places we can be, because, while in near perfect health, we lose sight of the bottom of that loop. Out of sight means out of mind, leaving bipolar disorder capable of doing something most illnesses can’t; convincing us over and over again we’ve miraculously healed.

I’ve been seeing a lot of instances of this phenomenon lately, and for about two weeks I’ve felt myself getting closer and closer to the crest of the loop. It is kind of funny to me how feeling well brings its own set of delusions, like I don’t need help, or I can work now, or I guess I don’t need this medication anymore. 

I guess in that sense, even when we are well, we aren’t entirely well. Being free of the negativity of, say, depression, can leave one relying too heavily on the general optimism that works without it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been tricked by the crest of the loop. The instant I begin to feel fine I am transported to another time and place, almost to another life. I revert back into thinking I am a high-functioning individual. 

Right now I’m in the midst of an experiment. In the past, becoming blinded by the crest of the loop meant taking new jobs, or taking on new projects to apply my new found functioning to, and the loop has always carried on, taking me swiftly back down to the bottom.

I have been wondering if the loop happens because I take on too much? Am I driving myself to fall into the same bipolar pits over and over and over again? Is the stress dragging me to the bottom of the loop?

If that is the case, what would happen if I don’t take on something new, something huge, and something stressful? Could I maintain a level of mediocre functioning at the top of the loop? Or would I still fall?

This is exactly what I aim to find out.

The last couple weeks I have been feeling better. Not great, mind you, not nearing hypomania (by any means), but like I can function a bit better than I have been the last few months. I can feel myself nearing the crest of that loop, itching to pick up something new and exciting to meet this new level of functioning.

I am not going to.

I am going to ride it out and see where the loop takes me, whether that is back down, or if I can maintain some semblance of normalcy.

And if I do get dragged back down? Lesson learned.

I’m not too concerned, the loop always comes back around.

Bipolar Stats

I completed a rather interesting project yesterday devising the percentages of time I have spent depressed, elevated, and stable over the last two years.

The result was a rather eye-opening list of numbers that helped wipe away the feeling I’ve been having lately that I am fine (more on that later).

I found these statistics by using my mood tracking tools, particularly the color band mood chart, and counting the time I spent depressed, elevated, etc., and dividing that by the total number of days for the year I had charted for.

For example, in 2011 I charted 284 days (about 2/3 of a year) and I was severely depressed for about 76 of those days, leaving me with a total of 27% of the year (time charted) being severely depressed (in other words, suicidal).

Here’s what I came up with:

2011 – 284 days charted

I spent a total of 51% of 2011 depressed.
I spent a total of 14% of that time with an elevated mood or mania.
I spent a total of 7% of that time in a mixed state.
I spent a total of 28% of that time stable.

2012 – 365 days charted

I spent a total of 32% of 2012 depressed.
I spent a total of 14% of that time with an elevated mood or mania.
I spent a total of 10% of that time in a mixed state.
I spent a total of 44% of that time stable.

My conclusion?

I was really surprised that the depression percentage was so high in 2011, but I suppose it makes sense. I was so depressed that year that I required a psychiatric inpatient hospitalization, and I was not hospitalized in 2012 (32% depression).

I also find it a little hard to accept that over the last two years I have spent less than 50% of my time feeling stable. I knew I’ve been having a hard time, but seeing the 28% and 44% really made me feel justified that, no, I really haven’t been feeling well. In any case, I’m glad 2012 held some improvement.

So far 2013 is off to a pretty good start, and though I have some expectations after seeing these numbers, all I can do is hope for the best and know that I am doing everything in my power to try to improve them.

Anxiety with a Vengeance

The last two weeks or so have been rather miraculous, my mood chart showing a flat line spanning days and days (and not along the bottom, so its a double miracle) but I haven’t been able to get much of anything done.

Why?

Anxiety is back with a vengeance.

It started out small, with feelings of dread and disgust creeping in at random times throughout the day. A feeling of foreboding, like something terrible was either about to happen, or was already beginning to happen, paired with a weakened gag reflex every time I thought about any of the recent choices I have made.

Next came the thoughts. Out of left field I was suddenly contending with things like, “what if I am just a lazy person and this is all in my head?” or “what if my medical bills use up my entire tax return and I have nothing to live off of?”

You see, good things have been happening. I was awarded 100% care coverage at one of the local hospitals (so I can afford to keep seeing my psychiatrist, hooray!) but that wasn’t before I racked up $700 worth of bills there in two weeks time. If anything is going to cause me to have crippling anxiety, money is one of the number one culprits. Or, let’s be clear, lack of money is one of the number one culprits.

The last month, the money thing didn’t really get to me at all. In fact, anxiety itself didn’t seem to get to me much at all, and I was hoping I had somehow out ran it, just a tad.

Next came trouble falling asleep. So many thoughts, so many worries have been swirling around that I can’t swat them away fast enough for sleep to take over.

Finally, in the last 48 hours, shortness of breath has come in as the cake-topper. I stand up… and have to catch my breath. I walk 5 feet… then have to catch my breath. I lay down… and, you guessed it, have to catch my breath.

It has always been odd to me how much anxiety feels like someone is sitting on my chest.

Anxiety often plays a pretty big role in my bipolar mood swings, contributing to the ups and downs as much as anything else, with symptoms popping in and out like any of my bipolar symptoms. I can’t help but wonder why it feels so much worse when the anxiety comes on its own (worse as in, the anxiety feels worse). Maybe it isn’t overshadowed by other, more serious symptoms? Maybe it is because I feel relatively fine otherwise, and this is keeping me from being as productive as possible?

In any case, I am hoping this increasing anxiety doesn’t trigger something else, or become so severe that depression decides to rear its ugly head and join in.

Expectant Mothers Tested for Bipolar Disorder

This morning I came across an article about the folks over at St. Joe’s Women’s Health Concern Clinic using a questionnaire to assess the risk of bipolar disorder in expectant women.

The free questionnaire (The Mood Disorder Questionnaire) is helping employees detect bipolar disorder in pregnant women, in an attempt to help the clinic provide better care for women who may have postpartum depression or psychosis.

Supposedly the test proves a negative (for bipolar disorder) with 98 percent accuracy and a positive with 80 percent accuracy.

So, why is this important?

Apparently one in four women with bipolar disorder have a relapse in symptoms during or after pregnancy. And, when those symptoms can lead to suicide or women attempting to harm their own children, it is a good idea to seek treatment for the disorder before symptoms potentially get out of hand.

It is currently not common practice to use such a questionnaire during pregnancy care, but this clinic is hoping to change that, expressing that proper treatment could save lives.

For more information or to check out the article in full, link here.

Wipe That Grin Off Your Face(book)

I think I’ve finally reached a conclusion about how I feel about Facebook, and that is that I believe it to be more harmful to me than helpful.

I am not someone who feels compelled to compare my life to the lives of others, but that is something that becomes inevitable when facebook is in the equation.

I also have a hard time seeing masses of people being rude, intolerant, or desperate in a public forum. It makes me genuinely feel depressed, and from what I’ve read, that is a pretty common response.

I took a couple months away from facebook to see how I would feel about it. I didn’t miss it. In fact, my quality of life went up… and when I took the time to log in again, I instantly felt anxious and depressed.

For me, facebook is like being at a party, and the room is full of people who are all yelling out whatever pops into their head as soon as they’ve got an idea. I have a hard time being at parties like that in real life, so it seems silly to try to subject myself to a virtual one.

I guess I am more interested in having genuine conversations with people, and I only want to be involved in intimate aspects of peoples lives if they invite me in. Does that make sense? I feel like I am being a little vague here, but ultimately what I’m trying to say is that I really can’t do it anymore. I don’t want to participate in something that makes people feel wretched (myself included).

That leaves me in something of an awkward situation, because I know this blog has several followers on facebook. I think for now I am going to leave the blog page up (so posts keep being published there for the people who use that to connect back to the blog) but please do not send any messages to the page, as they will not be answered.

If you feel the desire to contact me, please continue to email host@thebipolarcuriousblog.com.