Category Archives: News

BPC Finale: Goodbye After 5 Years

This week marks the five year anniversary of starting the Bi[polar] Curious Blog and for many reasons I have decided that this post will also conclude my time posting here. That might sound abrupt to some people, though most blogs seem to fizzle out rather than actually “end”. I’ve actually been considering the notion of stopping here for about 8 weeks and a number of things convinced me to make this move.

First, I’ve met my goals.

I started the Bi[polar] Curious Blog when I just started working toward understanding my own mental health, where I fit in the overall umbrella of mental illness and what it meant to me. I knew from many situations that I was doing a poor job at communicating about my symptoms and experiences and I hoped blogging would help me sort that out. On top of that, I was tired of the strange sense of shame having to hide these questions provoked and I was tired of people mistranslating my symptoms of mental illness into problems that they weren’t (things like addiction, unbridled selfishness, or generally being an asshole -to name a few). I wanted understanding for myself, but I wanted to help other people I know understand too. Finally, it was important to me not to give up on the blog impulsively, I wanted to really push myself to stick with it even when it was difficult.

In terms of understanding bipolar disorder I feel like I’ve come a really long way in the last five years. I’ve reached the point where I can separate my symptoms from my typical behavior and identify what each of them means. I know that my symptoms are atypical because of my treatment resistance and mega-ultra-intense cycling but I also know that each person living with mental illness is an individual with symptoms that vary from person to person. The diagnoses we live with are there to help us receive treatment and to communicate about our illnesses, but ultimately we’re all unique and need to seek treatment based on our own individual needs. I also believe that having bipolar disorder has nothing to do with my personality and that finding myself burdened with symptoms like agitation, hostility, or even homicidal thoughts do not make me a bad person, or someone to be feared. On the contrary, the way in which I’ve worked against these symptoms is a perfect example of how I’ve taken responsibility for my illness and am constantly striving to react to my symptoms in a healthy and safe way.

When it comes to communicating I feel like I’ve learned a lot from writing about my experiences, but also from the strangeness that came from having strangers or friends or family repeat many of the things back to me that I had written. I’ve come from being unable to clearly communicate about my symptoms to communicating in a support group and therapy, then to lead a support group and to talk openly to friends, family, and then finally in public about my illness (in addition to writing about those experiences here). Being open has directed me to a place where I don’t feel ashamed about my experiences or symptoms, and I don’t feel ashamed to communicate them with others anymore. Writing has been one of the ways I have been able to find the words to use, and I’ve been thrilled to find that I can communicate about my experiences well enough now for others to be able to relate.

I’ve stuck with the blog for 5 years. Five years! Frankly that really exceeds the expectations I had, I thought I’d be lucky if I lasted a year. Even though there were times when I couldn’t post because I was too ill, I am happy that I never abandoned the blog impulsively. In all that time I know I’ve helped others understand because they’ve told me so, from strangers to friends to family.

Second, I feel that I’ve started to outgrow this blog.

When I started writing I had close to zero support regarding managing my bipolar symptoms and I was doing so by trying my best to constantly control everything around me. You can imagine how well that worked! I was exhausted all the time and desperate for help, and I wanted this blog to chronicle what it was like trying to find that help along the way.

This month I’m graduating from the DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) program I’m in and even though my symptoms are still treatment resistant and I don’t have any help from traditional psychiatric medication to help with them I’ve learned how to set myself up to handle things better when they occur and how to cope when I’m reacting poorly. I’m not a wizard at it, but I am practicing what I need to do and I’ve already seen an improvement in my quality of life.

You can bet that after five years of writing about one area of my life I’m a little sparse on topics -especially since things have stabilized for me a little. I’m finding that being stable doesn’t mean everything is kittens and rainbows, actually it means having to deal with many other issues I’ve ignored in the process of working on figuring out the bipolar-disorder-thing. Yes, there are plenty of other things I’m working on (things like detaching myself from codependency habits, creating healthy boundaries with my friends and family, and addressing the matter of my sexuality and feelings of self-worth) but GUESS WHAT? None of those are bipolar disorder! I want to give my mind the freedom and space to consider these other problems without having to continuously go back to bipolar disorder, and at this point that is partially what this blog has become for me.

Third (and finally), I’m at peace with having a mental illness.

It took me many, many years to reach the point where I could accept that I would be living with mental illness for the rest of my life and honestly it was tough sometimes to make strides toward accepting that just because that is true doesn’t mean my life isn’t worth living. When medication after medication failed to work for me I saw a lot of hopeless days but I’ve finally reached the point where I can say with all honesty that I can’t change this. I can’t control my symptoms or urges, but I’m doing the best I can to cope with them in a healthy way.

Whatever fear I was wrestling with, whatever doubt and denial I was struggling with is gone. I finally feel a sense of peace about it, and even though that doesn’t change the fact that I have a mental illness it means I don’t need to worry about it every minute of every day anymore.

The struggle with coming to terms with this is over, and without that struggle there is no blog to write.

Thank you so much for all of your support!

I’ve really valued everyone who read this blog and left comments and I know that wont end today. It should be noted that the Mental Health Bloggers on WordPress are all total rockstars and I learned countless things from reading their/your work. I’d urge anyone who wants to share a link to their blog in the comments to do so, like I said I’ll be leaving things up here but if anyone is looking for something to read with fresh content there are tons of exceptionally good blogs to try.

Thank you for going through this with me. Thank you for inspiring me to write more, and inspiring me to create good writing habits. Thank you readers for keeping an open mind. Thank you writers for reminding us we’re not alone.

Advertisements

Alternative Mental Healthcare for Severely Psychotic

An article came out this month in the New York Times about an organization called the Hearing Voices Network. The Goal of the Hearing Voices Network is to create support groups where the symptoms of those with psychotic symptoms like hearing voices and having hallucinations are explored to understand where the voices or visions might be coming from and find ways to cope with them mentally and emotionally.

I’m not doing the article or network itself much justice so I would definitely recommend reading about this alternative form of therapy here (at the New York Times Article) or here (at the Hearing Voices Network homepage).

Without going into too much detail I wanted to mention that this topic stood out to me because in a way it reminded me of the type of therapy I have been undergoing with DBT (though certainly not the same thing). The similarity in my mind comes from my experiences the last six months having to address my internal dialogue, generally stop abusing it and being afraid of it, and allow myself to learn where these thoughts and feelings are coming from so that I can cope with them in a healthy way.

Having treatment resistant symptoms of bipolar 1 (which can include psychosis at times) has rendered other types of treatment (like psychiatric medications) useless for me up to this point so my experiences with talk therapy and particularly a group that could help me address those aspects of my illness has been paramount to helping me cope and feel more comfortable in my own skin. I’m excited to see that an exploratory type of alternative therapy like this is being offered to those with severe psychosis because the more types of treatments available mean the more people that will potentially be able to improve.

Of course, both websites mention that this type of therapy isn’t right for everyone, but as someone who has experienced what mental illness is like living as an outlier, having options of things to try before falling into the hopelessness that all else has failed is potentially making a life-saving difference.

John Oliver Responds to the Topic of Mental Health

If you haven’t seen it yet, why not start your week by checking out John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight responding to political candidates using the topic of mental health to divert attention from gun control questions?

You can check it out here or find it on youtube.

I always appreciate a logical explanation, especially one that uses actual facts from studies coupled with humor to help make a touchy topic approachable. It isn’t often I consider this to be a topic broached without making my head spin, so thanks John Oliver!

Cheers!

The Bi[polar] Curious Blog Celebrates Turning 4!

Today is the four year anniversary of my first post here on the bi[polar] curious blog, hooray!

I know I haven’t been great at maintaining a constant stream of posts, but given all the weird and wild things I’ve had to deal with in this timeframe I am going instead focus on the fact that this blog is still alive.

What did I hope to accomplish by starting this blog? Well, I wanted to have a place where I could be honest. I wanted to be able to share what it is like living with mood swings and anxiety and the constant work involved in searching for help, support, and knowledge.

For a long time I had this nagging feeling that nobody knew much about me (you know, based on people telling me, “man, I really just don’t get you!”) but anxiety made it very difficult to present anything other than what was already out there. A general veil of “everything’s fine!” even when things clearly weren’t. I guess I did hope to some degree that writing here would allow me to collect my thoughts and present them in a way my friends and family could understand, increasing the potential for better relationships. Emmmm, it still needs a little work but overall I would consider this goal to be a success in progress.

What I didn’t expect were all of the readers that have come back time and again, the kind comments of support, and a small sense of accomplishment in finding that something I did might have helped someone understand something better, whether that was about themselves or someone else or a group of people as a community.

To be completely honest, I have been experiencing an intense spike of anxiety the last week or two and this anniversary was not even on my radar. In that regard, I feel like I ought to give a quick shout-out to wordpress.com too for sending me a reminder. I will always be grateful for anything that gets me to smile first thing in the morning!

At any rate, thank you readers for passing some time with me, thank you bloggers for writing interesting and sometimes provocative things that inspire me to consider the world around me, and thank you supporters for your generosity of spirit. Trust me, it doesn’t go unnoticed!

As Always,
Sarah

 

The Difficult Relationship of the Empath

I read an article today I thought I would share called The Toxic Attraction Between an Empath and a Narcissist. While I find the article to be a little rough (and I certainly don’t agree with all of the generalizations) it did make me look at the relationships I have had with people a little differently… and therefore was worth the read.

Every bipolar support group I have gone to that has brought up personality categories or alternative views on bipolar symptoms as a “mental illness” has typically led to one word: empath.

An empath is someone who can easily find themselves feeling the emotions of others, and generally has little trouble imagining themselves in someone else’s shoes.

Needless to say, when I sat in a room of people with a bipolar diagnosis and found that every single one scored the same result (empath) I wasn’t surprised. I have known for a long time that the emotional state of those around me have a huge effect on my own emotions and that I have always had a genuine desire to help others (being able to feel and see situations from their perspective), but it took me many years to learn that there were people who were interested in manipulating these traits and that I needed to protect myself by being selective of the relationships I have with others.

One of the best things I have done for myself is to keep the relationships I have with open, genuine people and discard the rest.

At any rate, an interesting read… and if you’ve found yourself drawn to people who tend to hurt you (romantically or otherwise) check it out!

Keaton Farris; Mistreatment Bringing a Town Together

*Trigger warning; contains some detail about the mistreatment and death of a man with mental illness*

It seems like every day I hear of a new situation where someone with mental illness has been taken advantage of, abused, or killed with little repercussion. It isn’t every day, however, that I hear about this happening in the small town of Coupeville I grew up in on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

That isn’t to say it doesn’t happen there. I definitely received some spotty (at best) mental healthcare when I lived there 15 years ago, but reports from my family, friends, the community, and the local news have detailed a story much more disturbing than I could have imagined happening in my tiny, sleepy town on my own.

Keaton Ferris, a 25 year old local man who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder was in the Island County jail after not showing up for a hearing. Two weeks later, he was found dead in his cell, with the autopsy report showing he had been denied enough food and water to survive; he died of dehydration.

His parents had been asking to visit him but staff denied all of their attempts to see their son, and they were never told that he was physically unwell.

Allegedly Keaton was denied his medication in jail and quickly became psychotic, at which point the staff was unwilling to treat him properly because they were afraid of his violent behavior.

(Keep in mind, there is a hospital three blocks from the jail, and though there are hospitals in Washington state designed to house and treat people in the criminal justice system with extreme mental illness, they are often too full to take on new patients, leaving them at local hospitals or jails that are completely unequipped to manage in a professional way.)

While the staff neglected to properly feed and hydrate Keaton, they also did not check on him regularly (as policy dictates). By the time he was found deceased, the coroner has reported that he had been dead several hours without notice.

I guess this situation is hitting pretty close to home for me because I spent the first 18 years of my life in that town. Well, that and I know what being on the receiving end of discrimination because of mental illness feels like, even to the point of having staff withhold my medications and becoming very ill. I feel lucky that I have made it to this point, but as a young woman with mental illness, the writing is on the wall.

If this could happen to Keaton Ferris it could happen to me, and that is a truly terrifying notion.

My goal is not to instill fear in anyone, but just to tell stories of my experiences and the experiences of those around me who can’t speak for themselves. Equal rights, proper treatment, and the acknowledgement of our medical needs in times of mental crisis seem like the basic human rights anyone deserves, right?

So where are they?

There was recently a rally in front of the jail where community members gathered to protest the treatment Keaton received, and while I wouldn’t ever suggest that one young man’s torture and death is a positive thing, I am certain that this situation will touch the lives of every person in that town, and I expect people will begin to think differently about mental illness… begin to act differently about it… and that is how the change begins.

You probably aren’t part of this small community, but that doesn’t mean this story wont touch you, or infuriate you, or inspire you to change even one or two small things in your life that will make a difference when we put them all together.

I would encourage anyone who is interested in learning more or helping support our community’s cause of demanding equal rights and treatment for those with mental illness in the criminal justice system can find all news articles, videos, and up to date information at Keatonh2o.com

A Rare Form Of Dwarfism May Protect Against Bipolar Disorder

While researchers are on the hunt for exactly which genes are causing illnesses, research is also being done to search out genes that can protect against them.

An article in The Boston Globe’s science section recently reported that researchers have discovered that a rare, genetic form of of dwarfism called Ellis-van Creveld (a form found relatively commonly among the Old Order Amish of Pennsylvania) may actually cause a genetic mutation that prevents bipolar disorder.

Though researchers don’t want to reproduce the exact mutations, they believe it may be possible to explore new forms of treatment through this discovery.

This has been a very short summary, if you are interested in reading more check out the full article in The Boston Globe here!