Bi-Polar Disorder is supplementing my Blog: ADD-ADHD-Dyslexia: Depression. I feel my previous Blog was a too generic and now realize there is more I need to share.
An Update: Actress Jennifer Lewis, “Blackish” on ABC, just wrote a book: The Mother of Black Hollywood in which she describes living with Bi-Polar Disorder. She describes how the disorder also led to her sex addiction and other risky situations as a result of dealing with BPD. “We are as sick as our secrets.”
Bi-Polar Disorder, What is it?
Also called Manic Depression, recently gave the following information during an interview about Bi-Polar Disorder:
- 6 million Americans are diagnosed with Bi-Polar/Manic Disorder.
- In our brains, the frontal lobes determine our judgement and our “brakes” to prevent inappropriate behavior.
- In our brains, the amygdala fires “hot” during a manic episode.
- Manic cycles can last for hours, days, or weeks, with most experiencing several cycles a year.
- Bi-Polar/Manic Depression is usually diagnosed when an individual is in their early twenties.
- Mood stabilizing medication has been successful for BP/MD people.
CNN published an interesting article recently by a young man named Zack McDermott. Zack just published a memoir, “Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother’s Love,” describing his dealing with Bi-Polar Disorder and how his mother provided consistent support. The article is by Jessica Ravitz, titled “How a ‘madman’ hopes to spark conversations about mental illness.” That title says it all and is our whole reason for publishing this Blog.
In his article, Zack and his mother talk about the path his depression took, starting as a toddler. His mother recalls that he was “difficult, volatile . . . held his breath till he turned blue. He trusted few.” She called him “highly intelligent and funny . . . also a smart-ass.” Upon witnessing his last psychotic breakdown, she threw herself into research, trying to understand who her son was and why he was going through this.
Cindy Cisneros-McGilvrey (the Bird) started connecting the dots:
- Her brother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, abused drugs and was institutionalized.
- She struggled with depression.
- Her father was an alcoholic.
- Zack abused alcohol and drugs, partied beginning at age fourteen.
- He totaled two cars, was arrested several times, fought often.
- Zack once purchased $800 of T-shirts at one time during a manic episode.
Cindy began to see that a lot of things added up and began describing Zack’s lifestyle as playing “Russian Roulette” with his life because of genetics. Up against inherited genes for Bi-Polar/Manic Depression, the article is touching.
More of Our Story
As a mother of a twenty-five year old son, I have been my son’s “Bird” carefully watching every stage of his life. Having a mother, father, grandparents and cousins with learning differences, along with alcoholism and drug abuse on all sides of the family, I knew my son was facing his own game of Russian Roulette. He, too, has always been highly intelligent and funny along with the same “smart-ass” attitude describing Zack above. He has experimented with convenience store pseudo-drugs and alcohol, two DUI tickets and major car damage.
This was all before the age of twenty-one. He hit rock bottom and I “flew in” and moved him home for stabilization. He went to a therapist who told him he needed a hobby instead of working such long hours and prescribed a mood stabilizer drug. He kept the therapy until he thought he was wasting his time; kept up the drug until he no longer wanted it because it “was not working.”
Important note: any mood stabilizing drug WILL NOT WORK if alcohol or drugs are also consumed. Second important note: you CANNOT ABRUPTLY STOP TAKING a mood stabilizing drug, but must do so gradually with a doctor’s help. Both notes come with every prescription.
My son suffered terrible emotional breakdowns when he abruptly stopped taking his medicine. He did not tell me or his doctor. Thankfully, I knew what I was witnessing and was able to support him through both episodes. But we were lucky, because he was very healthy. That saved him. A poor diet, sleep patterns, lack of exercise could have all lead to a bad outcome.
My Manic Periods
Before going on a mood stabilizing drug within the last five years, I remember very distinctly each of my manic periods. I have described how those of us who battle ADD-ADHD-Dyslexia on the Autism Spectrum hyper-focus when engaged in a creative project. But, when depression is extreme enough to be labeled Bi-Polar/Manic, that hyper-focused characteristic morphs into actions that are reckless or even dangerous.
All of my Manic Episodes have involved thoughts that enter my head and slowly overwhelm me. They are usually about some problem I see, some situation I feel I have the magical ability to solve.
In the metro city where I was living at the time I had an idea for solving the homeless problem. (Note: I said “solving,” not helping, a definite sign of manic delusion!) I wrote a seven-page, hand-written letter to the mayor describing how a homeless shelter and program I helped launch in my home town could be expanded to a larger city. I went into extensive detail for the building layout, staffing, counseling, and education programs. There was information for funding, maintaining and expanding, as well as training and hiring residents to run the center. This all came out of my mind in a constant stream of consciousness so quickly the letter ended (with no editing) in an hour.
This was also a pattern for me. I have written multi-page letters to my supervisors whenever I left a job. My manic personality would kick in as I felt compelled to leave my employer with thoughts on why I had to leave and how the company should change many things about the operation!
Many of my Manic Episodes involve a high I would receive from some success, either at work or my personal life. Rarely did my life go that well, but when it did I would get such a state of euphoria that I had to spend money — usually on designer clothing, jewelry, or a new car. These were never done with any long-range planning and while living on charge cards with no savings. When in a Manic Episode happens, nothing can go wrong: birds chirp louder, the sky is bluer, flowers smell stronger. This is the extreme opposite of a depressive episode. The depression part of being Bi-Polar is worse than anything I can describe.
My worst episode was when my son was four. I gave birth to him at forty-two. After suffering multiple mis-carriages, my pregnancy was “high risk” to all of my doctors. This was 1992 and the popularity of women given birth in their later years had not yet started. Also not yet discussed was Perimenopause and Postpartum-Depression. And NOWHERE was it discussed that the two could merge into ONE HUGE BREAKDOWN!!!
I was working at one of the corporate jobs I enjoyed. My husband, son and I were living with my mother while saving for our own place. My son was three, healthy and thriving. But one day, while returning from lunch, I was suddenly overcome with a sense that I was a really bad mother. Within ten minutes the feeling intensified so much I became hysterical. Leaving the building, I started driving looking for a residential psychiatric facility nearby. By that time I was a total wreck. I walked in, somehow convincing them to let me speak to an administrator. She kindly listened before explaining they did not take walk-ins. I recall blurting out “I sleep with a doll!” feeling that was somehow shocking enough to get me admitted. I was escorted out the door. Thankfully, I remembered and called my former psychiatrist. He told me to come right in.
Diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder I was prescribed Lithium. It did not help. I kept feeling worthless. I turned my rage on my husband who I accused of using me so he could continue having affairs with women he worked with, which, unfortunately, was true. During one breakdown I had him drop me off at the hospital emergency room. They explained I would have to be admitted for seventy-two hours to receive help. While they were preparing the paperwork, I walked out into the night and five miles to my home. Two weeks later, another attack, another drop off at emergency but this time I stayed.
Voluntarily checking into the psych ward of a hospital requires a seventy-two hour stay, in a semi-private room where you have to
- make your own bed, do your own laundry,
- line up twice a day to receive your meds,
- suffer someone shining a flashlight on you every hour to see if you are sleeping,
- attend group therapy, including walking the grounds,
- not see or talk to any family.
Unbeknownst to me until very recently, my husband had taken my three-year-old to my mother’s home to stay. She NEVER TOLD MY SON where I was or when I would be home. Can you imagine at age three to have your own mother suddenly disappear and no one tells you why? Her later explanation to me? “Well, I didn’t know what you were doing.” I was devastated and the relationship with my mother was never the same. I checked out, felt better and realized that all I really needed was several days of UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP!!!! When the hospital bill arrived, the total charge would have paid for a longer trip to the Fiji Islands!
In the CNN article I mentioned above were some new statistics:
- “Nearly 44 million American adults, or 18%, experience some sort of mental illness in a year.
- Of those, about 10 million, or one in 25, live with a serious mental illness.
- More than 26% of adults in American homeless shelters have a serious mental illness, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2010.
- In June, a US Department of Justice special report shows 14% of state and federal prisoners and 26% of jail inmates have ‘reported . . .psychological distress.’
- Nearly 60% (of adults) went without mental health services in 2014, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans accessed mental health services half as often as white.”
Jessica Ravitz, CNN, “How a ‘madman’ hopes to spark conversations about mental illness.”
“Every human being has the right to be a happy person.”
Recommended Reading: The Introvert Advantage, by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D
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