The Stigma of Bipolar Disorder

(Yes, I know…it’s really cheesy and lazy to “bump” a post just so people will read it, but this one fits in so well with some of my other recent posts that I’m doing it anyway. Deal with it. :) -PQ)

I’ve been looking through some of the online articles about bipolar disorder in the hopes of finding a kindred spirit. Like many other people I know, I have bipolar disorder, and have had some rather, um, interesting experiences with it. The articles I find particularly interesting are the ones about the stigma of the disorder, as this has been one of the biggest issues I’ve had with it. I’m glad to see that I am certainly not alone in this! Believe it or not, the worst ‘reactions’ or ‘judgements’ haven’t come from parents, friends, boyfriends or even employers. Don’t get me wrong-I *have* had those, and usually don’t tell employers for this reason. I figure they’re on a ‘need-to-know basis, and they (generally) don’t need to know. The ones from boyfriends have hurt too, but it just proved to me which ones were ‘husband material’ and which ones weren’t. The worst and most hurtful judgements I’ve experienced about my bipolar has come from my religious communities. I’m not sure how other religions view these things, but I can only speak from my own experience with Christianity.

Let me make something clear up front: I am not using this essay to trash the Christian faith or any of her branches. That would be completely unfair, especially considering that I am still a Christian and have found great support at my current church. The difference between groups has been the approach taken.

I’ve known people and been a part of churches who believed that basically everything has a spiritual cause. While I can affirm the mind/body/spirit connection in that what affects one can affect the others too, I won’t affirm that medical problems are the result of a spiritual failing. Maybe ‘failing’ is the wrong word; maybe ‘misunderstanding’ or ‘misdirection’ would be better. The idea was that, if your faith were ‘enough’ or ‘in the right direction’, you wouldn’t have these sorts of problems. If you did, that was a sign that something was wrong with your faith, usually in the area of ‘not having enough’. I even heard some talk of ‘binding’ or ‘casting out’ the ‘spirits’ that caused these problems.

Previously, my instinct would have been to ignore this sort of thing. It would have been easier to do so had I not heard most of it from some people I was very close to and had I not already been in a ‘weakened’ mental state. It would have been easier to deal with it had I not been given a hard time about seeking medical help for my problems in exchange for being ‘healed by God through faith’. At that time, I had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder-after having been treated for depression for a number of years-and was willing to try anything. I figured, nothing else was working, so what was the harm? And, well, the mixed (manic and depressive at the same time) states we get into can make you feel as though there is something else inside of you controlling your thoughts and actions. Things that you would normally not even consider trying somehow look better when you’re already pretty desperate for help wherever you can get it. I’m saying all of this to say that turned out to be a big source of the ‘stigma’ I’ve experienced about my bipolar-the ‘diagnosis’ of having a spiritual problem rather than a medical one.

Before you ask-no, this wasn’t Christian Science. I know they usually don’t believe in medical treatment, but their approach is somewhat different. It was from a much larger group. I won’t bore you with details but this went on for about three or four years. In this time, I was consistently given a hard time for my willingness to go to doctors or take medicine. I had even gone off of my medication for a while and felt good, feeling that maybe I really had been’ healed by God through faith’. Again, I was willing to try anything. However, three months later, this ‘remission’ period was over and I had to go back on medication. I was told all manner of things-that God took the healing from me because I lost faith, that I have some unresolved sin in my life, that I didn’t ‘believe the right way’…even that I had a ‘spirit’ that needed to be cast out! The only thing that wasn’t considered was the real explanation-that I had a medical disorder that needed medical treatment. That was the ‘stigma’-the lack of considering a medical option. In a sense, you can liken this to the people who view bipolar or other mental disorders as a ‘weakness’, a ‘character flaw’, or ‘excuse’. Maybe this one was even more powerful because it had the ‘God label’ (falsely) attached to it.

After leaving here, I had a very ‘dark night’, both of the soul and body. Let me tell you, there are few things that will make you feel more depressed or suicidal than feeling as though God hated you and not having the mental stability to reason away from this feeling. I got another diagnosis of bipolar, this time with treatment. My current church is an Episcopal one that has a completely different understanding. There are different kinds of healing, including acceptance and learning to work around something in addition to ‘curing’ of the symptoms. They also believe God works in so many ways, including through medicine and doctors. In fact, they won’t even *consider* any other spiritual cause for a disorder until all medical avenues have been exhausted!

I’ve joined a healing intercessors ministry through my church in the hopes that I can give others with illnesses the compassion and understanding that I didn’t get before.

I hope I haven’t completely gotten off track, but I wanted to tell the story of a different kind of stigma I’ve experienced in regards to bipolar disorder. Again, I’m not trying to put down Christianity or any forms of it, but I wanted to point out some of the different beliefs regarding mental illness so that a person can better assess which communities they want to belong to, if any at all.


“People Just Don’t Get It”-reblog?

theprozacqueen:

Last week or so, fellow blogger http://aopinionatedman.wordpress.com nicely offered up his space to those of us who wanted to post as a guest author. He has a *much* bigger following than I do, so of course I jumped on it. One of the people who commented on my post “How To Be A Good Friend To Someone With Bipolar Disorder” has a blog of her own called http://learningtobebipolar.wordpress.com. There are a lot of awesome posts there, but one particularly stood out to me. I’m not sure that this is re-blogging so much as “tag-team” blogging-using each others’ words as a basis for our own. Carrying on a conversation, if you will. The “unfettered” post is linked here as well.

I am so so irritated when people use someone’s mental illness as weapon in an argument. Sure, it might be true that I am over reacting but I don’t need you to tell me “you’re only acting this way because you are bipolar”. It’s possible that’s a true statement, but it is also painful coming from someone that you put your trust in. I personally don’t really care what anyone says. If you want to use my illness against me, then I don’t need you in my life. And if you love me you will take the time to learn how to be supportive without being nasty and making me feel guilty and like I am less than because I have these problems. 

How true. Sure, sometimes I’m mad at you (generic “you”) because I’m having an episode. More than likely, though, I’m mad at you because you’re being a jerk.

One thing I miss about the times before my diagnosis is people taking my reactions seriously. I’m not saying everyone does this, but I think some people use the fact that I have bipolar as an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior. I’m not saying they should have to walk on eggshells, but sometimes I wish they’d realize that the things I’m mad about are things anyone would be mad about; perhaps not to the same degree, but still mad.  I am now and have long been very difficult to set off and very unlikely to participate in an argument or even stand up for myself. I suppose that is one reason some people don’t take the times I do show anger-or any emotion, really-seriously, but I wish they’d see that that’s just how I am. It is a very rare person that has that effect on me. Then again, I can’t fault people who didn’t know me before my diagnosis. Or the people who have that effect on me.

 It’s so frustrating when I hear that people have been treated badly or that someone they love has used their worst fears against them. Admitting that you may have a mental illness is no easy thing, for most people. And when you are seeking and looking that closely at yourself it doesn’t help for someone else to push it in your face.

Hear, hear. Even though I was relieved to get my diagnosis (I was treated for depression first) because it told me that there was a name for what I was dealing with and a way to treat it, it really hurts when someone gets at you for something you can’t control.

And being supportive is so easy sometimes. Of course, there are times when it gets hard to be supportive all the time…

…especially when you don’t know what’s going on with us. Sometimes we don’t either.

But you know what….how hard is it to say “I see how hard you have been trying, and how you have been working on trying to do things differently, and I’m proud of you.”

People don’t usually find the strength to change when they are surrounded by people that don’t believe in them. I also know that for someone that has been harmed by someone with a mental illness it isn’t always easy to be supportive. Especially when you probably live with the fear that past experiences will come back again. But, I want to share something with you. We do have the strength to change, we do have the power to keep working and keep trying. Sometimes we just need to know that someone is going to walk the road with us, even if that road is hard at times.

This is very true for me. It’s difficult for me to change, mostly because I don’t know how. I know the things people don’t like about me and the things they want me to change, but I don’t know how to change them because I don’t know when I’m doing them.

For example, my parents would tell me not to whine because it makes me sound like a baby. I’d be glad to, but the problem is that I rarely know I’m doing it.  I don’t know what it sounds like. The same is true for talking too loudly, which I also have a problem with. I can’t hear it. You can tell someone to stop something all you want and even tell them when they do it, but if they don’t know what it is they’re doing or what to replace it with, it doesn’t really help. This is true even for “normal” people.

We don’t want to be alone, the nature of the illness already has us spending so much time feeling alone, even when we are surrounded by people. And one small mistake will send us into a tail spin. We will spend hours or even days worried about some small infraction that the other person involved may not even remember.

This is exactly what I’m dealing with right now. As much as I want to, I just can’t forget about it.  Long story short, it was an argument over a misunderstanding that probably wouldn’t have happened had I known when to keep my mouth shut and when to speak up. It blew up, carried over into the next few days and prompted me to seek therapy (long story).  This happened about a month ago and I’m still reeling about it.

The thing that bothers me most about this is that I know that this sort of “reeling” isn’t something I should be doing. The thoughts and feelings I’ve had regarding this person (as well as toward someone else) smack of the sort of non-forgiveness Jesus explicitly warns against-the kind that could keep my sins from being forgiven.  If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, visit this site-http://www.gotquestions.org/QOTW.htm.  I know I’m not expected to be perfect, but these sort of thoughts and feelings have come and gone for a long time.

It’s a sad and lonely place to be sometimes. But it helps, when someone says I know you over reacted but it’s ok. I still love you and I’m still gonna be here. 

…or leave out that part about overreacting if it’s not applicable. It might not be.

Why would you want to purposely hurt someone you love. And why or why should I have to explain that when you throw my illness in my face when you are mad at me that that hurts!!! It should be common sense. Maybe you don’t understand what it’s like to be me, maybe you think I am using my illness as a cop out. But that’s not true. I have NEVER done that. And I never will, but I don’t need you being hateful to me when I am trying so hard to change something that I don’t even understand.

I won’t either, unless I truly know that it was the disorder talking. Bipolar mixed state (manic and depressive at the same time) makes you feel like something else is inside of you, controlling your thoughts and actions. I’m not saying I’m going to go all Chucky and go on a killing spree, but this is the rare time I yell or cry.

Honestly, most of the time I don’t have to blame the disorder because other people do it for me-see paragraph one.

Pay close attention, people with these illnesses DO NOT KNOW THAT IT’S NOT NORMAL!!!! It feels normal to me, I don’t know what I would do when my thoughts slow and i can pay closer attention. It kind of scares me because I know it’s going to feel so weird and I’m going to have to learn a new way to handle things. Why would I WANT to change something that is normal to me, except with the knowledge that everybody doesn’t have these issues and struggle everyday. I want that, but it still is scary. 

Exactly. It becomes so ingrained in us that it can’t help but spill onto other areas of our lives. I’m told that I “label myself” and shouldn’t let the bipolar become who I am, but how can it not, at least some of the time? Plus, I’m not the only one who defines me that way.

 I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, really.

I care, and it’s been my undoing. Many times.

But I do want people to understand. I want people I know who suffer or think they might have some issues to feel safe in their family and with their friends. I want them to be supported and loved no matter what. And I want to learn to gently and kindly help them see when maybe something needs to change. My husband has really been amazing about most of these things since I was diagnosed 2 months ago.

I was diagnosed for the first time in 2000 and started treatment in 2004 (long story). My husband is also incredibly understanding, more than I ever thought I’d find. His mother has bipolar and was in a much worse way than I am, so he’s had “practice”. I hate that for him, but I’m thankful because it makes me think we’re truly meant to be together.

He takes the time if I express a concern to tell me that it’s going to be ok and that we will work it out. But more importantly he has told me multiple times that he doesn’t want the best parts of me to change, he just wants me to be even better than I am now and on a lot more even emotional state. How awesome to know that he just wants me to struggle less and be happy more. That’s what support looks like to me. To give the good with the bad and to take the time to listen and talk about fears and concerns without using them as a weapon to cause more harm.

Same here. It’s a rare person who can live with us day in and day out, so hold onto them and don’t let go!

I guess that’s about it for today.

Until next time…Be Blessed!!!!!

Yes. Be blessed, my friends.

 

 

Originally posted on learningtobebipolar:

I am so so irritated when people use someone’s mental illness as weapon in an argument. Sure, it might be true that I am over reacting but I don’t need you to tell me “you’re only acting this way because you are bipolar”. It’s possible that’s a true statement, but it is also painful coming from someone that you put your trust in. I personally don’t really care what anyone says. If you want to use my illness against me, then I don’t need you in my life. And if you love me you will take the time to learn how to be supportive without being nasty and making me feel guilty and like I am less than because I have these problems. 

It’s so frustrating when I hear that people have been treated badly or that someone they love has used their worst fears against them. Admitting that you…

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“Unworthily”? What Does That Mean?

I’ve always found myself with more questions than answers…
So I invite my readers-all five of you-to help me find the answers.

The Bible Gateway devotional focused on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. It’s talking about proper conduct during the Lord’s Supper, but one part popped out at me:

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. -1 Cor 11:27

The context of this passage is saying that a person should “examine himself” before they take the body and blood of Christ. If not, judgement will come. I get that these acts are sacred, but what I don’t understand is what makes someone unworthy of taking them?

For instance, what if you made a promise before God that was broken later. Would that make you unworthy?

A few years ago, a good friend of mine was getting a divorce. It wasn’t because his wife had been unfaithful (although she was) so much as that they hadn’t been happy for a very long time and simply couldn’t take it anymore. Even though he knew it would happen, he was still really torn up inside about the idea that he might have sinned against God by going through with the divorce. He, like me, believes that marriage is a sacred institution that should last a lifetime-“what God has joined, let no man put asunder.” His concern was that, by going through with the divorce, he was breaking his promise that he’d be with her “as long as [they] both shall live”. Even though he tried like hell to make things work but nothing helped, he felt that he needed to stay in the marriage because that what what he told God (and everyone in that church) he would do when he took his vows.  Even if he technically had what Jesus said was the only acceptable reason for divorce (I was grasping at straws by this point), he was afraid that all of it meant that he lied and, as a result, had been taking communion (the body and the blood) unworthily the entire time.

But was he? That’s my question. Was he “breaking a promise” and, if so, would that make him unworthy?

In light of the verses I mentioned above, is divorce (no matter what the cause) something that makes one unworthy? Does it matter if the person did all they could and it still didn’t work?

Does continuing to be affected by things in your past make you unworthy? For instance, a friend of mine’s father used to yell a lot when she was growing up. Twenty-something years later, she still gets scared when a man yells at her in anger. Does this mean she hasn’t forgiven her father? They have a decent relationship now.

Does telling “little white lies” make you unworthy? How about “big, black ones’?

Does gossiping make you unworthy?

Does having had sex outside of marriage make you unworthy, even if your spouse has forgiven you? What about premarital sex?

I’ve always felt guilty for thinking badly of people. Even if I there’s a reason to, I felt that this was a failure to love my neighbor as myself. Do these thoughts make me unworthy? After all, adultery and murder begin in the heart (Matt. 5:21-28).

Does greed make you unworthy? Wrath? Lust? Sloth (whatever that is)? Envy? Gluttony? Pride? Because if lust does, I’m screwed.

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for indulging me. Like I said, I have a lot more questions than answers and would greatly appreciate insight from others. What do you think?

 


 

 

 

 

 


Abusive Relationships-A Closer Look

This is another one I wrote a while back that I’m posting here. I feel a bit odd about sharing this because the situation I’ve described in this and other posts (like this one) is nowhere near as bad as what other people I’ve known have been through, but I don’t want anyone else to feel the way I did if I can help it. Anyway, here it goes.

*************

I wish I wasn’t able to write this article.

I don’t say this to imply that I hate that I’m a good writer or using the internet to research. It’s actually fun…too much fun, considering how easily I get distracted. :) No, I hate that I don’t *need* to do research to write this article. Instead, all I have to do is look at my past.

The funny thing is that I had no idea that the relationship was abusive at the time; I knew I didn’t like what was happening, but I thought abuse only looked one way (hitting) and that it was easy to tell what “fits the definition” and what doesn’t. Nope. Since I didn’t have the luxury of this knowledge when I was coming along, I’m going to give you a few ways to tell if your relationship is abusive before you get in too deep to get out.

1) He ‘swept you off your feet’. Declaring his love immediately to get you in a relationship is a big clue. Abusers look for vulnerable people-for instance, people who just got out of relationship the way I had. Getting you to commit to him quickly doesn’t give you a chance to see him for what he is. Besides, you don’t want to let yourself get swept into a relationship if you’re not ready to be in one.

2) Your partner is excessively jealous and controlling. He has to know what to wear, where you are, who you’re with, when you’re going to be back, etc.

Come to think of it, this sounds like how a parent would act. Difference is, he’s not. He has no ‘right’ or ‘position’ over you the way your parents did as a kid. You’re not a kid anymore.

3) He attempts to isolate you from your friends and family, mostly by ‘requiring’ that you be with him at all times and/or behaving in such a way that your friends will not want to be around you. I can tell a few stories about this, but I won’t. Let’s just say that a lot of this goes on behind your back as well as to your face.

4) He makes you feel bad about yourself. This is the biggest reason people stay in these relationships-they think they can’t get or don’t deserve any better.

5) Threatening to hurt or kill himself if or when you try to leave. This might sound romantic in a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ way, but it’s not. It’s coercive and controlling. That, and he’s probably not as hot as Leonardo DiCaprio. :)

6) He never takes responsibility for anything. His family, you, his boss, the kids…everything that goes wrong is someone else’s fault. That way, he doesn’t have to stop what he’s doing because ‘…made me do it.’

I remember saying stuff like this when I was six and broke the cookie jar. At least a six-year-old has an excuse to be childish!

7) He tries to change your looks. ‘You know, you’d be really hot if…’ ‘Maybe you need to…’ comparing you to other women, etc. This sort of criticism does not come from a person who really cares about you, even if it is framed as a joke. Besides, you’re beautiful just the way you are.

8) He pushes and pressures you into things-sex, drinking, drugs, etc-that he knows you don’t want to do.  He then criticizes or makes fun of you for your reluctance-you don’t want to have sex because you’re a ‘prude’. You don’t want to drink because you’re ‘no fun’, you won’t ‘play hooky’ from work because you’re a ‘goody-goody’…you get the idea.

9) He has a bad temper and blows up over little things. This makes you afraid to do or say anything he doesn’t like, including standing up for yourself.

I have no end for this except to say that if these things seem familiar to you (or you see them in a friend), get out. Don’t walk-run, and never look back. You deserve much better than this.


The Girl in the Back of the Room

I’ve always wanted to be an advice columnist. In fact, that was one thing I wrote in those “where do you see yourself in ten years” sections in those “senior” books we got in high school. Anyway, I wrote this as an “audition piece” for an online women’s magazine. The magazine hasn’t officially launched because of some family issues the editor-in-chief had, so I’ve been given the “green light” to publish this in my own blog. The advice is to the 20-year-old me from the [censored]-year-old me.

My column name is “The Girl in the Back of the Room” I chose it because that’s the girl who sees everything that’s going on. That, and that’s who I was through most of high school. I hope you like it.

 

Dear Girl,

I’m a college student who has been dating her boyfriend for about a year. He just kind of ‘swept’ me into his life; I had just broken up with a long-term boyfriend and he gave me a lot of attention when I needed it. The trouble is, it’s gotten to where it’s a little *too* much attention. He always has to know where I am at any given time and makes me feel bad if I want to be alone in my dorm room or hang out with my suite-mates rather than spending time with him. I want to break up with him and have tried to on a couple of occasions, but he always talks me out of it-he says he loves me, that he can’t live without me, that I’m the best thing that ever happened to him, etc. He’s even said that he’ll hurt himself if I leave. I don’t love him or feel the same way about him, but I can’t help but feel like I have to stay so I won’t be responsible for anything that happens to him. If he were to kill himself because of me, I would feel like a terrible person for the rest of my life.

My friends say I need to tell him goodbye in no uncertain terms, but I don’t know how to without feeling mean. I’ve always had a problem with being too nice, but I don’t know any other way to be. My friends also say he’s playing on my good nature and manipulating me into staying with him. I’m starting to agree with them. But how can I break up with him so he’ll leave me alone without having to be mean about it?

-Confused in Connecticut

Dear Confused,

I wouldn’t normally use the words, ‘Bite me’ in an advice column, but I think it fits here; this is what you need to say to your ex because he doesn’t seem able to understand much else! You’ve tried to let him down easy, but now it sounds like you’re going to have to bite the bullet and be blunt. Tell him how you feel or, in this case, don’t feel. Yes, you’ll hurt him and feel like you’re being mean, but sometimes you really can’t avoid it. Despite his statements to the contrary, the nicest thing you can do here is make a clean break.

As for him talking you out of it, don’t give him the chance. Do what you can to avoid being alone with him. Have someone else with you whenever you can. Don’t answer his emails, don’t take his calls, ignore his knocks on your door and have your suite-mates to do the same. If you have to, report him to campus police.

You are not-I repeat, not-responsible for what happens to him! It’s not up to you to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself because he’s the one who controls his actions, not you. If he truly is suicidal, he needs to see a doctor. Either way, I agree with your friends-he’s probably saying this to make you feel guilty. I hate to say it, but what you’re describing sounds like the beginnings of an abusive relationship. If you go on any longer, things will only get worse until you find yourself in too deep to get out. Do yourself a favor and get out now. Believe it or not, it’s okay to think of yourself sometimes. If you’re really concerned about him, tell him to use the campus counseling services or have a mutual friend check up on him. Whoever talks him through it, it should not be you.

As for being a bad person, that is not even close to being true. It would be one thing if you were hurting him out of spite, but you’re not. The fact that you are concerned about it at all shows how *good* a person you are.

Apparently hindsight really *is* 20/20. Maybe now I can finally let go of that chapter of my life.

 

 


The Men of ‘Project Runway’

(Disclaimer-Neither The Prozac Queen nor her ‘subjects’ are to be held responsible for any asthma attacks suffered/deadly sins committed/computer keyboards damaged that result from reading this post. Drool at your own risk.)

I’m publishing this again because I’ve found yet another reason to love Mr. OctoberTim Gunn has an “It Gets Better” video too.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now, but I didn’t know if it would be weird for me to write about a TV show without having a purpose other than for my own entertainment. I’m not sure why, but the phrases ‘creepy stalker’ and ‘desperately needs a life‘ come to mind.:) I love to read reviews online, but most of those appear in ‘zines’ with people whose jobs are to watch TV and comment on it. In other words, people who get paid to do what I do for free. :) I’ve now read other people’s ‘personal reviews’ and I figured, what the heck. It’s not like anything I say will (or should) be taken seriously. So, here goes.

Despite the fact that I have about as much fashion sense as a turnip, I love watching Project Runway. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a reality show on Lifetime where a group of fashion designers complete weekly challenges for a chance to show at Fashion Week and all kinds of other awesome prizes. I especially like the ‘Unconventional Challenges’ where they make dresses out of corn husks and stuff they found in a pet store! There’s also the one where they had to talk people out of their clothes (hmm, shouldn’t we at least wait until the third date for that?) to use in their projects. I haven’t seen every season, but that’s what the internet is for. So you know what I’m talking about, here’s a link to the show’s site-http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway
There’s also the ‘All Stars’ show where they bring back designers from previous seasons to compete all over again. http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway-all-stars

Heidi Klum is the host…she’s pretty nice, but I love Tim Gunn, who serves as a sort of ‘mentor’ to the designers. He’s so classy-he has a way of telling it like it is without making you feel like a squashed bug. He would be so much fun to hang out with but, seeing as I’m a nobody, that’s about as likely to happen as my cats are to follow instructions. In other words, never. Oh well.

Like most other reality shows, half of the draw is the level of attractiveness of the contestants. However, since Lifetime caters to women, any and all ‘eye candy’ I notice is of the male variety. Finally, something just for us!

Now, some of you are probably asking, “Wait a sec…aren’t all these guys gay?” My answer to that is, “And? Your point is?” I don’t know, and I don’t care. Gay, straight, bi, tri…it doesn’t matter. Hotness is hotness. It doesn’t matter anyway; the closest any of us will probably get to them is licking the computer screen.* Oh, well.  In that vein, I’ve come up with the Project Runway Swimsuit Calendar. Well, not really, but here are my ‘nominees’, in no particular order.

Continue reading


How to be a good friend to someone with bipolar disorder

(I’m publishing this again because I found a new resource that I think will be *immensely* helpful, both to you and your friend. Thanks to Healthline.com for bringing this to my attention!-PQ)

Hi, I’m [river in Ireland] (*cue twelve-step group greeting here*), and I have bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. To people who have known me for a long time, this isn’t usually much of a shock. Actually, I take that back. People who have known me and been close enough to have seen some rough times aren’t usually that surprised.  As for everyone else, my friendly and talkative exterior can hide pretty much anything I want it to.  I’ve had to use this skill a lot in the past because I have had some people find out that I have bipolar and not be very nice about it. I think my favorite comment was that I was ‘demon-‘ or ‘spirit-possessed’. *roll eyes* Others think I’m not as much fun anymore since I have begun taking medication that doesn’t allow me to bounce off the walls like I did before. Still others think I’m just a freak. Of course, I was pretty freaky before, but that’s not the point. :)

The point is that people with bipolar disorder can be quite complicated; things can bother us that won’t bother ‘normies’, and our medications and treatment can take a lot out of us.  The disorder is very complex and there is more being learned about it all the time. There are various different symptoms or signs that can be mistaken as something else entirely, which makes it really difficult to figure out.  It can really screw with someone’s life.  For instance, it wasn’t uncommon when I was first diagnosed to get four hours a sleep a night for two weeks straight and clean the house up and down at 3 am**…only to crash the next week and not shower or leave my bedroom for two days.  That’s not even counting the episodes where I was crying and throwing things one minute and dancing a jig the next (only a slight exaggeration), with major swings like this happening in the same day.  It’s kind of hard to hold down a job when your boss can’t figure out what planet you are going to be from one minute to the next!  That’s not even talking about the medications and their side effects-I’ve been through several changes and can’t even keep track of them all. One of the medicines that worked the best for me also gave me shakes so bad I had to see a Parkinson’s doctor.  Another gave me gas you wouldn’t believe, and still another made me gain so much weight that I was nearly too fat to fit into my wedding dress! And you know what’s scary? I’m one of the luckier ones, because I can even take medicine;  I know some people who haven’t been able to find anything that doesn’t mix badly with their other medications, assuming they can find something that does anything at all.

Bipolar has a strong tendency toward comorbidity-meaning, it often occurs alongside other similar disorders.  I’ve lost friends and had others change how they relate to me, although I have had some actually come closer because they had similar problems and felt I wouldn’t judge them.  Generally, though, it’s one of those things you don’t really understand very well unless you have it yourself.  In this spirit, I thought it might be fun to give sort of a ‘guide’ on the care and feeding of your bipolar friend. :)  So, let’s get started:

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