Archives for Recovery
Spring will be here in four days. Here in Florida, the weather is nearly perfect. The flowers, insects, and snakes (!) have already sprung. Others are not so lucky. This week, my family members in western New York had a severe snow storm, and more snow is expected throughout the United States. Although we didn't feel it as much here, Winter 2013-2014 was bitter for most. We were the only state in the lower 48 that didn't get snow this year. However, we still noticed the colder temperatures and the inclement weather that created cloudy skies for days. In Florida, we definitely notice when it is dark for more than 24 hours.
As I mentioned in a recent post, I just got health insurance. I've managed my medication with the same Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) for years. Lately I've become discouraged with her fast-paced office and unwillingness to budge on my disagreements with treatment.
My life is a bit too intense these days. I am anxious, uptight, and everything is moving too fast. Am I manic? Am I merely trying to adjust to the more fast-paced life I've recently acquired? Should I go to the doctor, or will I get through this on my own?
One of the most difficult parts of having bipolar disorder is knowing how to prevent and manage mood swings. Although mood cycles vary from person to person, most people with bipolar are profoundly aware of how hard it is to manage and control mania and depression. The best way to deal with bipolar mood swings is to get treatment. However, hypomania, mania, and depression are not completely preventable. Even with medication and good health habits, mood swings still occur. Before the tech age, people with bipolar disorder relied on print notebooks and drawn charts only to record their moods for themselves and their clinicians. This is still a viable way to track both mood swings and how environment and health affect the outcome of one's course of illness. For those that are computer and mobile device-savvy, however, there are a multitude of tools available at your fingertips.
Monday is Veteran’s Day in the United States. It is a day to honor former and active duty military members, who have sacrificed much to serve our country. On this national holiday, many people use this time to visit veteran memorials and grave sites, thank their friends and family members for their service, and engage in good deeds for military members. I make it my mission to comment and educate on the mental health issues that are facing veterans today.
I was at a Halloween party last week, mingling with the women faction. A mother was discussing her suspicion that her teenage son has autism spectrum disorder. “My relative, who is a school counselor, told me to avoid a diagnosis.” The school counselor’s opinion is simple—if he is not diagnosed, he will not be limited in life. It really got me thinking. How true is that statement? There are, generally speaking, two camps—one that believes a diagnosis will drive treatment and overall wellness, and another that believes that a diagnosis hinders opportunity.
A couple of months ago, I wrote an article about Amanda Bynes following her admission to a psychiatric hospital. Today, the media reported that Bynes is diagnosed. According to reports, doctors found she has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but many of these announcements are from celebrity tabloids and blogs. It has not been made clear whether she has the two illnesses or schizoaffective disorder. Now, Bynes continues to heal and stabilize in a rehab center in Malibu as doctors adjust her medication. It will be a long road for her—whether she has the two illnesses by themselves, or schizoaffective disorder—these disorders are widely misunderstood.
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that about a quarter of adults with mental illness also have a substance abuse issue. This accounts for about 2.8 million Americans. Even before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I knew substance abuse and mental illness are linked. With a family of mentally-ill alcoholics, it’s a no-brainer. The mood swings, depression, and anxiety that come with mental disorders are almost unbearable. Some people are able to channel their symptoms into positive activities. Others find drugs as a way to numb the pain, make situations less scary, and quiet the mind.
It is National Suicide Prevention Week in America, and open dialogue about suicide is more important than ever before. Suicide is a major public health problem, but it is also very preventable. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 34,598 Americans died by suicide in 2007. You can help someone in your life get help.
Living with a chronic illness like bipolar disorder requires a team. From the psychiatrist who prescribes medications to the therapist who assists in recovery, to our family and friends, we are grateful for the people who help us deal with a complicated and recurring condition. Another important piece to my recovery is my peer network. I like having connections with others who live with bipolar disorder. It’s easy to learn the science or theory behind mental health conditions, but it is very tough to have lived someone’s experience. With peer support, being validated and understood is possible.