Bipolar Creativity

Bipolar Creativity

It is a well-known fact that individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder are often very creative. Many of us who have bipolar disorder are overloaded with creativity during manic and hypomanic episodes. Usually, in the beginning of these episodes, we tend to sleep less and be more productive and happy. There are many different forms of art including music, writing, artwork (drawing or painting), photography, videography, acting, and many more. Personally, I tend to write more and organize my house when I’m manic or hypomanic. I don’t see anything wrong with embracing your creativity during these episodes; however, it’s still important to follow-up with your doctors and attempt to balance out your life. There is a thin line between being creative and having psychotic episodes; it’s happened to me several times.

I recently received a gift from my mom, who knows how neat and organized I like everything to be. She gave me an adult drawing book and some colored pencils. What a great surprise! One of the coloring books she got me is all postcards; you color in on one side and write your message and address on the other side. I have been using it as an outlet for my frustration and my energy. Today, I finished my first piece of artwork. I had to throw my first one away because I wasn’t happy with the way it turned out. Now, I can go back and forth between writing and drawing. They are both wonderful therapeutic tools for me to use.

You don’t have to be manic or hypomanic to be creative, although it is more common during those episodes. You don’t even have to be bipolar. All I’m saying is that many artists are predisposed to mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder; and many individuals diagnosed as bipolar are predisposed to being some type of artist. There are many famous and successful artists that lived years ago, before people believed in mental illnesses. Some of these famous artists include Leonardo da Vinci had bipolar and dyslexia, Michelangelo had OCD, Isaac Newton had bipolar disorder, Beethoven had bipolar disorder, and so did Vincent van Gogh. There are and have been so many world-wide famous artists that struggled with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. I am inspired by these famous artists that struggled mentally but were very successful in their artwork. We don’t always have to look at our bipolar disorder as a deficit; sometimes there are good things that come out of the disorder, as long as we stay on top of everything and don’t let our episodes get too out of control.

Rapid Cycling

Rapid Cycling

Rapid cycling is described as a pattern in an individual’s bipolar disorder. The individual must experience at least four or more episodes in one year. These episodes can be either manic or depression, I’m not sure if mixed episodes count. My specific diagnosis is Bipolar 1, rapid cycling, with psychosis. Maybe, my previous post where I was wondering if I was crashing is just another part of my rapid cycling. That could be why it feels like my episodes come in waves; they happen so often I have a hard time keeping track of them all.

People who are rapid cyclers can still crash; I guess the crash just doesn’t last as long. However, rapid cycling is a diagnosis that is not necessarily permanent. It can change as time goes on. A person’s bipolar symptoms tend to change with time, generally based on their experiences and treatment. This makes it possible for the rapid cycling diagnosis to be temporary for most individuals, although the diagnosis can come and go.

I find rapid cycling difficult to manage. Just when it seems as if I’m getting a handle on current emotional status and its symptoms, my episode changes to something else. Lately, it’s changing slowing, which is nice, but it’s hard to keep up with. One day, I can be cleaning, getting stuff done, and reaching out to others, and then the next day I can’t get off the couch. It usually takes me a couple of days to mentally realize and accept my current state, and that is extremely difficult when things are always changing.

I have a couple of questions. Is it even possible to cycle daily or weekly? What I find tells me that rapid cyclers usually cycle at least four times a year. Are there any other individuals diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar? Do mixed episodes count towards rapid cycling? It would be great if anyone wanted to tell me about their experiences; I would appreciate hearing from you and finding out how often you cycle and how you handle your cycles.

What’s Coming? I Hope It’s Not A Crash

What’s Coming? I Hope It’s Not A Crash

I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve been manic lately; I’ve been in a mixed episode more or less. Everything changes day by day; whether or not I’m able to get things done, how much energy I have, my emotional state, how much I reach out to others, if I can complete my goals, and how impulsive I am. These are my major signs that show what state I’m in; manic, depressive, or mixed. Since I had an ECT treatment yesterday, I generally slow down for at least a few days as my body recovers.

When I’m manic or mixed, I tend to get a lot of household responsibilities done. I can go all day without stopping. I make sure that I can complete every goal I set out for myself. I can’t stand not being able to cross off every item on my to-do list. I also usually reach out to others, both friends and family, when I’m manic or mixed. I withdraw as the depression sets in. I usually don’t have elated feelings to begin with during mania or mixed episodes; I still tend to feel bad about myself, unable to see the good things that I have done.

Every day, I see certain symptoms changing. For example, today I’m having a hard time getting things done. It is the day right after ECT, so I’m trying to give myself a break, but reaching out to others is also very hard. I’m also feeling the emotional depressive symptoms, wishing I wasn’t around is a common feeling for me. I’m not sure if there’s a crash coming, or if I’m just reacting to life’s circumstances. The worst part, in my opinion, is I keep gaining weight. It’s been happening for a few months now. I’m up 30 pounds, and I don’t have the will power to fight it. I have been wondering what’s coming for a little while now. Sometimes I think my episodes happen in waves; often never-ending and they don’t often last long enough to realize what’s happening, which is an improvement from before, now that I think about it.

If this is a crash coming, then it’s probably the easiest one I’ve gone through. Or maybe the new medication, Clozapine, is helping ease the fall a little bit. Other times, I have spent all my money, gained 80 pounds, or withdrawn completely from my loved ones. I’m still productive, no matter how difficult it is, and I’m working at keeping my relationships healthy, which is extremely difficult for me. I’m still trying, that’s what matters. Maybe I should just be grateful that I am still able to work at it. When my depression hits, it doesn’t matter how hard I try, I still don’t get things done like I want to.

Treatment-Resistant Bipolar Disorder

Treatment-Resistant Bipolar Disorder

Treatment-resistant bipolar, also known as med-resistant, is something that most of us know too much about. Sadly, it’s extremely common. Being diagnosed as treatment-resistant generally depends on the number of medications a person has tried during the phase that individual is in. Many individuals have been through all sorts of different medications without much success. And then of course, if a person finally finds a medication that helps even a little, it comes with side effects that are too much to handle. I have been considered treatment-resistant by my doctors many times throughout my diagnosis. I have taken so many medications that I’ve lost track of them all. I’ve even lost track of the horrible side effects. I know that for me, Abilify sends me into a huge manic episode, Depakote causes me to lose my hair, and I gained 80 pounds on Risperdal. Those are just a couple examples of medications that I couldn’t handle.

Treatment-resistant doesn’t mean that there’s no answer; there are several individuals that are treatment-resistant that have gone into ‘remission’ for multiple years. I am one of those individuals. Somehow, I was able to live a regular life, work a full-time job, and have a full-time social life. I don’t know what happened or what changed, but after a little more than 2 years, something changed. I was still taking my medication and seeing my doctors, but it was as if I was a ticking time bomb. Then I exploded into such a massive manic phase that I had to leave my job and go live with family. I haven’t been stable since that time, but I do know it’s possible. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever get back to the place in life that I was at before. Honestly, I don’t know if it will or will not happen, but I haven’t given up.

There is always hope, even for those that are treatment-resistant. New treatments and medications are always coming out that could help. Sometimes, a certain combination of medications or treatments is the key to remission. It’s not easy to be patient, or willing to try new treatments, but you never know when one of these new methods will be the key to our health. I am always willing to research and usually try new treatments and medications. I am doing ECTs, electroconvulsive therapy, every month (I’m doing the maintenance treatments at this point), and I am doing a rechallenge of the Clozapine medication. The ECTs helped me get out of a major depressive episode. The Clozapine is supposed to help take away my suicidal ideations; it’s too soon to tell how effective it will be. My conclusion regarding treatment-resistant bipolar is that you never know when some new treatment or medication is going to help; don’t give up before the miracle happens.

What Caused My Bipolar Disorder?

What Caused My Bipolar Disorder?

No one really knows what causes bipolar disorder, but there are several known possibilities. Some of the circumstances include genetic inheritance, brain chemistry, life events, substance abuse, and childhood trauma. I’ve always wondered what caused my bipolar disorder and if it was it something that could have been avoided. In my case, and in most cases, there are multiple situations that cause bipolar disorder. For me, I think that all of the known possible causes had something to do with the reasons for my bipolar disorder.

Genetic inheritance definitely had a part in my bipolar disorder. My father had a brother and a sister that both had some form of mental health disorder. I don’t know what the diagnosis was, if any, but I do know that they used to and still do struggle with mental health. There is also at least one person on my mother’s side that deals with depression. Having family members that deals with mental health makes it more likely that I would have some form of mental illness because it’s something that could have been inherited.

Individuals with bipolar disorder also often have different brain chemistry than those without bipolar disorder; their brains often work differently allowing them to be predisposed to both manic and depressive episodes. The brain structure of those with bipolar disorder is different from those without bipolar. This may help doctors diagnose and treat bipolar in the future.

Certain life events can also be a cause of bipolar disorder because of the stress that they cause. I had a fantastic childhood with loving parents. I felt loved every moment of every day. The only life event that could have had an effect was the diagnosis of my father’s cancer when I was 12 years old and his death when I was 18 years old. It was very hard for me; my father was my best friend. Stressful life events can cause manic or depressive episodes; they can also influence kids, such as myself, to turn to drugs or alcohol.

Substance abuse most likely played a huge part in my mental health diagnosis. I did anything and everything that was available; all I wanted to do was forget how I was feeling. I used drugs and alcohol to the extreme from the ages of 12 to 19, when I got sober. Gratefully, I’m now coming up on 12 years sober, which probably makes a big difference in the treatment of my bipolar disorder.

Childhood trauma is also a factor for many. The traumatic events I experienced were in my teenage years. I lost my father at age 18. I was also in a physical and emotionally abusive relationship from the age of 17 to 18. That year and a half was difficult for me; it has also made the rest of my life exceptionally difficult. I still have many fears and am hesitant to do a lot of things because of events that occurred during that relationship.

Over the years, I wondered what happened; how could such a happy childhood turn into such a difficult life. I had a wonderful childhood; I was pretty popular in school, I had a great relationship with my entire family, and we were lucky enough to have more than necessary. I used to wonder if maybe I did something differently in my life, then I wouldn’t have ended up with this diagnosis. I used to think that it was my fault, that I was to blame for my mental health problems. However, after writing this post, I realized that I experienced most of the possible circumstance that could cause mental illness. It wouldn’t have mattered what I did, I was bound to end up diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It’s no one’s fault. No one is responsible for their mental health diagnoses. What we are responsible for is helping ourselves get better over time. We can take control of our disorders; it’s not easy, but it is possible.

How Much Longer…?

How Much Longer…?

Do you ever wonder if you can make it? Even if it’s just for one more day, can you handle life that much longer? It seems that no matter what you do, everything is working against you. If you’re anything like me, it’s a daily burden that you have to deal with. I’m constantly asking myself, ‘Am I okay? What if…?’ Sometimes, when I’m able to think positively, instead of asking myself, I tell myself, ‘ I’m okay. Everything is good.’ I say these things even when I know they’re not true; I guess I say them hoping to convince myself that they are true.

I constantly worry about pretty much any situation you could think of. I’ve had some people tell me, ‘Don’t worry, just relax’, and honestly, that makes me want to punch them in the face. Do they really think I would choose to live like this? Would I honestly decide to have anxiety attacks every day and almost never feel safe or secure? Nobody chooses this life; it’s not enjoyable or manageable. Living without control over your own moods is torture. These types of symptoms, the constant anxiety, not feeling safe, and questioning if life is worth it, tear apart a person’s life piece by piece. My support system is the reason I keep going, but it’s not easy. I just want to give up most days, but for some reason, I don’t, I never give up.

I compliment those individuals who are able to live with these symptoms and the other bipolar and/or PTSD symptoms and continue living their lives entirely. Individuals that can go to work, take care of their families, maintain a home, and manage their symptoms are impressive; I admire these people. That used to be me. I had a full-time job, a full-time social life, and I maintained my own home. I miss being able to do that. I’ve been on disability since 2009, and I wonder every day if I’ll ever have that type of life back. Even my therapist is unsure if that will happen; he said so himself. He says that I’m working on learning to deal with these issues better.

I hope I’m not the only one that feels this way; I feel lost enough already, I don’t want to be lost and alone. Although at the same time, I really don’t want anyone, even someone I don’t like, to experience these situations and emotions. All I can do is to stay positive, even if it’s fake, I just think positively. I pretend that things will be okay; if you think something enough, eventually it could come true.

Bipolar Extremes: Finding Balance

Bipolar Extremes: Finding Balance

I tend to be quite the extremist when it comes to my mood swings. I either have so much energy that I can’t stop cleaning or I can barely get off the couch to get anything done. I will admit that I somewhat enjoy the first few days of my manic episodes. I love the fact that I can get so much done; my house looks beautiful, dinner is always ready for my husband, I find it easier to run errands, I call my family and friends to catch up, I need less sleep, and some things are less anxiety provoking than usual. I love all of that; if only it would stay that way, but it never does. I run out of things to do, I start pacing and shaking, I make random and inappropriate phone calls, and I spend money more freely than I usually would; these are just a few examples of my bipolar mania. Often, when I’m manic, I still feel pathetic, worthless, and insignificant, as well as deal with suicidal ideations. I think that some of these episodes are considered mixed episodes because of how badly I feel about myself; mania generally has feelings of elation.

As my manic episodes come to an end, I tend to crash hard. All of the sudden, I’m sleeping way more than I need, I have a hard time getting out of bed or getting up to do just about anything, and my feelings of worthlessness and uselessness grow even deeper along with my suicidal ideations. I never get a break from feeling horrible about myself, no matter what type of episode I’m in. While I like the productivity aspect of the mania, there is not one part of the depression that I enjoy. I wish there was a way that I could feel okay and still be productive, but I haven’t found one yet.

What I really want is to find some middle ground somewhere. I must have experienced it at some point during my life, but right now, I can’t remember any moment like that. Maybe it’s just because of my memory loss from ECT. I know that I have come out of a few major episodes before, but no matter how balanced I seem, there is always something going on in my head telling me how pathetic I am. I just have to trust that I have had balanced times in my life. This is where positive thinking comes into play. It’s not easy to be positive, but there are several techniques that I use to help me through these difficult times. None of these techniques are easy to do, but they are vital to our health.

Use these techniques to get past the bipolar extremes and find peace and balance in our lives:

  • Remember there is always hope; believe in that hope. If you can’t, having someone else believe for you can help. When I can’t, my husband and mother believe for me.
  • Reach out to your loved ones and caregivers.
  • Find a support group that you’re comfortable with.
  • Be 100% honest with your psychiatrist, otherwise they can’t help you.
  • Take your medication as directed, otherwise it won’t work properly.
  • Write down the different methods that help you feel better and worse so you know what to do and not to do in the future.