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Bi-polar for Dummies 2. Thursday July 16, 2015

So – yesterday I described what Bi-polar is and the symptoms.

What causes it? We have no idea. It's the old "genetics and life experiences" bromide. In my case I am absolutely sure that I inherited the predisposition from my bi-polar and possibly schizophrenic father and that witnessing his suicide at age four was the kind of life event that could very well trigger it. But it might have happened anyway. It really doesn't matter where it came from.

How is it treated? In a number of ways. Medics recognise that both the highs and the lows need to be controlled, and that, if you bring people down from the highs (people often resist this – we're having a lovely time up there) then the duration and severity of the lows is reduced. So there are mood stabilisers which are taken regularly and long term. Some people with bi-polar say that taking these mood stabilisers make them feel as if they are looking at life though a letter box. Well – hello – welcome to the world of normality.

I refused to accept that recommended prescription on the grounds that I didn't think it was necessary and that I would manage myself thank you. But then, I have hypo mania, a long cycle and a brilliant therapist. I wouldn't necessarily encourage others to take this route.

Other people take medication as and when needed. I resisted for many, many years, taking anti-depressants. Now I recognise them as a useful resource. This time the high has been so extreme I have realised the potential cost in ruined friendships and family tension and would have had no hesitation in seeking medication had my first line of defence not worked.

There are talking and cognitive therapies, hypnotherapy, EFT, TAT and other therapies which can be really effective. They are not effective for everyone; they are effective for some. Mindfulness works really well too. My hypnotherapist has saved at least two friendships for me this time round. Oh – and in the interests of absolute honesty – wine. Probably too much of it; not recommended, but effective for bringing you down.

But the best way I have found of managing my condition is to become an expert on it and take responsibility for it. I am (reasonably) diligent in completing my Moodscope test every day (and have created a buddy system where friends call me on it if I haven't posted for a couple of days). I notice when I am more creative and when the sleep patterns become disrupted; when I have more energy and less desire for food. Oh, and when I end up injuring my friends through my thoughtlessness and arrogance.

In the depressions I don't notice anything. When I'm spending all day shaking on the sofa, when just getting out of bed, showered and dressed is a major achievement; noticing and analysing is impossible. But I still do Moodscope every day. And I rely on my buddies to watch over me – to send me back to the doctor if the meds don't seem to be working.
But afterwards, the analysis of the chart is invaluable.

So, whatever your form of depression/bi-polar, start noticing. Take responsibility. No – it's not your fault, but that's not the point. Start helping yourself. And we'll help you too.

A Moodscope member.

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Anonymous Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 6:40am

I've found this really interesting Mary, thank you. 'Take responsibility' is a great point. That is when 'victim' stops and empowerment begins and is a big milestone on the path. This has been enlightening. Thank you! Love ratg xx.

Adam Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 7:38am

I always enjoy and value your posts Mary, thank you.

Hopeful One Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 8:35am

Hi Mary- just brilliant. You have given us a working bird's eye view of this condition which , I suspect, would have taken a textbook on the subject two chapters to do . Is lithium no longer used?I may have read somewhere that it was quite effective for bi polar. Maybe it is reserved for difficult cases as it does require require regular blood monitoring as the margin between therapeutic efficacy and toxicity is very narrow. Anyway it is good to see that you have a 'handle ' on it and so can manage the condition using your own resources.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 9:01am

Thank you RATG. These two pieces were written (I think very obviously) while in the "mania" state. I was concerned that that last comment might come across as insensitive and dictatorial. I wish I had put it better. Thank you so much for putting it into context there. You're a star!

Mary Blackhurst Hill Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 9:04am

HEllo Hopeful one. I didn't want to get into the technicalities of different specific drugs and their uses in this piece - we would still be here at Christmas! I don't know if Lithium is still used. I was recommended Sodium Valprorate - but one look at the side effects made me detirmined to do everything I could to manage it by myself without it. A very blunt and straight talking GP friend told me "Whatever you do, stay off the salts!". I'm sure there are many people who benefit from them, but they frighten me!

Mary Blackhurst Hill Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 9:08am

Another method of management which I didn't include above, and which is much more healthy than wine, is exercise. I find that if I can swim for 40 minutes then I feel as mellow and as relaxed as after half a bottle of wine (and also don't have to put a 2 on the guilty card the following morning: always a bonus!). I am aiming to get my running to the stage where that also becomes a meditative form of exercise too. It won't work in the depressive bit as that takes me like ME, but it's great in this high stage.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 9:09am

Thank you Adam, your comment means a lot.

Les Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 9:21am

Hi Guys

Yes Lithium is still used.

I had it once years ago and I align totally with Mary here - the side effects are horrendous........dare I say life changing and I felt worse about myself if I can say that when in such a depressed state.

You also have to visit the Doc every week to have your bloods it is a poison and they have to get the balance right......unless things have advanced since then.....but I doubt Lithium has now been used for decades.

This is a great site to explore its use

Anonymous Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 11:38am

Mary, i can see from your comment to ratg, and from what you've said in the past, that in the aftermath of a high you really question your words and actions and worry that they were insensitive, hurtful, etc. And i'll bet that, in many cases, your fears were exaggerated and your self-criticism unfairly harsh. It is an interesting part of the whole thing and an additional huge stess in itself! All this to say that your last sentence had a perfect tone -- firm but loving and supportive. Today's blog was so helpful -- i'm starting to see my own situation better. Thank you. susan xx

Leah Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 1:02pm

Hopeful One, Mary and Les,
Lithium is definitely still used. I have been using it for over 20 years and owe my life to it. I am pleased to say Les and Mary that I am well, not a zombie, not scared, no horrendous side effects. Les, I have my bloods tested twice a year . Lithium is a salt not a poison but of course like anything in high doses can cause a toxic reaction. I am fine, my kidneys are fine. I am not sure why Lithium has such a bad press. I maybe lucky but I have never taken anything else, and it saved me from doing life threatening risk taking behaviour and gave me stability. It is a personal thing. I think a life of chaos and extreme moodswings is far more scary than salts. Just wanted to let people know my experiences .

Anonymous Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 1:03pm

Thanks Mary,
Your post really hit the spot today.
I feel empowered by your last paragraph. Take responsibility, help myself, and my friends will help too.

Anonymous Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 1:12pm

Dearest Mary,
Yet another helpful insight into bi-polar bears!
You are being di helpful to us all, sharing this information and no, your last paragraph was fine...expertly written as per!
We do have to take responsibility for our actions in 'normal life'...and even more so when we have debilitating episodes of depression. Exercise = good , wine = nice but not so good! Much love and thanks, Karen bearofliddlebrain x x x

Julia Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 1:26pm

Hi Leah
Actually I know people who are also on Lithium and have been for years without problem like you.Two are friends (and now you!) who seem lovely and normal to me but they each tell me that before they went on it, they felt far from normal. I didn't know them then. I was certain it is still in use and widely prescribed for bi polar. I am not bi polar so it has never been suggested for me. I have had absolutely no personal experience of Bi polar disorder and am therefore interested in how it affects people differently, just like depression.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 1:39pm

Thank you Leah! It is brilliant to have your view. We are all so different and react differently to different things.Julia, thank you too. I have to say that this time round I would have welcomed something to calm me down - but even within this period I am having some days which are better than others (Today I am normal - hallelujah!) - so I know I don't need it all the time. If only we could develop something that could just give us what we need when we need it, eh?

Mary Blackhurst Hill Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 1:41pm

Susan, please have the most enormous hug! Thank you so much for your supportive and encouraging words. I can't tell you how much they mean - but I have tears in my eyes as I type this.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 1:44pm

Thank you so much Karen! I love your bi-polar bear thought. I wonder if my Trevor believes in that variety!

The Entertrainer Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 1:44pm

Bi-Polar Bears!!! That, I absolutely adore... AND surely there's a story in this for children of all ages. The Bi-Polar Bears that migrate in a cycle, and sometimes they are up, and sometimes they are at the other pole. And, oh the friends they meet on the way, who share wise strategies with them.
Mary, you're posts are always good magic! And Karen Bear Fiddle Brain (I've renamed you, 'cos you're a genius), you've inspired me. Now, who wants to write the book with me? Karen, you get the dedication whether or not you write with me! Promise.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 1:45pm

You are most welcome. Wishing you the best!

The Entertrainer Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 1:56pm

I'll have to dig out an article I was reading in an American Psychology magazine. It was a really interesting take on using Pro-Biotics to manage Bi-Polar. It was too long, so I feel a blog coming on!

Anonymous Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 2:28pm

Have you heard of grain brain?
Love ratg x.

Anonymous Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 2:51pm

Yes, please, Entertrainer. Sounds promising. Go well.

Hopeful One Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 7:06pm

Hi Guys- thanks for the info .

Leah Thu, Jul 16th 2015 @ 11:09pm

Lex and Karen,
There is a band called the bipolar bears in Australia that have been rocking for mental health for over 20 years
there is also a bipolar bears facebook page,
I think there is already a children's book about bipolar bears,

curious212000 Fri, Jul 17th 2015 @ 6:10am

Spot on Mary, I love it.

SallyAnn Hay Fri, Jul 17th 2015 @ 11:13am

Lithium saved my life. A quick blood test every 3 months. Life is "normal" and I don't think of walking into the sea every moment I'm awake. Lithium worked when nothing else would. I'm not aware of any side effects. Please don't take any notice of the bad publicity. Of course it doesn't suit everyone but don't believe the negative things said about it. It might save your life.

Leah Fri, Jul 17th 2015 @ 12:19pm


I agree. Read my previous comment. It does not suit everyone but its bad press is not warranted. Cheers Leah

Anonymous Fri, Jul 17th 2015 @ 1:11pm

Dear Mary,

Just wanting you to know that I love your blog/posts!!! I have been using Moodscope for some years now since I had been diagnosed as bi-polar type2 in 2009. You are writing so often right from the bottom of my heart. I'm German so please excuse my poor English.
Wishing you all the best! Dodo

Anonymous Sat, Jul 18th 2015 @ 1:16am

I too was blessed with a brilliant psychologist who after diagnosing me with bipolar ii, she told me that the first thing to learn about it is: "It's not your fault, but it is your responsibility."
I have truly enjoyed your two part blog as I found it spot on and helpful in light of a discussion I recently had with my adult son about him feeling that I should not take Seroquel for the hypo-mania EVERY night, but only when I am feeling too hypo mania. Giving it some consideration and discussion at my next appointment.
Best wishes!

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