Bipolar Strong

There is a self that is separate from bipolar disorder. When you find yours, it stays with you even in the darkest moments. We are strong.

 

 

 

Guest Blogger: Update from Martin Baker on Bipolar Disorder and Friendship

High Tide, Low Tide: A Very Human Condition

by Martin Baker

Click here to read Martin’s first guest post on his book High Tide Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder. 

In my last post for Bipolar Happens,  I described how the book I wrote with my American best friend Fran Houston came about, and the four year journey that brought our dream to fruition. I’d like to thank Julie for inviting me back to talk about how our book is changing lives.

“High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder” was published last September. Four months on, it is doing well and attracting positive reviews. We believe it has the potential to appeal not only to friends, but also partners, parents, and adult children keen to help those they love. Julie has also highlighted its relevance to siblings. “There is a great need in my work for such a book,” she wrote recently. “There is nothing out there for them.”

We’ve had interest from Mental Health First Aid instructors, and professional groups such as Online Events (www.onlinevents.co.uk) and The Counsellors Café (www.thecounsellorscafe.co.uk). A retired clinical psychologist with forty-five years’ experience wrote:

“All professional and pre-professional care-givers and those who suffer with illness can learn much from this collaborative memoir, and medical schools, graduate schools, hospitals, and other institutions that educate practitioners in the fields of health care would be wise to include it on reading lists.” (RZ)

One reader recommended it to his support worker, who bought it for his organisation’s resource library. Another is purchasing a copy for her therapist. Knowing our book is making a difference to people moves us profoundly.

“The vast range of emotions you will experience while reading this book might surprise you even if you have never experienced mental illness.” (MC)

“Anyone who has suffered from any form of depression, however minor, can relate to this book and will gain strength and reassurance that it is ok to feel the way they do.” (DB)

“The symptoms of mental illness can make it hard to maintain friendships; the stigma and shame around mental illness make it even harder. This book shows us that it’s okay to admit it’s hard, and it’s okay to struggle, but that it’s so worth it in the end.” (SL)

It might be surprising a book like ours has general appeal, but people find the strategies and approaches we describe directly relevant to their lives— even where no illness is involved.

(Hi, It’s Julie. I really believe this book can help siblings who grew up with a brother or sister who has bipolar disorder. Sibling relationships are often like friendships.) 

“Not only are they [the authors] helping us to understand invisible illness, they are helping us learn in this world of technology and instant gratification that we can use technology to enhance and deepen the relationships we have currently in our lives.” (L)

“But what surprised me most about this book was not the elegant writing, or the brutal honesty of the subject matter, but the fact that not only could I relate to it, but that I found so much in it that touched me at a personal level. Fran and Marty’s story, as unique as it is, could be anyone’s story. There will be moments as you read this book where you will recognise yourself. Thankfully, the strategies, and painful lessons they learned can be applied to our own lives and our own relationships.” (AG)

Such responses confirm our belief that “High Tide, Low Tide” is not really about me and Fran, or even mental illness. It is about being there for someone, and accepting each other for who you are. Ultimately, it is not about medical conditions, it is about the human condition.

“High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and selected booksellers.

Click here to view High Tide, Low Tide on Amazon in the US. 

Click here to view High Tide, Low Tide on Amazon in the UK. 

Click here to view the book on the Barnes and Noble website. 

 

About the Author

Living in the north-east of England, Martin Baker is an ASIST trained Mental Health First Aider and Time to Change Champion. A member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mind, and Bipolar UK, he is primary caregiver and lifeline to his best friend and coauthor Fran Houston. Passionate about making invisible illness visible, Fran lives in Portland, Maine.

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Guest Blogger Andrew Turman: How I manage my rapid cycling bipolar disorder

by Andrew Turman
I have a form of bipolar disorder that is rapid cycling. I can go from being depressed to being manic in a matter of hours. Early on in the onset of my illness, I was depressed more than I was manic. That is not to say that I did not become manic; rather, it was not as intense and did not last as long. However, these days, since I turned 35 or so, mania has become the predominant problem. Again, I do get depressed, but it is not as crippling as I have previously experienced. At its peak, my illness caused me to cycle every other week. One week up, then one down, then back up for a week, then back down, for periods of months at a time. This type of cycling can be exhausting, not only for me but for the people around me.
Up until a few years ago, I was not taking my mental health seriously. I would actually fuel the manias, and try to maintain an emotional temperature of 7-7.5 as much as I could. The problem was, at that level, I was often unable to remain there, and I cycled up to 8, 9, and 10. That is when it became necessary to go to the hospital to treat the ultra-manic and psychotic symptoms. I was a danger to myself and others, including my family, my ex-wife and son.
Now, I work hard to counter the effects of my brain chemical imbalance. I no longer drink a lot of alcohol or smoke that much pot. I have tried to limit my caffeine intake, and cut back on how much I smoke cigarettes. I am trying to keep a sleep schedule. This has proven to be the most difficult of all. When I start to cycle up, I have a decreased need and want of sleep. My mind is buzzing, and I have so much to do, the drive to create is overwhelming. When hypomanic, I am a prolific writer and artist, although I rarely finish any of the numerous projects I start.
My current wife is the best barometer of my emotional temperature. She recognizes the behavioral symptoms and can identify the trigger events which are the antecedents to my becoming ill. When she points them out, I often discount what she is saying to me, label her as “pissing on my parade,” and often act out even more. I am trying to get better about trusting her judgment, as mine is skewed most of the time.
A discussion we had recently is actually quite telling. We were talking about perceptions of reality, and I stated that I seemed to experience three separate realities—one manic, one depressed, and one thin sliver of “true reality.” She countered that the three are actually one. Instead of three separate realities, distinct from one another, they are all entangled with one another. She stated that it would be possible to be creative while in the normal and depressive mood states. It would take work, she assured, but it was possible.
Together, we came up with the following strategy: When I am manic, I come up with a lot of painting titles (which would also make great names for a punk rock band!). Instead of the numerous lists I had, I now write them in a blank journal, two to a page, leaving space to take down any ideas, in written notes or quick sketches. This also gives me space to document who I have given the painting to, or who commissioned me to do it. Now, I am organized and I can remember my manic visions of what my art should be. When less manic, I am more able to concentrate my artistic skills on a better product, instead of the visual vomit that is often the result of my manic episodes. Brilliant! A little bit of organization and work, with long-lasting benefits.
Together, my wife and I can brainstorm for other creative solutions. The real point here, is that I must listen to my wife when calls me on my manic symptoms, and try to de-escalate my mood as I know I can, before it gets out of control. I will always experience the highs and lows, but how far they go, up or down, is basically my decision. I have taken responsibility of my moods. It doesn’t always mean that I make the right choices, but at least I am confident in the fact that my illness is not in control of me, I am in control of it.
Wm. Andrew Turman

Zen Daddy T

Writer, Artist, Mental Health Advocate
W.A. Turman was an “Army Brat,” and that explains a lot. Man of no accent, but also of every accident. Life has not always been easy for the artist and writer we affectionally call “Zen Daddy T.” A gonzo journalist along the lines of Hunter S. Thompson, an artist well-versed in the school of Ralph Steadman, including favoring beers from the Flying Dog Brewery, Andrew is an acquired taste. His abstract expressionist works bleed protest and contentment. His recent series, “Art for Airports” has drawn critical acclaim.

I Treat Bipolar First: Keep Calm and Turn it All Off

If the marching and events that happened in the United States today and around the world are too stressful for your bipolar disorder to the point they can affect your sleep, it is ok to turn of the computer- turn off the social media- turn of the Facebook and Twitter and TV and…
– read a mystery novel.
– go to a movie.
– talk with a friend.
– take a nice bath.
– play with an animal.
– if you are lucky enough to have this option, put some loving hanky panky in your life.
 
I treat bipolar disorder first. If I read what is on Facebook right now, I will get upset. It’s ok that I don’t march. I love it that others can do it for me. It’s ok that I’m not political online, my friends and family know my beliefs.
 
My concern is the mental health of those of us who have an illness that is triggered by stress.
 
I take care of myself first. Good night social media. I will see you tomorrow. And I will be stable.
 
Join me?
 
Julie
 
PS: All it takes is turing off the device and moving on to something more conducive to stability.

Julie is currently answering questions live on Facebook

 

Hello! I’m currently live on my Julie A. Fast Facebook page for the next few hours to answer your questions about mental health disorders including bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, psychosis, borderline, ADD and medications.

I will also post the questions and answer here.

 

Julie

Questions:

Julie, What do you do when your psychosis is raging, and manic/hypo manic. How do you manage your daily goals?

Zih.

Hello Zih,

Let’s start at the beginning. We share the same symptoms as we both have bipolar disorder with psychosis.  (The diagnosis is called schizoaffective disorder.) This means we have to deal with a lot of mood swings- sometimes all at once.  I have an overall plan that I used for symptom management. This is in my books.  Here is what I do specifically:

Getting started:  I know my symptoms from the very beginning. I have a list of ALL of my mania and psychosis symptoms that I have compiled for many years. I did this through charting my moods.  This process is outlined in my books Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder.  I will post the links below.  You obviously know your symptoms as well. Do you have them written down? It helps to have a very detailed list.

Step #1.  Manage your sleep. Once I wrote down my symptoms- and believe me, I add to the list regularly, I created a plan to deal with each symptom in a way that keeps me from going further into the mood swing.

For example, ALL management plans have to have a plan for regular sleep. Let’s start there.

If you are manic and psychotic, sleep is going to be a huge issue. What is your plan tonight to sleep no matter what? For many of us, that means a good dose of sleep meds or taking more of the meds we take for mania and psychosis.  This isn’t fun and I’m sorry we have to sometimes medicate ourselves this way, but sleep is paramount.  Knock yourself out and sleep for at least eight hours and let the brain help you heal.

One of the main reasons hospitals work so well when a person is manic and psychosis is the regimented sleep.

Step #2.   Be careful not to take your symptoms out on the people around you. I have to do this as I can get very aggressive and loud, mean and nasty, negative and bombastic when the mania is raging.  This is my dysphoric mania and it’s so unpleasant! I make sure that I warn the people around me that I’m in an episode and I ask for help. I say, “As you can see, I’m having a hard time controlling my negativity. I don’t want to be this way. It’s the mania. You can help by reminding me that this is an illness and I will get through this as I always do. ”

Step #3.  Look for triggers. What do you think led to the current mania and psychosis? If you can pinpoint the trigger, make changes in that area immediately. I just had a relationship issue and believe me, the paranoia was raging. That is my regular symptom when I have contentious conversations. It is no one’s fault. It is my brain. I have to remind myself that for me, paranoia is simply a symptom. Nothing terrible has happened. I just had an argument with a family member. Nothing has changed. This leads to the next step.

Step #4. Talk to yourself about your symptoms. I do this regularly. Julie, when you are manic you talk too fast, spend too much money and love to drink. This is a sign you are sick. It’s ok to have these symptoms, but you don’t have to act on them. What do you need to do right now to make sure you minimize mistakes and don’t do something you will regret? I have a plan in place for this and I USE it.

Step #5 Ask for help. You are already doing this by writing me. If you need to talk to a health care person, even if it’s just to check in, do it. I will write my therapist or call a friend when I need help. My illness tells me I have no friends, but I don’t listen and force myself to call!

 

This is a short list of what I do!

 

Julie

***

 

Julie, I have talked to u before. Which book of yours should I start with? I’m specially interested in ur card system. Thnx!

Erat.

Hello Erat,

I would start with Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder and then move to the Health Cards. I call the Health Cards the Moneyball of bipolar disorder management. They really work, but are only for those who are ready to make a lot of changes in lifestyle in order to get better. I use them with all of the parents and partners I coach. Take Charge outlines the basic system and really explains bipolar disorder management for the whole family. I would definitely start with this book!

Julie

 

***

 

Julie, What is the most unusual reason for causing mania that you’ve heard of? Rudy.
Hi Rudy,
STEROIDS! I am working with a client right now where steroids are leading to mania. This means HGH, testosterone, prednisone, cortisone, etc. We use them so cavalierly in this country and yet they are very dangerous for people with bipolar disorder. Lately, high THC pot is the main cause of mania in my coaching work.
Julie
***
Hi Julie…my daughter is diagnosed bipolar 2. She often lies. Is this common with a bipolar person? Marsha

 

My daughter was also recently diagnosed with borderline personality and bipolar and lying is a big issue with her
Hello Marsha,
Yes, but ONLY during a mood swing. Bipolar disorder is episodic. There are NO exceptions. You can see I am being very firm in this answer.   That is because people often confuse bipolar disorder – a mood disorder- with personality disorder. People who have bipolar disorder only have symptoms when in a mood swing. We are absolutely regular in terms of behavior when we are not sick. Is your daughter’s lying cyclical or consistent over time?
 Julie, she was also diagnosed with borderline.  Marsha
Ah, you just answered my question. If she regularly lies, that is much more of a personality disorder symptom than bipolar disorder. But, please know that we ALL lie when manic. LYING IS A SYMPTOM OF MANIA.
Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you Manic? Answer the questions below about bipolar disorder mania and find out!

trampoline 50Have you experienced any of the following in the past few months?

– Slept less but felt more energized?  Had the thought… sleep is a waste of time!

– Had the thought- Thank god the depression is gone, I feel SO much better!    ?

– Felt like spending more? Drinking more? Are you behaving in a way that has people asking you what’s wrong and you want to reply- NOTHING! Don’t wreck my buzz man. Do you want me to be depressed forever?

–  Do you feel more sexual than normal? Do you have sexual thoughts about anyone who is good looking? Do you fantasize in a way you don’t normally do when stable? 

–  Are you eating less than you normally do?

If you answer yes to any of these, you know what it means. You might be manic!  

 

NO MANIA THIS YEAR can be your motto.

It’s time to get help now:  Check your meds, go back on meds if they worked in the past, tell the truth to friends, partner and family, read my books and take care of yourself.

Mania is always up to no good- even when it feels totally awesome!

Julie

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