My husband suffers from bipolar disorder, as does many of his family members. I have become an expert at it in order to save our relationship and save
There is stigma associated with mental illness, and it is still not fully understood by the medical community and the general population.
Most people, when they think of mental illness, think of someon rocking in a corner screaming that they are going to be eaten by pink kangaroos, but
mental illness sufferers can walk and talk among us. But something just doesn't seem "right" about them.
It is a combination of genetics and environment. I believe it can be created like in ptsd. But something like bipolar or borderline is partly genetic.
People can have it to varying degrees. Bad parents(who may also be suffering) or trauma can induce it to full flare.
The longer you go undiagnosed, the worse it gets and the harder it is to treat.
On average it can take 10 years to get a correct diagnosis. It can take another 5-10 just to find meds that work. You have to try different cocktails.
I know of people on at least 5 different meds.
The side effects can be bad. People who suffer MI have shortened lifespans from the medications and the stress. It is hard on the body.
As for distant friends, there can be many reasons. For one, those who suffer the tougher illnesses like borderline or bipolar, are not always aware of
their behavior, and it can be nasty. I am not going to hold any punches here. It takes a strong person to handle it. In my husband I call it his
doppleganger. I can see in his eyes that the disease has taken over, and the beast is out. It means bad things are gonna happen.
So sometimes you do things that people can't handle it drives them away. Or they can't handle the disease itself. This can happen to anyone with any
kind of disease, whether it be MI or cancer or arthritis. They can't accept it or know how to deal with it, so they just leave.
This is going to sound condenscending but please do not take it this way. But mental illness is basically having the emotions of a 3 or 4 year old.
Just like you have people with mental retardation, or physical impariments, these diseases are an emotional impairments. Problem is you have someone
with the emotional capabilities of a 3 yo stuck in a full grown body. Problem is that you dont' have a big sign stamped on your forehead that you
have this disorder, so people dont' recongize. But many of the behavior problems, such as impulsiveness,anger, outburts, selfishness, are the signs.
Many people with bp have major money issues, from impulse spending. You see something, you want it, you get it. There is a lot of despair,
depression,guilt and anger, not only from trauma or maybe negligent parenting, so many turn to alcohol and drugs to hide and soothe the beast.Which in
itself creates its own set of problems. Then because of the behavior disorders, you deal with a lot of guilt, shame, and regret over these actions.
People think they can be controlled, some may use it as an excuse, but most don't.
If you take a scan of the brain, the brain will even show that there is more white matter, kind of like brain damage for lack of a better description.
The brain was hurt in a way, and it re wires itself. Which causes a lot of the behavior disorders, but it can also create brilliancy, which is why so
many famous people in history had mental illness. Van Gogh, Jim Carrey, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton,Ernest Hemingway. Like a double edged sword, it
creates the good and the bad.
People who don't understand will say it is an excuse, but the brain is wired differently. I explain it like this:
if you were in the desert with a nice,long,straight and empty highway, and your sitting in a sports car, you would be tempted to drive like a racecar
driver. A healthy person would stop and consider that there could be police, you could get into an accident, whose car is this anyways?
But a person with a mental illness has had their brain re-wired. They don't have those logical capabilities, and very little reasoning. They will
drive like a maniac and not think twice about it. Then if something happens, they are filled with a lot of shame, and angst, and cry: why did I do
that? What is wrong with me?
Not only does the person suffer, their family and friends suffer the repercussions. And the worst part is that you have also lost the capability to
learn from it.
2 months later, despite the chaos they have created, they will do it again. Leaving family frustrated.
This is also why those who suffer from bipolar, and probably borderline since they are similar have a 90% divorce rate. It is very hard to have to
deal with the constant legal, emotional, financial, aftermath that comes from such a chaotic mind.
But it is not made up or an excuse. The worst impulse repercussion of all is sucide. The suicide rate for bipolar and borderline is a whopping 30%.
That is not a percentage of a healthy and reasonable mind. And yes, I have met plenty of widows. Oddly, most suicides don't occur during the
depression stage, they occur during the manic stages. Where impulse actions are at their worst. The person has the least control when manic. And
suicides have resulted in a silly fight and "to show them" the person kills themself. One person I know of had a stupid fight, their husband came
downstairs and shot themselves in the head in front of them. Spouse know this is a very real problem. And have to live under the constant worry.
Especially if they don't understand the disorders.Which is why knowledge is key.
There is one book and website that I really recommend, it is called "Living Well With Depression and Bipolar disorder.
Here is the site:
The book is written by a sufferer. I read letters from sufferers on the website. And the despair and anguish felt by sufferers had me in tears.
One last thing: bipolar is often underdiagnosed. It has been found that just taking the wrong anti-depressant or mood stabilizer can send someone
manic. This is dangerous. Doctors have done this. But some have learned to use it as a diagnostic tool. If someone gets wacky just taking an AD, it
can be a big sign that they may actually have bipolar.
Now many people think that orders such as depression is over diagnosed. But more serious disorders like borderline, bipolar, narcisstic personality
disorder, are highly underdiagnosed.
I am for raising awareness. The stigma needs to be taken away, and people need to be informed. So families are not left suffering wondering what is
wrong with their loved ones. And people can get proper treatment. Even if someone is receiving treatment, in the wrong doctors hands it can be made
worse. My husband was sent into mania for 9 months because of a dr who wouldn't listen to him and that the meds were making him worse.
I really suggest you keep a chart, of yoru feelings. All day long, what is going on, the weather, what you ate, everything. A very strigent journal,
this will help you find triggers, and understand what makes you tick. By learning to avoid triggers, it makes it easier to keep the disease in
control. For example, if your always angry after going to a party, or you get into a fight at gatherings, you maybe suffering from a social anxiety
and need tools to deal with it or avoid them all together. But a good chart not only helps inform you and yoru family, but it is valuable to your
doctor as well.
Last but not least, have someone you trust as your advocate. Give them medical rights. Because you have to accept that your not always reasonable, and
can think clearly, but they can. This allows them to talk to your doctor if something is not right. If things go way south they know what is going on.
Always tell them everything. I know many spouses who keep binders of information from emotion charts, to medicines and reactions, to therapy. GET AN
And drugs do not work by themselves, you need a therapist, and a good one. Study after study has shown that they work much better in combination then
one or the other by itself.
And join support groups. That way you realize that you are not alone, and knowing your not alone is half the battle.