Thursday, October 1, 2015

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

When a family member suddenly has a mental illness when before you thought that your stock was pure it is truly unnerving, made only worse if the ill person is not only a family member but also yourself. It is true, this was the case for me. Two years ago today I found out that I had (and still do) bipolar disorder. At the time it didn't seem like a big deal, but nothing really did back then. I am sure you have heard of bipolar disorder, perhaps you have heard one of your friends make a joke where a person's behavior is compared to a bipolar person's, or perhaps you yourself have made a joke like that. I actually do have it, so I tend not to laugh at those kinds of jokes. I don't find them offensive, I just don't think they're funny.

So today we are going to try together to understand the queer behavior of people who have the disorder.

Bipolar is a genetic spectrum disorder, meaning that it is passed on by your parents, even if they don't  have it. My theory is that it has a lot to do with genetic entropy in play, but we'll save that for some other time. The other part, being a spectrum disorder, means that it affects other people more than some people who have the disorder. I obviously have it, but my body is so sensitive to medication (just ask my oncologists) that it doesn't take much medication to keep it under control.

Usually it happens in adults older than twenty, but there are some circumstances in which teens will be diagnosed, and even in some situations children younger twelve.

In this post I am focusing primarily on helping people with teen bipolar. That is the one area with which I have first hand experience.

Essentially the actual symptoms are partially explained by the name of it. Imagine that every person has their own planet. The north pole of it is beautiful and rosy while the south pole is dark, sinister and depressing. Most people live in the tropics where it is a nice, comfortable and real existence, whereas the poles are where elation and depression reign supreme and to the point where you can't even think straight. Maybe it's something in the water.

In any case, normal people live in the tropics almost all of the time, perhaps making a visit to the poles once in a blue moon, people with the disorder tend to build their homes there, usually both on the north pole and on the south pole, switching every few months or even weeks, and in a few cases days, and in other even more extreme cases hours. The way the symptoms first appear varies, but usually it is defined by a very high and good mood—elation, is what they generally call it, or even, well, maniaaaaaaaaaaaa! Yee-Haw!

I say that a little jokingly, but it must be said that that is the feeling that a person with bipolar experiences during this period of several weeks or months, unless it is controlled with medications or other methods.

The other side of Bipolar Disorder isn't nearly as fun to think about, but it is a fact of life for those who have it. Depression. Some of you, my readers, have had this awful anomaly happen in your brains, the imbalance of chemicals going the other way after an episode of mania. Because depression is so much more common, I won't try to explain it since even Charlie Brown knows what it is.

So there's the first part of understanding it—what it is.

The second part has to do with dealing with it.

If you think you have it, you are probably depressed right now after being in mania, since most people who are in mania will never admit that they are in mania. The first part of dealing with it is seeing a psychologist. They will know whether or not to say that you have the disorder or not.

But you probably don't have it, so we'll focus on how to help someone you know who does have it. You must understand that there are some idiots out there who do not have the disorder that think they know what will be best for those who do. They have some advice, but it is far from complete. No, I am not an expert, but I think I know what I'm talking about having dealt with it on a daily basis for the last seven hundred plus days.

Bipolar people tend to think, while they are in mania, that they are providing the world with new research and knowledge and helping everyone by acting pompous and better than everyone else. Probably the best thing to do with a friend or family member, whether that be a child or sibling is ask them to go on a walk with you to talk about what's on their mind. This simple solution is not talked about in the books that I have read. Just go for a walk and listen to what they have to say. Even if it makes zero sense (Which is what it will do in all likelihood) it should be taken into your heart and mind and used to help you understand their point of view.

Compare the mind of a bipolar person to a small child that has big ideas, but the difference is that a bipolar teen doesn't think he needs permission to act on his big ideas.

I have heard of another family's story in which their bipolar teen decided to build a trebuchet, so he went to Home Depot and bought the wood and bolts, not even using any instructions, just making it up as he went along, brought it home and built it, and it worked, being able to send what he wanted fifty feet away. His father got angry because the teen didn't put away his tools. It was a mess, the garage and the relationship.

I won't say any more concerning that story.

I think that in the end, you will have to grieve the loss of the old person that you knew and loved to this new stranger that he or she has become. But if medications are being used to help regulate his mood then in a few months he should be back to his normal self.

What is most important is trying to understand his views on things the same way you would try to understand a small child's, the same way you would try to see the way they see things.

And as always, Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Ed, thanks for your post. I trust your perspective will be helpful to your readers as it is me.