May 29, 2010

Is Bipolar Contagious?

The title is just me being facetious.  But, seriously, I feel like I am on a roller coaster myself and need to get off.  I feel like my last post was really bizarre.  What happened was really bizarre.  All the details I left out were really bizarre.

So the conclusion is living with Bipolar is really bizarre.  Yet at this moment I have hope again.  I also have to remember that this is a lifelong illness that is not going to go away so I need to accept that instead of getting so upset when he has an episode, because unfortunately these episodes can last for weeks at at time.  Learning to manage it is all we can do.

The good news is I picked up a book I got at the library the other day called "Loving Someone With Bipolar" by Julie Fast.  I had seen her website and to be honest, once I saw she was selling something I lost interest.  I assumed it was another person trying to make a buck by getting you to buy an e-book or something that was really nothing more than info they cut and paste from somewhere else that you could have found for free.

But she's very legit and has an excellent reputation.

So I open the book and read the chapter describing all the symptoms of Bipolar.  Yes - it takes an entire chapter, which she titles "Multi-polar" because the name Bipolar is very misleading.  Most people think its means "highs and lows" or "manic depressive" but its so much more than that.

I had learned the basics of Bipolar in the NAMI course but this book goes into great detail and I am wondering why I didn't recognize sooner that Keven has all the symptoms (which is good news considering it seems like there is something mysteriously horrible wrong with him - but apparently a lot of what he's going through is typical).

Here is an outline of what I learned, I have seen every single thing described here in Keven (they think he has BP1)

  • Bipolar I disorder is characterized by one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes (symptoms of both a mania and a depression occurring nearly every day for at least 1 week) and one or more major depressive episodes. Bipolar I disorder is the most severe form of the illness marked by extreme manic 

  • Depression
  • Mania
  • Psychotic symptoms (delusions and hallucinations)
  • Paranoid symptoms
  • Intense anger and irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Self harm
What really got me was that she used two illustrations that happened to her and Keven has had the EXACT same things happen to him:  1) looking down at his wrists and seeing them bleeding (a hallucination) and 2) feeling so angry that you have to hit something, yell or start a fight to get relief.

I don't know why this makes me feel better but I do.  Knowing that she has this disease and is successful and relatively happy gives me hope.  She was also 19 when she first started having symptoms.  Its very common for mental illness to show up in young adults.

I love my son so much.  I hate to see him suffer.  I hate to suffer along with him.  For years he's been telling me he won't live to his 21st birthday.  What if that's true?  I don't want to regret not having done everything I possibly can to help him while I have the chance.  I need to convince him that he his symptoms are "normal" because right now he thinks he's going off the deep end and is afraid of what he might do.  I need to calm him down so that he can gain more control (hopefully).

I don't know what I'm talking about but it sounds good...

I am going to bed now.

Peace, Hope and Love, Barbara


Kristin said...

Hi Barbara,
Sometimes the meds can cause the person to feel "outside" their body. That is a very disconcerting feeling and he should tell his psychiatrists about this symptom. (It can cause the sufferer to want to feel something, resulting in impulsive acts. some people workout too much, others resort to self-harm. All just to get in touch with their bodies, connect the mind to the body. I am NOT saying that now you have to be on the lookout for this behavior, I just don't want you to be hit over the head with one more symptom from left field.) The fuzziness can be cleared up.

As you are learning in this crash course, there is not a definitive cocktail of drugs that works for everyone. And, there are permutations of the same drugs, different generations, that all have different side effects. It is very hard to be patient while living one's life and going through this trial and error. I have nothing but compassion for Keven as he struggles with this. And, for you watching him in pain.

Julie Fast did not have impulsivity on her list. I think that Keven had an impulsive moment, stole the money but then regained his control. Good sign that he felt remorse.

There are people all over the world who have made a good life for themselves despite their diagnosis of bipolar illness. The symptoms of these illnesses - bipolar and borderline - wane with time. Unfortunately, your son is in the worst stage. Hormones raging and peer pressure at its peak. All they want to do at that age is be able to be like everyone else. Drink, party, hold a job, get pleasure from "normal" things. Young adults with addiction and mental illness have so much going against them. You are such a strong and wonderful mom, Barbara. You are always there holding the net. Keven knows this. You have developed an honest, open relationship with Keven. You both are very lucky.

One of the readers of my blog reminded me of this from the resources on my sidebar:
'If you take the time to meet your own needs, when your help is needed most, you will be best able to provide it. Remember that you cannot save your loved one on your own'. Good advice. You have to step off the roller coaster occasionally and take care of yourself.

xx kris

Jan said...

barb- learning about the disease is great. It gives you peace and sense of control, Just do not forget rule #! : we are powerless over the addiction or the disease. You can be supportive, you can love, you can offer advice, but you, me, we , are all powerless over what haunts and controls and kills our sons...... I would love to see you pick up a book that talks about nurturing yourself while living with a bipolar or an addict..... take time for you!

Syd said...

Ditto what Jan wrote. We are all powerless over what others do. If he is a danger to himself or others then he needs to be committed, right? Take care of yourself.

Heather's Mom said...

Oh my gosh, I feel your pain too, it is so hard to watch our children suffering. You are doing great with K, you're a great mother, so compassionate. I am still awed at how well K continues to open up to you with honesty about his feelings. Keep up the good work, and remember to take care of you too... maybe a bath with your iPod blaring in your ears so no thoughts can exist except your favorite music... think Pretty Woman!
As always my prayers are with you and K.
God bless.

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