Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bipolar Disorder and Impulse Control © Megan Snider

“Bipolar disorder can be a great teacher. It's a challenge, but it can set you up to be able to do almost anything else in your life.”

--Carrie Fisher

This is my second edition of this blog as the first one mysteriously dissappeared on my laptop. Be gentle with it.

People are under the misconception that people with Bipolar Disorder move through life exhibiting “Happy Exhibit A” and “Sad Exhibit B” when in reality this could be no further from the truth. Bipolar Disorder is a complex illness and at its root, as that of any mental illness, is a complex host of twisting and turning emotions that are tangled into a web of pain and agony that stretches across the person’s whole persona. They do not roll out of bed one day cuckoo happy and go to bed the same night sobbing uncontrollably.

A lot of people also make the mistake that mania is a happy time for Bipolar people. However, mania is not synonymous with “happy”. Mania can be a very threatening and scary time in a Bipolar person’s life where they are unable to connect events in any meaningful order and instead the world seems to have been turned on its head. Interpersonal violence and assaults can occur during this time that would normally never happen. Bipolar people emerge from their manias shocked and deeply hurt by what they have suffered through.

Bipolar people are not beings with predetermined emotions that feel happy one day and sad the next. They are often highly sensitive, creative individuals with deep longings and yearnings to be fulfilled. During mania they cannot understand the world around them, they have a classical lack of insight that is seen with mental illness, and may internalize perceived gestures as slights and offenses when in some cases there was absolutely no catalyst for the action.

I use this analogy a lot when dealing with mental illness. Going through a cycle of mental illness is like losing your eyesight. I remember vividly getting my first pair of glasses and putting them on. Suddenly I could see! But, before that I had had no knowledge that I had been unable to see and had been pressing my nose up to the T.V. to see my favorite shows. One day I did not wake up with perfect vision and the next wake up with damaged eyesight. It is a gradual slipping process. You begin to lose your footing somewhere along the way and signs are harder to make out. After a while everything is fuzzy and all you know is that things are making much less sense.

Fear, desperation, hurt, agony and confusion all build up within the Bipolar psyche. Over time these feelings metastasize and choke out the good aspects of a Bipolar person’s life. Conversations may become one sided; empathies are divided down the middle. Bipolar people may only see the world as rallying against them and everything they stand for. Paranoia and fear grip them as hard as icy death. Well-behaved gentlemen and ladies become caricatures of their former selves and may become isolated and overwhelmed with emotional stimuli.

Risperdal (Risperidone) is a medication particularly effective for the anger-fueled manic. It is used to treat Schizophrenia, Bipolar mania and aggression issues in children of the ages of 12. It can help suppress the paranoia, deep hurting wounds and anger that arise out of full blown manias.

I encourage you if you know a Bipolar person or a mentally ill person to talk to him or her. Society has let them down, medication has let them down, and doctors set up to help them have let them down. They have few outlets, resources and methods of release. Sometimes talking, even though the conversation may be skewed, would be enough to help one mentally ill person shoulder his or her burden alone. Let them know you care. Bipolar Disorder, like every other mental illness, has no cure. There are attempts to control or suppress it but the effectiveness of these methods hinge solely on the individual, the therapy and the medications prescribed. Don’t mislabel or misunderstand mental illness. Sufferers already undergo enough stigmatization as it is.

© Megan Snider