Bipolar Articles

Designated Caregiver: Holiday Drinks and Mental Illness

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

holiday stress man bigstAlcohol is a staple at the holiday table despite widespread tales of family dysfunction. The truth is social lubrication makes it a lot easier to deal with some of the more difficult people in our families. But when you add mental illness to the mix, you run bigger risks than a shouting match about politics or someone going home wearing the stuffing.

My older brother Pat was diagnosed with schizophrenia eight years ago this December. Drinking alcohol is not advisable on his medication. It makes him extremely drowsy. A few beers after taking his medication in 2007 and he passed out in the bathroom, slamming into the toilet and sliding it clean off the floor — and he’s not a big guy.

Powers of Two: The Creative and Healing Energy of a Pair

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

powers of twoOne autumn morning in 2005, I dropped my kids off at preschool and immediately broke down in tears.

Pushing an empty double stroller down a few houses to avoid the other preschool moms, I dialed up the number of my writing (and life) mentor and dear friend, Mike Leach.

I stayed there, on the sidewalk, as he talked me through this panic attack as he had so many others.

Robin Williams: A Terribly Real Thing in a Terribly False World

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

robin-williams“You,” he said, “are a terribly real thing in a terribly false world, and that, I believe, is why you are in so much pain.”

That quote belongs in Emilie Autumn’s psychological thriller novel, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls.

It’s the essence, I think, of Robin Williams. He was so real — so passionate, brilliant, empathetic, brave, and sensitive — letting us see the exquisite beauty that is a byproduct of living with your heart exposed to the world.

It’s Not That I Stopped Thinking…

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

It’s Not That I Stopped Thinking…I’ve often attributed my success in managing bipolar disorder to the meditation practice I added to my treatment regimen years ago. While there’s no doubt that the noticing involved in meditation has helped me head off major episodes of mania and depression, I changed something else in my life at about the same time I began to practice. This adaptation may have equal weight in my wellness. What did I change? I stopped reading fiction.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness 2014 Conference

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

program-coverThe 2014 National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Convention in Washington, D.C. in September was, by any measure, a huge success. Mingling with consumers, family members, mental health advocates, and a wide range of mental health providers, I couldn’t help but be swept up in the atmosphere of expectation that often permeates these annual gatherings.

A stellar lineup of guest speakers spoke passionately about their particular battles with mental illness. Both a female celebrity and a former U.S. Congressman from a famous American family shared their struggles with bipolar disorder.

A Virginia state senator told of his beloved son’s final, desperate act — the heartbreaking result of a failed delivery system that denied his son an inpatient bed in a time of obvious need.

What’s the Meaning of Your Life?

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

anya meaning 2In his classic bestseller, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl explains that among the first things that he had to do once he arrived at Auschwitz was to surrender his clothes. This is humbling in itself, of course. But this was extraordinarily painful for Frankl, because in the jacket of his coat he had hidden the manuscript of his first book, in which he had invested so much of himself.

In turn, he inherited the rags of an inmate who had already died in the gas chambers. In the pocket, Frankl found a page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, including the most important Jewish prayer, “Shema Yisrael.”

“How should I have interpreted such a ‘coincidence’ other than as a challenge to live my thoughts instead of merely put them on paper?” he writes.

5 New Theories on the Cause of Depression

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

depression-brainI grew up thinking depression was as simple as one little transmitter getting lost somewhere on his way from one neuron to the other, much like I do when I venture farther than five miles from home. It’s an easy explanation — a chemical imbalance in the brain — one that pharmaceutical companies have adopted to craft creative commercials like the Zoloft egg not chasing the butterfly.

But depression is so much more complex than that.

Why Real Love Is Hard Work

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

rainbow loomA month into our relationship, my now-husband asked me, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

I didn’t hesitate.

“As a nun in a third-world country doing missionary work,” I said.

“Interesting.”

Somewhere around that time I also told him it would be five years before I slept with him. It was the quickest five years of my life.

What Drives a Person to Suicide?

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

What Drives a Person to Suicide?Each of us has swings in our mood or has highs and lows in our emotional feelings. If these swings are within a certain normal range, we remain self-governed and functional. But when they become extreme, they can lead us into the poles of mania and depression. In some cases if the manias become extremely high, the depressions can become extremely low.

Similar, but other forms of these manias and depressions can be fantasies and nightmares or extreme degrees of pride and shame. When we are up, manic and elated, our brain can become flooded by increased releasing of dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, endorphins, enkephalins and serotonin. When we are depressed the reverse can occur and cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, dihydrotestosterone, substance P and other neurotransmitters can surge.

Room for Misery & Room for Joy: My Story

Friday, October 10th, 2014

misery joyMost people who have been sober longer than a year are asked to give a “lead” — to tell their story. Mine was structurally simple, covering what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now. Having only drank for three years, my addiction story is pretty straightforward: I stopped guzzling down mood-altering beverages.

My depression story, however, is not.

There are too many circles and uneven ends to fit into any neat, compact narrative. It seems as though the longer you dance with the demon of depression, the more embracing you become of different health philosophies and the more tolerant of unanswered questions.

Is it open-mindedness or desperation?

I don’t know.

Reasons for Living: World Mental Health Day

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Reasons for LivingReasons for living never come cheap
Even your best ones can put me to sleep
What I am saying, or trying to say
Is that there must be a better way

~ Duncan Sheik

I have bipolar II disorder, which means the depressive side is far more prominent than the manic one.

Recently, when I mentioned my suicidal ideation to my psychiatrist, he challenged me to come up with five reasons to live, write them down and put them where I could see them.

Amanda Bynes: When Celebrity Mental Health Turns Insensitive Gossip

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Amanda BynesThe 28-year-old actress Amanda Bynes recently told In Touch Weekly that there is a microchip in her brain that allows other people to read her thoughts.

“I want a dollar a day from every person who (is) reading my mind,” Bynes said.

Now TMZ reports that she was allegedly “going full Winona Ryder” – shoplifting from Barneys on Madison Avenue.

“She really should wrap her head in a seven-pound ball of aluminum foil,” wrote Tony Hicks of San Jose Mercury News, later adding, “Sounds like someone’s parents need to fly to New York and get her back to the doctor, before none of this is funny anymore.”

I’m guessing the tabloids are just following her around day and night waiting for her to do something kooky. Personally, I don’t find any of it “funny” at all.

Recent Comments
  • Josh: Great article, I could really use active conditioning on learning to control my emotions (I am known as a...
  • brokeandblue: I am someone that prides myself on being non-judgemental. At all. In fact I get complimented on this,...
  • Cathy Taughinbaugh: This is a wonderful list of blogs, which are so helpful to those suffering from anxiety. I wanted...
  • Parsnip: Interesting article, the logic fits in well with what happens. I think that swearing also reduces...
  • MomNxwife: I agree with what you say in this article; however, after living with loved ones who suffer with bi-polar...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code



Users Online: 12330
Join Us Now!