Bipolar Articles

The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned in Managing My Bipolar Disorder

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

The Biggest Lesson I've Learned in Managing My Bipolar DisorderWhen Andy Behrman was diagnosed with bipolar disorder over 20 years ago, he didn’t know anyone who had the illness. He didn’t even know what it was. “I remember asking the doctor if I needed to have an MRI and if I would live to see my next birthday.”

For about 10 years he struggled with stabilizing his disorder, which included being misdiagnosed by seven mental health practitioners, taking over 40 medications and receiving ECT. It’s a period he chronicles in his book Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania.

One of the biggest lessons he’s learned in managing his bipolar disorder and living a successful life is to embrace the illness.

“I’ve chosen to be friends with my bipolar disorder instead of [viewing it as] the enemy. I feel [that] too much emphasis is placed on ‘fighting’ mental illness and ‘recovery,’ when I know today that learning to embrace my bipolar disorder and keeping the focus on coping and managing to live with it on a daily basis would have been a much better strategy.”

At Least One of These Things Most People Get Wrong About Depression

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

At Least One of These Things Most People Get Wrong About DepressionDepression and bipolar are often misunderstood, sometimes even by those afflicted.

Unfortunately, misconceptions can be stumbling blocks to taking the action needed to overcome depression, which may prolong the illness and worsen its effects over time.

Just ask Tricia Goddard, well-known TV talk show host and mental health advocate.

Bipolar, Pregnant & Visiting the UK? They May Take Your Unborn Baby

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Bipolar, Pregnant & Visiting the UK? They May Take Your Unborn Baby

Yesterday I brought you the unfortunate story of a Canadian turned away from our borders not because she was a terrorist or criminal — but because she simply had a diagnosis of depression and, more than a year ago, was hospitalized for treatment of it.

Just to show you that the United States isn’t the only backwards country in the world when it comes to discriminating against those with a mental illness, I bring you the much sadder story of an Italian woman who had bipolar disorder, went to the UK for a training course, and wound up being forced to have a C-section without her consent. Wait, what?

Worse, this woman’s forced C-section was approved by a UK court. Apparently, in the UK, having a panic attack is sufficient to remove most of your freedoms and rights.

Meditating with James Austin: Taking the Opportunity to Come Apart

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Beautiful Young Girl MeditatingLast year, I attended a weekend retreat with Zen teacher James Austin. Austin spent most of Saturday presenting information from his book Meditating Selflessly, and from other research he and others have conducted on Zen and the brain. His exhortation to get out of the meditation hall and spend some time in nature looking at birds, or, if early morning, the planets and stars, led to me leaving the retreat on Sunday and disappearing for a few hours into the woods. (Austin’s presentation was over.)

During the retreat I asked Dr. Austin what he thought about people with a serious mental illness practicing meditation. I have bipolar disorder and had scheduled a very intensive, silent retreat.

Austin said that people with a “mental defect” should not undertake intensive meditation. I was surprised at both the language and the sentiment, especially as I have gained so much from my meditation practice. But I have respect for Dr. Austin’s work, and was so influenced by his retreat that I decided to take his caution under consideration.

So I went on the silent retreat anyway.

Celebrity Tips For Beating Depression

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Celebrity Tips For Beating DepressionWhen we suffer from depression, including bipolar disorder and postpartum depression, we may feel responsible for the depressive feelings. Like somehow it’s our fault.

We may also feel alone in battling the illness and lack support or inspiration from others.

Sometimes this may cause us to give up hope and feel like there’s no end to how low we’re feeling; after all, if there’s nothing we can do and nobody we can turn to for help, there’s no point in trying to get better.

How to Exercise When Depressed — Even if You Prefer Staying in Bed

Monday, November 25th, 2013

How to Exercise When Depressed -- Even if You Prefer Staying in BedWant to treat your depression quickly, safely and for free? Exercise!

It works, has no side effects (unless you really overexert yourself) and is great for your mental and physical well-being in every respect. In fact, a recent review of over 26 years of research shows that moderate physical activity each day — even something as simple as gardening — can prevent depression in all age groups, not just treat it. So exercise as part of a depression treatment strategy really is a no-brainer!

But let’s face it, you don’t really want to exercise, do you? I know that feeling. Maybe you’re reading this article as part of a desperate effort not to do any physical activity!

Bipolar II: Anger, Angst & Understanding

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Bipolar II: Anger, Angst & UnderstandingA friend who shares my bipolar II diagnosis said something recently that really resonated with me. He commented that “nobody understands people with bipolar II because there’s no high, there’s just anger and angst.”

Best description I’ve ever heard.

Say “bipolar” to the average person and they imagine somebody out-of-control manic — spending tons of money, doing rash activities and the like. Say “bipolar II” and they often don’t know what it is, or they can’t differentiate it from depression.

Want to Help Fund a Feature Film About One Man’s Struggle with Bipolar?

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Want to Help Fund a Feature Film About One Man's Struggle with Bipolar?Jason Bee is a Texas filmmaker who also happens to have bipolar disorder. Luckily for us, he’s decided to try and make a movie about bipolar disorder, and share with the world what it’s like to live with this mental health concern.

“It’s the story of a recently divorced man trying to be a good father to his young son, but becomes consumed by a mysterious new woman and his own bipolar disorder,” Jason tells me.

“I’m trying to use this blessing/curse that has had its turn at haunting me for a long period of my life as a way to reach others in their journey… to let them know they’re not alone. It’s no biopic, but it is based on my experiences with the disease.”

He’s trying to raise $7,800 for the movie’s initial production. It sounds like a good cause, so I wanted to share it with you.

3 Reasons Why Not All Mental Health Professionals are Created Equal

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

3 Reasons Why Not All Mental Health Professionals are Created EqualThe biggest regret of those who have lived through a depressive or bipolar disorder episode is that they didn’t obtain a rigorous diagnosis and treatment plan early enough.

Lora Inman is one such person, interviewed in my book Back From The Brink. A long-time depression sufferer and passionate mental health advocate, she went for decades without a proper diagnosis or treatment, which prolonged her suffering and made postpartum depression even harder to manage.

Lora’s story perfectly illustrates three very good reasons why you need a trusted mental health professional.

My Challenge of Maintaining Friendships

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

My Challenge of Maintaining FriendshipsIn the past two days, my therapist told me my anger put people off and one of my better friends in this town told me that I hadn’t heard from a mutual friend of ours in over a month because I require a lot of emotional energy on others’ parts and am hard to be around.

You can imagine what these comments did to my already-fragile (very fragile) sense of self-esteem.

As kids, our parents teach us that cute little rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

It’s an injustice on their parts to teach us that, because words can hurt. A lot.

Helping Your Child Reduce Self-Harming Behavior

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Helping Your Child Reduce Self-Harming BehaviorSelf-harm, or inflicting physical harm onto one’s body to ease emotional distress, is not uncommon in kids and teens.

In fact, according to clinical psychologist Deborah Serani, PsyD, in her book Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers, about 15 percent of kids and teens engage in self-harm.

There are many forms of self-harm, including cutting, scratching, hitting and burning. Many kids and teens who self-harm also struggle with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, physical abuse or other serious concerns or psychological disorders.

These kids “don’t know how to verbalize their feelings, and instead, act them out by self-injuring,” Serani writes. Kids might self-harm to soothe deep sadness or other overwhelming emotions. They might do it to express self-loathing or shame. They might do it to express negative thoughts they can’t articulate. They might do it because they feel helpless.

Josh Marks from MasterChef Commits Suicide, Suffered from Bipolar, Schizophrenia

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Josh Marks from MasterChef Commits Suicide, Suffered from Bipolar, SchizophreniaSadly, among the 90-some-odd people who committed suicide in America on Friday, October 11, 2013, MasterChef contestant Josh Marks was among them.

People who watched the television show may remember Josh as someone who was known as a “gentle giant.” Josh, 26 and 7’2″, was known by his friends and family as someone who was kind, well-loved and thoughtful.

But the same month he lost to someone else on the final episode of MasterChef in 2012, he was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And just last week, he was given yet another diagnosis — schizophrenia.

After struggling with poor treatment options, the stress of the TV show, and the brand-new diagnosis, it apparently was too much for Josh to bear any longer.

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