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Top 10 Bipolar Blogs of 2014

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme changes in mood, from mania to depression, which are different from the ups and downs experienced in day-to-day life.

A person’s energy and activity levels reflect their mood. Mania is a period of euphoria, where a person may be unable to sit still or stop talking. During a manic phase, a person may be super-productive and filled with new ideas, but they may also engage in reckless behavior, such as risky sex or gambling. At the other end of the spectrum, during a depressive phase, a person may feel listless, hopeless and worthless, sometimes struggling even to get out of bed.

These blogs have been selected to show the differences in functioning across the disorder and together demonstrate the complexity of the disorder and its treatment. Along with the stark, poignant honesty of personal stories, they offer intelligent reflection and discussion on what science has to say over a condition which is far from easy answers.

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Anxiety and Panic

Partner Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder? 10 Truths You Need to Know

I was 18 years old, pregnant, scared and lonely when I met my now husband. We became best friends and two years later, he married and had a baby. Fast forward six years, we were madly in love and engaged, then married.

One year after that, my husband came home after work, sat down at the kitchen table and told me he wanted a divorce. I refused. Not very nicely.

A few months after that, he was diagnosed with Bipolar 2, and our marriage was in for a hell of a ride. Ten years later, I've had a book published about our marriage, a lot of sleepless nights, and a heck of a lot of a lessons learned about loving someone with bipolar disorder. Here's a few biggies:

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Designated Caregiver: Holiday Drinks and Mental Illness

Alcohol 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.

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

“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.
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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.
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The National Alliance on Mental Illness 2014 Conference

The 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.

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What’s the Meaning of Your Life?

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.
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5 New Theories on the Cause of Depression

I 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.
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Why Real Love Is Hard Work

A 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.


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.
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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.
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Room for Misery & Room for Joy: My Story

Most 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.

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