Vanity Came Knocking: Being Safe with My Bipolar

I nearly checked myself into the mental ward recently. I’ve been once, and it is no vacation.

But, one ordinary day in September, I was in that much pain. And I didn’t trust myself enough to be safe -- all over some vanity and pride.

For the most part, over the years, my bipolar disorder has been tamped down with medication, therapy and stress reduction. And, until that day, I thought I was in remission.

But I was wrong.

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Bipolar

How I Use Mindfulness to Help with Hypomania

I wrote in a post titled Using Meditation to Diagnose Your Mood that one of the benefits of meditation to a person with a mental illness is the ability to detect episodes early. Well, I’m in one.

It’s been hard to sit at all, let alone for the 30 minutes I meditate each day. I find myself agitated and fidgety. My thoughts are all over the place.

This is not unusual during meditation, but in taking note of the subjects of my thoughts, I can see hypomania creeping in. I’m thinking of buying stuff. I’m thinking of trading stocks. I’m thinking of another career change, discarding good ideas for more exciting, if undoable, ones.

All of my thoughts are about getting and doing. Anything. Right now I feel smarter, more creative, and more energetic than I usually do. That might be dangerous, but that’s what I’m feeling, and that’s what I encounter during meditation.

And here’s where mindfulness meditation really helps.

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Bipolar

Insight is Key: My Journey with Bipolar Disorder

"Manic-depression distorts moods and thoughts, incites dreadful behaviors, destroys the basis of rational thought, and too often erodes the desire and will to live. It is an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels psychological in the experience of it, an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering and, not infrequently, suicide."
~ Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

When a person hears the word "bipolar," his or her mind usually immediately jumps to the depiction of roller-coaster mood swings and lashing out.

Yet, this is not always the case with bipolar disorder. Bipolar can also affect your thoughts. Some people -- like myself -- experience a different version of the mental illness where many of your symptoms are internalized.

My illness varies from depressive apathy to euphoric mania which can be accompanied by a delusion or hallucination. I have not had the more severe experiences in about five years, thanks to therapy and medication. Though my journey to recovery was a difficult one, it is not an impossible feat.

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Bipolar

Using Meditation to Diagnose Your Mood

It would be wrong to say that the mentally ill are undisciplined.

Yes, I have been scattered, unkempt, flighty, undependable, and absent. But I have also, at times, been able to carry out with incredible focus to minute detail tasks that I could never stick with if not at least mildly manic.

While the energy to work and the attention to detail did not always congeal on a reasonable or desirable task, the results were often impressive.

But then, I’ve also spent an awful amount of time lying around doing nothing. Not contemplating, not planning, not even daydreaming. Just depressed. Could there be a way to predict moods? A way to harness and apply a disciplined approach to managing symptoms?

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Anxiety and Panic

Top 10 Mental Health Apps


With so many apps on the market, it’s hard to know which are useful.

Many are designed by software developers instead of psychologists, without scientific testing. They range from beneficial, to harmless but useless, to bordering on fraudulent.

The apps selected for this list make no hucksterish claims and are based on established treatments. Progressive Muscle Relaxation, for example, has been used for a century and is likely just as effective in this new medium. Knowledge from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy enrich two apps on this list. Others mix solid information with ingenuity.

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5 Persistent Myths About Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a serious and difficult illness that affects all facets of a person’s life: their education, work, relationships, health and finances, said Julie A. Fast, author of several bestselling books on bipolar disorder, including Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder and Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, and a coach who works with partners and families.

Fast was diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder II at 31 years old in 1995, a time when very little was discussed regarding the diagnosis. Fortunately, knowledge and media coverage of bipolar disorder have improved dramatically over the years. “I’m astonished at how much more people know about the illness,” she said.

Even TV shows are featuring more accurate portrayals of bipolar disorder. “In the past, people with bipolar disorder were practically frothing at the mouth,” Fast said. Today, writers and producers make it a point to get it right. Recently, Fast served as one of the advisors on the hit Showtime series “Homeland” and talked with Claire Danes about her character’s bipolar disorder.

While information has gotten much better, many misconceptions still exist and endure.

Below, you’ll find five persistent myths about bipolar disorder

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Anger

Q&A with David Fitzpatrick, author of “Sharp: A Memoir”

Sharp: A Memoir is the beautifully written, harrowing story of David Fitzpatrick and his 20-year struggle with bipolar disorder and self-mutilation. One of five children, Fitzpatrick endured regular bullying from his older brother and later was tormented daily by his college roommates. He began cutting in his early 20s, steeped in self-loathing and spending years in psychiatric hospitals.

While Sharp is an intense and raw read -- and may be triggering for some -- it's ultimately a hopeful and inspiring story. It’s a story of a man who gets caught up in the mental health system but finally finds himself, as well as a fulfilling life.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Fitzpatrick about his powerful book. Below, Fitzpatrick reveals what inspired him to pen Sharp, what it was like reopening old wounds, what helped him lift the veil of mental illness, how he maintains recovery today and much more.

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Bipolar

Helping Your Partner Manage Bipolar Disorder

In their must-read book, Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner, authors Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston, PsyD, provide a wealth of information on how readers can support their partners with managing their illness. Each chapter features practical and wise ideas on better understanding bipolar disorder and working together to identify problems, triggers and effective solutions.

One of these tips is creating comprehensive lists of behaviors and activities that minimize symptoms and those that don’t. It can be tough to know how to help your partner, and sometimes, naturally, your own frustration, confusion and anger may get in the way.

Plus, some of the behaviors and activities that work may not be intuitive or automatic for you, especially if you’re stuck in old patterns. In fact, according to Fast and Preston, you may be surprised to learn that “bipolar disorder often doesn’t respond to traditional problem-solving behaviors.”

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ADHD and ADD

Is Anyone Normal Today?

Take a minute and answer this question: Is anyone really normal today?

I mean, even those who claim they are normal may, in fact, be the most neurotic among us, swimming with a nice pair of scuba fins down the river of Denial. Having my psychiatric file published online and in print for public viewing, I get to hear my share of dirty secrets—weird obsessions, family dysfunction, or disguised addiction—that are kept concealed from everyone but a self-professed neurotic and maybe a shrink.

“Why are there so many disorders today?” Those seven words, or a variation of them, surface a few times a week. And my take on this query is so complex that, to avoid sounding like my grad school professors making an erudite case that fails to communicate anything to average folks like me, I often shrug my shoulders and move on to a conversation about dessert. Now that I can talk about all day.

Here’s the abridged edition of my guess as to why we mark up more pages of the DSM-IV today than, say, a century ago (even though the DSM-IV had yet to be born).

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Anxiety and Panic

Does the Internet Promote or Damage Marriage?

PBS/This Emotional Life is hosting a webinar in two weeks about the internet’s impact on relationships and marriage, in particular. As a panelist on the webinar, I wanted to explore this issue a bit with my readers so that I can offer your viewpoints in addition to my two cents.

Here’s my honest opinion, after reading hundreds of comments and emails from people who have been involved in online relationships or emotional affairs as well as the responses on the discussion boards of the Emotional Affairs support group on Beliefnet’s community site:

Although the internet and social media can foster intimacy in a marriage, it seems to do more harm than good. Of all the comments I've read, 90 percent of the opposite-sex relationships that were damaging to the marriage happened online.

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Addiction

7 Reasons Charlie Sheen May Hate Alcoholics Anonymous

In one of the myriad interviews he gave over the last week, Charlie Sheen said clearly that he hates AA.

A lot of people have trouble with Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is full of people and people can be messy and flawed.

The human train wreck formally known as Charlie Sheen is a common sight in the AA meeting halls. The only difference between Mr. Sheen and other self-absorbed, delusional, frantic addicts is the size of the audience to which they rant. These people do not last long in AA. They mock the Fellowship and the 12 Steps (PDF) as too religious or simplistic. AA is beneath them.

Here are a few possible reasons why Charlie Sheen might hate AA so much.

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