Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Professional, High-Functioning Bipolar Patient

I came across this very interesting article by Laura Yeager on the "professional, high-functioning bipolar patient." The article discusses the author's experiences with her bipolar disorder and her ability to maintain normalcy in her life (career, family, mental stability). She details about a dozen questions that bipolar sufferers have struggled with: religion, the decision to bear offspring, medication, hospitalization, and relapse among other topics.

When I've gone to DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) meetings I've been one of (if not the only) highest functioning person in the room. The other people I met were either out of work on disability or between hospital stays or in the midst of a depressive episode. Don't get me wrong, bipolar disorder is a chronic illness. I've personally found that relapse is pretty common. I've been depressed three times and manic three times. I've also been hospitalized three times. I understand what it feels like to be in the midst of an episode. I understand how debilitating it is.

When I went to my first DBSA meeting last year I found the meeting to be simultaneously therapeutic and damning. I had never been to a meeting before so I didn't know what to expect. Prior to this support meeting, I hadn't thought much about my bipolar diagnosis. It had been six years since my first and only hospitalization. Yes, I took medicine nightly and I couldn't stay awake past 11pm (if I did I was groggy the next day; the meds I was on were highly sedating), but other than that I didn't think much of my disorder. All that changed in April 2013. I started to feel high. Like manic high. And I was worried. I spoke to my therapist about my concerns, but I felt like I needed to talk to people living and coping with the disorder. My therapist didn't think it was a good idea. He didn't want me associating with people he said wallowed in the dysfunction of their disorder, people who made their illness their whole life.

I went to the support group despite his concerns.

It was a small group of people. About 10-12 people of various ages and races/ethnicities. But about 75-85% of the people present were in the throes of an episode: either one had just ended or they were currently symptomatic. There was no professional clinician. So it was the blind leading the blind. There were lots of tears. I even cried myself. I shared my story. A story I had not discussed with anyone other than my therapist. I heard other people's stories. I felt understood.

But the next day I wound up in the hospital for 10 days. The support group was a trigger. It was very emotional and draining.

It is hard to be around lower functioning bipolar people. I've only been to two DBSA meetings. The second meeting was better than the first. But I still was one of the highest functioning people present. Maybe people who have a good handle on their disorder don't need a support group?

You know what else I've noticed? I haven't seen manic people in any of my three hospitalizations or at the support groups. I did meet one in IOP (Intensive Outpatient Therapy) this year. My thoughts on mania is that a manic person probably doesn't consider themselves sick. They feel on top of the world. They are bursting with productivity and energy and creativity. Why change that? Medicine would lessen or deaden these feelings.

In this instance, I'm kind of an oddity. I've never been hospitalized for depression; I only go to the hospital when I'm manic. For me, the mania is a lot more destructive than the depression. I managed to go to work everyday last year while depressed. But when the mania started, I needed to admit myself immediately. The mania gets out of control.

But to bring it all back to the start of this post, I would love to meet large numbers of highly-functioning bipolar people. I know they exist. Just look at all of the famous artists, poets, writers, and actors who have used their bipolar disorder and the ensuing creativity to their advantage.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

MyNDTalk Internet Radio Interview

I have three ventures in the works for Mental Health Awareness Week: two interviews (a blog and an internet radio) and guest blogging at Strut in Her Shoes.

My second internet radio, MyNDTalk with Dr. Pamela Brewer, aired today.

You can listen here. If you feel so moved, please leave a comment, either on my blog or on the internet radio site.

Thanks so much for listening :)

Mental Health Awareness Week




It's Mental Health Awareness Week (October 5th to 11th).

And I'm guest blogging at Strut in Her Shoes all week. My posts will be a combination of new stuff and recycled stuff.

Check the first two posts out here and here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

International Impact

I've made it across the pond!

A UK website referenced one of my Huffington Post articles!

I feel so honored.

Here's the article.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mental Health Stigma

Unfortunately there is a stigma associated with mental illness. This stigma leads many people to suffer in silence. Or worse, to not seek help.

This week a friend called me Hester Prynne. You know, the heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic The Scarlet Letter. For those of you who slept through American Literature in high school, Hester committed adultery and a few  months later she birthed a daughter out of wedlock. The novel is set in Puritanical New England. So the society was big on shame and punishment. Hester did some time in jail, and when the baby was born she had to stand on a pillory for a few hours. For the rest of her life she had to wear an A emblazoned on her chest. But Hester was a seamstress. And a strong woman. She was not to be shamed. She designed an elaborate A. And instead of wearing it as a badge of shame, she took this as a chance to own her sin while simultaneously showing off her craftsmanship.

So my friend called me a modern-day Hester. Instead of shrinking from the stigma of having bipolar disorder, I have embraced it. I don't know why I don't feel the stigma. But I just don't. But I want to be the voice for those who do feel the stigma and are silenced.

I am reminded of a quotation from Audre Lorde: "When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak." Lorde, the self-defined "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet." Silence does not protect you.

My goal of becoming a bipolar spokesperson has been coming to fruition. By next month, I will have had three interviews (two Internet radio interviews and a blog interview) I blog here and at Huffington Post. And I'm in the midst of writing my bipolar memoir. This whole process has been incredibly therapeutic. And I hope that my life and story has been a blessing to others.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The. Best. Summer. Ever.

I was manic from April to May 2013. Then when the mania ended, I became depressed. I was depressed from June 2013 until May 2014. The depression mainly consisted of insomnia and an empty, numb feeling. It really sucked. I thought the empty feeling was my new normal. I didn't think it was depression because I didn't feel sad and I was on medicine. But it was depression. I've learned that all depression doesn't look or feel the same. And the medicine I was on were anti-psychotics not anti-depressants. So they didn't treat the depression.

I was not hospitalized for the depression. I never go to the hospital for my depression. I just suffer through it. I don't recommend this. The depression only ended because I became manic in June 2014. This is why I love the mania. The mania has saved me from depression twice (in 2007 and 2014).

I swore to myself that I would have an amazing summer given the awful year I had. I would spare no expense. Deny no whim.

At the beginning of the summer I shared all of my summer plans.

This is an update. Be warned: there are a lot of pictures!

 I attended a few concerts this summer. 
This picture is from a Joe Budden concert in Brooklyn.

 I spent a lot of time in New York City this summer.

 I attended the Dave Chapelle show at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. He was incredibly funny.

 I saw a few Broadway plays: Avenue Q, Once, Wicked, Heathers, and Book of Mormon.

 I took a few vacations. I visited Savannah, Georgia; Atlantic City and Ocean Grove, New Jersey; Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, DC; and Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

 
 I visited the Kara Walker exhibit.

 
 I bought a beautiful painting from an artist at the Harlem Book Fair.

 
 In Washington, DC at the Smithsonian museums.

At the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. 

At a drawing class in Brooklyn at MOCADA (I drew on an apron and a tote bag). 
The class was led by artist Shantell Martin

 At the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

 Had an adult game night for family and friends.

Hula-hooping in the park. We were having a family reunion. 

 
 I also ate amazing meals. This is flan, empanadas, and shredded chicken with white rice.

At the John Legend concert at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. 

Had a picnic on Governor's Island in New York. 
That's the Statue of Liberty in the background. 

Pretty much :-) 

 
At a Ferguson/Mike Brown rally in Durham, North Carolina.
"Hands up. Don't shoot." 

 Rihanna and Eminem concert at the Met Life Stadium.

 Amazing Jeff Koons exhibit at the Whitney Museum
Definitely check it out if you're in the area.

The view from my hotel room in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. 
The hotel is on the Long Island Sound. 

 At the Cloisters in Manhattan.

All dolled up to see and be seen at the Essence Magazine Street Style Block Party in Brooklyn.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Memoir Writing Workshop

This week was the 7th class for my memoir writing workshop. The class meets every Monday in NYC (from July to September) for 10 weeks from 7pm-10pm.

In the class we have been working on the components of memoir writing: description, characterization, setting and pacing, and dialogue. We do free writes and read model texts to see the concepts in action.

We also bring our own writing. Each week two people bring 5-15 pages of their writing to be work-shopped. We discuss what worked well and what didn't. We discuss what confused us or pulled us in.

I will have my work discussed three times. The first time I used excerpts from my blog. When I first started blogging I assumed I would turn the blog into my memoir. But after hearing the feedback from my classmates I have decided not to take this route.

In my first writing (the excerpts from the blog), my classmates said it sounded too WebMD. Ha! They said that it needed more storytelling. Their assessment is accurate. That is the tone I wish my blog to have: educational and informative. But I want my memoir to feel like a story.

In my second writing, I submitted ten pages about my first and second hospitalizations. I strove very hard to turn the tales into stories. Judging by the feedback from my classmates, I succeeded. They asked for more elaboration in parts. So I'll work on continuing to flesh out the action.

I have three classes left. And I have to submit 5-15 more pages. I'm hoping to incorporate the feedback I received.

If you are interested in writing, I would highly suggest you join a writer's circle. I cannot stress to you enough the importance of getting feedback on your work.