Tag Archives: Depression

My bio: A personal history of my Bipolar Disorder – part 2

This is a continuation from part 1  

I had lived abroad since Summer 1994 being involved in two different social projects.  For most of that time I was hypomanic and consequently achieved very much.  Looking back I also see the down right mean side of that period,  hurting people in the process.  I had sudden anger outbursts that I didn’t understand.  I could make mean and hurtful comments,  not knowing myself why I was acting that way.

Many times I asked for forgiveness and just as many times I received it.  I am very blessed with the fact that during this period I did not lose any relationships,  opposite to my time in college when I did alienate and hurt friends and lost their friendship.

Even during those years I hit an all time low and was depressed for a good year.  Since I had also become seriously ill,  I used the illness as a cover up so people didn’t know I was depressed.  After a year I was able to return to the same project and pick up my work.

The last project involved working with youth in schools and girls on the street.  I was doing way too many things all at the same time.  Suddenly,  on top of that,  I received a letter from my parents in June 2005.  This was such a shock to my system that I literally fell ill.  I had tried several times to bridge the gap between us,  but every time it was made very clear that no contact was desired.  So this was like a bomb shell.


Together with some other circumstances it caused a severe burn-out.  A stay in America for 3 months in 2006 turned into more than three years.  I am very blessed,  however,  with my counselor who has been so willing to support me over all those years,  before and after my diagnosis.  Even now,  since my sudden return to my home country the Netherlands in Summer 2009,  we continue our sessions over Skype. 

Those years between 2005 and 2010 have been excruciatingly difficult and painful.  I have lived through many difficulties (including a nomadic lifestyle) during those years,  together with working through past trauma’s and trying to find ways to deal with my bipolar traits. 

I had been very suicidal for one and a half years,  even before my trip to the States.  I had concrete and detailed plans where I would not be found alive.  It was not so much that I wanted to die,  it was simply that I could not continue to live in such pain and despair. 

The only reason I am still alive and kicking today is because the Lord saved me from committing suicide.  I can not tell you how He did it,  because I don’t know,  just that He did.  And to tell you the truth,  I wasn’t even grateful in the first few years!!!

At some stage I started to understand that  ‘being suicidal’  is part and parcel of BD.  It is not part of  ‘me’  as such.  In the process I came to realise that I have a choice in how to respond and at some point  I decided not to entertain thoughts of suicide as a way out any longer.  This doesn’t mean that thoughts of suicide don’t pop up at times,  of course they do.  But I am able to handle it,  it doesn’t endanger me anymore. 

I am glad to say that by now I am overall glad to be alive.  For the first time in many years I am looking forward to the future.  I have plans and dreams and there is a live waiting for me to live.  I am committed to live that life,  with bipolar traits and all,  to the best of my ability!

Picture courtesy of StrangeCosmos

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My bio: A personal history of my Bipolar Disorder – part 1

Just to give you a little insight of my background,  I have decided to write a little bio about myself related to Bipolar Disorder.  This way I hope you understand better where I come from in my writings.


Photo credit:  BigFoto.com

Even though I was born with Bipolar Disorder,  I was only diagnosed early January 2007 with BD II,  which switched to BD I after a manic episode in May 2007.

The manic episode started with a situation that I couldn’t handle that caused me to run away and live in my car,  turning paranoid,  not talking to anyone as I thought everyone was after me.

Unfortunately the only person I had somewhat of a trust relationship with at the time,  my counselor,  was gone for several weeks. I still don’t know what made me call long-distance to a friend who was living in Ukraine at the time.  But I did and she,  after several days,  managed to convince me to go see my p-doc.

He just saw me and put me straight on antipsychotics.  It was just in time to save me a trip to the hospital…

During that time I was on at least 5 different meds and taking about 15 pills a day.  I thought that was how it would be in the future.  Thank God, I am only on 3 meds and a total of 6 pills today!  Even though taking meds is not an issue for me,  because my focus is my quality of life,  still the less meds the better :) .

After my diagnosis I started to research and read everything I could find about Bipolar Disorder.  Looking back in hind sight I realised that my first deep depression hit me when I was 15 years old.  Even before that age there are now clear signs that I had bipolar traits.  However,  as most other people, I was misdiagnosed for years with Major Depressive Disorder.

You see,  my hypomania was not so visible,  so it really wasn’t so strange.  I have always been a very driven and passionate person.  People saw and experienced me as ‘intense’.  In the ‘good’ times – read:  hypomanic – I achieved a lot.  Since I never knew any different I always thought that others were not committed or even lazy to some extent.  It was only after my diagnosis that I realised that there was a good reason why they couldn’t keep up with me!

I felt always very ashamed about my depressions.  During my school and college years I could still handle / hide it as my hypomania would usually compensate for times I was hardly able to do something.  But once in the working world I had to perform on a consistent basis and that is where I stumbled and fell.

Because I worked for the Dutch government and in my country one can not so easily fire government workers,  I didn’t lose my job in the process.  In other circumstances and in other countries I would have lost my job several times.

I remember taking on a new job about which I was really excited,  only to dissolve into nothingness not even three months down the road.  I was supposed to create an archive but was caught between the policy makers not wanting to part with their documents and the archive department not supporting me.  Little did I know at that time that such a situation drives a Bipolar totally nuts.  I thought of myself as weak and unable.

In the end I was transferred to a job way below my ability.  This reinforced the thought that I was not able to function properly,  for whatever reason.

My childhood was filled with trauma’s of sexual abuse, within and outside of the family.  There was also enough of verbal abuse and to some extent physical as well.  Unfortunately,  I had to divorce myself from my family around the age of 20 to simply survive.  I continued in survival mode for about 20 years before the shit hit the fan,  as they say.

To be continued on Monday….

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Living with bipolar traits is my normal life. And no, I am not sick or disordered, thank you very much!

One of the hardest things I find myself dealing with on a daily basis, is figuring out why I feel the way I feel.  The answer to this question is important,  because it decides how I will deal with myself and my emotions. 

The problem is:  it is so damn hard to distinguish if I feel as I do because of my brain chemistry,  or because there was a trigger.  In other words: are the chemicals in my brain misfiring and making me feel depressed / manic without any other reason than the fact that is the way my brain is working? 

It is important for me to know the answer as that will cause me to treat myself differently,  depending on the reason why I feel the way I do. 

Say,  if it is my brain chemistry making me feel yucky and depressed,  I will try to ignore the tug to stay in bed,  do nothing and hibernate.  I might not be able to accomplish much,  but I still will try to function to the best of my ability and try to be happy with anything I will be able to accomplish that day.

However,  if something triggered my depression,  then I will have to figure out what exactly  the trigger consists of.  Is it a thought I had that made me sad and pulled me down?  Is it a certain smell that brought bad memories to the surface?  Did somebody say something to me that caused me to start thinking negatively about myself?  Is it because I made an assumption based on a situation, a response, or a lack thereof?  Is it some past trauma that is rearing its ugly head? What is IT?  Sometimes I simply don’t know.  But once I know what the IT is,  I have to deal with IT. 

If there is a good reason to feel low / depressed,  I might give myself a break.  For instance,  right now after returning from my 3,5 week trip to Ukraine I have so many impressions to process.  I am in touch with my key people,  but other than that I keep a low profile and take a lot of rest.  Which means I sleep a lot even during the day.  But that is okay.  For now.  But next week I will pick up my active life,  if I feel like it or not.

Why is it so important to find the answer to the question?  Because if I let  my feelings go,  I might end up in a depressive state that will pull me deeper and deeper,  which might happen slowly or very fast.  Or the opposite might happen,  and I end up being (hypo)manic and maybe even paranoid.  Either state can,  once it is full-blown,  last for months and it will take hard work plus usually additional meds to get out of it.  Neither is to be desired.

That is one big reason of why I am in counseling:  to learn how to deal with all those IT’s that fill my life (un)aware.  IT’s can be so sneaky and creep up on you when you are not looking.  Even when I know what IT is playing it’s part,  I still need to work out how to respond.  Which is different depending on the reason behind IT.

You see,  I refuse to be a victim of this so-called ‘illness’.  I AM NOT!  This is the way I was born,  the way I have been made,  and it is okay.  I want to add a BIG note,  though,  that it has taken me quite a while (years) to come to accept the fact that I am labeled as “suffering from Bipolar Disorder”.  I rebel against being labeled “mentally ill”.  I hate the fact that this label causes me trouble being insured for health and for when I die (because of the chances I might end up in hospital and the higher chances of suicide).

I want to scream from the roof top: I AM ONLY DIFFERENT,  I AM NOT ILL, DISABLED  OR DISORDERED!!! 

Yes,  there will be times when I won’t be able to handle my bipolar traits very well.  So what?  Yes,  I need some close people around me to help me deal with the fall out of my bipolar traits.  So what?  Yes,  there will be times I will talk your head off.  So what?  Yes,  there will be times I will hibernate and be invisible.  So what?  Yes,  my brain functions different from yours and apparently I deal differently with emotions.  So what?

I don’t know any better,  for me it is normal,  it’s just the way I am.  SO WHAT?!?

To be continued!!!

Related post: Are you ‘normal’?

Picture courtesy of: The Franklin Institute

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Seasonal Depression – anyone recognize being SAD?

Been on the internet for many hours,  trying to catch up on all I missed during my 15 days of absence.  No use, of course,  but I had to get my fix!!!

Okay.  Since y’all have been able to read the basics of BD (about which is so much more to write,  I know),  I will now continue with the realities of living with BD.  Sharing my struggles.  Cuz I want you to be aware that life with BD is different for everybody.  It is as unique as the person dealing with it. 

There is so much I’d like to discuss,  like ways to approach living with BD;  what can others do to help;  what is not so helpful;  what can we do to improve our own lives; and lots more.  But most of all,  I want others to join in and make comments,  start discussions,  ask questions.  That is why I blog.  I don’t want this blog to be an ego trip that is all about me.  So,  please take part,  will you?!?

I haven’t been doing too great the last couple of weeks.  Mostly this was due to the lack of social networking since my internet and phone connection went down.  It’s a bit horrifying to know how dependable I am on technology for my social life and apparent well-being…  So much so that I go down with the technology. 

What has happened is that I have become fairly inactive.  It is not as if there isn’t anything to do.  My study is still waiting for me to continue,  there is a book to translate,  I could have written posts ahead of time,  could have made 3D cards and send to peeps I care about, and so on. 

But what I have been doing is sleep 10-12 hours at a time.  Read a lot of fiction.  Make Japanese logical puzzles.  Try to stay on a healthy diet,  which is a challenge in itself.  Keep up with housekeeping,  which I haven’t quite managed. 

Leaving the house has been a challenge as well.  I have been  a ‘titmouse’,  as we say in Dutch, staying at home.  This is probably also a result of not having had my own home for so very long.  Since I now have my own place,  I enjoy it so thoroughly,  I don’t like to go anywhere for very long.  I guess it is a normal response and I am not worried about it.  It is just harder to overcome at times and make myself go somewhere. 

Especially since it is so cold outside,  with snow for four days in a row,  an amazing feat in Holland!  Mind you,  I’ve got to do everything by bike and the cold is bothering me much more than in the past (a sure sign I am getting older….? ouch!).  Got to get myself a hat and gloves,  but I have to go outside for that, yikes!

Also,  I suffer from Seasonal Depression,  meaning I can’t handle the fact that day-time is so short and darkness so long very well.  In addition,  we get so many grey skies and days in the Netherlands,  lots of rain and now even snow.  In Ukraine,  with snow and frost comes often sunshine.  Here the sun disappears,  making me want to crawl in bed and hibernate.  It’s hard to not give in to do just that.  It helps that my internet connection is up again.  But to get out of the rut of sleeping long hours and not doing too much… I can’t begin to tell you how hard it is. 

I became so angry when the internet and phone connection went down (which resulted in not being able to have my regular session with my counselor,  aggravating the whole situation) – which wasn’t doing me any good.  Anger is my main survival emotion and once triggered,  if it reaches a certain level and has nowhere to go,  it turns inside and makes me depressed.  It can take me weeks to get out of it.  I still need to learn to deal with the anger before it reaches the danger level and virtually paralyses me.

It’s unfortunate that we,  BD’s,  are more susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder / Seasonal Depression.  I know there are certain lamps on the market that can help battle the lack of sunlight from which we suffer.  Don’t mind trying this,  but gotta be careful it doesn’t swing me to the other side… although at the moment I’d prefer being hypomanic to being sluggish and passive!

To close,  I end with a positive note: 

Three weeks back saw the beginning of my involvement with our youth group which has given me a lot of joy.  I feel so happy spending time with them and getting to know them.  I simply love it!  I am grateful that it is possible for me to do so and follow my heart’s desire in discipling and building trust relationships with that age group.  (Glad my church ain’t that far from my apartment! :) Like 5 minutes by bike.)

Do you recognize what I am talking about?  What do you do to overcome the blues?  Anyone with BD have experience with those special lights / lamps?  Tell me about it!

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Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms

Depressed :(

We all feel a little blue or ‘depressed’ at times.  Having a major depressive episode,  though,  doesn’t even begin to compare.  The word ‘depressed’ and ‘depression’ are used so loosely nowadays that I feel they have lost their real meaning.

So what does ‘real’ depression look like?  Bad,  dark,  sad,  angry,  irritable,  sleepy,  weight loss,  weight gain,  hedonic (beautiful word meaning ‘having no pleasure in things you previously received pleasure from’ ),  listless,  time just passes,  isolation,  hermit,  dropping out of social life,  not taking care of yourself (i.e.  no cooking,  eating habits down the drain,  no showers,  no brushing teeth),  no housekeeping,  hopeless,  restless,  despair,  thinking about death and ultimately (trying to) commit suicide.

Phew.  And the list is probably not even complete,  depending on who you ask.

What can I say?  I have felt it all,  sometimes all at the same time.  Obviously I have never committed suicide.  But I have come oh so very close several times…
Here am I,  but by the grace of an awesome God!!    

(Hypo)Manic :)  Are you crazy? 
The official meaning of the word mania, which comes from Greek,  is: “to be mad, to rage, to be furious”.  Giving me one more reason to like the name BD instead of manic-depression.
Hypomania means “below mania”.  Let’s start with that one first.

What hypomania means is: being very intense (for other people,  that is),  having a flight of ideas,  talking a-mile-a-minute,  racing thoughts,  needing less sleep (4-6 hrs),  very active,  driven,  throwing caution in the wind,  higher sex drive (the fact that I am single doesn’t make me sexless,  even though I don’t have sex with someone,  you know.  However,  I do feel a bit blue in the face for sharing this.),  constantly interrupting people,  irritable,  easily distracted,  being impulsive, over-sensitive to sound, smell and light (or in other words: heightened senses).

Examples from real life (Yep,  mine. Who else?)
What I share here I realised in hind sight,  after my diagnosis.  A sort of aha-erlebnis.  Aha,  so THAT is what was going on.  It makes sense now.

Throwing caution in the wind / easily distracted - for me it meant  simply crossing the road without looking at the traffic, for instance.  A good friend told me once that she can tell by my driving what mood I am in. Oops!

On being impulsive,  I once decided I was going to be a missionary in England and terminated my health care insurance.  BIG mistake!  My insurance broker had to move heaven and earth to get me back in.  Also,  while a friend had loaned (sp?) me money because I was short of it,  I suddenly decided that I simply needed to buy this beautiful ánd expensive book.  When she later confronted me,  I only could look at her sheepishly.

Irritable? – I have been known to erupt in anger outbursts.  Very uncomfortable, especially since at the time I didn’t know what was happening with me.  Had to ask forgiveness many a time and thankfully was extended it just as many times.

Talkative –  you can say that again!  I remember very well that as a child I became at occasion a virtual chatterbox.  Now I start talking to complete strangers.  Not only that,  I share with them personal stuff.  Boohoo… this hurts, peeps.  When it comes down to it,  I am a little shy by nature,  so baring my soul to a complete stranger is a big no-no.

Racing thoughts My thoughts never stopped.  Even during sleep I could ‘hear’ my thoughts.  I never knew that wasn’t normal (whatever ‘normal’ is,  is up for debate of course, but alla),  since continuing thoughts while sleeping were completely normal to me!  I was a light sleeper in any case.  Occasionally I would sleep as ‘normal’ people do and wake up totally knackered and broken.  To me, thàt was not normal!  Hence my love-hate relationship with sleeping aids.  Like ‘em because they make me really sleep at night,  hate ‘em because they can make me feel sleepy during the day.

On to the Manic
Everything that hypomanic is,  but more in the extreme.  Especially:  irritability,  needing very little sleep (about 3 hrs), risky behavior (i.e.  improbable business plans),  over indulgence (spending sprees,  promiscuity), expanded self-esteem.  Mania can also include hallucinations and delusions.

I am sorry,  but I don’t feel qualified to say more than this,  since I don’t speak from experience.  However,  I do suspect that my hypomanic has manic tendencies.

My one (and hopefully last) manic episode
Actually,  I have had one manic episode.  It was about 4 months after my diagnosis.  I became delusional.  Totally paranoid that people were after me.  Not trusting anyone.  And consequently not talking to anyone.  I slept in the church for several days and lived literally out of my car.  There was a beautiful “Presence Room” for people to pray and sit quietly.  Since I had my own sleeping gear,  I sneaked into church around midnight,  slept on the floor and got up early enough to get out.

Unfortunate for me,  my counselor was on holiday.  After a couple of days I called a dear friend who was in Ukraine at the time.  She finally, after several days, convinced me to go to my p-doc (BD talk for psychiatrist – sweet and short).  When he saw me,  he put me immediately on antipsychotics.  That intervention saved me from a total break down and possible hospitalization.  A ghastly experience!!

Other posts:

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Medical treatment

Peeps that are important

Why mood charting?

Mood charting revisited

How to help people with a mental illness

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Bipolar Disorder: What is it?

What is Bipolar Disorder?
A mood disorder.  How does that sound?  Yeah,  well.  If you think about it,  we are all bipolar.  We all experience moods and emotions that change from high to low and back.  So we are all happily swinging about.  Or not – and there is the crux.  When the mood swings become uncontrollable we speak of a mood disorder. 

How do you catch, eh get  it?
In essence,  BD is a chemical imbalance in the brain.  It’s got to do with neurotransmitters,  those little things that transport impulses between nerve cells.  As it runs in families,  researchers believe there is a genetic component to BD as well.  BUT,  the real cause of BD has not yet been found.

What’s in a name?
The old name for BD is manic-depression.  This probably rings a bell with many people.  In 1980 when the third version of the Big Book of descriptions of psychiatric illnesses was written (DSM-III to be exact),  the name officially changed to BD.  There were several reasons: the word manic-depression carried a huge stigma;  it was hoped that  the word BD would give more clarity;  it was recognized that there is a much wider variety of BD. Personally,  I like BD more.

Types of Biplor Disorder and complicating factors
BD is described as a spectrum,  because of the various types and complicating factors involved.  There is BD I, II and cyclothemia;  and complications such as mixed states, rapid cycling and bipolar psychosis .  Okay, if I have lost you,  please keep reading and it will get totally clear, I promise!

BD I involves generally speaking deep depression and mania which can include hallucinations and delusions.  One instance of mania is enough to qualify for this diagnosis.

BD II is a somewhat milder form in that the person does not reach full-blown mania, which is therefore called hypomania.  Deep depressions are part and parcel of it.  Hypomania is hard to spot.  People can go without a diagnosis for many years or get misdiagnosed with,  for example,  Major Depressive Disorder.

Cyclothemia is a mild form of BD with milder symptoms,  but still enough to be able to disrupt your life.  Not easy to diagnose either!

A mixed state is when a person experiences either both (hypo)mania and depression at the same time or have them follow one another rapidly.  As in minutes or hours,  rather than days.

Rapid cycling means that a person has more than 4 episodes of depression,  (hypo)mania or mixed state a year.

Bipolar Psychosis is a break with reality and a loss of reasoning,  which can occur both during (severe) depression or mania.

Related posts:

Symptoms 

Medical treatment

Peeps that are important

Why mood charting?

Mood charting revisited

How to help people with a mental illness

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Shifting moods

Oh bother,  I know that I am shifting moods…. but did I really have to leave the pan on the fire when I left to run errands???  Thankfully it was on very low fire,  there was some milk left in it and it had a thick bottom….  This is the stuff kitchen fires are made of.  Scary!

One of my sayings is:  I am glad my head is fastened to my body, otherwise I would lose it too.  Well, I don’t know where it was this morn’,  it sure was LOST y’all!

Even though I have been feeling blue and sad these last couple of days,  I have still been able to do some tasks.  Now thàt is a major accomplishment, peeps! 

I have been hypomanic for several weeks,  resulting in a very clean house :).  Also being much more social,  as I tend to be a recluse when depressed.  In fact,  I can become a total chatterbox when (hypo)manic,  including talking to strangers (people on the street,  in shops etc.).  Which is always quite unsettling for me as I am a little shy by nature.  It definitely doesn’t feel like ‘me’,  if you know what I mean. 

This time the hypomania hasn’t been so bad and I have actually enjoyed my episode.  For one, I started this blog and it turns out I am enjoying the bloggy thing immensely (not the technically challenging stuff though,  that drives me nuts!).  Second,  I enjoy a clean, clutter-free house!  Third, I have caught up on some relationships,  very important!

But the down side is that what goes up, will come down at some point.  Hence my feeling slightly depressed and sad.  Mind you, my dad passed away not that long ago,  so there probably is some grief involved as well.

That is probably one of the most challenging things:  how do I figure out if my mood comes from my brain or is appropriate to the circumstances?  Was there a trigger that set of an episode?  It is a real challenge, but I am known to take those head-on.

One thing is for sure:  with bipolar,  you have never a dull moment!

BTW the pan is totally ruined,  but I am gonna use it to plant some flowers come Spring to enjoy on my balcony :)

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