Tag Archives: Bipolar Disorder I

Living abroad – yes. Or no? No, it’s yes…

Photo credit:  Steve Parker

What would it take for you to pick up and move?

Welllll – really not much:  pack my suitcase & laptop,  preferably my guitar,  and off I go!!!

I’ve done it many times since I lived for a total of about 15 years abroad,  so I know the ins and outs of travelling light (meaning carrying my laptop,  guitar and hand luggage while losing my coat and/or scarf on the way to the plane 🙂 ).

But that changed in the last 5 years… since my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder I in 2007.

You have had it all your life,  done all this travelling,  so why can’t you just up and leave?

Welllll – yes,  I have had it all my life,  but I wasn’t a rapid cycler.

You Dutchies are always on your bike,  what’s the problem with being fast?!

Welllll – it’s got nothing to do with my bike,  that’s why!

It means that my episodes or mood swings can go up and down fast.  I can change moods during the day – although this doesn’t happen often – while in the past my moods could last for many months or even years.  *big sigh*

So,  how come you are a fast biker now?

Welllll – it usually happens after going through a crisis,  like a big one.  Which I did.  Unfortunately.

In 2005 it started to go down hill and during 2006 it got progressively worse.  I was seriously suicidal and didn’t know what to do with myself.  I was going up and down and experienced mixed moods for the first time in my life.  I had no idea about what the heck was going on in my life.  I only knew that I wanted the pain to stop.

I was diagnosed early 2007,  but still went through a manic phase after the diagnosis while taking mood stabilizers and other meds.  Not fun (huge understatement :(, do you hear the sarcasm?).

After I became more stabilised on the right med combo that worked for me,  it became very clear I had become a rapid cycler.

Officially you are a rapid cycler if you have more than 4 episodes a year.  Well,  I can have 4 different moods a week!  I am not ultra-rapid cycling – that is even worse,  changing moods all day,  every day.  Sort of.  Yikes!

Meaning fast bikers don’t get anywhere?

Welllll – heck yes!!!  Of course I can travel.  This winter I made a beautiful trip to Ukraine.  I will travel again this Summer with the youth group.

But there is a difference in travelling for a month or so and living abroad while taking care of your Bipolar.  By yourself.  No support network.  With meds,  of course.  I checked,  my current meds are available in Ukraine,  if I would end up there again.  But…

  1. I’ll need a doctor to prescribe my meds.  Or take huge amounts over the border.  Don’t know if that works,  provided I would get a half a year supply from the pharmacy here…
  2. I’ll need blood checks on my liver every three months.  I need to find a lab with lab technicians that do blood work that I can trust.  And let’s not forget:  use clean needles and such.  Don’t want to add HIV onto my plate of health challenges,  now would I?
  3. When I happen to end up in crisis – I definitely do not want to be in a psych ward in Ukraine!
  4. Even though my insurance has covered repatriation in the past,  it is not very likely they will in the future.  That is what this type of diagnosis can do for you.
  5. Building a support network will not be easy.  It’s not impossible (me thinks) – but it will take a lot of work.
  6. I’ll need to monitor myself very strictly,  since I will be most likely more or less my own doc.  That’s a bit tricky,  however good I am at recognizing my symptoms and such.
  7. Welllll –  can’t think of more, but gotta have an uneven number,  so this is the seventh.  Six is enough anyways,  don’t you think?

Okay – so you will only make short trips then?

Welllll – who said that?!  Of course not!  I want to live and work abroad,  don’t you get it?

Uhm… not sure I do.

Welllll – that’s your problem then,  ain’t it?

Mama’s Losin’ It

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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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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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