Explaining Bipolar Disorder in Two Easy Steps!

Were you recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and you’re not sure how to explain it to your friends and family? Or maybe you’ve been managing your bipolar disorder successfully for some time now but you find you’ve got to tell your new romantic partner why you’re bringing a bag full o’ prescription bottles on your first mini vacay together. Whatever your super fun circumstance, you’ve found yourself inadvertently in a “mental illness closet” and you need to get out! Help!

Don’t worry, I’ve been there and done that. I’ve got your back though, because explaining your bipolar disorder can be easy peasy with these two simple steps!

(please tell me the sarcasm is reading and y’all don’t think I’m just being a complete ass hole. . .)

 

single

 

  1. Tell your friends to do their own damn research online! It’s called Google! Yes, there’s tons of misinformation out there, but you can nudge them in the right direction. I recently asked my boo to check out the following because I felt they most accurately described my particular experiences with bipolar.

    – A helpful gathering of responses from people with bipolar disorder trying their best to explain it on themighty.com
    – A similar list from buzzfeed.com, yeah yeah, I know, it’s buzzfeed – but it really is helpful!
    – And this one I used personally to explain to the boo my occasional tendency to latch onto an irrational thought and convince myself that it’s true (see: this post, side note – we’re still going good!)

  2. Have a sit down chat with your friends after they’ve done their internet digging so they can ask you any and all questions about your bipolar – like a real, live FAQ page. Because your bipolar disorder is not like mine, or anyone else’s,

 

Ok, ok, I’m sorry to have used a very click-baity title for this post. And I’m sorry if I sound a little bitter / sarcastic but “coming out of the mental health closet” and worrying about losing peoples’ respect has gotten OLD. Going into a depressive spell and not having friends understand why you JUST CAN’T (like literally just can’t, not even the joke “can’t even”, the real “I’m staring at my phone trying to text you back but my brain chemistry won’t let me do anything other than stare right now” kind of even) is getting old. Having to explain that you don’t want to smile (when you’re usually the one who’s smiling and excited) simply because you feel nothing – and then watching as the person who asked quickly regrets ever talking to you.

Truly though, bipolar disorder is a health condition – there shouldn’t be shame associated. Friends and families of those with mental health conditions should do what they can to educate themselves, take the burden off of us. Then come to us with questions, help us break down assumptions and stigmas together.

 

Oh and ya know, sorry about not writing in forever, I promise I’m getting my poop in a group! But hey, that’s why this blog is Jessiedoeslife and not Jessiemasteredlifeandhasherpoopinagroup100percent. You get the behind-the-scenes hot-messery that is me dealing with my bipolar disorder and trying to take on the world!

Cheers,
Jessie

 

Cocktail Hour – Mental Health and Medications

Treating Neurodiversity

When your brain chemicals work differently than most peoples’ and it’s enough to become a hindrance to your life, you may choose to address the issue with medication.

Bipolar II was a diagnosis I received something like 11 years ago.  I didn’t take it seriously until something like 4 years ago.  I didn’t find the perfect “cocktail” of medications until a little over a year ago.  And now, I’ll be entering new territory all over again as I change my cocktail in an effort to make my body chemistry the least destructive to reproducing.

 

My Personal Current Bipolar Medication Cocktail

I’m currently on three medications in three varying doses taken in the AM and PM.  I have one of those weekly pill divider things that I have to be sure to remember any time I go somewhere overnight.  I have to “reload” the weekly divider/dispenser every Sunday because if I left it up to “in the moment Jessie” to remember opening each of the three bottles every morning and every evening to take them, the odds are very slim that there would be any regularity.  I’ve tried a lot of the medications out there, including Lithium, and this past year has been a wonderful reprieve from the daily uncertainty of how my neurodiversity would allow me to feel.

***It is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT that anyone reading this realize that what works for one person (or even the majority of participants referenced in a study) may not work for you.  Your psychiatrist is your most knowledgeable ally.

Currently I’m prescribed the below medications:

Lamotrigine, 100mg, 1 in AM and 1 in PM (brand name Lamictal, anticonvulsant and mood stabilizer)

Bupropion HCL XL, 150mg, 3 in AM (brand name Wellbutrin, antidepressant and smoking cessation aid)

Trokendi XR, 100mg, 1 in PM (anticonvulsant, nerve pain medication (migraines), and a whole lot of things that haven’t been tested enough to prove (mood disorders, alcoholism, binge eating)

 

Excuse me, bartender

I had an appointment with my OBGYN last week and we talked about these medications and their effect on pregnancy.  I started out by saying “Ok, so I don’t actually have a partner right now and this is years out, but I want to ask now, what medications can I continue for my mental health that won’t harm a potential baby?  Is that weird?  Too soon?”  She responded with a no and thanked me because apparently most women that she sees on medications for mental health just kind of stop taking their meds when they find out they’re pregnant.  Sometimes it goes just fine, but sometimes it makes things way more difficult.  So ok, I didn’t feel like some super duper A-type personality planning my life out way before I needed to.  She looked at her super official database and explained that there are categories for drugs relating to safety during pregnancy now which you can learn about here, and check out this handy table below!

medcategories

She said that the lamotrigine was fine and could be continued.  She said that she’s actually prescribed the bupropion to pregnant women who smoke in order to help them quit while pregnant – neat bit of info!  But. . . the trokendi is a big fat D.   Back to the drawing boards we go!  I’ll be doing some research these next couple of weeks to see what potential meds might work for me in order to replace the trokendi (or change the dosage of my other two), then bring that to my psychiatrist and see what her suggestions are.  My last appointment with her I got what I consider to be the gold star of proving that you’re properly caring for your own mental health – she said she didn’t need to see me for SIX months!  Usually it’s every 3 months but I’ve been solid on the current cocktail so unless I had issues come up, she was fine seeing me in 6 months.  I actually felt a weird sense of pride.

 

What Might Work for You?

I won’t say that taking care of your mental health is easy.  Nothing is easy about this.  You have to be vigilant and do the hard work.  The thing is, YOU ARE WORTH EVERY BIT OF THAT HARD WORK.  Your stability, should you enjoy that kind of thing, is worth every annoying minute you spend on hold with the new receptionist at your psychiatrist’s office.  Your happiness is worth those $60 copays with your therapist (I’m fortunate enough to have health insurance, but I also know a lot of therapists who offer sliding scale rates for self-pay clients).  Your success in life is worth you taking your mental health just as seriously as you take your physical health.  Whatever is nagging at you, don’t let it build – something like a “mental” cavity which can be taken care of with a small fix like a filling, is way easier to work with than a rotted tooth that requires a root canal.

Aside from a psychiatrist or therapist, YOU can also be your most knowledgeable ally by keeping a short but sweet daily log of your happenings and feelings.  This simple practice has helped me immensely in figuring out triggers so that I can better avoid them.  Once you start trying new medications it’s also a huge help to go into your next psychiatrist’s appointment prepared to answer the questions of how the new med made you feel and when did it start making you feel that way.  I know I’m super forgetful with that stuff, then add on the fact that a few of the meds I’ve tried have “brain fog” as a side effect and you’re self-reporting from memory may just as well be told by your cat.  Even if you don’t go the route of seeing a professional for any mood disorder, keep this daily log/journal for your own personal emotional processing and potential pattern-finding.

Be kind to yourself.  I can write this post after several years of counseling and medication management under psychiatric supervision.  I promise you I was not, and am still not, the shining example of “Little Miss You Can Do It!” all the time.  Reality is a lot harder than words on a blog.  But try.  Just try.  Every day try to be kind to yourself and allow yourself the room to figure this all out.  If I can realize, at 32, that I might just want to have “the thing” I’ve been saying I don’t want aallllll along, then all is fair game in the name of personal growth.