World Bipolar Day

Each and every year today (30th March) is marked by World Bipolar Day, a day dedicated to the awareness and reduction of stigma of bipolar disorder. World Bipolar day is the initiative of three organisations, those being the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD). This day is appropriately shared with the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was likely to have suffered from bipolar disorder amongst other disorders and illnesses.
Bipolar Disorder (previously known as manic depression) is a condition characterised by cycling through periods of very low (depression), and very high (mania) moods which can last from weeks to months or even possibly years.

Sometimes an individual with bipolar disorder may go through times where their mood is a combination of both depression and mania, this is known as a mixed episode, and is as equally distressing as episodes of both depression and mania. An individual with bipolar disorder may also experience what is known as rapid cycling, this is when a persons mood will fluctuate from depression to mania within hours or days.

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, however, it can be managed so that those who suffer from the disorder can lead a relatively normal life; though that does not mean that it ends the suffering and pain caused by the disorder, rather treatment can make the symptoms become more manageable and easier to cope with. Treatment for bipolar disorder is typically a combination of both medication and therapy. The types of medication and therapy used varies as the management of bipolar disorder will be different for each and every individual. Although rare, some individuals may find that they are treatment resistant meaning that medication will not benefit them in any way, though therapy may still be an option.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), bipolar disorder is the 6th leading cause of disability across the globe, as well as being identified as one of the top causes of loss of years of life and health in those 15 – 44 years old. It is estimated that 2% – 7% of the population of the US suffer from the disorder, and almost 10 million people will develop the disorder sometime during their lives, yet half of them will never receive the correct diagnoses or treatment. Within the UK, approximately 723,248 people suffer from bipolar disorder, which equals to 1% – 2% of the population. On average it takes 10 years to receive the correct diagnoses, with an average of being misdiagnosed 3.5 times before receiving the correct diagnoses.
Bipolar Disorder Facts:

There is more than one type of bipolar disorder, these include:

– bipolar type I: considered the classic type of bipolar, the individual will experience periods of both mania and depression of varying lengths

– bipolar type II: the individual will experience episodes of hypomania (a less severe form of mania) as well as depressive episodes equal to that of bipolar type I

– cylcothymia: a chronic but less severe form of bipolar disorder, which is characterised by experiencing episodes of depression and hypomania that lasts for at least two years

rapid-cycling: in order to be diagnosed with rapid-cycling, the individual must experience four or more episodes of depression, mania or both within the same year

bipolar with psychotic features: the individual will experience psychosis during episodes of mania, depression, and a combination of the two

– Bipolar disorder is an episodic illness, meaning that there are typically periods of stability and normal mood in the individual, however, this varies greatly from person to person

– The types of episodes found in bipolar disorder include:

– depression: a period of extremely low mood

– mania: a period of having an extremely elated mood

– mixed episodes: a combination of both mania and depression

– hypomania: a less severe form of mania

– When an individual is experiencing a severe episode of depression or mania, they may also experience psychotic symptoms

– The median onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years old, although the onset can occur as early as childhood or at any given age

– The disorder increases the risk of suicide by 20 times

– Bipolar disorder can and will effect every aspect of an individuals life

– Bipolar disorder does not discriminate, it effects men and women equally, as well as those of all races, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic class
In comparison to other health conditions, those who suffer from bipolar disorder, or any other form of mental illness, are far more likely to face stigma. Stigma may present itself in many forms, some more subtle than others, however, it all contributes to the negativity surrounding mental illness. In turn, this negativity causes people to become far less likely to talk about their problems or to try and find help. Over the years, stigma has and still continues to cause vast amounts of damage to those suffering from mental illness, it is time to bring an end to this.

Firstly, begin with yourself. Educate yourself, followed by those around you, show support to those suffering from bipolar disorder or any other form of mental illness. Learn to respond to what you do not understand with kindness rather than ignorance and fear. We all have a choice in this, therefore use your own power to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. If each and every person did this, stigma would no longer be a problem.

I stand with those who suffer from mental illness, I will forever continue to raise awareness and give my support to those who need it. I am one of you, and I will never be ashamed of that.

Autumn Days and Winter Sunsets

Although I went through some of my darkest days throughout the passing autumn and winter, nature continuously reminded me that there is and always will be beauty and serenity within this world.

As much as I do not partake in my hobby of photography as I would like to, I did manage to take multiple photographs of nature throughout the months of autumn and winter, which is one of the small things that allowed me to push through the episodes of depression and psychosis that I was experiencing.

Interacting and being around people is something that I struggle with greatly, which results in long periods of isolation where I will rarely leave my flat, if at all. However, when I am solely amongst nature, there are times when I can feel nothing but tranquillity. Of course, there are times where paranoia and hallucinations take over, but those moments of tranquillity are what I live and strive for.

The Dark Side of Mania

One of the most common misconceptions about mania, is the fact that many believe it is solely a euphoric and extremely happy state of mind in which your self-confidence flows as of that of a great river, and nothing could stand in your way. Although those feelings can and do occur, mania is not necessarily an enjoyable experience, and it certainly has its dark side.

With mania, everything can spiral out of control within the blink of an eye, the individual who is within the the state of mania may fail to recognise this at the time, although that is not always the case. The individual can and very well may be aware of the distress they are in and the damage they are causing, yet it still remains out of their control.
Mania can cause a range of symptoms which can cause a vast amount of distress to the individual, and those around them. This includes:

– irritability and agitation

– anger (to extreme lengths in some cases)

– racing thoughts

– impulsiveness

– recklessness

– a lack of attention / concentration

– grandiosity and a sense of invincibility

– psychosis (hallucinations, delusions, disorganised thinking etc – even in those who do not suffer from a psychotic illness)

– insomnia

This can cause an individual to say or do things that are completely out of character, such as making risky decisions and engaging in dangerous behaviour, being rude or aggressive, and spending money excessively or inappropriately. In a manic state, a person may lack social inhibitions to a significant degree and have an impaired sense of judgement, which is why doing the things previously stated can be extremely easy to do.

As mania also tends to cause a person to suffer from insomnia, this can create a vicious cycle where the insomnia makes the state of mania far more intense, and vice versa.

The crash is inevitable, and eventually it will come. It is most common to come to the realisation of exactly what you have done throughout your state of mania during this period. Which also adds more distress, frustration, guilt, and shame to fuel the crash, as well as the episodes of depression which tend to follow.

It is important to remember that mania affects each individual in very different ways, including the dark side of mania, therefore symptoms will present themselves differently in each individual and may not be easy to identify.

More often than not, it can be exceptionally difficult to talk to an individual in a manic state about their behaviour, as well as attempting to talk them out of bad decisions and dangerous situations. Due to the effects of mania, they may see no problems with their behaviour, especially if they are experiencing states and thoughts of grandiosity. However, this does not mean that you should not be there to support them in every way that you can, although it may be immensely difficult, you may be able to help keep them from harm as well as break through and talk some sense into them.

Depression, Psychosis, and Suicide

As you can tell from my previous article, I have been far from well during these past few months. I began entering a depressive episode towards the end of July, which continued to increase in intensity for the past seven months. This lead to some rather dangerous situations, relapses, and a lot of pain; both physically and mentally.

Although I will do my best to describe the events that occurred, I cannot remember all too much as I have suffered from memory loss for a multitude of reasons, mainly due to substance abuse, dissociation, and dissociative amnesia. Therefore it is important to bear in mind that this is not a detailed description of everything that these past few months have entailed, rather a summarisation of the effects of depression and psychosis and the damage it has, and can cause.

The following excerpts are from my personal journals, which detailed my first hand experiences as they occurred. Although these are extremely personal pieces of writing, I want to share them with you to give you a first hand view of what it is actually like to suffer with illnesses such as schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar, and depression.

– I want to crack open my skull and watch everything pour out as I drift into an eternal cosmic sleep.

13:46 21/11/2016

– All it takes is a couple of seconds to relapse and a whole years worth of work has been thrown out of the window, well done. So now that I am back to where I started, I don’t think that anything ever changed in the first place.

18:01 29/11/2016

– There is something very, very wrong with me and it is not mental illness. This goes far beyond that, this time I cannot be helped.

I feel as if my head is about to explode and that my heart will crash to the floor. I found that as I tried to speak I watched everything pour out until I was left drowning within the depths of my own thoughts.

01:23 02/12/2016

– What am I? There is not one part of me that feels human, all I can see between myself and humanity is difference.

I am not like the rest of you, I never have been; I can feel it crawling through my veins. I do not believe that I can die, physically I can, but my consciousness continues as it always has. I feel as if I have lived a thousand lives and that I will live a thousand more.

There is no end to my torturous existence, in physical death I can only rest, there is no peace.

22:16 06/12/2016

As you can probably tell from the above excerpts, I was very delusional and in an extremely dark place, which tends to exaggerate my psychotic symptoms significantly. During this period I had genuinely lost my mind and the very essence of my being, my perspective had become extremely distorted. I was experiencing an array of hallucinations, those mainly being somatic, auditory, and visual hallucinations; though I found the somatic hallucinations to be the most distressing, and unfortunately, they still are.

My drug use had reached an all time high, which was the last thing I needed at the time, and definitely contributed to the decline in my mental health. I also relapsed with self harm after almost one year of being clean, which was the worst relapse I have ever experienced.

The depressive and psychotic episode I was experiencing reached a climax after months of suicidal thoughts soon became suicidal ideation and behaviour. What was once a thought soon became an action, and my life was on the line. It had reached the point where my suicide attempts were not planned, but spontaneous actions on the days that they occurred, thankfully I came out from them all relatively unscathed.

Since this period in my life, my drug use and self harming behaviours have ceased entirely, and I am doing far better now. I hope to continue down this path of recovery, and aid those who are struggling with their own recovery along the way. Helping you, is helping me; and vice versa.

Returning from my 4 Month Hiatus

As many of you may or may not know, I am finally returning after my four month hiatus away from writing and being involved in the mental health community. My previous article, Disappearing for a While, details the reasons as to why I felt it was necessary to stop writing and begin focusing on myself.

I was in a very unhealthy state of mind and felt that I could not bring anything beneficial to the mental health community at that time, and rightfully so. I spiralled into a severe episode of depression, which caused many of my psychotic symptoms to flare up, though this went unnoticed to others. I can see now that I became very delusional, and that I was extremely far away from what most would call ‘reality’. This lead to more than one attempt on my life, as a result I began taking medication once again, though due to a severe reaction I ended up needing to be hospitalised in order to recover.

Though I have ceased taking medication as a result of what occurred, I am finally on an upswing again, and will be writing about all the events mentioned here in detail. This is merely a general overview of what has been going on in the past few months, and what is going to happen from this point onward.

Although I left on relatively bad terms, I believe that it was necessary and I am glad that I did so as I am back now better than ever. A lot has occurred in the past four months, which I will definitely be writing about in the forthcoming weeks. I will not be as active as I have been in the past with my writing, though I aim to update this blog weekly at a minimum.

I wish to use this blog as a tool for recovery and helping others once again, and now that I have become far more recovery orientated with a healthier mindset I believe that I will be able to do this. Returning to being involved with the mental health community is something that I am greatly looking forward to, and I hope those I have previously associated with have been well in my absence. You are the people who continue to inspire me to do what it is that I do, so for that, I thank you.