So – yesterday I described what Bi-polar is and the symptoms.
What causes it? We have no idea. It's the old "genetics and life experiences" bromide. In my case I am absolutely sure that I inherited the predisposition from my bi-polar and possibly schizophrenic father and that witnessing his suicide at age four was the kind of life event that could very well trigger it. But it might have happened anyway. It really doesn't matter where it came from.
How is it treated? In a number of ways. Medics recognise that both the highs and the lows need to be controlled, and that, if you bring people down from the highs (people often resist this – we're having a lovely time up there) then the duration and severity of the lows is reduced. So there are mood stabilisers which are taken regularly and long term. Some people with bi-polar say that taking these mood stabilisers make them feel as if they are looking at life though a letter box. Well – hello – welcome to the world of normality.
I refused to accept that recommended prescription on the grounds that I didn't think it was necessary and that I would manage myself thank you. But then, I have hypo mania, a long cycle and a brilliant therapist. I wouldn't necessarily encourage others to take this route.
Other people take medication as and when needed. I resisted for many, many years, taking anti-depressants. Now I recognise them as a useful resource. This time the high has been so extreme I have realised the potential cost in ruined friendships and family tension and would have had no hesitation in seeking medication had my first line of defence not worked.
There are talking and cognitive therapies, hypnotherapy, EFT, TAT and other therapies which can be really effective. They are not effective for everyone; they are effective for some. Mindfulness works really well too. My hypnotherapist has saved at least two friendships for me this time round. Oh – and in the interests of absolute honesty – wine. Probably too much of it; not recommended, but effective for bringing you down.
But the best way I have found of managing my condition is to become an expert on it and take responsibility for it. I am (reasonably) diligent in completing my Moodscope test every day (and have created a buddy system where friends call me on it if I haven't posted for a couple of days). I notice when I am more creative and when the sleep patterns become disrupted; when I have more energy and less desire for food. Oh, and when I end up injuring my friends through my thoughtlessness and arrogance.
In the depressions I don't notice anything. When I'm spending all day shaking on the sofa, when just getting out of bed, showered and dressed is a major achievement; noticing and analysing is impossible. But I still do Moodscope every day. And I rely on my buddies to watch over me – to send me back to the doctor if the meds don't seem to be working. But afterwards, the analysis of the chart is invaluable.
So, whatever your form of depression/bi-polar, start noticing. Take responsibility. No – it's not your fault, but that's not the point. Start helping yourself. And we'll help you too.
A Moodscope member.