Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bipolar disorder aka Manic depression

This week I watched the documentary by Stephen Fry titled the Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. By sheer coincidence, an episode of SVU also had a story on manic depression.

Not that the symptoms are anything new to me, in fact my wife suffers from bipolar disorder.
The intriguing question for me is how much of the disorder is what makes the person what they are? It's not a simple question nor is it a very approachable subject.
Let's begin with the fact that a person suffering bipolar may appear to be normal in all respects. They will exhibit eccentric behavior and they will also exhibit manic behavior. In fact, they are very exciting people to be around. Of course they can also be extremely depressed. This fact begs the question of how much of that manic, impulsive, wild, uninhibited, erratic behavior is what attracted me to my wife when I first met her? A frightening thought for me.
These days, with regular medication to treat bipolar, the unpredictable and irrational behavior has been removed from her personality. She is very docile, lethargic and verbally restrained as well as emotionally taciturn. Do I miss the days prior to her medication?Yes and no.

Stephen Fry in the documentary is adamant that he will never allow medication to control his disorder. In the SVU episode, Eliot's daughter is brought to the realization that she must accept medication or face time in jail. Stephen Fry mentions that his manic episodes that involved stealing did in fact result in jail time.

The dilemma for those that suffer bipolar disorder is this. Will their condition cause harm to themselves and those around them? If so then the justification for medication is apparent.
On the other hand, will the bipolar sufferer wait for the trigger of a stressful event to see how out of control their behavior might become? In that scenario, the possibility of suicide is very real.
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Jeannie said...

I'm sure there are varying degrees of the disorder - It would be hard to tell when mood swings require medication - and does the medication blunt the "real" personality? I suppose it depends on the individual and where they are at in their lives. Given that my own anxiety verging on paranoia at times has been remedied by an inexpensive food supplement, I wonder whether other mental "illnesses" may be due to an unusually high requirement of some other nutrient(s). How different might my life had been - how different would I have been if I had known about my needs as a teen? While I realize that not all "natural" remedies are that effective, there is so much we don't know.

Lexcen said...

Jeannie, true there is much we don't know. The hardest of any diagnosis is to detect bipolar in an individual. Since this illness has only been "discovered" recently, we can only hope that further research will help us learn more about it. The medications now available have side effects that are horrendous. Largactil, which is what K takes gives her mild symptoms of parkinson's disease.

Jeannie said...

Right - I was thinking of the side effects of the drugs - which certainly are to be taken advantage of as necessary. My daughter was taking an antidepressant which made her just not care. When she decided to get off them, withdrawal was horrendous - and she had to deal with that as well as the issues that put her in depression in the first place - she wished she had just dealt and skipped the drugs. Weighing the benefits vs side effects is the difficult part. What amazes me is that I don't even remember how I stumbled on the GABA for anxiety for myself. I had been taking 5HTP which helped in it's way but the GABA blew that out of the water. As an added benefit, it keeps my muscles from spasming as much so it helps with my arthritis pain as well - and NO side effects at all.

Anonymous said...

I hate my meds. The muse departs whenever I'm on them and my creativity and joie de vie plummet.

I'd go off them entirely, except I'd probably find myself committed to the psych ward.

Anonymous said...

A courageous post, Lexcen. It is those wild, uninhibited parts that draw us to people, right? I have one relative who is bipolar and he refuses to take medication. He is a danger to himself and others, but boy is he charismatic.

I've struggled with depression for over ten years, and still haven't found the perfect solution. I'm either left numb, or planning my exit. Thankfully, I'm in a peaceful place right now.

Lexcen said...

Titus, K also takes a large dose of efexor.

Anonymous said...

It's effective, no doubt about it. It makes me feel like I did before I suffered from a "psychic break" (read nervous breakdown) about eight years ago.

And much as I may have enjoyed my life before and since, there was an approx/ three year period following the break during which my creativity was literally "through the roof"... and I miss it.

Anonymous said...

Of course, I tried doing without the meds and was "weaned" off the Effexor for about two years, but a brief "near relapse" has convinced me that I'm going to have to learn to live w/o my former muse.

Anonymous said...

It's a frustrating side-effect of anti-depressants, especially for artistic people. One of my major complaints.

It makes me wonder how many (and which) of our wonderful artists of the past were suffering?

And WHY, WHY do we consider a pathology of the mind/brain/psyche to be any different than the rest of the body? Why is it shameful or weak in society?

Lexcen said...

Good question Pinky. The line between eccentricity and insanity is unclear. Then there is the idiot savant to consider. Obviously we know so little about the workings of the mind that anything out of the ordinary scares us.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if anyone in my community thinks I'm insane, but I know that I'm a bit out of the ordinary, and I know that I scare a few folks. :-) The more eccentric / artistic I become, the more I'm drawn to like-minded people.

It's more an art than science, I suppose. A psychiatrist wants to treat the symptoms, while a psychologist wants to treat the root of the issue. I guess the line is crossed when a person loses the ability to function.

I just bought a magazine called "Brain" has many articles about brain physiology, pathology, etc. I'll have to post something new and different on my blog.
Thanks for the thoughts, Lex.

Anonymous said...

After finishing a study of Nietzsche, I turned to Freud. And after Freud to the work of Rhawn Joseph and the Neurophilosophy of Paul & Patricia Churchland.

I love their "nuttier" ideas. Freud's letters to his eccentric friend Wilhelm Fleiss. And Joseph's "Transmitter to G_d".

I look forward to seeing what you post, Pinky.

Anonymous said...

Some of the medications to treat anxiety and stress such as Xanax can be immensely beneficial for you if you swallow the pill as per the instructions of the doctor. But if you get hold of the idea that crushing Xanax and then taking it or snorting xanax would be better for treating your anxiety, then you are totally wrong. It is never beneficial to snort Xanax as the binders and fillers in the Xanax pill that are meant to be digested only via swallowing the pill, would be automatically fixed to your body and terrible harm would inevitably ensue. /

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Lexcen said...

Thanks Ravi.