Posts Tagged ‘medicine’

This is an excerpt from my guest post on Where I Stand. Please pop over & check it out along with all the other great stuff on there.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that an illness of the brain has so much negative stigma around to it. Whereas an illness to the body is well, for lack of a better word, ‘normal’ and accepted. For me, it can only be explained through fear of the unknown.”


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BBC Three are currently airing a mental health season & last night ‘Diaries Of A Broken Mind’ was on. It focuses on 25 people chronicling their lives via a handheld camera. It was very insightful, as it literally gives you an inside view of people lives with various mental health issues.

As many of you will know I have bipolar…umm for those that don’t…eyes up to the top of the page…hear that? Yep a few pennies dropped right there 😉 Sorry I went of on a tangent there. So I have bipolar, but what this season of mental health programmes is giving me, is a wealth of information & knowledge on other mental health disorders out there.

Have a look at the episode I watched last night. I noticed the uploader’s comment on YouTube mentioned he’d received copyright infringement due to the music content in the programme. So if you can’t access this by the time you try let me know & I’ll change the link.

Let me know what you think?

I appreciate it’s a long documentary, so if you don’t have the time just click to 12mins in & watch until 13:30. This was my favourite part of the docmentary. Partly because of the amazing piece of music in the background, but also because it encompasses really well the stigma we face around mental health in just 1min 30secs.

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I read this post explaining why people with bipolar may live quietly with it for so long, due to the stigma associated with it.. It also lists areas of our lives that bipolar can affect.

The post is Not An Island, from bi[polar] curious.

I’ve pasted below the post in case the link doesn’t work for you.


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about why I lived silently with bipolar disorder for as long as I did.

There was, of course, the terror that people would reject me…

Or that, even worse, they would want to bar me from doing the things that I loved.

As much as that fear was an integral part of my silence, there was something else that I think played a larger role.

I didn’t think bipolar disorder, or the inner workings of my brain anyway, was affecting my life in any significant way. Especially when I was in more stable periods.

I thought of myself as an island, and the only parts that would be effected would be the ones that knew about this hidden illness.

Of course, I was one hundred percent wrong. My mood swings were affecting everyone around me, and were effecting my own life in a very significant way.

I’ve been attending a peer recovery class the last few weeks and early on we made a list of the ways mental illness affects our lives.

It can affect

  • our relationships (with friends, family, co-workers, etc)
  • our ability to work (for better (hypomania) or worse)
  • our ability to complete schooling (at practically any level)
  • our housing situation
  • our financial situation (both via working and due to medical costs)
  • our physical health (depending on how well we can take care of ourselves)
  • our ability to take care of others (children, pets, etc)
  • our spiritual lives

And I’m sure there are more that I’m forgetting! Looking at this list really made me aware of how many aspects of my life are affected by bipolar disorder, not just work and relationships. I know that I’ve experienced every single one of the things on this list, and not in a minute way.

I think that only after being open and honest about what I experience could I get the help that I needed in all of these aspects of life. The result? Though these areas are all affected, I am able to lead a more stable life.

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I’ve just read a top notch article, by Bipolar Babe, titled Mental Health In The Workplace.

I’ve also pasted the article below in case the link above doesn’t work for all.

Let me know what you think of the article?



Mental Health in the Workplace


Mental Health in the Workplace


I recently wrote a BLOG for my other place of employment: The BC Government, so I thought I would share it with you.

Mental health in the workplace has been an emerging trend toward discussing the topic more freely than ever before. Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for the past 10 years, I have experienced both stigma and compassion in the workplace, which partially led me into the non-profit work that I do today. Currently, I facilitate support groups for people affected by a mental health condition and conduct presentations on my personal story in the schools to youth, community organizations and in the workplace. Why do I do this work? I feel it is so important that we approach mental health in an open manner leading us to have conversations free of stigma. Ideally, we ought to live in a world where an employee is not ashamed to disclose the fact that they have a mental illness. It is vital to be able to acknowledge it, because, as I have personally found, it can negatively affect my work, attendance, and even my behavior. Over the years I have had to advocate for myself and now I have an accommodating and positive work environment. This is by no means an easy task because the fear of disclosing remains daunting; however, if my mental health condition is not supported by my employer, then I would simply not want to be employed with their organization.

There are some positive and exciting developments that are taking place for mental health in the workplace, such as the recent Not Myself Today campaign that is supported by partners for mental health in BC. The idea is to wear a badge in the workplace about how you are feeling. Maybe you’re feeling okay – or maybe you’re not yourself today. They propose that the more open we are about how we feel, the more we create a culture of acceptance and support for mental health.

There have been some amazing strides taking place in the private sector that perhaps our government employer could learn from. For instance, Deloitte has installed a black dog statue at its London office as a symbol of commitment to support the mental health and well-being of staff via the Black Dog campaign. The company also has a group of mental health champions who have been trained to have a conversation with an employee who feels that he or she may have a mental illness. This approach is brilliant! Having to face the black dog every day at work reminds employees to be cognizant of their mental health in the workplace and to talk about it!

You may have heard of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), and wondered what it does? The MHCC has led the development of a voluntary National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the workplace and developed recommendations to support increased employment among people living with a mental health problem and illness. It released an action guide to help employers improve the psychological health of their organization and provided guidelines that encourage executive leadership to commit to making mental health in their workplace a priority.

I am hopeful that all employees in our government workplace will encourage this type of mental health action and awareness. Don’t be afraid to say how you are really feeling or to be understanding of the person who may be struggling with a mental health condition. Everybody wants to know that their fellow co-workers care about their mental health. If someone is absent for suspected mental health reasons, don’t tip toe around them, but instead ask them how they are doing upon their return and express your openness as a fellow co-worker that you are willing to listen. When you break the silence, it is more likely that the situation won’t become stigmatized.

What are you doing to create a workplace of empathy and acceptance for all employees and yourself in the workplace? Or what do you think should be done?





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I was looking for positive bipolar stories & came across this.

I’ve pasted it below too in case the link doesn’t work for you.

Let me know if you find stories like this useful or not? Personally I think they are as it’s a reminder you’re not alone if nothing else.


Living Triumphantly With Bipolar

With the recent news that Catherine Zeta-Jones checked into a facility due to mental health problems, there’s been a lot of talk in the media about bipolar disorder. Although it’s sad to hear about anyone suffering with a mood disorder, the good news out of this is that it’s shining a much-needed light on what bipolar is, its symptoms and who it affects (even Hollywood starlets can’t always escape the grip of mental health issues).

So, what exactly is bipolar disorder? According to the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario:

Bipolar disorder is in a class of mood disorders that is marked by dramatic changes in mood, energy and behaviour. The key characteristic of people with bipolar disorder is alternating between episodes of mania (extreme elevated mood) and depression (extreme sadness). These episodes can last from hours to months. The mood disturbances are severe enough to affect the person’s ability to function. The experience of mania can be very frightening and lead to impulsive behaviour that has serious consequences for the person and the family. A depressive episode makes it difficult or impossible for a person to function in his or her daily life.

To make things a bit more complicated, there are two variations of bipolar: bipolar I andbipolar II. Zeta-Jones suffers from the latter, which can go unnoticed for a period of time since the symptoms are less severe than those of bipolar I. Someone with bipolar II can display behaviours that they wouldn’t normally have on a daily basis — they may be able to function on far less sleep than usual, they may have a very irritable, depressive, or exceptionally joyful disposition for a period of time, and/or they may talk much faster than they typically would. Close friends would likely notice the change in behaviour, but those outside of that circle may not be able to recognize it.

On the other hand, those with bipolar I show behaviours that even those outside of their close network would see as abnormal: out-of-control happiness, delusions or hallucinations, seriously inflated self-esteem, overspending of money (as in, going out during their lunch hour to buy a house they can’t afford), interpreting events to be or mean something they do not, among others. Essentially, those with bipolar I have a hard time functioning in their daily lives. What’s more, their symptoms are undeniably abnormal.

I wanted to learn more about bipolar I from someone who has first-hand knowledge and understanding of it, so I got in touch with Leslie Bennett, executive coach, mental health awareness advocate and cofounder of Open Spaces Learning. She is an intelligent, open-minded and highly-accomplished businesswoman who has fought the good fight with bipolar I — and is now thriving. It certainly wasn’t an easy ride, but she has lived to tell the tale and is passionate about sharing her story in hopes that it might help someone else.

At the age of 27, Bennett spoke to her doctor about some depressive mood issues she was experiencing, for which the doctor prescribed antidepressants. At that point in time, she was feeling isolated, as she was living in British Columbia while her family was living in Ontario. To make herself feel better, she was self-medicating by smoking marijuana, staying up late and generally not taking good care of herself.

Perhaps partly because her meds were starting to take effect (and she didn’t realize this to be the case at the time), she decided that she was starting to feel better and took herself off her antidepressants cold turkey and continued to self-medicate. Things took a turn for the worse not long after this, leading to a manic episode that she can’t even recall fully, since the events and timelines are still blurred in her own mind. As she said, “During a manic episode, you see reality differently.”

Bennett’s behaviour was becoming increasingly erratic, and her roommates were really concerned. They called her family to let them know what was going on. So her sister and mother came to visit her in B.C.; they were hoping to bring her back to Toronto to see if they could get her some help. Because of Bennett’s manic episode, she had convinced herself that the people coming to visit her were not her family, but clones of them. She was so convinced, she asked a friend to come with her to the restaurant where they were meeting and bring a video camera to tape it. She thought that she could use the tape as evidence that someone had cloned her sister and mother and could take that to the authorities.

Worried and feeling at a loss in terms of what to do or how to handle the situation, Bennett’s mother had nowhere to turn but knew that her daughter desperately needed help. An RCMP officer told her that if her daughter ever mentioned anything about harming herself or others, she could have her committed to a mental institution. At one point during their trip, Bennett mentioned that she could “jump out of this window” (at 30 floors above ground), and that’s precisely what her mother needed. Bennett was committed to a mental institution for two weeks and was diagnosed with bipolar I. You can read more about her manic episode here.

Bennett eventually moved back to Ontario with her family. Her parents started going to a peer support group, which was immensely helpful for them. Bennett is a big advocate of peer support groups and readily acknowledges the lack of information available for not only those suffering with mental health issues, but also their families. That’s why she’s happy to share helpful information about her own journey and what helped — and continues to help — her live a balanced and stable life. She writes about the importance of getting enough sleep as key in maintaining a mentally stable lifestyle, as well as her focus on some factors that she can control to aid in removing triggers that could affect her balanced state of mind: Food, Sleep, Treatment, Exercise, and Perception (FSTEP).

If you suspect that a family member or close friend is experiencing any mental health problems, or if you’re concerned about your own mental stability, remember that there is help out there. There are mental health practitioners who can help you, as well as peer support groups that offer you the freedom and comfort in sharing your stories, especially with others who understand what you’re going through. Visit www.lesliebennett.ca for information and helpful resources.

A diagnosis of a mood disorder certainly isn’t a death sentence; it can happen to even the most accomplished and seemingly level-headed individuals. Take Bennett’s story as an example and a reminder that you’re not alone. Take it in stride and remember that you can overcome these obstacles and thrive by living the life that you want to lead.

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I found this BBC News piece on Bipolar.

I found it very insightful & the first two lines summed up how I’ve sometimes felt when in a hyper phase.

Have a read & let me know what you think. I’ve also copied and pasted it below in case you can’t access it outside of the UK. I’ve also pasted the related links at the bottom of the story, let me know if you want me to email you a copy, as I don’t think the links will work when I publish this post.




Preventing bipolar relapse with web therapy

Man holding head

“I tend to think I am in a film – it’s like The Truman Show. I’m the star of the film, off on my own planet.

“It’s quite pleasurable for me, but a bit strange for other people.”

Michael, 29, from Cheshire, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after experiencing these feelings during his “most severe high” while travelling after university.

A spell in hospital a few years ago led to weekly sessions of therapy for a year which helped him manage the impact mood has on his life.

But research into web therapy being carried out at Lancaster University may hold the key to ensuring he does not relapse.

As a teenager, Michael had noticeable mood swings to the extent that his GP thought he had ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

But it wasn’t until 2007 that he could put a name to the periods of mania which characterise his type of bipolar disorder.

Stabilising his moods and controlling the triggers for his condition are a daily challenge, and yet being bipolar is clearly part of who he is.

“I’m a very productive person. I have to keep busy and stimulated. People say I’m like a machine sometimes.”


Michael has had 30 or 40 jobs since he was 16. He currently combines three different part-time jobs and he writes poetry and tutors in English during his spare time.

He can experience weeks of low mood too, but the extreme highs tend to dominate.

Michael says having access to an online psychological resource, which has been developed by a research team at the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research in Lancaster, was invaluable because he could tailor it to his own needs.

Prof Steve Jones, who heads the Spectrum Centre, says web therapy provides an alternative to traditional face-to-face therapies which few people with bipolar actually access.

A controlled trial of 100 people with bipolar, half of whom used the interactive web tool, has produced some encouraging findings, he says.

“We provided them with information about what the disorder is and strategies to improve their mood, then we looked at their experiences of recovery and getting on with their lives.

“There was a significant increase in people’s self-reported recovery. They also felt more positive and optimistic.”


He puts this down to a limited knowledge of bipolar disorder among GPs and other medical professionals which means there is often a delay in diagnosis and a lack of information about the nature of the disorder.

“It still takes 10 to 15 years to get a diagnosis in most cases,” he says.

“Some clinicians will just tell people what to do without giving any rationale why. As a result people are half-hearted about the treatment and it doesn’t seem to work because they don’t know what’s in it for them.”

By giving individuals more information they in turn gain more autonomy and can learn to manage their own symptoms.

Offering it online makes it accessible to more people too.

Michael has given his boyfriend and his family access to the online resource so that they can support him in managing his disorder – something he says has been beneficial to them as well.

He says being able to keep his bipolar disorder under control has meant making simple changes to his life.

“If I need to eat, I just need to go and do it. If I need to take a break from work, I have to take one.

“When it’s mental health, you can’t regulate emotions.”

He also tries to maintain a routine and a good work-life balance.

Another study being carried out at the Centre will look at how best to help parents with bipolar disorder.

“If you are living with a disorder characterised by instability then parenting becomes much more of a challenge than for the rest of us,” explains Prof Jones.

By creating a multi-media resource for people to increase their confidence in parenting, the aim is to encourage more stable parenting too.

The knock-on effect may be that their own moods are stabilised and their children become less likely to develop the same bipolar symptoms, which evidence shows is possible in families.


Related Internet links

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I saw this post yesterday & thought it very informative. Please have a read & let me know what you think?


Please do not use the following article for self-diagnosis or the diagnosis of others. We cannot diagnose ourselves. It is intended instead for information and to provide useful subject matter to discuss with a psychiatrist or therapist.

One of the most common questions I face in my bipolar Meetup group is the difference between bipolar 1 disorder and bipolar 2 disorder. I have written up list of all bipolar symptoms, but I thought I’d write a post that deals with the specific symptoms that differentiate bipolar 1 and bipolar 2, so that there can be a handy resource available for understanding the specific differences.

I won’t mention here all of the symptoms of bipolar disorder. This article only discusses the differences between bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. There are a number of shared criteria that must be met before these differences can come into play, and I discuss those in the list linked to above.

One Manic Episode

Vincent van Gogh: Self-Portrait

Public Domain

According to current diagnostic criteria, what differentiates bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 is whether or not someone has had a single manic episode. In some ways, this is a strange distinction, as some people may have had one manic episode during their entire life, while some may have a few per year. Nonetheless, the reason for the distinction is that even a single manic or mixed episode shows that there is likely a different cause, and therefore, different medications and treatment options are ideal.

The question, then, is what differentiates a manic episode from a hypomanic episode. However, one exception must be mentioned before I begin. If a manic episode is brought on by medication, that episode does not count towards a diagnosis of bipolar 1 disorder. In other words, even if someone has had several manic episodes, if all of those episodes were brought on by medication (usually by antidepressants), then that person is not considered to have bipolar 1.

Someone who has had a mixed episode is also considered to have bipolar disorder I. However, since someone is only considered to have a mixed episode if that person also meets all of the criteria of a manic episode, it doesn’t add anything to the diagnosis.


February Calendar

Public Domain

One difference between manic episodes and hypomanic episodes is their duration. A manic episode must last one week, while a hypomanic episode must last at least four days. Of course, a hypomanic episode may last a week or longer, but if an episode doesn’t last a full week, then it cannot qualify as a manic episode.

There is one exception to this, however. I someone is hospitalized, then the duration doesn’t matter, and can be considered manic, regardless of how long it lasts. This is an especially odd criterion, since it would seem that someone who has an episode that lasts one day is having the exact same episode, regardless of whether or not someone notices and takes that person to the hospital (imagine, for instance, someone who lives alone). Nonetheless, if someone is hospitalized, then the duration criterion is waived.

The Three Special Criteria

Let’s look at one of the primary ways manic episodes are differentiated from hypomanic episodes:

The mood disturbance is sufficiently severe to cause marked impairment in occupational functioning or in usual social activities or relationships with others, or to necessitate hospitalization to prevent harm to self or others, or there are psychotic features.

This is really quite interesting. One of the most common misunderstandings of the difference between a manic episode and a hypomanic episode is that a manic episode necessarily includes psychotic symptoms. You’ll notice above that the criterion mentioned above only includes psychotic symptoms as apossible criterion. In fact, if any of the three criteria above are met, it is considered to be a manic episode:

Marked Impairment

This is, unfortunately, a rather vague criterion. The DSM-IV is actually full of these vague criteria, and hopefully the DSM-V will sort out some of this ambiguity. The reference to “marked” doesn’t mean that just any impairment is enough. It must interfere in a significant way, and the degree that will qualify as “marked” may vary from psychiatrist to psychiatrist. Some psychiatrists will be agnostic about whether a given episode meets this criterion, which may mean they end up being agnostic about the type of bipolar disorder someone has.

A hypomanic episode must have “unequivocal” impairment, which is again somewhat ambiguous. The distinction here is between certainty and degree. “Unequivocal” means that there is no doubt as to the impairment, but “marked” means that the impairment is severe.

Necessitating Hospitalization to Avoid Harm

Sankta Maria Mental Hospital

Public Domain

Another common misunderstanding of the distinction between bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 is that any hospitalization implies a manic episode. This is not correct. However, if that hospitalization is done to prevent harm to prevent harm to the patient or other people, then that is considered sufficient to consider it a manic episode (and remember that duration doesn’t matter is someone is hospitalized).

This implies that if someone is hospitalized to prevent self-harm (that is, the person is suicidal or self-destructive enough that the person ends up in the hospital), that person has had a manic episode, regardless of whether or not that person had psychotic symptoms.

Psychotic Features

Psychosis is tricky, because there are actually several different types of psychosis. Moreover, the criterion calls for “psychotic features” rather than full-blown psychosis. There are several of these that are common. Remember that any of these are enough for a diagnosis of a manic episode:

  • Catatonia: The person stops acting in a marked way.
  • Delusions: Delusions are firmly held beliefs that have no evidence and are not commonly held in one’s culture. So, the belief can’t be shaken through counter-evidence, and will not be normally held by that person. The reason for the “culture” reference is that it is assumed that common beliefs that do not have evidence (like superstitions) are caused by the culture rather than a problem in the brain.
  • Delusions of Reference: A delusion of reference means that people give special significance to objects. So, for instance, that person may believe that, as Carrie Fisher put it, God is saving them parking spaces. Objects are considered to be put there just for them.
  • Paranoia: Paranoia is a specific type of delusion in which we believe that certain people are out to get us, for example. It is a firmly held belief that one is in danger from some person or event.
  • Hallucination of ClockDreamstimeHallucinations: Hallucinations include seeing and hearing things that aren’t really there. Note that hallucinations are different from illusions. An illusion is seeing something that is there in a way that it really is not. So, for instance, synesthesia, which is when our senses get mixed up and we see sounds, for instance, would not be considered a hallucination.

Some of the above differences are open to interpretation. For instance, what makes a belief “firmly held” as opposed to just a passing fantasy? The idea is that the belief isn’t open to evidence and isn’t held as a “perhaps” type of belief. Nonetheless, these criteria, too, are open to interpretation.


One thing you’ll notice is that several of the above symptoms are open to interpretation. While some symptoms are obvious and definitely indicate mania, such as hallucinations or hospitalization to prevent harm, others leave a lot of interpretation in the hands of psychiatrists. This interpretation is especially present in what constitutes “marked” impairment as opposed to “unequivocal” impairment, and in what constitutes a delusion. This is why some people will have their diagnosis changed when they get a new psychiatrist. The new psychiatrist may interpret episodes differently.

Nonetheless, the difference between bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 is a real one, but a distinction on a spectrum. Some people find themselves in the middle of this spectrum with occasionally shifting diagnoses. It is a distinction with a difference, but also a continuum rather than a firm line.

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