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You're not BiPolar. You're just Moody.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Well, moody, schmoody!

I'm not BiPolar. My sister is, my daughter is, and my dad may well have been. So does that track a genetic component? Well, I'm not a geneticist, but it does make me wonder a bit.

BiPolar disorder (used to be called manic depressive) is another of those brain-chemical insufficiency situations. It has two components, and both have to be present for a diagnosis.

First, depression. BiPolar people can get seriously depressed, morose, self-critical, self-blaming and even self-hating. For them, it's part of a cycle. Remember that word: cycle.

Second, manic phases. For some these are truly horrible. They gamble away their homes and families, they take drugs, they do any number of things they wouldn't really do otherwise. They feel 'on top of the world' like nothing can stand in their way. An alternative cycle is 'sub-manic', where things don't get quite so 'high'. My relatives do the sub-manic thing most of the time.

The third thing that has to exist is a cycle between the two phases. This cycle is really, really hard to live with. For some, the cycle goes faster under more stress and they can whip in and out of a phase in a matter of hours. It's scary for them, and hard to deal with for us.

What does this mean? Well, around here, a life with little or no sleep, constant exhaustion, a bad temper, and the real belief that stuff's just not worth the effort. What stuff? Any stuff. The down phase can cause overeating, refusing to eat at all, and a lot of other not=healthy reactions. The sub-manic phases cause silliness, high energy, sometimes anxiety.

What can be done? Well, there's the proverbial bucket of drugs one can always repair to. For a family member, we remain vigilant for cycles and try to be supportive. As she learns to recognise them and accept them, we learn ways to mitigate the worst of it. Our move, for example, was carried out in a very controlled fashion so there was as little true chaos as possible, and her things were always where she knew where they were (even more true for her service animal). We helped bring some organization out of the upheaval in her physical space so she didn't begin to feel hemmed in and helpless. We watch the amount of 'just sugar' around here, so she doesn't go into a cycle over too many Reeses Pieces.....

And we do all we can to further research into this sometimes devastating syndrome. There has to be a way to gain better control over it, and to put it in 'social engineering' terms, to cut down the lost time at work, the increase in health care costs. More, much more than that: there has to be a way to cut OUT the human misery caused by a condition we really still do not understand, despite the name-change.
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