Ten years ago my daughter was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She was eighteen. I was clueless. A few years ago I attended a lecture on the subject at a local college campus. The speaker was Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, one of the leading experts in the field. Author of An Unquiet Mind, she knows her stuff. Jamison was diagnosed with bipolar in high school. She fought against it for years.
Her comments will give you a better understanding and more compassion toward your loved one. These are my notes from her lecture. (Part 1 of her talk was the subject of my last blog on 2/4/15. It focused on the reasons bipolar sufferers resist or stop taking medication.)
Q & A:
1. Words of hope given to a twelve-year-old diagnosed at age eight. “There’s no end of hope to offer you. You can be very successful and have a good life. This is a VERY treatable illness! It will only become more treatable as time goes by.”
2. Should someone who is bipolar have children? YES! It is absolutely appropriate! While there are additional challenges, they can be overcome. It’s NOT always hereditary. If their child was diagnosed bipolar, by the time the child is an adult there will be another twenty years of advancement made.
3. What can you do when someone won’t admit they have a problem? You have to wait for unpleasant experiences to happen to open their eyes and convince them. But that’s also why we have certain civil laws, like the Baker Act and the Marchman Act, to protect people who are deemed a danger to themselves. You can take advantage of these laws to save their lives, if it comes to that.
4. In women, are there times in their lives when they are more prone to become bipolar, or when the disease may intensify and worsen? Yes – onset of puberty, pre-menstrual times, postpartum and post-menopause. They may become more agitated, depressed, and even suicidal. Be aware and watch closely.
5. How can you maintain your creativity when on mood stabilizing medications? (most creative people – artists, writers, musicians, actors have this concern) You CAN still be just as creative if you work closely with your doctor. Close monitoring of your moods can help them find just the right dosages of meds that won’t sedate or lessen your creative energy. It CAN be done.
This is a photo of my daughter. It’s very important to her to maintain her creativity.
But it takes a lot of cooperation from the patient. They must remember how paralyzing and debilitating their severe depression stages are. They can last six to eighteen months. There’s very little creativity going on then! They need to keep in mind that this is a recurrent illness that gets worse over time if not treated. It’s harder to treat if let go for a long time. Therefore, going untreated actually causes a loss of creative time. They lose a lot more than they gain in the long run.
We must become educated to manage the illness either for ourselves, or to be more understanding and compassionate with our loved ones.
Dr. Jamison has three great suggestions for your bipolar loved one:
When you go to your doctor (psychiatrist) take a list of questions like, “Am I doing as well as I should be?” Go to advocacy support groups (NAMI) and let your family help you.
Jamison believes that science is moving so quickly it generates much hope, whereas in the past there was none.
Hope. Something we all need more of. Thank you, doctor, for sharing your experiences and wisdom – for offering us light in what has been a frigjhening, dark world. God bless you and may He help us.
*If you order her book, please do so through our website and it will help our ministry, Hope for Hurting Parents. (hopeforhurtingparents.com)