Are you listening?
François-Marie Arouet — the person we are more familiar with as “Voltair”, a French Enlightenment Writer and Philosopher said,
“Madness is to think of too many things in succession too fast, or of one thing too exclusively.”
He was describing, quite perfectly, bipolar disease.
I chose the word “disease” over “disorder” intentionally because frankly, bipolar is not a “disorder”, it is a “disease”; a disease of the brain.
Bipolar is not someone’s “imagination”, nor is it just a, “chemical imbalance”, but instead is something that we can now see on an MRI. There are currently many studies taking place and adjustments being made to how MRIs can be used and are read when it comes to diagnosing and treating some “mental illnesses” like bipolar.
“Professor Philips told the Congress that scans of the brains of people who are suffering depression or bipolar disorder show ‘functionally coupled’ activity in two regions of the brain, the amygdala which processes emotions, and the pre-frontal cortex, important for emotional regulation.” ~ Medical News Today
But, that’s not all. Images show significant differences between a bipolar brain and a non-bipolar brain.
“Recent research utilizing brain-imaging and post-mortem brain tissue samples suggests oxidative damage to cells of the brain and spinal cord plays a strong role in the development and progression of bipolar disorder” ~ Wang et al, 2009… and … “Brain-imaging is used to study the brain’s structure and neural activity in patients with bipolar disorder. These studies have indicated changes in size, shape, and function of several areas of the brain including the anterior cingulate cortex and the prefrontal cortex.” ~ NIMH, 2013
In addition, when a bipolar patient is suicidal, that too can be seen, only this time, by way of a blood test.
“The researchers analyzed the blood of participants who reported a dramatic shift from feeling no suicidal thoughts at all, to strong suicidal ideation. Results of the analysis revealed significant gene differences between the patients who experienced high states of suicidal thinking and the people with low states of suicidal feeling. The researchers say they found that the marker SAT1, alongside a series of others, was a strong “biological signal” associated with suicidal thoughts.” ~ Medical News Today
These are biological markers that need to be understood and taken into consideration in our treatment. No more should we be administered to cookie-cutter style by psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians and counselors ; those who treat us need to stay abreast of these studies and new treatment options.
This also means our caregivers need to take more care in listening to us tell them about what and how we are actually feeling as individuals and not just some line item description in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association .
It’s Because We Care That It’s Not Fair
Those same discoveries also need to be recognized and embraced by our family and friends. Bipolar is not a choice and the lack of support and understanding is just another undeserved punishment.
“For good reason, most bipolar people are shy about their illness… It’s an easy litmus test: when a man educates himself about my illness, I know he really cares for me. But when that same man uses his knowledge as a weapon – watch out. We’re in for big trouble. Knowing about my illness is a sacred trust; don’t abuse it.” ~ Psychology Today
I have bipolar. It’s not a secret. It’s important to me that those I am in daily — or at least frequent proximity with, know I have it. They also need to know what that means for me in order to know what that means for them and how, if at all, it will affect them and what to do if something “bad” were to happen.
If you choose to not listen; to negate or otherwise overlook what has been shared and what it could mean, then that is not our fault. If you have no interest yet still choose to engage, then that too, is not our fault.
“Manic episodes can also have psychotic symptoms present. Psychosis is a state in which a person is unable to tell the difference from reality and unreality. Psychotic symptoms indicate a severe mood episode that requires immediate medical attention and treatment.” ~ Psych Central
But, at the same time…having bipolar is no guarantee something bad will happen, it is not even a “given”and therein lies the problem when I — and other people with bipolar, try to “share”.
Is It Impolite To Point Out You’re Being Impolite?
…which is really misplaced expectations. Um hello? You have seen “The Secret”, right? OK then, stop putting that negative juju out there, trust me, we don’t need it. The last thing we need is to be judged for something we have no choice but to own. It’s also unfair, so remember, when you belittle…YOU are small.
“Not only did bipolar rob me of my sanity, but it robbed me of my ability to see beyond the space it dictated me to look. I no longer could tell reality from fantasy, and I walked in a world no longer my own.” ― Alyssa Reyans, Letters from a Bipolar Mother
…ignorance is the better word, but I’m being polite. If you choose to not understand, that is a choice and in making it you are choosing to not be a loving, supportive friend, spouse or family member. We need you to understand because we need you. You and your love is a large part of our well-being. Your disgust is our demise.
“When you are mad, mad like this, you don’t know it. Reality is what you see. When what you see shifts, departing from anyone else’s reality, it’s still reality to you.” ― Marya Hornbacher, Madness: A Bipolar Life
Fear & Self-Loathing
There is no amount of loathing on your part that will change what happened with the bipolar person. The sad reality is your loathing only increases our own self-loathing and genuinely submerges us deeper into the pit of depression that always follows a manic [read psychotic] episode. Again, we have no choice; this is how our brains work.
We do not get to pick and choose the time of our madness.
We do not get to pick and choose who witnesses our madness.
We do not even get to choose the after-affects of our madness, that part, is up to you.
We are still fun.
We are still brilliant.
We are still lovable.
Don’t stop loving who we are because you have once seen who we can become.
“Bipolar robs you of that which is you. It can take from you the very core of your being and replace it with something that is completely opposite of who and what you truly are. ” ~ ― Alyssa Reyans, Letters from a Bipolar Mother