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Bipolar Edumacation

I’ve got people in my life who deal with depression and anxiety, and those mental illnesses are big hitters, for sure. But if we were to stand at the base of a ladder and climb each rung, from my own experience, anxiety hovers around concrete where depression is a bit higher and a bit slippy. Bipolar disorder? You’ll find that rung if you squeeze your eyes shut, fall backwards onto a magic carpet and fly your ass up about 20 floors.

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Bipolar means “two poles”: One pole is depression and one is mania. I think we’re all smart enough to know what depression is, but mania is a bit more convoluted, and just like anything (depression, anxiety, moods, condoms) it’s a bit different for each person. But typically, mania? Feels fucking amazing. Everything is super-sized. When you’re manic, you’re more spiritual, more awake, more sexual, more everything. It’s all so sensitive and it all feels euphoric. Your mind races. You’ve got these fantasmical ideas that will make you rich. You spend a shit tonne of money on the shopping channel. You don’t eat. You don’t sleep. Because you don’t need to.

Mania is fun. Until it goes too far.

There are two levels of mania: Hypo-mania, and hyper-mania.

Hypo-mania flies below the radar; It’s another way to say that someone has “functional bipolar disorder.” Their minds get busy for a bit, and then they settle back down.

Hyper-mania consists of disturbing shit, and often, a bipolar person will only have a handful of hypermanic (crisis) episodes. But trust me, one is enough. In this phase, it is normal to have a complete loss of reality, to feel god-like, and to hear voices (schizophrenic characteristics show up in hyper-mania). You can imagine how dangerous this can be.

A hospital is a safe place for recovery (mania hurts the brain just like inflammation hurts the gallbladder) and medication helps with healing and forward movement, but most people with bipolar disorder are addicted to the euphoric pull of mania and will typically go off their medication as a way to come back to themselves.

And this? Is the pattern. The cycle. It’s a ride that I not only signed up for, but participate in on a daily basis because the inhabitant happens to pour himself into the missing pieces of my heart and show me how to get back up after being humiliated and shamed. He’s taught me how to parent, how to work hard, how to cook steak. Thank God he doesn’t have gallstones.

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Have you ever had gallstones? Do you know anyone who has had to have their gallbladder out?

Did you know all of this stuff about bipolar disorder or did Mrs. Slane teach you something new tonight?

I feel so sexy right now. My name makes me want to wear a full black pleather cat suit. “Suzy Slane.” Seriously hot af.

 

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Jo-Anne King August 31, 2016, 8:55 pm

    Suzy you are amazing. Your honesty and openness about this topic will no doubt help many.
    I have had gallstones and am happy to say YES I have had the gallbladder removed. (actually ALL my expendable parts have been removed) My granddaughter Zoe had her gallbladder removed because of stones at 18. Keep on writing you are inspiring.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 31, 2016, 9:21 pm

      Thank you, Mrs King!!!!! <3 <3 <3 Gallbladder issues are NO JOKE. 🙁

  • Lisa @ Running Out of Wine September 1, 2016, 2:18 am

    You really do such an amazing job of talking about this topic. I have worked with teens who were experiencing manic episodes, and it can be so scary to watch. I can’t imagine what its like for you to support someone so close to you who goes through this regularly.
    I think it helps people to understand what bipolar is really like by hearing stories like yours. Learning about it in a textbook or article just isn’t the same. I felt like reading the book “Fast Girl” even gave me some insight into the complexity and intensity of these issues.
    Thank you for sharing!

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 1, 2016, 7:28 am

      Yes, Lisa you were the one that suggested that book to me and I read it, and lent it out to a few people and we all loved it. Her story is quite different than Andrew’s just because mania is lived out differently in each person, but the busy mind was the same. Fascinating book.

  • Megan @ Meg Go Run September 1, 2016, 2:27 am

    I had friends who would go through hypomania but then when another friend went through hypermania it was so scary.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 1, 2016, 7:25 am

      Yeah, even when we know what’s happening, it’s still really difficult to watch. It’s hard to explain.

  • Allie September 1, 2016, 2:41 am

    No to gallstones and bipolar…well, except for Carrie on Homeland which, based on your lesson, sounds like they portray it quite accurately. I love that you’re talking about this here because we need to educate to stop the fearful nonsense. Next lesson please…

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 1, 2016, 7:25 am

      Thanks Allie!!! Who is Carrie on Homeland? Is that a TV show? I don’t watch TV and so I’m totally out of the loop. I’m going to go look it up now!

  • Susie @ SuzLyfe September 1, 2016, 3:07 am

    My depression can be a bit like a regular sin/cosine curve–up and down, but within means. My understanding of bipolar disorder is a bit like those EKG lines from hospitals–heavens and hells. Two of my best friends’ mothers have bipolar, and one is well cared for (and takes care of herself) and the other doesn’t really and also has alcoholism and it just makes for a rough, rough ride. My heart goes out to you and Andrew, because I know what you are going through is just so challenging, and that you also have so much love for each other, which makes it so much better and so much worse.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 1, 2016, 7:24 am

      “Which makes it so much better and so much worse…” <---- wise words from a wise woman, Susie Q. XO

  • Kristen September 1, 2016, 5:20 am

    Ugh. I’ve had gallstones and had to have my gallbladder removed. It was worse than labour and the recovery from my surgery was also worse than having a c-section. Maybe that’s just my experience. Because, after a c-section you’ve at least got this beautiful little human to distract you.

    Great job at edumacating is, Suz.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 1, 2016, 7:24 am

      Oh, I didn’t know you had gallbladder surgery! OUCH. I’ve heard the stones are so incredibly painful too. That sucks. 🙁

  • San September 1, 2016, 9:13 am

    Watching someone go through a hyper-manic episode is one of the scariest things imagineable. It sounds like it’s all “fun” for the manic person, but it’s very scary to watch from the outside and there is hardly anything one can do to get that person help unless something extreme happens and (even less likely) that person seeks the help themselves.

    Thank you for talking so openly about this, Suzy. I feel like you described the disorder so accurately and it still doesn’t even scratch the surface of going through an episode with someone.

    <3

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 1, 2016, 11:32 am

      Yeah totally. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion and as people on the outside all we can do is stand there like idiots, watching on and waiting until they get help. Most resources are geared toward the person suffering with the mental illness, but I’d like to talk too about what it’s like to be the supportive person.

  • Laura @ This Runner's Recipes September 1, 2016, 9:22 am

    You do an incredible job at discussing this topic – and thank you for your openness, because I imagine it wasn’t easy. It’s so important to discuss these things because often people see just the mental illness, not the person. I keep you and Andrew in my prayers since you first mentioned this.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 1, 2016, 11:30 am

      Thanks Laura. Like, sure… I check with Andrew before I press publish. I’ll read it out, ask him for input, etc. But really? Going through something like this TOGETHER is all about knowing each other so intimately and building a trust so deep (it takes a lot of vulnerability to go through struggles like this) that I already know well enough what I can and can’t write about. It’s not easy putting all this out there, but it’s healing.

  • Wendy Heath September 1, 2016, 5:17 pm

    So… you know I’m an ER nurse, right? So I deal with people in crisis, including mental health crisis, almost every shift. Someone who’s cycled up into full blown mania/paranoia/schizoaffective aspects can be the hardest situation to deal with, especially if they lack the introspection (or are cycled up so far they can’t be at all introspective) to know that they’re off the reservation.

    If there’s a shred of knowing that they’re fucked, and that they need help, it’s so much easier… if that shred is buried, or nonexistent? Oh boy.

    It can be terrifying, exhilarating, frustrating… people can be so amped up that they become physical without even realizing it. For some reason, I seem to have a voice that can cut through someone’s delusions… so I always talk through what’s happening, provide that framework and reassurance, and try to acknowledge what people are experiencing.

    They call me the “crazy whisperer” because often times I can usually de-escalate someone without physical restraints or medication, or even if we have to go that route I somehow manage to bring enough calm to help de-escalate until we can get someone to a safe place physically/mentally.

    I usually say something along the lines of “you seem to be having a really hard time right now and you have lost control of your ability to control this situation, so to keep you safe and to keep everyone else safe we are going to _______ (restrain you, have you sit in this room by yourself with a security guard nearby to keep you safe, give you medication, give you medicine that’s a shot in your muscle.) Once you’re able to regain control and be safe, we can _____ (take off the restraints, have you discuss your medications, etc.) I promise you, we aren’t going to hurt you, and we’re going to do everything we can to keep you and everyone else safe right now, OK?”

    Sometimes, it’s just finding common ground and acknowledgement that allows someone to come down enough to start the work on climbing back to reality… it’s amazing how acknowledging “this really sucks, doesn’t it” and “I know what it’s like to not feel in control of yourself, or to feel that your brain isn’t working right” can do for building those bridges.

    It’s way easier to do that as a nurse than it is as the family member; we have a family member who was bipolar, now mostly schizophrenic/schizoaffective who had to have a hospital stay on a hold to get him back to reality. It’s so much harder to live, and to deal with, when it’s your family. That’s true of any medical situation, I think; actually, that’s what is always the hardest for me, is being the family and/or dealing with the family for someone in crisis. In the moment of crisis, with the person I’m caring for, it’s not as hard- watching a family go through that struggle and identifying with what they’re feeling rips me to shreds…

    Bless, Suzy and Andrew… keep on with the good fight. Lots of love to both of you…

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 1, 2016, 5:47 pm

      Hi Wendy! Yes, I knew that about you. I so wish I had taken the nurse route. I have such a huge pull toward nursing.

      So… yeah. I mean, when I write these posts I’m essentially catering to people who aren’t familiar with this stuff at the same time as preserving the sacredness of the space that Andrew and I share in regards to our situation. Of course we aren’t the only ones out there that have dealt with bipolar disorder and the crisis that comes out of it, and that’s my goal, one of them anyway, to build a bridge between my story and everyone else’s so that we don’t feel so damn alone (mental illness can be so isolating).

      I love how you underlined the fact that relating to your patient is the key to bringing them into reality, even for a glimpse. Because, like I always say, the ability to relate to people, to share, to connect, is a life-saver and in this case, literally. I don’t know what it’s like to have a child that dies, but I know what loss and grief feels like. I may not know what it feels like to have mania but I know what it feels like to lose control. We’re all in this together, and carrying that mentality through the ER doors would make you the kickest assest nurse on the MF planet. <3

  • Kelly Ens September 2, 2016, 9:01 am

    I’m very grateful for what you’ve been writing here about mental illness; I am one of the very uneducated in this area and I don’t want to be one of those people that looks just at what I’m seeing on the surface, but has kindness and grace for people I encounter with mental illness, because God knows that though I may not have a mental illness, I’ve got my own issues underneath the surface that I don’t want to be judged for either.
    And having it explained the way you did, is clear and understandable and makes me think a lot about what life with a loved one who has a mental illness might be like. And I remember you saying in one of your earlier posts about how it can strike anyone, anytime. Anyway…maybe I’m rambling, but thank you for sharing – I’ve really appreciated it. And I give you the highest virtual five to you and Andrew for your partnership, commitment and love!

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 2, 2016, 3:34 pm

      Ramble on anytime! I’m glad I could help! I don’t think you’re the type of person to gets stuck on the surface anyway, otherwise you never would have taken the time to type this comment out. <3

  • Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets September 3, 2016, 6:15 am

    You did indeed teach me something new and I’m grateful for that. You and Andrew are amazing together.

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