Mental Health Update 1/13/20

Hi friends! It’s 12:03pm on this Monday afternoon. I’m sitting in the car, on my way to a buffet for lunch with my parents and grandmother. I just got back from the psychiatrist’s office and learned a lot about my bipolar disorder, so my mind is racing. Hence, I felt the need to write and share some of the things I’ve learned.

Well, the good news is, I do NOT have ADHD! The thing with ADHD and bipolar mania is that there’s much overlap in the presentation of both illnesses. The doctor explained it with a venn diagram. One circle represents ADHD, and the other bipolar mania/hypomania. In the middle is an overlap, where similar symptoms of both illnesses reside. The difference between ADHD and bipolar mania is that with ADHD, the restlessness and hyperactivity is persistent and long-term, not just a passing phase, like it is with bipolar mania.

So even though I’m currently experiencing symptoms that may present as ADHD, these symptoms are not something I’ve been experiencing long-term, and thus, are not representative of ADHD. Good. I was worried for a hot second that I’d have yet another mental illness to take care of. No need to take Adderall. The doctor simply increased my dosage of Lamictal (a mood stabilizer) as well as Abilify (an anti-psychotic). We’ll see how the updated regimen goes.

Some more good news—based on my global distress scores, I am doing a lot better than I was several months ago when I first moved back to the Bay Area. Not quite as manic, and certainly not as depressed. Lately, though, there has been a surge in my moods, which may be indicative of another hypomanic episode. Not sure what the cause of it is this time around, but basically, I have many goals on my plate: work as a behavior technician treating kids with autism; study for the GRE; train for a dance competition in February; continue working as an SAT English tutor, and possibly teach SAT math as well; write on my blog and website; network with sports psychologists; the list continues. The psychiatrist told me that even though I am a talented, ambitious, capable individual (aww, thanks, doc!), it’s important for me to not pile on too many goals, lest I wish to trigger another manic episode. She described mania as a positive feedback loop. When you’re manic, one of the symptoms is grandiosity and unrealistic ambition. You set way too many goals and function at 100 mph, getting by with little to no sleep. All this can exacerbate the mania, which in turn increases your symptoms, and the cycle continues.

I need to be very conscientious of my moods and know the difference between happiness and mania, sadness versus depression. It’s a very fine line, and many people take years before they can fully distinguish between normal fluctuations in moods and manic/depressive episodes. I have my work cut out for me, but as I always like to say, God gives us challenges that He knows we can handle. I can combat my bipolar. I can be successful and make a positive impact on this world, whilst managing bipolar. I can live a happy and healthy bipolar life.

The psychiatrist also recommended a book called “Touched With Fire”, written by American psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison, who struggles with bipolar disorder herself. In the book, Jamison explores the potential correlation between artistic, creative minds and bipolar disorder, using case studies of famous figures in history who have suffered from bipolar (like Abraham Lincoln, for instance). Will definitely read the book and write a reflection once I finish it!

Speaking of bipolar in media and pop culture… there’s this new fictional Netflix show called “Spinning Out” that follows the life of a competitive figure skater. Funnily enough, this figure skater also struggles with bipolar disorder. Unlike her mother, who also suffers from the illness, the figure skater has been able to manage it. It is very interesting seeing the parallel lives of two closely-related people—one who is highly functional with bipolar, and the other who has let the illness consume her. It’s also interesting seeing the illness in the context of competitive sports. I can’t help but think this show was meant for me! So intrigued I am by it, I am taking close notes of dialogue that I find interesting, enlightening, or emotionally-striking. Will compile all of these quotations at the end and write a blog about it.

Alrighty, folks, time to go! Here’s to happiness, health, and in my case, stability.






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