Tag Archives: bi-polar

Carer’s rights — and obligations

A few weeks ago I noticed a woman who was clearly having trouble walking a dog. I offered to help. Basically, the demented Dalmatian was walking her.

She was talking care of a neighbour’s fido and, well, wasn’t used to being around canines.

‘He’s not doing it to be bad, he’s an animal. He doesn’t know any better so he’ll just naturally push any limit’ I explained and gave her some tips on how to be the pooch’s alpha.

The same can be said of our bipolar relations. i was thinking about this when reading about advocates for the rights of caregivers. I’m slightly ambivalent about this sort of thing outside of a professional context. Unlike an employment contract, we’re binding ourselves to our mentally ill parents out of a sense of duty. Having set this expectation for ourselves, we are obligated to be civil.

No matter what repetitive stupidities come out of your bi-polar parent’s mouth, keep quiet. Having set yourself up as care giver, and you’re supposed to know better. Just don’t say anything. While I have been sorrily tempted to make a rude gesture behind my bi-polar parent’s back, or when reaching into a string bag, I have never done so. I have told her to fuck off and occasionally laughed in her face, but those were immediate reactions and hopefully few and far between.

You don’t owe your bi-polar parent anything, but having put yourself in the situation, I think you’re obligated to be civil, at least when within ear shot. After all, we’re supposed to know better.

This is the part of my job I hate

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Video: Who Cares — A Film for Carers

Who Cares — A Film for Carers is a short film highlighting how mental illness can effect family members who often become carers themselves. It can be overwhelming and these films want to spread the word that carers are not alone in their struggles. Each section is about half a dozen minutes.

  • Part One — The film begins with a mother whose son is at university and begins to have signs of a mental disorder. From then on, Fiona enters the world of the family caregiver for the mentally ill.
  • Part Two — Adam, 26, finds his wife becoming different woman. At first he thinks Sandra has the ‘flu.
  • Part Three — Seventeen year old Rachel observes that her mother’s depression was a long time in the making.
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Article: The bipolar explosion

An article in The Guardian observes that ‘It was precisely when patents ran out on the big-selling tricyclic antidepressants in the mid-90s that bipolar suddenly became the recipient of Big Pharma marketing budgets.’

In the early 20th century the prevalence of manic depression was put at less than 1% of the population, but this figure exploded with the ramification of the bipolar categories. If bipolar 1 was often equated with classical manic depression, bipolar 2 lowered the threshold dramatically. Bipolar 2 and a half, 3, 3 and a half, 4, 5 and 6 soon followed. Today there is even “soft bipolar”, which means a patient “responds strongly to losses”. The World Health Organisation deems bipolar the sixth main cause of disability for people aged 15-44. In children, the diagnosis has increased by over 400%.

Historians of psychiatry have all made the same observation: it was precisely when patents ran out on the big-selling tricyclic antidepressants in the mid-90s that bipolar suddenly became the recipient of Big Pharma marketing budgets. Websites helped people to diagnose themselves; articles and supplements appeared all referring to bipolar as if it were a fact; and nearly all of these were funded by the industry.

Of course, the rabbit in the hat here was that the anticonvulsant sodium valproate received a patent for use on mania at exactly this time. Just as depression had been marketed as a disorder by those who purveyed a chemical cure for it, so bipolar was packaged and sold along with its remedy.

Read more…

The Guardian

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Advice for Newbies

Once you’ve been a caregiver for a bi-polar person for several decades, your perspective will change. People who are dealing with a newly-diagnosed bi-polar person have enough to deal with; so if you’re participating in a caregiver support group that meets occasionally, you have to be clear of where you are. Newcomers to the unending joys of caregivers to the bi-polar will be at sea still; that the moderator may ask the more experienced among you to stop being so, umm, blunt.

This is why this blog is about multi-decade caregivers. I have little practical advice for anyone who is a newcomer to caregiving for the bipolar because that’s a distant memory but here goes.

If you are a newcomer to caregiving for a bi-polar adult, you may be in the shock phase, or in the grateful phase now that your partner or parent is over the crisis that finally got a doctor into the picture. You will be so grateful that the person is in treatment that you make the mistake of thinking he or she is better.

Get over the immediate crisis, pick up the pieces and get on with your life. You will reach a few points in the next few years where the person may become toxic on medications, so watch out for that. No, seriously, watch the blood levels because these are strong medications and need to be respected because they can knock a patient off her or his feet if the levels creep too high. The result may be psychosis or falls and kitchen accidents.

What will happens is that once the meds kick in, you’ll have comparative relief. The extreme highs of the person’s mania and oceanic lows are mediated — and you think it’s better. Incorrect. It’s merely less bad in the way that if you have both hands on two bunsen burners until your palms start burning.

Now remove one hand. Doesn’t that hand feel soooooo much better?

What the meds to is make it hard for the patient to alter affects quickly. In other words, they change direction like a bus rather than a sports car. They can still reach those manias and depressions but not as quickly, and therefore not as often. They will still lack common sense, good judgement, a sense of proportion or any ability ability separate needs from wants; i.e. the rest of the universe from their egos. The medications will do nothing to correct this.

Here’s that point again

The meds reduce the rate at which mood varies, and a few other things such as sleep patterns, anxiety and restlessness. All of the underlying personality issues are not correctable through medication. Their inherently poor thought processes, lack of judgement, insight, and character issues such as narcissism and immaturity,  are not treatable through pharmaceutical therapy. What the meds to is add inertia to mood.

The severely mentally ill never really get better. They only get slightly less bad. You will be holding your breath for the rest of your life, waiting for the next artificial crisis. Imagine Woody from Cheers having power over family finances and you’ll imagine your stress levels. It will be the most unsatisfying, frustrating relationship you have in your life by any measure so be dutiful bit distant is my advice.

I know how cruel this sounds but you have every right to live a satisfying life, too.

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