Let’s Talk….Bipolar Disorder

Today is January, 25th – Bell Lets Talk day. For every tweet, FB video view, text, call #BellLetsTalk and snap chat geo filter, Bell is donating 5 cents to #mentalhealthinitiatives. 

Please participate and and let’s work together to keep the conversations going! 

It’s a small leap, in a huge gap towards ending stigma and finding accurate treatment, creating better laws, and resources for those who are suffering from mental illness; Those like Anthony, who have brain illnesses that steal their being and take their lives. 

Anthony was an intelligent gentle, kind, loving and hilarious husband, father, son, brother, grandson cousin and nephew. My draw to him was his positive outlook on things and his ability to see situations in a way that I couldn’t. After mild behaviour changes through the years, and uncertainty in why, the Disorder came full force by 2012 presenting itself as a severe depressive episode. Finally, In 2013, he was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder after a severe manic episode that threatened his life, our marriage, and many of his personal relationships. 

Bipolar disorder is defined by NAMI as “a chronic mental illness(I prefer Brain Illness – people have kidney disease so we call it kidney disease) that causes dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly.” (www.nami.org)

Symptoms appear generally around the age of 25, and of 2.9 of the US population(nami.org), 1% of the Canadian population and 83% of cases are considered to be severe. If left untreated, the illness continues to progress becoming harder to manage and more treatment resistant. This is particularly true for those with concurrent disorder like addiction. 

Symptoms include hypomania(lots of energy, productive, goal oriented), mania(euphoria, delusions of grandeur,  psychosis, pleasure-seeking, extreme spending, impulsiveness, agitation, sleeplessness, pressured speech) mixed epsiodes(combination of mania and depression, high energy, low mood) and depression(physical pain, psychosis,low mood, hopelessness, exhaustion but not sleeping, sleeping too much, lack of interest in activities and hygiene)(nami.org).

What causes Bipolar Disorder? Well, there is no known cause. Scientists believe there are many contributing factors which include genetics, brain structure, trauma, drug use and coping mechanisms with stress(nami.org). 

It’s not contagious, and you can not cause someone to develop Bipolar Disorder. I say this because  caregivers, spouses and parents all feel guilt at one point about weather or not they caused this. I at one point thought I did and I was told I caused him to develop the disorder, despite his having a major depressive episode prior to his meeting me. The disorder was already in the making. I didn’t cause it, I couldn’t cure it, I couldn’t control it. If it were cancer, it would be the same. Though somedays I wish I could have controlled it or cured it for him. 

Suicide is a serious and common symptom of any brain illness including bipolar disorder. Most common in the depressive episode or in a mixed episode. Anthony succumbed to his illness on May 16, 2016 after showing symptoms of depression which included anxiety, vomiting and feelings of being a burden. He had one known previous attempt in 2013 after coming out of his first full blown manic episode. 

When well, he was highly intelligent, so gentle and kind. His favourite movies included Princess Bride, Finding Nemo, Monty Python, and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. He loved reading, hiking, camping, and was one of the most creative people I’ve met. He was an imaginative carpenter who loved having conversations with his son, watching TV with his daughter, and walking by the river. He enjoyed playing cards with his family and learning new games. He craved Sushi and lasagna though his favourite meal was ham, scalloped potatoes and Brussel sprouts.

The illness changed him, stole from him and his family. I believe more education, more support from emergency services, psychiatrists and Therapists, changes in HIPPA, and FOIP for better communication with families and their concerns, might have changed his outcome, and hopefully will change the outcome for others. This is where it starts. With the conversations. 

The kids and I miss him very much, everyday.
Keep the conversations going. #BellLetsTalk and let’s end stigma so people can get the help, treatment and supports they need and deserve. Reach out and ask for help. 

❤️️You to the moon and back❤️️


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