The Impulse Power of Bipolar

This article talks about the Impulse Power of Bipolar because contrary to popular belief, an individual can receive a dual diagnosis of Bipolar and BPD. I have had people say to me “that’s not possible”. Not only is it possible, I am one who has both disorders. I will try not to be snarky now in describing the wonderful dual diagnosis. I denied it for years as I have five, yes five mental disorders (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Anxiety Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Treatment Resistant Depression, and then of course, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Then they wanted me to add Bipolar #2 Disorder. I guess the more the merrier?

The first thing I want to educate everyone about is the difference between Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2. The biggest difference to note is that with Bipolar 1, the sufferer experiences episodes of HIGH MANIA, which can last for no set amount of time, but typically for one week or more. The severity of the manic episodes suffered by those with Bipolar 1 is quite different from that of Bipolar 2. The person in Mania will exhibit an elevated mood, inflated self-esteem, decreased need (or no need) for sleep, abnormally high activity levels, excessive involvement in pleasurable activities and typically very fast speech pattern and movements. In order for a person to receive a diagnosis of BP1, they have to have suffered with at least one Manic Episode during their lifetime. These manic feelings can seriously impair the person's ability to function at work, school or in social settings in general.

When the Manic Episode ends, the individual comes crashing down into a deep Depressive Episode called Manic Depression that can last for at least a week or more. This is the a period that is the exact opposite from that of Mania. The depression that follows a Manic Episode is completely debilitating and can cause the sufferer to utilize recreational drugs, alcohol, sex, and anything that can help them to get “out” of the horrific depression that follows the Manic Episode. When you meet a person with Bipolar 1, they can seem like two different persons, depending on the phase they are in - Mania or Depression. The other thing to note about a Manic Episode is that at times the person can become irritable to the point of acting out aggressively in a verbal or physical way. One of the attorneys I used to work for years ago, suffered from Bipolar 1. During a Manic Episode, he would scream at me, and throw ashtrays, file folders, all sorts of things! He was very scary during those times. When he was in a depressive state, he could be out of work for weeks. One of the most vocal Bipolar 1 advocates and sufferers of our lifetime is Carrie Fisher, actress, who played Princess Leia in the Star War Movies. Her mother was Debbie Reynolds. They are currently both deceased having died days apart from each other recently. I was a huge fan of them both. If you do suffer from Bipolar 1, I would highly recommend reading all that Carrie Fisher has written and spoken openly about her struggle with this disorder. She is one of my hero’s for her honesty and willingness to step out and speak out about her condition.

With Bipolar 2, although similar to Bipolar 1, the Manic Episodes in BP2 never reach the height of full blown mania as in BP1. The person with BP2 will have less-intense elevated moods called Hypomanic Episodes, also known as Hypomania. Most people with BP2 suffer more often from severe episodes of depression called Manic Depression. In between the episodes of Hypomania and Depression, BP2 persons do not exhibit the severe symptoms of BP1. This is why it is harder to diagnose BP2. When I am having a case of hypomania, I become very exaggerated in my speaking and movements, laugh a lot, become very loud and gregarious and …...I SHOP. That is the topic I wanted to get to regarding the Impulse Power that exists in BP1 and BP2. It would not matter what my “thing” would be with Bipolar as all of us who suffer this disorder have one. It is either excessive drinking, drugs, sex, gambling, grandiose schemes, the impulsivity is there and it consumes us during an episode.

This impulsivity is based on very strong, irrational emotions rather than logic or reasoning. It is an intense mood to act without any regard for consequences or for the future. Whether it is saying whatever comes into your mind out loud to anyone or deciding to quit your job and up and move to Africa, the results can be devastating and fracturing to relationships with your loved ones and co-workers. Jobs are lost, there is staggering debt, it can lead to health issues, legal troubles, and so on. If sex is your “thing”, it can lead to affairs or a constant need for sexual gratification from anyone, anywhere, and can put the sufferer at risk of sexually transmitted disease and loss of marriage and stability within their core relationships. When this impulsivity hits, during a Hypomania (BP2) or High Manic (BP1), there is a feeling of impulsivity that occurs that renders its victims relentless in their pursuit of fulfilling the urge to do the “thing” they do. Many times, the victim of Bipolar does not recall what transpired during an episode of Hypomania or High Manic behavior. People will report back as to their behavior and the Bipolar victim will be baffled and confused to hear a recounting of their behavior during the episode. It leads to much shame, guilt and embarrassment on behalf of the Bipolar sufferer. Many family members and friends find it difficult to believe that the Bipolar person does not remember and believes it is just an “easy way out” for their excessive behavior. Unfortunately, it is not just a cop-out for the Bipolar person. It is a fact that we are “another person” when we are under the intense influence of a Hypomanic or Manic episode. Studies suggest that the part of the brain that plans, analyzes and gives logic has a weaker circuitry in the brain of a person with Bipolar, almost like how a worn brake pad won’t stop a car as well. In addition, there is a part of the Bipolar brain that has increased susceptibility to addiction and intensified craving for excitement and excessiveness.

What to do? First off, it is imperative that there is a knowledge and understanding of the diagnosis and what it entails. Second, in my opinion, psychiatric medication is a must to treat this disorder. Going off of the prescribed medication for Bipolar can cause a major episode to occur for the Bipolar person. Third, those who know you, love you, and UNDERSTAND your disorder must put a very strict boundary system in place. With mental illness, I have a saying that “you can’t make sense of the insensible”.  My husband is a computer software developer and wired with logical, analytical thinking. It is virtually impossible for him to understand or try to make sense of my erratic symptoms. He tries to figure me out and the simple fact is, he never will. It is, unfortunately, up to those who know and love us to have an understanding of the disorder we possess and what we are up against when we are under the spell of our symptoms.

Within the boundary system, number three in the above paragraph, the system must be set up to encompass the particular acting out symptoms of the Bipolar person. For instance, my thing is spending money. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of it to spend, which is good and bad at the same time. My episodes have led our family to the brink of financial ruin many a time. The blame and guilt I feel after exhibiting an episode is indescribable and the shame I feel afterwards brings on serious depression. My husband and family have set very specific boundaries with regard to my spending therefore. I won’t go into specifics here, but trust me when I say I have a serious choke collar. The other thing is that my disorder is out in the open and spoken about. I have learned to sense when an episode is brewing and there are other things I can do to curtail episodes that I could not do in the past, such as refinishing furniture or exercising, anything that is consuming and distracting to try to fight the impulsive behavior.

When you know your weak points, you can plan for them. Think about the particular kind of urges you have within your Bipolar and what urges are the hardest to resist. Certain situations can cause impulsive behaviors and make it harder to resist Have a “Life Line” person you can call or reach out to who will work with you to help with stability and be up front when a red flag arises. Prepare in advance how to handle the crisis of a Manic episode before, not after, the situation has ensued. There may be times when your first defense system of people are just plain ‘ol tired’ of babysitting your behavior and you may find it is time to find a second string of defense. I reached out to a dear girlfriend yesterday and asked if she would be there for me should I need to call. We can’t let shame and embarrassment of our symptoms beforehand hold us back from the massive destruction after the episode occurs. Pride has to go out the window here. We have a serious issue that we deal with and we know it. Acting as though it does not exist or that it will go away is incongruent and does nothing to help anyone.

I have to admit that this Blog was difficult for me, as it lets others in to a side of me that I am very ashamed of and have tried to fight my whole life. I know that I am not alone however, and if I can help you help yourself and your loved ones, then it is worth it for me to share.

Good luck in your journey restricting that Manic part of our lives that exists. I pray that you will be able to put things in place to help you curtail your episodes as I have, and although they may not always be successful, you may find a modicum of peace and security at least in knowing that you are trying your best to get that side of you under control.

With you on the Journey,

Alice

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