Training ourselves to be less bipolar #KitJohnson

I’m plenty old enough to remember Bob Geldof and the Boom Town Rats in their prime and so was especially attracted to this article from Kit Johnson. His explanation of how brains work… it seems very believable to me. And besides, does it matter if his theory cannot be proved. The fact that what he says works makes it well worth repeating. Have a read…

http://kit-johnson.com/silicon-chip-inside-her-head-is-switched-to-overload/?goback=%2Egde_164693_member_162336619

If you are wondering where the idea of ‘the silicon chip inside her head is switched to overload‘ comes from – here is a link to wiki…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Don%27t_Like_Mondays

UK Number One single 28 July 1979 – 24 August 1979

Food colours and moods #azodyes #hyperactivity #dangerousfoodcolors

Do colorants added to our food and drink affect our mood?

The simple answer is that a lot of people never notice any effect from additives such as ‘sunset yellow (E110)’ and ‘ponceau 4R (E124)’.

Many people know they are affected. They only need to consume the tiniest amount of any of the colours known as AZO-DYES to have dramatic changes in energy level. When these changes in energy lead to sleepless nights or nightmares or hallucinations the disruption to a person’s life can be huge.

As well as those who know they are affected and those who seem to be unaffected, there are millions of do not realise that these additives are affecting their moods. They put poor sleep down to other things. They may simply accept changes in sleep, energy levels and their ability to concentrate to be ‘random’.

Avoiding these colours is not easy. Sometimes governments help, such as the USA government banning ponceau 4R, whereas in the European Union it is simply labelled as E124 and allowed to be added to a range of foods.

Maybe your own moods are not affected. Maybe you have never lived with a child who has destructive-hyperactivity fueled by these additives? Even so, think about this… The American government believes ‘ponceau 4R E124’ is so dangerous that any food that contains it is seized and destroyed. Are they over-reacting? I think not. The UK Food Standards Agency has been wanting six of these dyes to be banned since a 2007 study indicated these chemicals are bad for us.

Here is a recent update from the Food Standards agency http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2012/july/burger-king-coca-cola

Separating mental health from physical health isn’t working #crisishouses #NHS

Moving away from having just a Mental Illness Service?

The UK National Health Service has had a divide between physical and mental health.

I suggest greater integration (a greater overlap) is needed?

  • Have you ever met someone with a significant physical health problem who was not anxious?
  • Just about as rare is to find someone with a long-term mental health diagnosis who does not have physical health problems.

I suggest we all need to avoid the expression, “It is all in the mind” ( even though sometimes the troubles seem to only be from the ‘in the mind’, as in the ‘nocebo’ effect.

Much emotional distress comes from physical health conditions. Psychologists and psychiatrists need to have time to listen to their patients to better understand physical health challenges.

I have experienced of what seemed to be a MENTAL ILLNESS SERVICE rather than mental health service, while a change to focus on well-being and recovery has seemed to be underway.

Visiting a patient who was experiencing food allergies, exhaustion and dehydration on a psychiatric ward I asked a nurse if she had asked about these matters of physical health. The nurses reply was that the patient had a specific psychiatric disorder and ‘would lie’. Such assumptions can hold back recovery, while sometimes a psychiatric label seems to have been enough to stop any physical health intervention at all.

What can be changed?

Fortunately some changes are underway. One change that needs to be rolled out across the country is to replace most psychiatric wards from places where people are detained in distressing conditions with staff who have largely lost hope… with crisis houses, where people who are stressed and need respite can go to have a few days away from the pressures of work, family and modern life.

Choose your mood

For more than a year I have asked training course participants if this statement is ‘true’, ‘false’ or ‘maybe’…

“I choose my mood and am in the mood I want to be in most of the time”

I have been surprised that many nurses, social workers and similar participants say this is not true for them. They then say it is not true for the people they are paid to help.

Surely we should be able to choose our mood most of the time. If we find that our moods are almost entirely depend on our circumstances there is a huge risk that we could become increasingly unhappy and dissatisfied.

If we are going to help others recover from mood disorders and help others with choosing their moods we first need to practice choosing our own moods.

We can help clients, friends and family better when we are able to choose our own moods.

See: What is emotion?

Crises change lives

After winning an Olympic swimming medal, Steve Parry was asked how he came to be so good at swimming. He said that at age six he could not swim when he fell off a canal boat and had to cling to the boat for ages to avoid drowning. He agreed that if this had not happened his parents would not have taken him for swimming lessons and he would have been unlikely to have made the Olympics.

Millions of people have been through a crisis and the experience has put them on a new path. Having a mental health crisis is often taken as a sign that it is time to change something in our lives.

Steve’s parents could have just noticed that he had a tendency to fall off boats and decided not to take him on any more boats. Our doctor’s may notice that stressful events cause us to have mood swings. They may recommend we avoid certain situations or give us medication. Neither of these options seem like the swimming lessons opportunity to me. Medication might be more like a life jacket – well worth having at times but not ideal to wear every minute of every day for the rest of our lives.

After psychiatric admissions in 1997, 98 and 99 my ‘swimming lessons’ for me was a Wellness Recovery Action Planning course, since which time I have stayed out of hospital and consistently needed less medication.

Wellness Recovery Action Planning – Leicester 6th Sept and 8th November 2011

Taking a break

bipolar balance

knowing our limits

A long time ago when I was very anxious I was given a drug to calm me down. I calmed down too much and I was given a drug to pick me up. I picked up too much and was given a mood stabilizer. With this came a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. These days, some might say that this was ‘Bipolar 4’ – The type induced by taking inappropriate medication.

For my quest to make it easier for people to be ‘undiagnosed when they never had bipolar disorder’ or ‘when the risks of becoming unwell again have receded’ it is paramount that I stay well.  If there are doubts about my health there will be a lot of people not wanting to listen to the ideas I put forward about recovery after bipolar diagnosis.

I have been busy for a few weeks with submission of the manuscript for our book on bipolar diagnosis for nurses.  This is now with the publishers with the publication date set for 12th December 2011. Now, I feel I can pick up the blogging again.

Doubters might say, “That proves he has a mood disorder. He blogs every few days then has to stop for a month – clearly he can’t cope.”

More realistically we all juggle the projects we are involved with, stopping and starting. Recognising how much we can realistically achieve and what can be stopped and restarted is a sign of healthy thinking. If I am at fault, it is in my feeling that I need to apologize for not blogging… This is driven by anxiety not by bipolar disorder.

Act as if #choosingyourmood

mood-act-as-if

sad inside – ‘putting on a face’

With the training I do, I have found that people who suffer from mood disorders and perhaps surprisingly those who care for them have low expectations of being able to choose a mood and then be in their chosen mood.

People who are making good recoveries from mood disorder and people who I see as doing very well in life have far stronger beliefs in their ability to choose their mood.

I have previous written about how people choose their moods by first choosing an attitude. Put simply this is a matter of ‘act as if’.

If you were to change your breathing to be rapid and shallow, like a person having a panic attack, you will almost certainly start to feel anxious. Please do not try this if you are prone to panic attacks. In fact there is no need to do this at all, as you already know it is true.

mood success

Good behaviours can create good moods

If you, now, change your breathing to be both slower and deeper, like a person doing yoga, you will almost certainly start to feel calmer. If you are not familiar with this technique for lessening anxiety, now is the time to meet with an expert who can teach you more about breathing, as it can be the simplest and least expensive way to take more control of your mood.

This is what ‘act as if’ is about. If you act like an anxious person, you will become slightly more anxious. If you act like a depressed person you will become slightly more depressed.

If you act like a calm person you will become a little calmer.

It works!

When it comes to mood we all already do some acting.

  • Can you think where sometimes acting can get us into trouble?

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Aiming to be calm

Do you remember learning to drive?

It was long time ago for me. More recently I have taught family members basic driving skills. Driving can have some similarities to the blue tree exercise. If the instructor says, “Don’t drive on the white lines” the pupil starts looking at the white lines and sure enough they either drive on the lines more or they lose focus on other aspects of their driving. To get better at driving, or anything else, a target to aim for is better than one to avoid.

dark mood road

“Looking ahead”

It has taken me decades to realise that a focus on avoiding anxiety, depression and over-activity is rarely as effective as when we focus on being calmer.

If you are thinking, “Don’t some people get a bit too calm and isn’t that a problem too?”

Yes, some people do get too calm, but in the busy world we live in, it is not so common and may never attract health professionals.

The health profession likes calm people. Remember calm = positive feelings with lower energy. When we are calm we feel good and so will rarely trouble our doctor. (Besides, people who are calm all the time probably have not read as far as this… if you are a calm all the time person and have read this far please send in some tips :-))

More seriously though, do you agree that bipolar tends to be seen in people who fail to be calm when in front of health professionals?

Photo: www.geraintsmith.com

We need to have the right target

In the battle against bipolar disorder diagnosis we need to have a target… something to aim for. I started out by learning about self management of moods. The target was to stay well, however, I found it limiting as the target is a bit vague and did not seem to tackle the root causes of mood instability. When I learned about mental health recovery through studying WRAP I set up www.bipolarrecovery.org. I seemed to have taken a step in the right direction in looking towards recovery and not just managing the disorder.

However, I was still accepting that bipolar disorder was a real thing, like a real illness that had definable causes and in some way separable from other illnesses and disorders. After more than 10 years of study I can say that bipolar disorder is no more than a way for health professionals to quickly tell each other that you have various symptoms. It is controversial and for some shocking to hear this, but please stay with me.

There are a great many symptoms that go with a bipolar disorder diagnosis. The symptoms range widely including; not sleeping enough, spending more than you can afford, talking too fast, appearing to be over-ambitious… yet none of these are unique. People can experience these four symptoms and many of the other listed symptoms of bipolar disorder and not get the diagnosis. While others who only have a few of the symptoms can be given a bipolar II disorder diagnosis. This is a variety that has less extreme highs.

Avoiding any bipolar diagnosis, recovery after a diagnosis and eliminating the diagnosis all start with having some knowledge of bipolar disorder and this means having some knowledge of the symptoms the health professionals are noticing. If we are not careful this can be become a huge task as the symptoms are so various and most seem no more than extremes of what everyone does. Too much focus on symptoms can also be self-defeating.

It is like me saying, “Do not think of a blue tree.” If you did not think of a blue tree just then or have still managed not to think or imagine a blue tree in any way at all, then I would like to hear how you managed this. :0)

Thinking about symptoms can be like this. To avoid, overcome or eliminate a disorder we have to be a bit cleverer than just looking at what we are trying to avoid.

Giving people choices

Giving people choices is mainly what this whole web site is about.

If you do not yet have a bipolar diagnosis then you have a choice of trying to get the diagnosis or avoiding it. It may sound strange that people want to be diagnosed. The thing is that when we get desperate it can seem that almost any diagnosis is better than having one professional after another look at you and say, “We have no idea what is wrong with you.” Or “We cannot understand why that medication didn’t work for you. Let’s try this new one.”

There are only so many times you can hear this before you want someone to say they know what is wrong and that they have a plan for you.  A Community Psychiatric Nurse told me, “If you are going to get a mental health diagnosis then the best one to have is bipolar disorder.” I suspect this was not an official view, but certainly it is a common view when looking at a choice between; bipolar, schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder. Bipolar disorder has a lot of stigma attached but nothing like those other illnesses. I interviewed a man who had been physically attacked when his neighbours discovered that he had a schizophrenia diagnosis. Fortunately this does not seem to happen with bipolar (well I have not heard of it in the UK)

In the media we see many examples of rich and famous people who:

  • have been diagnosed with bipolar
  • are said to have bipolar disorder even though they have no such diagnosis
  • and some who may say they are a bipolar type of person with little evidence of any disorder

A lot of these people seem to be doing OK. Even those who struggled for a while often seem to be doing okay again. All this celebrity bipolar can make it seem like an OK thing to have. I am hearing, “Bipolar, that is the latest celebrity ‘must have’.”

The biggest impact of seeing bipolar celebrities is likely to be on young people who are yet to see close up how awful it can be for those who have been diagnosed. Very few people are lucky enough to be diagnosed and then be able to claim to have ‘Bipolar Lite’ – the variety that gives you the creative, energetic, humorous edge with not so many of the dark days and destructive flings. Stephen Fry must be one of the most famous bipolar people. He is open and honest about having problems however, what most of us see is the cheerful confident and competent Stephen. It is not his fault but it all adds to the illusion (or delusion) that bipolar is not so bad and a diagnosis could be a way to a better life for those who have struggled with depression and changeable moods.

If you have avoided the diagnosis so far, you have a choice, you can start finding out how people control their moods. Start talking to people who have been through the bipolar thing and come out the other side. How did they eliminate their disorder? If they have also eliminated their diagnosis, how did they do this? What they did will give you clues for avoiding the diagnosis in the first place.

LABELED BIPOLAR

Bipolar diagnosis eliminated ? – We are working on it

Our work:

  • How to get correct diagnosis and help for those with mood difficulties
  • How people can be better helped with mood management
  • How those who are now able to manage their moods well can get rid of a psychiatric label
  • How can people avoid becoming unwell, return to good health and avoid being labeled as bipolar?
  • The eventual elimination of bipolar labeling

Blog 1:

LABELED BIPOLAR

eliminating-bipolar-diagnosis1.jpg

Bipolar ladder? Seems like we are told to stay on it, just going up or down forever. It is a crazy diagnosis!

I was told by doctors that I would need psychiatric drugs for life and not to think about getting better. It turned out the drugs did not treat any of the root causes. Instead I needed to focus on recovery. This allowed the signs of stress such as not sleeping well and talking too fast to happen less often. Wellness Recovery Action Planning was just one way in which I helped myself with this long recovery.

Fifteen years on, I now know a drug prescribed for a stomach complaint increased my insomnia and restlessness. A few nights and days without sleep were all it took to be forced to take psychiatric drugs (held down and injected in the bum!)

Unfortunately, there is no procedure in the UK for removing a bipolar label from medical records. Once labeled as bipolar it is supposed to go with you for life. Even if the next day a different psychiatrist were to say it was an error. My medical records show “BIPOLAR DISORDER” even though all that happened 13 years ago.

  • When will ‘ undiagnosis ‘ be possible?

Bipolar disorder is close to a perfect diagnosis for selling drugs. Anyone can be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In most countries the diagnosis goes with the message, “Keep taking the psychiatric drugs no matter what happens”. Even if you fully recover from whatever was going wrong or find there was nothing wrong at all, you will still be told you must not stop taking the drugs because withdrawal will cause ‘bipolar symptoms’. It is a strange disorder with most doctors discouraging recovery.

  1. I work with people wanting to eliminating their own bipolar diagnosis.
  2. I am also working on the wider issue of whether anyone ever needs a bipolar diagnosis in the first place.

Bipolar disorder evolved from the diagnosis of manic depression – It is no longer the same thing

Prior to 1980 only a very few people were ever diagnosed as manic-depressive but that was a different disorder. Manic depression was a disorder of mostly short episodes of disorder with mostly long periods of wellness. Many/most people only had one ‘high’ and one ‘low’ episode in their lifetime. It rarely disabled anyone. The bipolar disorder label was created in 1980 by psychiatrists in the USA looking to explain something new that was happening to people taking psychiatric drugs. Up until 1980 bipolar disorder and its description simply did not exist in the psychiatrists’ manuals.

Bipolar may not sound as bad as manic-depression but when it comes with no hope of recovery it becomes far more damaging.

Our world has changed a lot since 1980. For one thing children are eating far more food containing additives  known to cause mood instability. The average age for bipolar labeling in the UK dropped from 40 to 19 during the 1990’s.

Gradually the drugs used to control mood cause physical illnesses. These drugs have been associated with early death. In many ‘developed’ countries it has reach epidemic proportions with bipolar now one of the top disabling of all health problems. Psychiatrists who say they do not experience bipolar symptoms themselves have told us that it is “…degenerative and that is why recovery is not possible.” A frightening idea that could easily take away a person’s last bit of hope.

In our work as mental health researchers and trainers the many bipolar diagnosed people we meet tend to either believe:

1) It is something they were born with/developed at an early age that they will always need drugs for it. They talk as if psychiatric drugs are more important than anything they can do for themselves.

or

2) It is mainly due to past traumas, current stresses and untreated physical health troubles, saying it is something they can learn to overcome with minimal use of psychiatric drugs.

We have met, interviewed, trained and spent time with enough people in each group for enough years to be convinced that the way we view bipolar disorder determines its outcome.

1) Those who believe it is incurable and place huge emphasis on psychiatric drugs gradually become more unwell, achieve less and less and have an increasingly miserable life with fewer and fewer good relationships.

2) Those who believe they can overcome the disorder using, Mood Mapping, Bipolar In Order or similar ways of staying well achieve more and have an increasingly better life with more good relationships.

With bipolar diagnosis what we believe becomes our reality.

Recovery is possible for those who have hope, take responsibility and have an open mind.

This site is about giving people choices about how to think about bipolar

I was told that it was largely hereditary… “Your parents were nuts and that is why you are nuts.” It turns out there is very little truth in this. Yes, some illnesses run in families, however, research has confirmed that anyone can experience massive shifts in mood and so anyone can be labeled as bipolar. A lot of things we were told about bipolar disorder have turned out not to be true.

The idea that, “Bipolar disorder can never be cured. Once you have a bipolar diagnosis you have it for life.” takes away a lot of hope,  shifts power away from ordinary people and makes psychiatrists more powerful. To consider and talk about the alternative (the truth) you have to be brave. We were told we were mad when we said we no longer needed to be described as bipolar. That was a long time ago. It does make us mad (angry) that kids are being labeled bipolar rather being told the truth about moods.

Eliminating disorder: To survive bipolar disorder we must eliminate the disorder part. When friends (and ideally family too) can help us eliminate the causes of disorder we find coping, recovering and thriving become easier, regardless of who says we are still ‘bipolar’ and whatever may be meant by that.

Eliminating your diagnosis: Some doctors are starting to agree that bipolar labeling does not have to be for life. In the UK doctors are not allowed to remove incorrect or obsolete bipolar labeling from our records. While we want this to become possible, a step in the right direction would be for incorrect or obsolete diagnosis to be marked as such and  made less visible. This would allow medical professionals to consider our physical health before reading that we have an incurable disorder.

Time to stop the labeling: When we or our families are desperate it can feel good to get a diagnosis/label. It implies that progress is being made and useful treatment will follow. This is false hope. If you have a choice, reject the bipolar diagnosis. Accept that you have difficulties. Difficulties can be overcome. The bipolar label stays. People who accept the bipolar label generally get sicker and die younger than those who do not. Find people who used to be considered bipolar and mentally ill and are not ill now. Learn how they coped and recovered then do what you need to do to stay well. We believe it is better to be considered well rather labelled for life. (where I write ‘we’ I am including associates from Rethinking Health (UK) who I have teamed up with to provide training throughout England and Wales).

Next article = Giving people choices

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