Caring and love from a better understanding

…first walk a mile in their shoes

My intention was to be writing about Mood Mapping. Instead I have found myself as a full-time carer for a very special friend. She is in hospital suffering from total exhaustion. This new role has given me a new insight into the pain relatives face when dealing with a system that just does not seem to care.

I feel I have been inadequate. I am fortunate in knowing more about the mental illness system than most supporters but this just creates more frustration as the routes for helping that are supposed to be there, are not. The reality is that we cannot rely on professionals to solve our friends’ troubles.

One way I have been able to be supportive has been to stay at my friend’s house looking after pets and doing what I can to help those she was supporting. By essentially putting myself in the exact place in society occupied by my friend my appreciation for what keeps her well and what distresses her has grown beyond anything any professional staying in a hospital setting is ever going to know.

A lot of people need and want help from my friend, but these people have been unable to give the loving support she used to have from her father… OK, I’ll be the first to admit that I have not got much idea what love is… it is just that this experience has shown me that it is a key in helping us stay well.

Emotions are made of… #moodmapping #bipolarrecovery

Emotions are made of…

As a stress adviser I found this diagram to be useful showing emotions to have three components:

emotional health

Emotion

The arrows are there to show how:

  • The way we feel can affect our energy and our thinking.
  • Our energy can affect the way we feel and the way we think.
  • Thoughts can affect our energy levels and our feelings.

I was told I had a mental illness. ‘Mental’ being to do with thinking, it made sense to me that if I could improve my thinking that would sort out my problems. In fact, improving the way I was thinking did help me to recover.  I wrote about this my first book, Stop Paddling/Start Sailing. Readers have told me how much it has helped them.

The reality is, thinking alone does not provide lasting recovery or build resilience. If your feelings and energy levels are kind of out of control then simply reading Stop Paddling/Start Sailing is unlikely to do much towards a full and long lasting recovery.

Eventually, I was amazed and delighted to discovered I was not mentally ill. I was not even ill. I had a mood problem and for this  I needed to understand that FEELINGS and ENERGY are the components mood. Knowing more about how to feel differently and have more control of energy levels turns out to be an excellent place to start recovering from being labelled with bipolar disorder.

Next time… Looking at Feelings and Energy to provide a balanced approach to having moods that are good for you and those you live with.

Bipolar Recovery Bite-size – Mood Mapping #moodmapping

Two years ago I was writing ‘Bipolar Recovery Bite-size’.  This was to explain how I and others had come to understand what had happened to us and so recovered from the diagnosis. The reason for ‘bite-size’ was that emotional disturbances can make it difficult to read long articles – The challenge became one of sharing this important information in small chunks/bites.

I have started updating all the bipolar recovery bites and over the next few weeks hope to share the new versions here at Rethinking Bipolar

1.What are emotions made of?

Fourteen years ago as a patient on an acute psychiatric ward I was told I had an emotional disorder that would need to be treated with medication for the rest of my life. I was given a label, “Manic depressive”. There was no explanation of emotions, what was causing the disorder or what I could do other than take tablets.

I wonder how different the next few years of my life would have been if the psychiatrist had been able to explain to me something about emotions.

Perhaps he thought I was too ill to understand or perhaps he did not know how to explain?

We all have an idea what emotions are and yet we all seem to explain emotions in different ways. Emotions mean different things to different people.

 Before reading bite 2 , “Emotions Are Made Of…”, how would you describe emotion? 

Bipolar recovery – a professional appearance can help

Regardless of diagnosis professionalism makes us effective

As we start to recover from years of disorder and medication, it is easy to get very enthusiastic and to start to write and write. People diagnosed with bipolar and not on too much medication are often prolific writers. Before the bipolar diagnosis was created in 1980, eccentric or energetic or free-thinking people would tend to write more than the ‘average’ person who would be going to work,  bringing up children, decorating, gardening, playing sports…

As the diagnosis has increased in popularity the ease of creating articles and publishing happens to have also become easier and relatively cheaper.

There is a hazard here. A lot of us are ‘fired up’ with enthusiasm for change and this can lead to quantity-rather-than-quality. Quantity is great and hundreds of articles are now published every day as we share what we have been through, what we have discovered and how urgently change is needed to stop more people dying needlessly from the bipolar disorder diagnosis. However, if we are to be effective quality is essential.

Two thoughts on improving quality of articles written by ex-bipolar people:

1. Who is checking what we write before publication? Editors are hard to find. I mainly get feedback from friends after publication. This is not ideal. New readers see mistakes and this does not help to build trust. Sometimes something as simple as a word word put in twice can distract enough that the main message gets ignored.

2. Appearance is sometimes as important as the words. Colourful, bright, enthusiastic can be good, but overall it is a professional look that is usually needed if we are going to communicate with the professionals who have influence.

One change I have made today is to pay Word-press to remove the irrelevant adverts that were being posted here.  A strange thing to need to do, but I believe well worth it as readers will be able to give their full attention to what is being said.

I am looking for volunteers – if you spot errors in my posts or pages anywhere on the internet please  let me know. I need an improving reputation if I am to persuade doctors and psychiatrists to start rethinking bipolar and seeing the very emotional people behind the diagnosis.

If you are working on eliminating bipolar or recovery, I may be able to return the favour and review articles for you.

When we do not feel like smiling

Sometimes we do not feel like smiling.

forcing a smile

Forcing a smile

Have you ever been too anxious or too depressed to be able to smile.

Forcing ourselves to smile several times a day reduces anxiety and depression.

Leaving a pen between your teeth is said to be more effective than antidepressants. It is a lot cheaper and no horrible side-effects!

Smiling can be the quickest way to feel better.

I used to believe that people become miserable then stop smiling. Now I mostly believe: People who stop smiling become miserable.  We all need to smile from time to time to feel good.

The mood we show and the mood we are

Consciously or unconsciously we sometimes show a different mood to the one we are experiencing.

Young children do not tend to do this. If a child is upset you usually know he/she is upset. We acquire the ability to show an alternative mood as we grow up. It can be a blessing, especially if you are a professional actor or have a job that requires not showing too much emotion. For example: If you are nervous when providing training, the ability to seem calm can help greatly as people like to learn from trainers who appear to be calm.

Judith’s comment, “I APPEARED to be calm, but later realized that I was NOT feeling calm at all”, highlights a problem for those at risk of a bipolar diagnosis.

Consistently looking calmer than we really are will delay help. When appearing calm our associates will believe we are coping. It is a common theme that people who are struggling with big moods fail to get early help because the extremes are not recognised early enough.

In recovery when we look and act calm, health professionals may believe:

1) we really are calm

2) our internal mood is not what we are displaying

3) we are pretending to be calm

How they help you will depend on this belief, so it is important they do what they can to be as sure as possible the calm displayed matches inner calmness.

This need to know more about the internal mood also applies for displayed levels of anxiety, depression and over-activity.

Would you agree that this is a skill that comes with experience?

And our target is…

To avoid, overcome or eliminate a disorder we have to be a bit cleverer than just looking at what we are trying to avoid.

Mood Map Miller

Calm moods instead of diagnosis?

On workshops I have given students cards with symptoms of bipolar disorder written on the cards.

I have asked the students to place the symptoms on a mood map according to which of the four main moods the symptoms seem to show.

At the end of the exercise the symptoms are spread out across the depressive, anxious and active sectors. It seems that the bipolar diagnosis picks up people who are exceptional at being in either two or three of these states. The people who get the diagnosis will have been seen being both depressed and anxious, or depressed and active or anxious and active. The third of these may come as a surprise, as surely you have to be seen to be depressed to be diagnosed as manic-depressive? We can come back to that another time.

With a set of say 40 typical bipolar symptoms it is rare that the students will place any of the symptoms in the fourth quadrant of the mood map. The calm quadrant remains pretty well empty. It is this quirk that only seems to be revealed by mood mapping that gives us our target and our big break in combating bipolar disorder diagnosis.

Rather than looking at one symptom after another and thinking, “I must avoid that”, “I must stop doing that”, now we can start with a mood to aim for rather than moods to avoid.

I am interested to hear from readers who have achieved a better life by being calmer.

I am interested to hear from readers who know why calmer is a great target, yet not the ‘be all and end all’/’ultimate aim’ if you want to avoid a bipolar diagnosis.

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.

Rethinking Bipolar – Looking for change?

bipoler disorder

Bipolar: Is it just up & down?

Are you fed up with having a diagnosis of bipolar disorder?

Want to get rid of the disorder part?

Lots of people do and get their bipolar ‘in-order’.

Is it ever possible to get rid of the diagnosis part?

Now that is more of a challenge…

Skip to: Our target is

Photo: Geraint Smith

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