Sunday, December 17, 2006


I reject the labeling of my organic brain disease as being a "mental illness". I have real chemical imbalances that manifest themselves by causing bouts of anxiety, depression, and hypomania. I have had rapid cycling between depression and hypomania occurring a few times in one day or over the period of two or three days. I have also had severe depression lasting several months. And, yes, there are certain psychological "triggers" that seem to affect how those chemicals are processed by my brain.

Most people living with Bipolar Depression are placed in two categories -- Bipolar I and Bipolar II. The I's have extreme manic episodes that may require hospitalization for their delusions and/or psychotic breaks. II's seem to have deeper depressions and hypomania that may cause some delusions of grandeur, racing of the mind, insomnia, and frivolous spending or other "strange" behavior. Compulsive and obsessive behavior is often displayed. Many I's and II's have problems with sex addiction and drug addictions, as well.

Treatments for Bipolar Depression range from talk therapy to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). Most pdocs (Psychiatrists) attempt mood stabilization with a variety of medications. Certain drugs are prescribed for Bipolar I's and others for Bipolar II's. Some meds are used to treat both.

Scientists are still researching exactly how these drugs work. Nevertheless, they do. And, as each individual has their own particular brain chemical imbalances, some medications work for some folks and others meds do not.

My Bipolar Planet friends are treated with a wide variety of medications and each of those meds may have side effects that are manageable and some that are horrendous. My particular "cocktail" seems to have stabilized my mood so that I do not live with rapid cycling and depression. I currently have hand tremors and I feel that it is a fair trade-off for having a stable mood.

Every day, I take 400 mg. of Lamictal, 60 mg. of Cybalta, 300 mg. of Wellbutrin, 1 mg. of Klonopin, and 50 mg. of trazodone. Recently I added 2000 mg. of fish oil capsules that provide Omega-3 which seems to help folks with Bipolar Depression. Fun, right?

Perhaps, I am in denial about the term "mental illness". However, because of the stigma attached to that term and the disparity of treatment covered by insurance companies, I feel it is important to emphasize that Bipolar Depression is an organic brain disease. This organic disease should be treated by insurance companies in the same way that Parkinson's, diabetes, wonky tyroids, and other diseases of the body are treated.

In Michigan, state law does not require insurance companies to treat Bipolar Depression at par with other health issues. My State of Michigan Retirement plan does not provide the same level of co-payments. An office call to a doctor for my wonky thyroid and my high blood pressure is covered with a 10% co-pay. My co-pays for visits to my pdoc are 50%. If I could afford my much needed talk therapy, the co-pay would also be 50%.

I can not begin to imagine how I would cope without insurance.

Am I "mental" -- Hell no! I have led a productive life. I have achieved academically and served my community and the State of Michigan for 25 years as a teacher. I have been a successful union leader, advocate for civil and human rights, and children's advocate. My Bipolar depression was properly diagnosed only recently. In retrospect, I have been living with this disease for most of my life.

Please, take some time to educate yourself about Bipolar Depression. Use "the Google" on the "internets" to find out more. Educators, please take note.




Bleeding Heart said...

Come on over to my blog because I am confused as all hell as to what a I am going through right now! I am Bipolar 1 Disorder!

WOW! You are on a lot of meds! I am only on Topamax. See, we all have our pet peeves...You have a problem with "Mental Illness" label and I have a problem with taking Medication.

Imagine! A Bipolar person who hates to take medications and other kinds of meds - I refuse to take Tylenol and Aleve...Give me herbs and stuff - but not meds!

Jon said...

I am also uncomfortable with the term "mental illness". I have a mood disorder. Although, I refer to my treatment and efforts to improve myself as "recovery", so perhaps the illness reference is appropriate.