Bipolar Disorder: Seeing All Sides
Patricia Doughty, RN, is a registered nurse and a graduate of Seton Hall University.
As a registered nurse I know that we acknowledge bipolar (manic depressive illness) to be a disorder that takes you from feelings of high mania to depths of depression. This is true. I know this because I have suffered with this disease since I was 21 years old.
However, I would like to look at it from a side view; a horizontal perspective versus the conventional vertical understanding. Although someone may not be experiencing highs and lows, they may continue to experience left to right periods of negative and positive productivity and satisfaction with interrelationships. As a consumer I can see these sides of the illness as clearly as the practitioner sees the highs and lows.
When assessing patients with bipolar disorder also evaluate their ability to move to the positive or productive side. Besides their meds, what keeps them further to the right? What keeps them away from becoming unproductive? They might not necessarily be depressed, but just not up to speed.
The treatments for staying to the right, not manic or hypomanic, but rather active and productive, are of course staying on their meds, but also doing things in some sense of order that works for them. What gives them a sense of control that keeps them productive and keeps them from sliding into the mundane? Knowing when one is sliding to the left is not necessarily becoming depressed and necessitating more medication. It is cognitive awareness that activity is slowing and acknowledgment is the start of movement back towards productivity.
If someone can identify what is stopping his productivity, what is the obstacle, he can begin to remove the obstacle or work around it. If someone identifies that a particular activity or person/persons helps her to be more productive, she knows where to go when her productivity has shifted to the left.
The cornerstone of treatment for the person with bipolar disorder is medication and psychotherapy. Meditation, self-help reading, group support, family and friends, church and other social systems are all part of a patient's recovery and staying well. Beyond all of these, the patient is an individual that can function independently in society.
I only suggest that beyond the highs and lows, there is a daily quality that we also need to consider. Keeping life productive...not just medicated. I know both sides and understand.