Living with illness

The Complexity of a Bipolar Disorder

Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 in Featured, Living with illness | 0 comments

The Complexity of Bipolar Disorder When Accompanied By Co-existent Illnesses

At twenty-four years old, Susan Harris suffers from bipolar disorder, drug abuse, migraine headaches and social phobia. Due to poor coping skills, she lives with her parents. Normally she responds well to medication.

Bipolar SymptomsBut on November 13th of 2012, Susan disappeared for four days and three nights. It wasn’t the first or the longest. On Friday the 16th, they found her in the alley on the backside of the DeWolfe Street hardware store. Cold, wet and shaking like a loose shelf in a 1850s freight car, she was huddle between the block walls and the dumpster. No one knows what happened or where she spent those missing days.

The burdens of caring for a young adult with bipolar disorder can break a parent’s heart. Each day carries a certain measure of fear and worry – even when the child’s current medication appears to provide measurable success. At any moment something can break and your bipolar child crosses into a season of darkness.

Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder Can Be Complicated By Co-existing Illnesses

Bipolar disorder is typically characterized by discrete and intense emotional changes ranging from extreme manic excitement to deep level bouts with depression. However, the disorder can also be limited to periods of long-lasting unstable mood patterns. When complicated by any of the following co-existing illnesses, bipolar disorder can be very difficult to detect and diagnose:

  • Anxiety disorders such as PTSD
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Various physical complications, including diabetes, heart disease and migraines – all capable of inducing symptoms of depression or mania.

Current Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder cannot be cured. Modern treatment helps, but this illness remains a lifelong affliction. Effective control methods include:

  • Medications such as mood-stabilizing products, sleep aids and Lithium treatments designed to aid with thyroid problems
  • Psychotherapy involving cognitive behavioral therapy, family-focused coping strategies, social rhythm processes and psycho-education designed to teach bipolar individuals how to recognize danger signs
  • Electro-convulsive therapy, which may be used in the event that medication and/or psychotherapy fails to provide positive results.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, several new studies indicate medication supported by intensive psychotherapy and social rhythm therapy provides better results than those achieved via collaborative care and psycho-education sessions. Yet the big question remains:

How long will it be before the parents of Susan Harris must endure another vanishing daughter ordeal?

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Mental Illness – A Commentary on the Situation of the Mentally Ill Within the National Institute of Corrections

Posted by on Jul 23, 2012 in Living with illness | 0 comments

What Happens When the Mental Illness Collides With Mental Illness

Being locked behind bars is never easy. Being locked behind bars while lacking the mental capacity to comprehend all that has happened evokes a state of depression beyond measure.

In June of 2001, a 49 year old adult male spent three months in the Hillsborough, NC country jail. Eleven other prisoners shared with him the crowded confinements of a cell designed to house eight men. It was there that he made acquaintances with a mentally troubled, illegal Mexican immigrant. For two years, the Mexican man had remained locked within that tiny block of Hillsborough real estate. He was incapable of contacting relatives, unable to understand what requirements the U.S. government expected him to meet and uninformed as to when or how his period behind bars would come to an end.

The depth of this man’s pain is clearly expressed in the words of the prisoner who shared the story, “I have never, in my entire life, witnessed such a haunted expression on the face of a fellow human being.”

If you have a loved one or a friend caught up within the current legal system, expect strange behavior. When incarcerated, even people without prior mental disorders will go through stages of depression, paranoia, anger and irrational displays of blame and confusion.

Loved Ones, Mental Illness and Jail

In a joint report issued by the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), mentally ill people are three times more likely to end up incarcerated rather than hospitalized. Additional TAC figures suggest that:

  • Local jails book approximately two million individuals with complex mental illnesses every year.just in the images folder
  • Thirty percent of incarcerated females suffer some measure of mental turmoil, including complications such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
  • In most cases, the mentally ill offender is booked and incarcerated for minor, non-violent wrongdoings.
  • Among previously arrested mentally ill prisoners, the average rate of re-arrest runs nearly fifty percent. Rather than new offenses, the primary cause of return to prison is related to the offenders inability to comply with the written and verbal conditions of release as stated in parole or probation specifics.

Get on the Forefront of the Battle Against Wrongful Incarceration of the Mentally Ill

According to the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), some estimates suggest that mental illness may affect as many as two million incarcerated individuals. The problem often involves co-occurring substance abuse disorders.

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Illness Solutions – Do’s and Dont’s

Posted by on Mar 25, 2012 in Living with illness | 0 comments

Solutions for you

Do’s

  • Do get the best medical care possible.
  • Inform yourself about your illness or disability.
  • Find others who have similar conditions and talk to them.
  • Let family and friends know what you experience and let them help you.
  • Keep doing the things you enjoy doing to the best of your abilities.
  • Develop and practice healthy habits.

Don’ts

  • Don’t blame yourself for your medical problems.
  • Don’t isolate yourself from others.
  • Don’t think you have to cope with your medical problems alone.
  • Don’t try to be stoic about pain and discomfort.
  • Don’t let yourself fantasize about the worst case scenarios.
  • Don’t focus on cure to the detriment of focusing on good care in the present.

Solutions for a Caretaker

Do’s

  • Continue to take good physical care of yourself.
  • Learn to read your own signals to know when you must take a break from caretaking.
  • Talk to others about the demands of caretaking
  • Appreciate what you are doing.
  • Allow yourself to feel “negative” emotions like anger and irritation at the person you are caring for.
  • Join a support group in your community or on the internet.

Don’ts

  • Don’t think you have to be able to solve every problem that arises.
  • Don’t work yourself to exhaustion.
  • Don’t take it personally if the person you are caring for is irritable or mean.
  • Don’t isolate yourself from friends and activities.
  • Don’t think that limiting your own life will make it any easier in the long run for the person you are caring for.
  • Don’t hesitate to talk to a professional to get help for yourself.
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Questions about Illness

Posted by on Mar 25, 2012 in Living with illness | 0 comments

  • What do you do already that contributes to your feeling healthy and not sick?
  • Of the activities you enjoy doing, which can you continue to do despite your illness and disability?
  • Who do you know who is supportive of you no matter how you feel physically or emotionally?
  • What do you do that contributes to that person’s wanting to support you?
  • How might you link up with others who are experiencing similar medical problems?
  • What have you learned already about your condition that makes you more of an expert on yourself today than you were in the beginning?
  • Who might benefit from understanding what you know about yourself and your condition?
  • How can you form a relationship to your illness or disability so that you and your illness are allies, not enemies?
  • Who can you ask to be on your team to be sure that illness or disability do not take up more of your life than absolutely necessary?
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Case Study – An Unexpected Illness

Posted by on Mar 25, 2012 in Living with illness | 0 comments

Arthur, aged twenty-three, had been living at home with his parents and younger sister since he graduated from college. He was eager to get a job and move to an apartment with a friend, but he was having trouble looking. His friends told him to use the Internet, but he found it frustrating to send his resume through cyberspace and never know if he had reached a real person.

Finally, a friend of a friend told him about a company that was hiring recent college graduates. He called the human resources person and got an interview the next day. Much to his and his family’s excitement, he was offered the job.

A few months later, Arthur had saved enough money for his deposit and first month’s rent and moved into an apartment with friends. Even though he lives near his parents, he doesn’t see them often. His job is stressful and he finds that he doesn’t have much energy to do anything after work. He knows he should be eating better, but he lacks the motivation to shop and cook for himself.

Much to his dismay, Arthur begins noticing changes in his bowel habits. He goes to the bathroom often and has diarrhea frequently. He also feels pain in his abdomen. He doesn’t have a scale, but he thinks he is losing weight. He blames his problem on stress and tries to relax more. He is very embarrassed to be sharing a bathroom and worries that his roommates will tease him about the smell. He considers quitting his job and moving back home.

One day a roommate tells Arthur should see a doctor. Arthur doesn’t even know how to find one. He has health insurance from his job and so he calls the number on his insurance card. The person tells him how to find a doctor.

The doctor takes a careful history and does some tests. Arthur learns he had Crohn’s disease, a chronic bowel condition that requires him to change many of his habits. At first, Arthur decides to keep his illness a secret. His doctor convinces him it would be better for him to tell his family and his roommates. The doctor tells Arthur that social support makes all medical problems easier to bear.

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Case Study – Having a Young Child with Diabetes

Posted by on Mar 25, 2012 in Living with illness | 0 comments

Laura and Tom planned their third child to be close in age to their other two children, Mark, four, and Robbie, two. Laura was enjoying her third pregnancy, and even looking forward to her delivery. She was sure this baby would come fast and that she would feel like a real pro. She could never have believed that when it came time to deliver this little one she would already be in the hospital with her two-year-old son, Robbie, who had just been diagnosed with diabetes.

Fortunately for everybody, little Sally was an easy baby, happy to nurse or take a bottle and easy to put to sleep. Laura and Tom have their hands full, learning how to take care of a youngster with childhood diabetes.

At first, Laura just cried and cried. She was depressed and angry, worried that her inattention to Sally was going to damage her permanently. She worried constantly that Robbie would have a diabetic crisis. She couldn’t let herself think about his future. Tom got grumpy and withdrawn. He didn’t want to talk to Laura or any of his friends or family members. He got angry at Laura when she called her parents and “complained” to them.

Every day, Laura or Tom prick Robbie’s finger, drawing out a tiny bit of blood to test his glucose level. Only then do they know how much food to give him. One of them watches Robbie with eagle eyes to be sure he doesn’t snatch a piece of bread off his brother Mark’s plate or go into a cupboard and find and eat a cookie. They can’t imagine how they are going to cope, especially when Laura’s maternity leave is over and they must find a baby-sitter or day care provider to take care of not just the new baby but Robbie too.

Two years later, it would be hard for an observer to believe they were witnessing the same family. Laura and Tom talk like experts on diabetes. They have joined a parents’ support group in their community, and Laura is on an Internet chat room with other mothers of children with diabetes. She has taught four people, one baby-sitter, one neighbor and two family members how to take care of Robbie, and she no longer feels so alone. Tom and Laura visited a counselor together and now they are communicating much better.

They understand they both have different ways of coping. Instead of differences driving them apart, they have learned to feel comfortable with them and work with each other instead of apart.

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