Saturday, 29 December 2007

Bipolar New Year's Resolution

We Bipolar Polar Bears cannot drink alcohol at Christmas but we can drink Coca-Cola. Some of you may prefer Pepsi, Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper yet why not make it even better by partying with the penguins. Most of us are depressed two thirds of the time. However there are many people around us. If you don't have friends then why not your family. New Year is the perfect time to celebrate our odd characteristics and the many years we have possessed them. Yes we maybe depressed but it is now time to look forward. From now on we should be looking to mingle together with the penguins rather than watching them from afar. The first step begins on New Year's eve and with our non-alcoholic beverages in our hands, we should make a New Year's Resolution that we should all do the best we can to get better. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Polar Bears.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Bipolar polar Bear

Bipolar people sometimes party and other times they may just be plain depressed. It is quite daunting for us bipolar people when we arrive back home or end up in a friend's house after a night of hardcore partying. Not only have we spent incredible amounts of money but we have been in places and done things that we may regret later on. The manic frenzy is an incredible one and we all enjoy it at these times. However medication is designed to control such desires.

Bipolar people like to party hard and it is difficult to become just normal like average Joe. Indeed we can't party every night but when we do, I believe it is important that we allow some more time to recover. After a night out we won't necessarily be depressed but we must be prepared. It is important that we enjoy life as a whole rather than just the manic moments. As long as we can feel emotions we will be alright. I think it takes a major crisis to hit major depression. So those people just need to work on their past issues and look forward. Be hopeful, you will be okay.

The bipolar bear below is a representation of the generalized version of us young bipolar people. He is partying then gradually gets depressed. Towards the end it's quite touching.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Two weeks in Ankara

Tommorow I will be going to my home town Ankara. This place is like the Boondocks for me but that's where I came from. Although this is the second largest city in Turkey there is not much to do but visit my friends. I will post funny videos, songs or other miscellaneous items concerning bipolarity.

Ankara is home to the parliament and the tomb of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk yet this town has many more deep memories for me. I am going there in an attempt to find clarity to my life, learn about other people and to meet old friends. The Christmas season has arrived, however blogging does not stop.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Smoking and Depression

It is evident that among many people with depressive disorders there is a tendency to smoke cigarettes when we are stressed out. Some of us have been able to put a stop to this addictive habit and decided to eat more instead. Some have the unique ability to control their diet and live healthily by exercising. As we get older there is a tendency to want to live a happy life, free of lung and heart failures. In Europe and North America smoking is now being reinforced as something that we should frown on because everybody should enjoy life. Yet when people are suffering from a depressive episode it is hard to be optimistic.

When we are depressed most of us fall victim to the addictive attributes of nicotine because we adopt some sort of a death wish. We don't care what happens to our body and we enjoy damaging ourselves. Although we may moan to others that we can control this dirty habit, in reality we enjoy smoking. Yet smoking is not something we can hide as its smell reeks on our clothes, the environment and on our breath. Being depressed is something we can usually hide but if somebody asks us why we smoke, we usually reply because we want to. As such smokers can only tolerate each other but in many cases non-smokers cannot tolerate smokers. We all try to quit smoking at some point in our lives and sometimes we are successful, but most times we are unable to quit because we are either overwhelmed by stress or depression. As such we smokers have decided that it is not worth living to the full extent.

It is well known by all bipolar people that there is a dark desire within us to commit suicide and end all of our problems. Yet this is mostly caused when bipolar people do not take their medication. "In the 1940s, before the advent of modern medicine, more than 40% of people with Bipolar eventually committed suicide." Yet smoking seems to be a way of killing ourselves slowly and insidiously. Most of the time we may be unaware of what we are doing to ourselves but maybe this is how we carry out our death wish. Of course there are other reasons unrelated to such a 'cunning' plan.

Other reasons may also include the plain fact that we are restricted in ways of intaking harmful substances. For example medications prohibit the intake of alcohol. We maybe placed in situations such as Christmas where everyone around us is drinking alcohol and we must rely on our resolute self-will. Some may quit smoking and then fall victim to a nicotine craving. The reasons are plentiful but most people smoke a cigarette either to gain pleasure or because of a dark unknown secret.

Smoking is most certainly harmful and not something that should be encouraged but it seems to give some of us the feeling that we are powerful. We can huddle together in smoking rooms and see other people who partake in this very same habit. In a sense we are like outlaws because of the stigma against smoking cigarettes. In Turkey the laws are much more lax than in Europe or the U.S. The better brands are the American ones (Marlboro, Camel, Parliament) and they were mostly encouraged through Americanisation during the 90's. We cannot blame the U.S for encouraging their brands but nevertheless maybe more people can be discouraged from smoking through tougher legislation. Think twice before smoking and remember that we reap what we sow.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Subservient anger in Bipolarity

When we are bipolar we find that we have to deal with a lot of anger. In the case of bipolar people anger can be related to anything at all. Some people express their anger by breaking objects around them or shouting at the people surrounding them. Others hit people when they are angry. Many bipolar people name these moments as the manic episodes of their illness. They have great difficulty controlling their anger and they need a therapist to cure them of this tendency. But I want to focus more on the bipolar person with suppressed anger.

The bipolar person with suppressed anger can control his/her emotions, hence he/she may feel angry but he/she will never engage in provocative or violent behavior. When they are angry they will sleep for hours on end, they will mutter curse words at random occasions or they will act like they are oblivious to everything. There are many reasons for getting angry at something but for people who are bipolar the main reason is the way people treat them. The world is a place full of injustice and misfortune for the bipolar mind. On top of all this nobody wants to listen to what bipolar people are saying. Sometimes however everybody listens to what the bipolar person is saying but there is never a balance when you are walking the tightrope of medication. We then get angry at our psychiatrists because we fall off the tightrope occasionally. Sometimes doctors prescribe us the wrong medication so evidently we are angry at a lot of things. Yet suppressed anger never seems to get us anywhere and we therefore become subservient to other people.

Subservient people always agree to offers made to them and get into awkward situations. After we have experienced it we realise that we should not make the same mistake again and then life will be on track again. We have to avoid being subservient and let our anger rip in a more formative manner. Instead of shouting during disturbing situations we can discuss assertively. From a pragmatic point of view, we must learn to reject malicious offers and think logically from experience. Yet it is at times the will to experience life that causes us to get ourselves into such situations. Instead of hitting and breaking, we can think before taking action. This way we can avoid situations where we are subservient to others and our anger can be released slowly. Even getting a punch bag is a good idea. Talking to someone calmer than us can also relieve our anger. Writing can also relieve anger.

It is evident therefore that people with suppressed anger have to fight against manipulation and people with serious anger management issues need to attend sessions with a therapist. Both types of people need full attention but a therapist is always essential. People subject to subservient anger can be in danger. Some people can be incredibly twisted and manipulative in this day and age and even though we may be angry at them, we can let them manipulate us without being aware of the big picture. I was subject to a lot of manipulation but have survived today thanks to the people that supported me. It is essential to create a network of people around you that do not have malicious intent. Below is a video of an Anger Management class with Jack Nicholson. Adam Sandler is the victim of suppressed anger whose therapist believes that singing is a good way to release anger.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Bipolar disorder and Swimming

Many of us affected by bipolar disorder also suffer from a high degree of anxiety. To deal with this anxiety people have found different ways to treat this emotion. Some people find peace by staying at home and only traveling through places that are considered safe. Other people find reading books, practicing yoga or partaking in household duties within their own homes. When we are depressed we must make use of our time by staying within a peaceful environment. All such activities prepare for the times when our patience and strength is reckoned with.

When we are severely depressed we may sometimes feel that activities that we once found enjoyable are now mundane. But this is fine because we can then just lie down and curse the world in peace. If we have a person to support us when we are awake, we can release this anger without hurting any of our emotions. If we do not have someone with us it may help to buy a punch-bag. It is good to find a therapist that is located in the safe part of the city. However some people may not have the financial opportunities to find a therapist in a considerably safe area so therefore I advise that you take somebody with you. Fast recovery can only be fast if you are with someone you trust and if you expose yourself to the outside world. When it all comes down to it, we are alone and we must not forget that we have to learn how to deal with spheres other than our own.

Learning to deal with the outside world is like learning how to swim in the deep end of the swimming pool. We first gather our strength in the shallow end, then move to the deep-end by holding onto the sides and then we start swimming. Why, we might even be able to dive to the bottom later on. What I am trying to imply is that in a swimming pool everything is controlled and safe-checked. We have our family or friends waiting on the sides making sure that we don't drown and we have complete trust in them. Once we decide to go to the beach and swim in the sea that is when we are most challenged.

Going to the beach for the bipolar person is like trying to handle their own business in the real world. As we begin to head towards the deep-end of the sea, the waves constantly push us back but we have to stand firm and take the impact without falling over. We feel cold but the sea forces us to walk slowly. Just like being in the sea, in life people try to push us back into depression but our family and friends will always be waiting on the beach watching us. Sometimes we have to step on stones but we have to move our feet off them as quickly as possible. Every sea is different of course but it all depends on how safe you want to be. At this stage we just let ourselves float in the water and swim a little without fear for our own life.

Coming back to traveling in safe areas and choosing a therapist in a safe location we must be aware of the currents and potential whirlpools. Life is like swimming in the sea and we have to choose the parts where we feel we can swim without fear. Bipolar people prefer to swim in shallow waters where the currents are smooth and safe. However some people handle these waters differently. Some like to surf in highly dangerous areas, others surf in moderately dangerous areas. Surfers are like the CEOs of the real world as they are constantly challenging and experimenting with the way of nature (life).

I have tried to explain a metaphor for the way bipolar people and many others can perceive life like swimming in the water. Not everyone can swim, but they can learn quite easily. Choose your waters wisely. Don't dive in the ocean before swimming in the pool.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Manic Depression, Identity and Robert Barone

One of the most difficult aspects for people affected by bipolar disorder is the issue of identity. No doubt there are also people who have not been diagnosed with an illness who also feel alienation within society. Such is the case with Robert Barone in 'Everybody Loves Raymond.' With people who are bipolar, progressive or sudden ups and downs mean that nobody knows where they stand. Most bipolar people are depressed two-thirds of the time which means that they can often be misdiagnosed as depressive. While bipolar people strive for the manic episodes, so that they can party, create or converse with others, other times they are labeled as outright depressed. As a result bipolar people are constantly forced to restrain themselves from talking about their condition.

Especially at times when we are discovering about the illness and all we think about is whether are we up or down, we have to step back and think about other interests that are completely different. It seems that we can only mention our disorder at times when we are not in a non-bipolar group. But being in a bipolar group would definitely be interesting. When we are together with people who we know are bipolar, we feel much more comfortable and we can identify with them. Our best of friends are usually those people who can listen to our drama one-on-one rather than those who speak within a group. Topics of discussion vary with each person but since childhood we are usually the outsiders.

We are all outsiders like Robert Barone's character in 'Everybody Loves Raymond.' We are outsiders because we cannot identify ourselves to a specific tradition. When viewed from the perspective of a sitcom, Robert Barone is funny. We laugh at how he is always second-best to Raymond and how he never gets what he wants. The minute he gets some attention he perks up and he is happy but other times he always feels neglected. In real life we would not laugh at Robert at all. I am not suggesting that Robert is bipolar but he certainly has issues with who his friends are and who to identify with. The video below shows the first time Robert has ever been to a club. He feels a bit alienated being in a club where he is the only white person but he then starts to feel he is part of the group. The next video shows how Robert starts speaking like a black person and how he asks Raymond why his cop partner (who is a black female) has invited him to a meal alone.

We can conclude then that even though we search for an identity, we are never able to find the right one. Robert finally realizes that he cannot be black but makes it clear that he will always be searching for an identity. It is tough to identify with a specific culture and it is difficult to let our emotions spill. We have to be hard on the outside despite being fragile on the inside. But we also have to pick and choose who we converse with. Being bipolar means we have two identities and we have to work with both of them. Full recovery would mean that we could handle both sides. As long as we attempt to manage our moods, we will not suffer difficulty in life.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

A Bipolar Christmas In Istanbul

The first of December has arrived and we only have twenty-three days left until Christmas Day. Everyone around the whole world will gather together with their family and celebrate this occasion. This festival is neither the triumph of Christianity, nor of the pagans who first created it. It is only a moment in time when we can all be together with our family or friends. In Turkey most people celebrate New Year's Eve as a festival as do most non-Christian countries. Christian countries begin to celebrate Christmas much earlier and based on the writings of the New Testament. I have never been truly religious myself but I first found renewed belief in the celebration of Christmas after my first psychosis.

After a major psychosis and a subsequent depressive episode I felt lonely, lost and abandoned but I found refuge with my family. My mother was brought up as a Roman-Catholic which meant that she always made sure that as a family we always celebrated Easter and the three days of Christmas. Ironically my father had died the day before Christmas Eve so although there was a memorial service, Father Christmas sent our presents to a back-room. We were oblivious of my real father's death at the time and everything just seemed normal at that age. Later on I realized that Santa Claus was a myth and I started to believe that Christmas time was just a season to promote commercialism.

Christmas time was fake, trickery and an excuse to drink gallons of alcohol. I did not mind drinking alcohol but as a result I always felt depressed on Boxing Day. I was upset about the gifts because they were bought with money we did not have and I was afraid that like everybody else we would end up in debt. On top of that I did not practice any particular religion. I have and I always will believe in God but I never saw the practicality in adopting a religion full-time.

Christmas time is a time when the family can see each other and talk about ongoing issues in their life. I feel that because people who are bipolar constantly go through some crisis in their life, a family should always be there to support them. Families want to see their younger generation grow and become self-sufficient. Of course some families are possessive and are always restraining the independence of their younger ones. Either way I believe that people affected by bipolar disorder need the support of their family and Christmas time is when we celebrate that support.

Overall I wait with great anticipation to open my presents and to be together with my family. I am full of Christmas spirit and I am now happy that I can show my family a new and improved Memo. I have tried to be good this year and I have stopped all my bad habits. Maybe Santa will bring you presents too for your effort to become healthier. Nevertheless we can all rejoice in this season with our family despite all the negative propaganda against it. This festival brings us happiness and warmth. Which makes it worth celebrating don't you think?

Thursday, 29 November 2007

What I learned about Bipolar Disorder from my Therapist.

At last I have finally managed to begin a route towards responsibility because now I have everything I need. I've got a positive therapist who is always there when I need her. I've got all the necessary details that I need to give to the company I applied to for a job and I have realized that I am full of optimism. I am ready to take on new projects such as dubbing for a new cartoon that is soon to be released. The hardest part of this week has been undoubtedly looking after my dog. Although I have spoken optimistically in previous posts I think that learning responsibility is a slow process and I am happy to share my experience with all of you.

Looking after a dog is like looking after a child and no one can look after a child better than their mother. My therapist told me today that when children grow up, they start looking after themselves and I think that was what was primarily holding me back from getting a job. I was not only being the man of the house but I was also being the woman of the house as well because when it came to it, I had to clean up the entire house. Of course sis, you are too young to understand the meaning of all this, but we still love you. After all what would it be like if we could not be young. We both thought that it would be better if the house was clean before my mother arrived but oh well! Its the thought that counts.

I have realized that since going to the therapist I have slowly learned to detach myself from my illogical and abrupt emotions. I think more logically in comparison to normal but I still feel that I must restrain myself from acting out strange emotions. I know that this is difficult for many people affected by bipolar disorder and I think it is something we all need to work on. Through therapy I was able to learn that I am not alone in my illness. There are many people experiencing the same emotions and consequently the same events. Together with research, I have found that anything can be solved. I say this because when I was suffering from severe depression, I believed that I was alone and that nobody could help me. I didn't phone my friends, I could barely walk across the street and I just wanted to stay away from 'other' people.

My therapist told me that I had to travel by myself to therapy (1 hour journey) and that I would gradually learn how to survive on my own. Eventually I did learn to make friendships, go to entertaining events with them and finally get a job to earn some real money. The process of learning about independence is a slow one but I am optimistic and I feel that I will eventually reach a point where I can sustain my own well being. This may take years or months but it all depends on how much money I earn and whether I can earn enough to be independent. It also means a lot of emotional detachment which is the hardest part considering I only have one parent but we shall see how things evolve. The problem is that we have a lot of abandonment issues in our family and my sister is the only one who seems to have worked round that. It's hard being the only man in the family.

Indeed I have summarized all the things that I need to deal with but nevertheless I am as optimistic as I can be. I am continuing my medication as usual and as my friend camaroman states: "Let's all be friends." Like camaroman and myself, we are all dealing with problems but even with one friend we are much happier. We all need friends and we all need to help each other. I hope that my insights may also help you. Some professionals cannot be trusted that is true but my therapist has always been there for me so far and I believe that she can guide me towards a happier future. If we do not know what is wrong with us, we can never solve it.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Bipolar, Good luck or pure Bad Luck?

Sometimes I feel that instead of controlling my own destiny, my destiny is controlled by other forces. The pragmatist would argue that I look for other factors (other than my own self-desire) to blame things on. Therefore every illness has a cure and every flaw of personality can be corrected. As you may have read in my blog I have tried to maintain 'sleep hygiene' but despite every attempt to reduce this flaw, I have not been able to even get close. So then I say to the pragmatist is this my own self-desire or am I 'choosing' to sleep? Has my mania faded and my depression come back again? Indeed this depression is not one that I had felt so deeply a year ago but it is lurking around.

I am trying to take a grip on my depression but every time it makes its presence felt and I now know that it is because I am afraid of being left alone. Ever since my father left us, I feel lost when I am left to deal with responsibility. I remember the days of when I was a child and when my uncles told me that I was the "man of the house now" and that I would "save the family." The pragmatist would argue that this all irrelevant and that I should now look to the future because I am not a child anymore. But what about a child's dreams? Dreams that I would save the family and be the man of the house. Most boys were dreaming of becoming astronauts, lawyers, policemen, firemen and CEOs. Of course everybody diverted into different careers later on but I am still stuck on how I can save the family. Unfortunately this is just a painful reminder of when my father died and it leads me nowhere because I always feel the weight of this burden.

Most people who have lost a parent at an early age will state that they grew up much faster, so it is always difficult to find good friends who can understand you. My sister doesn't even remember when my father died so she has just been born into a single parent family and she is as I would describe very pragmatic in her approach to life. Yet another problem was that before my father died, I had hated him and I thought that it was my fault that he had passed away. Every normal boy usually hates their father at a certain age but I lived with that burden until my psychosis occurred.

Most of the time I viewed myself as some kind of martyr where I had to endure pain to give other people happiness. I waited for hours on end for my friends to finally arrive. I served a man (who I hated) with appetizers and let him watch whatever he willed on television. I cleaned up the dishes (when that man ordered me to) and I took the dog for a walk twice a day. If I didn't take the dog for a walk I was punished by this man. Most of my family believe I am exaggerating when I talk about these incidents but I just want to be open. They claim that I was a happy child but I believe that they never saw the darkness that had accumulated inside of me. I was definitely bipolar as a child and with increased hormones this meant that there was rapid cycling to some degree. Yet I do think I was lucky because I could work for endless hours and understand every detail of every text I read (for English class for example) when I was manic.

Nevertheless I still have a picture of my father hanging on my wall and he watches me as I sleep till the late hours of the day. I reminisce about the times when I was hypo-manic and I believe that even without that state I can keep on writing. When I was in that episode I was trying to find out the basics of this illness. I will continue to follow my dreams of pursuing a freelance career but I must be more pragmatic and learn to overcome this illness. I must also learn to defeat the side-effects of my medication and forget about being a martyr. As a wise friend once told me after my first fist-fight "Why are you trying to be the martyr?" I will try to help other bipolar people like myself but I can't really save my own family. Somehow I must learn that I am on my own.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Responsibility and Bipolar Disorder

Being 22 I find myself in a huge dilemma between responsibility and irresponsibility. In the past I have felt that being irresponsible has given me time to think and do whatever I please. I have been a bit of a joyrider by pursuing activities on the internet and sleeping all day long. From now on I must separate work from pleasure and stop being a "bum". My psychosis was only a year and a half ago and I have finally decided that I must pursue more work that is either part-time or freelance. My mania is being controlled by the Seroquel but I do not feel that I am ready to work full-time.

Sometimes when I am at home I feel as though the outside world wants to rip me apart. Of course I love being at home. Hence I feel that I should pursue a part-time or freelance job. When I work for only a couple of hours a day, I'm sure I will be happy. When one earns enough money he/she feels much happier and it's not only the money. When we put effort into creating something or being a part of something, we feel much better. I have learned that I must build a future for myself because otherwise I will stay unemployed for my entire life. I am very much afraid that I am not moving forward and I have to do something. In my case I don't have the money to study a course or study an additional degree etc. so I don't have the means to develop myself. I have to learn how to become used to business life. In the paragraph above I called myself a "bum" because until now I have simply looked for excuses not to work. So instead of complaining about the burdens of responsibility, I have decided to take matters into my own hands and start building up my CV. It was very difficult for me to reach this decision but this article by Madeline Kelly helped me very much in deciding upon this critical issue. A company has already made me an offer. I hope to work for them sooner rather than later.

I found out quite a lot about the company I want to work for and I have heard that they are decent fellows which means that I will be happy working for them even it is a freelance or part-time job. I still feel that this crisis has really shaken me up and I am just recovering so I shouldn't pursue something too demanding. I feel that if I build my career steadily and with as few tragedies as possible, I will be okay. There will probably be a few bumps on the way but I am happy that I can rely on my therapist. As Kelly states "Each time (there are tragedies) you dust yourself off, you add to your knowledge, stamina and wisdom." With this illness we have to be as logical as we possibly can.

Overall I feel that I should search for a part-time or freelance job so that I can build myself slowly. I am living with my family so I think I am much luckier than most. Kelly's article can give us all some good pointers. We all need to learn how to cope with responsibility and we must try to keep positive. It's easier said than done but we all need to 'look on the bright side of life' no matter what or how much pain we endure.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Manic Depression, Jobs, Sleeping and Healing

Even though my doctor tells me that sleep is beneficial for the mind, I sometimes feel like I am not maintaining regular sleeping patterns. However when responsibility kicks in I am forced to wake up early in the morning and stay awake till sunset. For this reason alone I am currently seeking employment. It is said that those affected by bipolar disorder must make sure that they sustain "sleep hygiene." When depression kicks in, we sleep for longer hours and this causes us to be late for work. I also use Seroquel which is a balancer and is used mostly to control mania.

Seroquel cures us of irregular sleeping patterns and helps us sleep normally with, more or less, no instances of dreams. I have had a few dreams while using Seroquel for a month now. However I feel that when I want to change my sleeping patterns to normal, I have to be fairly responsible because lithium must be taken at the ends of long time intervals. Hence I make sure that I set my alarm to the correct time so that I don't die by accident. Nevertheless I have come to realize that responsibility helps us function in normal everyday society.

Despite this breakthrough, I feel an immense weight on my shoulders that I will not be able to handle the pressure. When I am left alone at home I start to think about survival as there is no one to pick me up if I fall. I have to look after the entire house and my dog who has just had an operation. My dog needs all the caring he can get because he is depressed mainly because he now has a blue lampshade on his head to stop him from clawing at his scars. So I have to stroke him, feed him, make sure he goes for his walks and (guess what) make sure he takes his medications. When he goes for walks people either think he is an alien or they just laugh. So it must be so painful for him.

Despite all this tragedy, a company has made me an offer and I feel I cannot turn this down. At the moment I feel like I'm living like a vampire, where dawn is dusk and dusk is day. These are "easy days" for me many would argue. But I would reply "Yes these are easy days, but I am preparing for harder days." Now that I am being treated for my illness I need to enter the world outside with a fresh and clean mind. I need to continue my trips across the Bosphorus and strolls through the parks. For me, these are the hardest days of my life. I am pulled by this, that and the other. Nowadays a diploma is not good enough for getting a job because you need other diplomas and therefore you need more money. I don't want to complain too much about life because that's boring. But as I stated before I have my projects and I am optimistic about the future.

I have to continue with the medications and therapy with hope that I will finally become independent. Indeed I may need to sleep now and then but I guess that's my way of healing. I believe that small moments of responsibility are small steps forward and that I shouldn't be attempting great leaps. As time progresses I will learn to overcome my fears of traditional society. I will always be different from the rest but then again everyone is different. I sometimes wonder whether I ever will find another habitat that I am comfortable in. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Bipolar Disorder in Istanbul

When diagnosed as bipolar about a year and a half ago, I had found myself situated in the beautiful city of Istanbul. With 15 and a half million people this city makes its claim on several historic sites which can be observed during the travels of normal everyday life. It is also home to the Bosphorus strait which is one of the only locations in the world where the sea passes through land (The Suez Canal is another place in the world where the sea passes directly through the land). As a person diagnosed as bipolar, I find it immensely comforting to look around at the beautiful things around me. The Bosphorus represents the border between the European and the Asian continents and every time I go to my therapist I have to cross from one continent to the other. There is a route across the Bosphorus Bridge but I prefer to take the the more scenic route via the traditional ferries. Food and beverages are served on each ferry and the time to my destination usually takes less than 40 minutes. Time is of the essence in this city but 40 minutes is not a long time when there is so much to see and do.

Before going to the therapist, I love to just sit and watch my surroundings on the ferry. It creates great relaxation before I have to talk about all of the problems or issues in my life. After I have finished my session I rush as quickly as possible to an available minibus packed with only a small amount of people, so that I can board the next ferry back home. Before boarding I can again sip on my tea in a small café next to the Bosphorus and think about what my aim is in life. Even though the city is very big, the fact that there are small cafés with pleasant surroundings means that I feel very much at peace. There are even huge parks in the middle of the European and Asian continents where one can walk amongst the many aging trees and bushes (for example Çamlıca, Göztepe, Dilek Sabancı, Gülhane). As I love being within nature sometimes I feel like I am in another world even though I am very close to home. Of course there is always no place like home but even at home there are moments of frustration. Especially when a bipolar person has to go and obtain their medication.

Walking into a hospital in Istanbul may not be worse that walking into a hospital in Iraq but it most certainly is disconcerting for the bipolar patient. In order to get your medications and your blood/urine tests from a public (U.S interpretation) hospital in Turkey, you have to be very cunning. If you are depressed you most certainly need somebody with a strong will next to you. The public hospital is probably the only place in Turkey where all people of different age, size, class and attitude are forced to mingle together. In Turkey bureaucracy means long queues and waiting times. So as a result there are many people becoming furious over a number of issues. Everybody in the hospital is either complaining about a certain issue or waiting until their doctors finally say they are permitted into the examination room. In the hospital everyone is assigned according to a number. When the doctor announces your number you may enter the examination room. If you are slow, don't be surprised if somebody jumps in front of you. You have to be cunning. Nevertheless your only hope is to rely on those good Samaritans who are willing to support you when the going gets tough. I have heard similar complaints about the NHS from other bloggers.  "The NHS exists to treat people with illnesses and I pay for it along with every other person in the country who’s ever worked. Being dissatisfied with your treatment isn’t being ungrateful. It’s widely acknowledged that the NHS is full of flaws and endless government reports are fairly accusatory in regards to standards."

Most times my trips for receiving my medications have always been successful and even though the doctors are not always the happiest chaps on the planet, they give me a prescription nevertheless. Indeed going into a hospital by yourself is daunting but if you have someone beside you, all the chaos just passes by. After I've obtained my medication I have a 6 month stock and everything is better again. I can continue my beautiful trips across the Bosphorus and feel lost within the magical atmosphere of Istanbul. Istanbul is a beautiful city and I guess we have all learned how to live with its bureaucracy.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Fantasy or Reality?

Sometimes we Bipolars do not know whether we are living a moment of fantasy or reality, but I believe that no particular one is preferable at any given moment. My therapist sometimes asks me to tell her about the dreams that I have and I try to tell her at every opportunity. But I feel like I do not want to share them with her. Other times I feel that if I tell my therapist about the dreams that I have, then she will take me back to reality. As a result I always feel like I am being pulled back and forth by what I believe or what I should be believing.

I think dreams tell a person about what they are thinking subconsciously and this can sometimes be extremely disturbing or upsetting. People who are distraught by a past experience have frequent nightmares and feel that they cannot escape. In my case I sometimes see things that are hidden in my subconscious but I do not want to see those images. In many respects then I suffer from nightmares but I do not want to admit to that because the images I see cannot be understood by the people around me. For example when you are in psychosis how can you persuade someone that everyone can read your mind and your mind alone? What do you do when everyone around you is a psychic? How can you stop every single thought process in your brain so that the others around you cannot tell what you are thinking? How can the logical person in front of you respond to what you are trying to tell him/her? When do we choose or try to choose fantasy over reality?

Living in a fantasy world is what my therapist describes as being in a child's mind and I must admit that sometimes I just want to be like a child. Everybody wants to be a child again because everything is much simpler. At the moment I am also trying to be like an adult by applying for jobs and looking after the house much more but still I feel like I don't take life so seriously. I feel that I am still only 21 and that everything will be okay. I have applied to many companies and so far I have been' good.' I take my lithium, Seroquel and Risperdal tablets everyday and I just sit at home. I don't drink alcohol and I drink 3 jugs of water everyday. So does this make me a child?

One problem I think is that I cannot confess that I am bipolar. Bipolarity is not an excuse for anything because people don't know what that is down here. I cannot hide behind a disability act when I want to get a job and that's what I was trying to imply in my article "A secret society". There are of course some ways around bureaucratic measures but those are frowned upon. One blogger speaks about how it would be better if we were in a wheelchair but I don't know how it feels to apologize about the way I am. I never have to apologize about the way I am because people don't know what bipolarity is about anyway. At least the people around me. The Turkish government is making some improvements towards a disability act but we all have to raise awareness. As a matter of fact bipolarity is considered a disability because it is an illness that is extended over many years that also include childhood. Perhaps we do not know much about bipolarity yet but I will discuss this issue in another post.

Overall I feel that people should acknowledge that sometimes bipolar people do live in a fantasy world but we are all trying to adapt. For me and most bipolar people reality is fantasy. Somehow we have to add bits of reality to our world of fantasy. I don't believe that I am a child. I am a child of the new generation.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Medication, Therapy or ECT

In this article I browse over the main methods of therapy and practice within them. I summarize my programme of medication and make reference to medications within the same class (i.e. mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics). I describe the type of therapy I am going through and I assess its functionality. I argue that these methods work best for me but I also add that Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) can also be useful. I have a brief look at ECT and Electroboy. I try to evaluate why we maybe afraid of ECT and how we should learn to be less afraid of it. I conclude that we all prefer a different method of therapy and that we should be optimistic nevertheless.

When looking at the different methods of treatment for bipolarity there are many different ways of treating this illness. Evidently most people prefer different methods of treatment because the manic highs, the depressive lows, the anxiety, the anger and people's metabolism vary. When I was diagnosed as bipolar I was at the highest point of mania (also known as psychosis) and the first psychiatrists I saw prescribed me Risperdal (Anti-Psychotic) and Zyprexa (Strong Anti-Psychotic). After my psychosis was over, I started therapy and my psychiatrist prescribed me Lithium (classic mood stabilizer used since the 1940s) and a lower dose of Risperdal. As therapy and a strict regime of scheduled pill-taking continued, I had to learn to give up my intake of alcohol and other miscellaneous oddities. I was serious about all this but nevertheless the Lithium was not enough after a while and I was prescribed Seroquel on top of prescribed Depakene together
all my other medication. Most patients are usually prescribed Depakene as well as Seroquel but I think I just needed one extra anti-psychotic to calm things down.

Stabilizers are good because they control your emotions and make sure that you are not feeling completely down or completely manic for that matter. They have their side-effects but I think it's a choice between whether you want to eat in moderation or be completely out of touch with your emotions. Everyone will agree that the manic side is great but if it slips into an area of psychosis you could be in great danger to yourself and the people surrounding you. When you are in psychosis even your therapist can't help you. You are ultimately left in the hands of God (or whatever you might believe in) really. Other mood stabilisers include Keppra, Lamictal, Neurontin, Tegretol, Topamax, Trilepta and a range of Calcium Channel Blockers (to control
manic episodes).

When it comes to antipsychotic drugs my prescribed medication has been Seroquel and Risperdal. I think it has relieved most of the psychotic realms of my mania as I feel that I can sleep much more regularly. My psychiatrist told me that sleep was a good thing. I always thought sleeping was a bad thing because it meant I was never ready to do anything. I miss waking up after 3 hours and just doing tons of stuff. I think that its okay though because my body needs to sleep off the hours that I missed in my previous years. I still feel a little anxious when I'm walking in the street (my left fist is always clenched) but I'm trying to get over that habit through therapy. The anxiousness is linked to a vague concept that everyone wants to harm me. LOL. Something others would call paranoia. Other antipsychotics available also include Abilify, Clopixol, Clozaril, Etrafon, Fluanxol, Geodon, Haldol, Loxitane, Mellaril, Orap, Prolixin, Stelazine, Thorazine and Trilafon.

The prescription of medication usually depends on the intensity of the manic or depressive episode, but how do we choose our therapists? I have a therapist and a psychiatrist. My therapist is good at communicating with me and my psychiatrist is good at listening to me. My therapist uses a combination of therapy methods but she primarily aims to edge me towards the Freudian way of therapy. She tells me I'm free to talk about whatever I like in therapy but she prefers it if I try to link my topics to childhood recollections. I think the fact that she tells me I can talk about anything I want is great because I feel that's what I'm paying her for. She remembers things, she is very articulate and shows that she cares about me. My psychiatrist however just listens to what I have to say during a manic episode most particularly and she asks some medical questions when I am depressed. The aim of the psychiatrist therefore is to write a prescription. I think this balance works out great because the medication and therapy do not clash, which avoids confusion. The therapist and the psychiatrist talk together and come up with a diagnosis, so everything falls into place once the psychiatrist has talked to me. I was lucky enough to have a high status relative within my family to find this perfect combination. I know that some people really have difficulty finding the perfect combination, so I consider myself quite lucky. One of my initial fears was however going to Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) but I learned later on that it was not really all that bad.

I never underwent ECT but I heard of some courageous people (in my opinion) who had gone through it and eventually found that they were cured. One such example is Andy Behrman also known as 'Electroboy.' who undergoes the equivalent of what happens in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but I am left uncertain as to how ECT really cures you. Stephen Fry points out that we have been made to fear ECT due to images portrayed in the 1930s. Even today films such 'A Beautiful Mind' and 'One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest' spark fear and pity for such patients. I don't believe that Electroshock Therapy is as gruesome as it is portrayed. Behrman, I'm sure, will agree that technology has advanced and nowadays the doctors are supportive during ECT. I'm sure no one would want their child to go through ECT but sometimes there really is no alternative and I feel that people do not need to fear that alternative. Patients tend to say that after the first ECT the next one is easy.
Andy Behrman has had a very interesting life as a bipolar person as he was changing careers from being a public relations agent, to an art dealer, a hustler and a forger. Flying from Tokyo to New York on the spur of the moment. He argues that Electroshock Therapy cured him completely and his film is intended to be released soon starring Tobey Maguire. I'm thrilled to hear that Behrman's story will be becoming a motion picture because it will bring awareness about bipolarity and it will be accurate because ECT was his last option of treatment. He also states "the film will portray a manic depressive accurately". Stephen Fry's Documentary interviews Behrman and he comments that when he asked his doctor how many times he would need ECT the doctor replied "10, 20, 30, 40, 60. Hey! However many you need." So I believe that Behrman was bold enough to undergo ECT and then to later proclaim that he was completely cured. But I still feel a bit nerve-racked about the whole process. A friend of mine also had ECT and she said that she felt that at first when she woke up, she didn't know where she was or what she was doing but later on some 'bad past memories' had been erased.

Overall then we can conclude that there is not always an all-right treatment for Bipolarity but nevertheless we musn't lose hope. People who opt for therapy of any sort must have some hope because they want to get better. Indeed sometimes we Bipolars feel like the world has come to an end and we cannot go on any longer. But we have to because the world is a better place with us in it.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

A Secret Society

In this post I talk about the Bipolar society as a secret society. I make reference to Stephen Fry's Documentary called the "The Secret Life of the Manic-Depressive." I try to address the difference between stardom and being a normal citizen. I talk about the difficulties bipolar people face in society. Then I argue that bipolar people need a network of friends and support. I conclude by talking about my current experience with jobs and maintaining them.

Being Bipolar means quite often that we never seem to meet each other or even hear about each other. In many respects we are very lucky if we do meet each other in person. The problem seems to be that many people seem to have recognized bipolarity as a harmless and insignificant illness however we bipolar people have to struggle everyday with ongoing difficulties.

There are of course many people such as Stephen Fry, Jim Carrey, Carrie Fisher (Princess Leila from Star Wars), Robbie Williams, Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws And Jaws 2) and Jean Claude Van Damme who all seem to entertain many people without even having to mention that they have a mental illness of any kind. They are just born to entertain and some of them were able to perform their best when they were slightly manic. Nevertheless depression can also bring out creativity and time to think. l am beginning to learn that those who can learn how to bend round their mood swings can eventually reach places insurmountable. Bipolar people are not disabled they are born with a gift I believe. Hence they have the power to move and to think.
This is all easy to say when you have reached the pinnacles of stardom but what does one do if they are bipolar and considered a normal citizen like everybody else. Stephen Fry's Documentary of the "Secret Life of the Manic-Depressive" gave me a very good introduction to this phenomenon but I believe there is more to add. It is very difficult to pinpoint the exact timing of when someone becomes bipolar but for me I would say it was around the age of 6 when my father died. A complete shaking of my emotions had left me traumatized by the time I was 21. Every bipolar person sooner or later realizes that something is and has been inevitably wrong with them at a certain age. As a matter of fact everyone goes through a mid-life or just a simple life crisis two or three times in their life but for the manic-depressive, neglecting medications everyday may mean a crisis every single day. Therefore we can conclude that medication and therapy are the right cure for balancing a bipolar. Consequently a crisis can be avoided.

As I mentioned by the age of 21 I was left with an immense amount of anxiety, stress and fear but I had managed to successfully finish my degree. I was distraught by the traumatic experience of my psychosis and I did not know where I was heading. Some bipolar people are lucky because there has been no significant problem in their childhood. I'm sure many of you readers will agree however that this is not always the case. Built-up stress, anxiety and anger all lead to problems in further life and I believe that without treatment it is difficult to overcome such problems. As such because of such problems the bipolar society has inevitably become a secret society.

Telling a person that you are bipolar is difficult because they may not understand its true meaning. They may frown upon the therapists you go to, they may think that you are just exaggerating, they may think you are just looking for excuses, in fact they may even think that you are just following a cult of people who wear 'I am Bipolar' teeshirts. Such people just don't understand the extremes that we go to but that's okay because we learn who to avoid and who to share our secrets with. The bipolar community is a secret society and that means that we have to work and play undercover.

Despite all this confidentiality we can sometimes make the best of friends and even find bipolar members like ourselves. With good friends who are there to support us in our most difficult times we can reach the top of the world. A bipolar person needs friends and they can be of any age or gender. Even pet therapy concludes that having a pet around the house to love and look after can be highly beneficial for the bipolar person. Whether your mood swings are high or lower your friend or pet will always be beside you to cheer you up. If the bipolar person cannot find friends then it is always helpful to discuss this with a professional. If you are in great need for help and you need someone to discuss your issues with, you can always go to the bipolar support chat room. There are many people there who are always helpful with any issue you may have. So hope is always there.

When a bipolar begins to look for or start working for a company it is then that things become much trickier. Most first world countries have made a place for a disability act which includes mental health issues as well. Under this act it is illegal for a company to discriminate against you on the grounds that you are bipolar. Third and Second World countries believe that bipolar people are mentally "unstable" and therefore a risk to the company and its employees. This is when we bipolars have to put our cloaks on. We are therefore ready, eager to please and fully confident. In the future I hope that I won't need to use medication or go to therapy so that I can fully function like a normal person. But until then I have decided to go for part-time or freelance jobs so that I can stay at home as much as possible. As long as the bipolar makes a start things will hopefully turn out for the better (touch wood). Even if things go wrong our secret society will always be there for us.

I for one have learnt that I should keep my head up and my chin straight. I hope you can do the same too.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Discovering Bipolarity

This post is a summary of how I discovered I was Bipolar. I talk about my childhood recollections, my psychosis, my subsequent depression, the pills I had to take and my eventual recovery of sorts.

Discovering that I was bipolar was the most difficult but also groundbreaking moment of my entire life. Now that I was bipolar everything made sense. My childhood recollections of walking on the roof-tops of houses without fear of death. The moments of sitting in my dark room in a corner listening to the sound of silence. Moments of turning through pages frantically memorizing every word and detail of each page only to find that I would forget them later. Being so nervous that I could not utter a single word in class or in the playground. Most people thought I was just quiet and ordinary but I thought I was going to change the world and show everyone that I was better than them. I would show them one day.

But talking about the fear of death it was something that I had lost after I lost someone very close to me at the age of 6. My father had died of an instant heart attack in an elevator and I was sitting on the top floor watching television. Perhaps this was the most groundbreaking moment of my entire life as from then on my mother had to learn how to bring up two small children by herself.

My sister was only 1 year old at the time so she never remembered the event and she still remains oblivious of it thankfully, but it was a defining moment for me. I am told that this is the event that subsequently lead to my being diagnosed as bipolar. My family told me "Now you are the man of the house." They then told me later on "You are going to save this family." I was only 6 and 14 at the time so I placed it upon myself that I was now the man of the house. I was not very popular at school and I only had 1 or two friends at a time. My confidence was low even when my dad was alive, so how was I to become the man of the house.

The truth was I was never the man of the house, my mother was because she had to be a father and a mother. As a result I was left deeply confused until the age of 21 when I eventually went into psychosis because I just could not bear the pressure any longer. I will delve further into this topic in further posts but during psychosis I reached a stage where I was at the highest point of mania (Manic-Depressive) and I could see hallucinations and I perceived the environment, noises and reflections around me as "messages from a higher authority." As I said I will discuss in other posts.
So after suffering this psychosis I then went into deep depression and for a year I did not talk to anybody or even step outside unless I was forced too. My family tried to take me outside but I could not even cross the street without my uncle holding me by the arm. If I had been alone I would have either killed myself or been killed because I did not even care whether the light was red, green or orange. I had given up all my hopes. So people if you have a relative who suffers from psychosis my advice is to get him/her to a psychiatrist immediately. In first world countries you can probably take them to an institution so they can get treated but all you people who don't live in a first world country just stay with them and try to keep them calm. I was in Turkey with my family at the time and they had to apply the latter method.

Finally after weekly visits to my therapist and a monthly visit to my psychiatrist I was prescribed Lithium and Risperdal. Lithium to balance my mania and depression and Risperdal to relieve me of anxiety. I took these pills as the doctor ordered but I never really felt like I needed them. My friends told me that they were basically placebos and if I hadn't gone to my therapist I would have been inclined to believe them. Then one day on the spur of the moment I discovered what bipolarity really meant. It all made sense and perhaps with a boost of mania I was out of my depression and ready to tell the whole world that I was BIPOLAR. WOW.. Then I discovered that telling everyone was not a good idea. My eventual girlfriend was sick of hearing about it, my family was sick of hearing about it and so were my friends. So discovering your bipolarity is the first step but then it becomes the secret of bipolarity which I will discuss in other posts.

So the story is that everything always turns out for the better and that's really true! If you are feeling really depressed now, believe me, with a therapist and medication, you are most probably going to feel better. Going to a therapist controls your emotions and the therapist and psychiatrist make sure that you are always feeling more or less balanced. But anyways that's a shortened version of the whole story and I will develop this throughout the blog.


Hi. My name is Memo and I was born in the 80s. My ID used to be Extrememoo but now it is Kramer.  This is my first blog and in it I want to share my experiences of bipolar moments and other occurrences. I wish to reach out to any other bipolar people or people who have bipolar people close to them. I also want to experiment with ideas and concepts to add a philosophical flavour to this page.  I believe that the world is changing everyday and new problems are arising. Older people must learn to accommodate the new generations  I believe that I was a successful student considering all the difficulties I suffered because of bipolarity but I now know my condition better and I am learning to deal with it.  I hope you enjoy my blog.