Meeting Notes – March 16, 2011

by Bruce on April 17, 2011

Introductions

We begin the meeting with each person answering the following questions (and passing if they wish).

1. Your first name.
2. Your diagnosis.
3. Your mood on a scale of 1 to 10 (low to high).
4. What do you do to take care of yourself?.

Check-In

At this point we broke up into small groups for a more personal check-in.

Meeting Format

Throughout the meeting, we circulate the question bag (just a paper bag with a big “?” on the side).   Anyone is free to write any question relating to living with a mood disorder. The question is read by the facilitator and members of the group respond from their own experience. The writer of the question remains anonymous, but benefits from the collective experience and wisdom of the group. The discussions are often quite lively and humorous.

(The only topic we don’t discuss are individual medications and health care providers. There is too much variation in individual’s response to a certain medication or certain doctor and what might work for one person might not work for another. We do have general discussions about classes of medications, and people are welcome to ask during the meeting for feedback on a particular medication or doctor and then discuss it with others one-on-one after the meeting.)

Announcements:

– Bipolar Disorder Magazine

– The DBSA 2011 NATIONAL CONFERENCE will be held on May 20-22 at the Westin Galleria Houston Houston, TX.

– The 8th Annual Circle of Support Breakfast, featuring author Ayalet Waldman’s presentation ‘Monkey Bars & Mood Swings, The Journey of a Bipolar Mother’.

Q & A Session:

Q:  How do you go about telling a friend (someone from group) that they’re imbalanced?  Should I say something at all?  If you have told someone, what did you say?

A:  I’d try to address it conceptually, because it’s dicey to tell someone that they need treatment.  You can’t force them by your will to do something even if it’s necessary.
A:  I had a friend who had a temporary imbalance (hormonal).  We were all taken by surprise because it was very sudden.  One of the children in the school . . . we were very supportive, but we recognized that she needed help.  She approached her primary doctor.  They were able to find a diagnosis and treatment.  If we had not been so supportive, I don’t think she would have gotten help.
A:  Somebody like me who has something, I can explain my experience and that there’s nothing wrong with having a mental illness.  Then you can say that you’ve noticed something in them and they might need help.

Q:  Do you know a good psychiatrist who is reasonably priced?

A:  You can use the “Find A Pro” service on the DBSA national website.

Q:  Has anyone been able to come down from a manic episode without being hospitalized?  If so, how did you do it?

A:  I take one pill, wait for 10 minutes . . . take a 2nd.
A:  A very good question.  Have asked a lot of doctors about this issue.  You can’t really tell when you’ve passed the threshold between hypo-manic and manic.  When you are unsure, there is a medication that is a very strong anti-psychotic.  It will knock you and and will prevent the situation.  You need to have enough experience to recognize when you’re getting too high.  Taking this medication will take care of it.
A:  I exercise and I depend on the people around to tell me that I’m not doing well.  Sometimes I don’t want to hear it, but my husband will tell me that I’m talking really fast or haven’t slept.
A:  When manic I get really paranoid, even about taking meds – poison.  I need to have someone “yank” me and tell me that I have to take my medication.  If you’re too gentle I’ll push you away – think that the demons told you to do this.
A:  You can go into any ER and tell them that” I need a med adjustment.” and the psychiatrist on staff has to do that.

Q:  Any info on affordable housing?  Any resources

A:  Email John Mitchem (Santa Clara NAMI)

Q:  What’s the difference between depression, dysthimia, major depression and unipolar depression.

A:  Dysthimia refers to a depression that has lasted two years or more.  It’s not as bad as major depression, which is defined as being depressed for two weeks or more.  Major depression is a much deeper depression.  Unipolar depression means that you only swing one direction.

Q:  Someone asked me what a psychotic state is – can the group contribute to the answer?

A:  Losing touch with reality.  Irritable, agitated.  Hallucinations, auditory and visual.  I can’t stay in my house.  I have to pack things in my car and go on road trip. It’s random and has been true since I was diagnosed 20 years ago.  I’ve been hospitalized 11 times, but was table for 17 years.  Then my hormones changed with menopause and I had a manic episode, even though I was taking meds.  As a result, I lost my job.  Now don’t have insurance.
A:  For me – it’s like not being in a present state of mind.  I start dissociating – I take myself to some place in my head to get out of whatever situation I’m in.  I hear voices and they tell me what to do.  I’m learning techniques to deal with it – sometimes it takes 5 minutes to get out of it – it used to take a number of hours.  It’s very frightening.
A:  I’ve was psychotic in my 30’s.  I thought that my roommate was burning my art canvasses.  Another time I started doing really weird things and was put in the hospital.  I was out of it for 21 days until the medication started working.  I didn’t remember anything, but others were very eager to tell me about all of the  things that I did.
A:  When you’re psychotic you have a totally different frame of mind.  It’s like you’re a different person.  When you’re on meds, you just have a vague memory of what happened.  When I’m psychotic, it always comes back to the same story.  For some people, they might think they’re a  secret agent with a special mission.  I’m glad that I always come back to the same themes, because it makes it easier for me to recognize that I need help..

Q:  How long does it take social security to decide if you qualify for long-term disability if you’re bipolar?

A:  2 parts.  By  law, a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar 1 or 2 automatically qualifies you for disability, but it can take some time.  It’s harder to get disability with unipolar depression. If you are conserved, then it can happen quite quickly.  If you’re not conserved then it can take up to 6 months.  Being conserved means that if the court finds that a person is unable to take care of themselves.  A guardian is appointed and the person is “conserved”.  You loose the right to vote.  You have no say over if you’re going to the hospital.  Every decision in your life is made by your conservator.
A:  I’m applying.  I’m in my 5th month.  I’m told that it typically 6-8 months, but can take up to two years in some cases.  I’ve been hospitalized 3 times in last 4 months and it isn’t helping my situation.
A:  I got my SSI after I was in the hospital.

Q:  How does someone (an immediate family member) cope with and support someone who has depression?

A:  They can educate themselves.  At first my sister didn’t understand.  She said some ridiculous things when I was first hospitalized.  Now that she’s been diagnosed with disorder herself, she sees a therapist.  The therapist said said that if she wants to understand me, she should read all of the books that she can.  When I was sick, I was really mean to her, and she didn’t understand.  She thought I was just being mean.  Now she accepts that that was part of the disorder.
A:  Self care is really important, not just for us, but for family members too.  We’re stigmatized and our family members are stigmatized too.
A:  NAMI has a class for family members.  My husband took it and was much easier for me to live with after that.  Now he’s very supportive.

Q:  How old were you when you are diagnosed?  Can you be too old or too young to be diagnosed?  Does it get better with time?  I mean, do you start healing as soon as you take your medication, or are you hurt and will always be hurt?

A: I was diagnosed with depression at age 13 and bipolar disorder at 22.
A:  We have to understand that we don’t just “heal” like that.  Itt doesn’t go away.  It tends to present more, not less, as it progresses.  One day it will start getting worse and we’ll have symptoms that we haven’t had before.  That being said, there are a lot of things that can keep us happy, healthy and whole.
A:  I was depressed as teenager and diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 24.  I had no episodes for seven years at a time without taking medication.  I started taking meds 20 years later.
A:  I was diagnosed at 32.   Now think I was bipolar in my late teens, but was never diagnosed.  I saw a therapist when i was 25 but no one caught it.
A:  I had it first in my 20’s.  It got worse when I was in my 40’s.  In my 50’s I tried many things: SSRI’s, group therapy, but nothing worked.  The psychiatrist that I was seeing told me that I was “treatment resistant”, and might need ECT.  Finally, I got a second opinion from a psychiatrist outside of Kaiser and finally got a correct diagnosis and treatment that works.  My mother was diagnosed when she was 80.  We all knew there was something going on, but nobody knew what to call it at that time.  She was hospitalized in 50’s, but they still didn’t figure out what was going on.  Her treatment has been very successful.  It hasn’t gone away, but it’s manageable.  She says that she likes the feeling of being manic, but now she calls her psychiatrist or therapist when she recognizes the signs.
A:  I had my first episode when I was 49.
A: I was diagnosed when I was a little girl.

Q:  I think I’ve been stuck for a very long time, i.e., there’s a powerful part of me just doesn’t want to change, to recover from bipolar disorder.  Has anyone else had the experience of just not really putting their heart into recovery, yet turned that around eventually?  How did you turn it around?

A:  When it comes to doing something that will help you get better, just don’t say “no”.

Q:  My husband has issues.  I think he should go to therapy more often than he does.  My son has also refused to see a therapist on a regular basis.  I want them to go as often as I do.

A:  You don’t have any control over what they do.  There’s the old saying that “You can lead a horse to water but can’t make them drink.”  It’s important that you take care of yourself.

– magazines (follow up):  bp Magazine – bphope.com,
Announcements:   The DBSA 2011 NATIONAL CONFERENCE will be held on May 20-22 at the Westin Galleria Houston Houston, TX.

DBSA National Conference in Houston & DBSA state conference

Q:  How do you go about telling a friend (someone from group) that they’re imbalanced?  Should I say something at all?  If you have told someone, what did you say?
A:  I’d try to address it conceptually, because it’s dicey to tell someone that they need treatment.  You can’t force them by your will to do something even if it’s necessary.
A:  I had a friend who had a temporary imbalance (hormonal).  We were all taken by surprise because it was very sudden.  One of the children in the school . . . we were very supportive, but we recognized that she needed help.  She approached her primary doctor.  They were able to find a diagnosis and treatment.  If we had not been so supportive, I don’t think she would have gotten help.
A:  Somebody like me who has something, I can explain my experience and that there’s nothing wrong with having a mental illness.  Then you can say that you’ve noticed something in them and they might need help.

Q:  Do you know a good psychiatrist who is reasonably priced?
A:  You can use the “Find A Pro” service on the DBSA national website.

Q:  Has anyone been able to come down from a manic episode without being hospitalized?  If so, how did you do it?
A:  I take one pill, wait for 10 minutes . . . take a 2nd.
A:  A very good question.  Have asked a lot of doctors about this issue.  You can’t really tell when you’ve passed the threshold between hypo-manic and manic.  When you are unsure, there is a medication that is a very strong anti-psychotic.  It will knock you and and will prevent the situation.  You need to have enough experience to recognize when you’re getting too high.  Taking this medication will take care of it.
A:  I exercise and I depend on the people around to tell me that I’m not doing well.  Sometimes I don’t want to hear it, but my husband will tell me that I’m talking really fast or haven’t slept.
A:  When manic I get really paranoid, even about taking meds – poison.  I need to have someone “yank” me and tell me that I have to take my medication.  If you’re too gentle I’ll push you away – think that the demons told you to do this.
A:  You can go into any ER and tell them that” I need a med adjustment.” and the psychiatrist on staff has to do that.

Q:  Any info on affordable housing?  Any resources
A:  Email John Mitchem (Santa Clara NAMI)

Q:  What’s the difference between depression, dysthimia, major depression and unipolar depression.
A:  Dysthimia refers to a depression that has lasted two years or more.  It’s not as bad as major depression, which is defined as being depressed for two weeks or more.  Major depression is a much deeper depression.  Unipolar depression means that you only swing one direction.

Q:  Someone asked me what a psychotic state is – can the group contribute to the answer?
A:  Losing touch with reality.  Irritable, agitated.  Hallucinations, auditory and visual.  I can’t stay in my house.  I have to pack things in my car and go on road trip. It’s random and has been true since I was diagnosed 20 years ago.  I’ve been hospitalized 11 times, but was table for 17 years.  Then my hormones changed with menopause and I had a manic episode, even though I was taking meds.  As a result, I lost my job.  Now don’t have insurance.
A:  For me – it’s like not being in a present state of mind.  I start dissociating – I take myself to some place in my head to get out of whatever situation I’m in.  I hear voices and they tell me what to do.  I’m learning techniques to deal with it – sometimes it takes 5 minutes to get out of it – it used to take a number of hours.  It’s very frightening.
A:  I’ve was psychotic in my 30’s.  I thought that my roommate was burning my art canvasses.  Another time I started doing really weird things and was put in the hospital.  I was out of it for 21 days until the medication started working.  I didn’t remember anything, but others were very eager to tell me about all of the  things that I did.
A:  When you’re psychotic you have a totally different frame of mind.  It’s like you’re a different person.  When you’re on meds, you just have a vague memory of what happened.  When I’m psychotic, it always comes back to the same story.  For some people, they might think they’re a  secret agent with a special mission.  I’m glad that I always come back to the same themes, because it makes it easier for me to recognize that I need help..

Q:  How long does it take social security to decide if you qualify for long-term disability if you’re bipolar?
A:  2 parts.  By  law, a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar 1 or 2 automatically qualifies you for disability, but it can take some time.  It’s harder to get disability with unipolar depression. If you are conserved, then it can happen quite quickly.  If you’re not conserved then it can take up to 6 months.  Being conserved means that if the court finds that a person is unable to take care of themselves.  A guardian is appointed and the person is “conserved”.  You loose the right to vote.  You have no say over if you’re going to the hospital.  Every decision in your life is made by your conservator.
A:  I’m applying.  I’m in my 5th month.  I’m told that it typically 6-8 months, but can take up to two years in some cases.  I’ve been hospitalized 3 times in last 4 months and it isn’t helping my situation.
A:  I got my SSI after I was in the hospital.

Q:  How does someone (an immediate family member) cope with and support someone who has depression?
A:  They can educate themselves.  At first my sister didn’t understand.  She said some ridiculous things when I was first hospitalized.  Now that she’s been diagnosed with disorder herself, she sees a therapist.  The therapist said said that if she wants to understand me, she should read all of the books that she can.  When I was sick, I was really mean to her, and she didn’t understand.  She thought I was just being mean.  Now she accepts that that was part of the disorder.
A:  Self care is really important, not just for us, but for family members too.  We’re stigmatized and our family members are stigmatized too.
A:  NAMI has a class for family members.  My husband took it and was much easier for me to live with after that.  Now he’s very supportive.

Q:  How old were you when you are diagnosed?  Can you be too old or too young to be diagnosed?  Does it get better with time?  I mean, do you start healing as soon as you take your medication, or are you hurt and will always be hurt?
A: I was diagnosed with depression at age 13 and bipolar disorder at 22.
A:  We have to understand that we don’t just “heal” like that.  Itt doesn’t go away.  It tends to present more, not less, as it progresses.  One day it will start getting worse and we’ll have symptoms that we haven’t had before.  That being said, there are a lot of things that can keep us happy, healthy and whole.
A:  I was depressed as teenager and diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 24.  I had no episodes for seven years at a time without taking medication.  I started taking meds 20 years later.
A:  I was diagnosed at 32.   Now think I was bipolar in my late teens, but was never diagnosed.  I saw a therapist when i was 25 but no one caught it.
A:  I had it first in my 20’s.  It got worse when I was in my 40’s.  In my 50’s I tried many things: SSRI’s, group therapy, but nothing worked.  The psychiatrist that I was seeing told me that I was “treatment resistant”, and might need ECT.  Finally, I got a second opinion from a psychiatrist outside of Kaiser and finally got a correct diagnosis and treatment that works.  My mother was diagnosed when she was 80.  We all knew there was something going on, but nobody knew what to call it at that time.  She was hospitalized in 50’s, but they still didn’t figure out what was going on.  Her treatment has been very successful.  It hasn’t gone away, but it’s manageable.  She says that she likes the feeling of being manic, but now she calls her psychiatrist or therapist when she recognizes the signs.
A:  I had my first episode when I was 49.
A: I was diagnosed when I was a little girl.

Q:  I think I’ve been stuck for a very long time, i.e., there’s a powerful part of me just doesn’t want to change, to recover from bipolar disorder.  Has anyone else had the experience of just not really putting their heart into recovery, yet turned that around eventually?  How did you turn it around?
A:  When it comes to doing something that will help you get better, just don’t say “no”.

Q:  My husband has issues.  I think he should go to therapy more often than he does.  My son has also refused to see a therapist on a regular basis.  I want them to go as often as I do.
A:  You don’t have any control over what they do.  There’s the old saying that “You can lead a horse to water but can’t make them drink.”  It’s important that you take care of yourself.

next week?

Announcement:  bipolar breakfast, may 5th at crown plaza cabana in Palo Alto