Diagnosing Bipolar II #DavidLeite #NotesOnABanana

Creator of the James Beard Award-Winning Website "Leite's Culinaria," David Leite, "Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression"

“Diagnosis: Mental Lite!” — Chapter 33 of David Leite’s self-deprecating Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression — reminded me of the two decades it took before I was diagnosed bipolar type 2.

For twenty-five years Leite was treated (unsuccessfully) for depression and anxiety. Like Leite, I was an overachiever who cyclically crashed. From eighteen to thirty-nine, I was diagnosed dysthymic (chronically depressed).  Finally as a mother of a toddler, I recognized my euphoric callings from God as symptoms of hypomania and called for help.

After seeing numerous psychiatrists since he was fourteen, Leite sought and got an accurate diagnosis of bipolar II from Neil De Senna, who at the time was a Columbia University Medical Center professor of psychiatry.

Here I excerpt as bullet points the questions Dr. De Senna asked that led to Leite’s diagnosis. Buy the book to read his life story and answers to these questions — you won’t regret it.

  • Did I ever have rapid, repetitive thinking?
  • Did I ever talk fast, sometimes so fast people couldn’t understand me?
  • Had I ever been so irritable, I shouted at people or started fights or became violent?
  • Had I ever had a decreased need for sleep? If I slept just a few hours, did I feel great?
  • Did I ever engage in risky behavior that endangered my life?
  • Had I felt unusually self-confident in myself and my abilities? Did I ever experience grandiosity?
  • Had I ever had morose, violent thoughts?
  • Had I ever contemplated suicide? Had I ever attempted it?
  • Had I ever lost interest in things because nothing gave me pleasure?
  • Were there times when I was very interested in being with people, and other times when I wanted to be alone?
  • Did I have crying jags, anxiety and panic, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, bad feelings about myself?

Now I quote without editing, De Senna’s description of bipolar I and bipolar II:

He explained that there are two types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I is the more severe form, what Kay Redfield Jamison, the author of An Unquiet Mind, has. In it, the manias are screechingly amped up and oftentimes dangerous. They’re emblazoned with inflated self-esteem and billowing grandiosity, a marked decrease in sleep, a pressing need to talk, sometimes with odd features such as “clanging,” where speech loses meaning and follows a pattern of rhymes or sounds. Someone suffering from full-blown mania can be grossly distracted; battle racing, looping thoughts; and engage in potentially dangerous and deadly activities, such as unchecked buying sprees, risky or anonymous sex, foolish business dealings, and reckless driving. All the while, psychosis—a disconnection from reality—can be skulking in the background, just waiting for a pause, an opening. These manias can disrupt a person’s life to such a degree that jobs are lost, relationships implode, families disintegrate. Hospitalizations usually follow.

“What you have, bipolar II,” he continued, “is a milder form of the illness.” While the depressions can be just as deep and disabling, disabling, he said, what makes the difference is the quality, degree, and length of the high times. With bipolar II, a person suffers from hypomania. Elevated, expansive moods that are seductively attractive to the sufferer and the people around him, hypomanias are a watercolor version of bright-neon manias. Through it all, life isn’t disrupted to the same degree, and there’s never a psychotic break. Hospitalizations aren’t common.

“It can be very, very difficult to diagnosis hypomania,” Neil said. “Especially in type-A people who are normally goal-oriented, high energy, and creative. Their personalities can mask the illness at times.”

By quoting from David Leite’s memoir, published by HarperCollins, I do not intend to avoid copyright law. My hope is to educate, and as an added bonus to Leite and HarperCollins, to promote a great memoir of a creative soul living with manic depression.

Fingers Moving, Fingers Typing

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Fingers need to move
nervous energy
prompts them to keep busy

Just as my thoughts
my mind
will not be silent

My fingers will not be still
so I play Solitaire
or now type

I imagine myself crocheting
as I did long ago
as a young girl

Used to crochet
needlepoint
embroider
and sew

Used to paint, too
Who knows
Maybe I will do so again

Do any or all of the above
Then again
Maybe not

I don’t put too much stock
in what I do
or don’t do

Ambivalent about goals
No longer as goal oriented
as I was long ago

Well, I do have some goals
I suppose
but they are flexible

Going to #BlogHer16

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This week, I’m going to BlogHer16. This will be my first BlogHer conference, my first blogging conference.

I’m anxious. Worried about not having the energy to participate. Worried about being overwhelmed. Surprised I’m not worried about triggering mood cycling.

Deep breath. Wish me well!

Poetry Reading in Long Beach

Sack Nasty - Prison Poetry by Ra Avis. A Death on Skunk Street - A Life in Poems by William S. Friday. The Erratic Sun by Michael Hansen & Matthew Blashill

Sunday I drove up to Long Beach for the On The Edge poetry reading of Ra Avis, Bill Friday & Matthew Blashill. I was nervous about going to a poetry reading, as I haven’t attended artsy hip anything in decades. As I drove through downtown Long Beach,  I felt very suburban middle-aged.

Once there, though, I was made to feel welcome. Turns out I wasn’t the only middle-aged attendee, nor was I the only attendee who lived in South Orange County. Nice to meet people in person who you have read and interacted with online.

Suffering from fried brain right now. Have accidentally posted drafts of this post at least twice. Sorry to those completely confused, wondering, “Where the hell did that post go?” I probably should have left well enough alone and simply edited the piece. Brief, but done. At least for now.

I Got Out of the House This Week!

Outside

My major achievement this week was to get out of the house TWICE for ME – not just driving my son to and from school or caring for my parents.

Monday: OC Writers Write-In

Monday I attended an OC Writers write-in where I wrote 3282 words freely. The words need editing. They need shape. They possibly need to be fictionalized. Not sure.

Wednesday: Brain Disease Advocacy

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Yesterday I had a lovely lunch with Mary Palafox of FEDUP – Brain Disease Advocacy. FEDUP4Brain advocates uniting mental and physical health under ONE health care delivery system. Stop treating serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder differently than other brain disorders.

Folie à Deux

As for the writing I did Monday, my focus was a delusion shared (folie à deux) by my parents. The delusional thoughts originated from my mother, but my father backed her up, and in doing so failed to protect us from verbalized delusions better not shared with one’s children. The delusional thinking was and still is disturbing.

Understand that delusional thoughts are a SYMPTOM of mental illness, of a brain disorder. When a couple reinforces each other’s delusional thoughts, they get stuck in a reinforcing feedback loop. In isolating themselves from others, they fail to test their version of reality against outsiders’ views.

My mother lived with an unacknowledged, undiagnosed mental illness. As her daughter, I’m in no position to diagnose her. Loyal and devoted – adoring, in fact – my father always backed my mother up. He might agree (in secret) with us, but then he would make us apologize to our mother for something SHE said, explaining to us that our mother didn’t feel appreciated and it was up to us to give her the attention she needed.

Not a healthy dynamic, but by the time we were teenagers, we knew it was not healthy. Thank God, my sister and I had each other to tether ourselves to reality.

As an adult, as a mother, in many ways I identify with my mother. I can see myself in her. I can see my illness in her illness. So, I feel compassion for her. But we differ in how we have dealt with our disordered brains. I had insight and sought treatment early.

As it turns out, since my mother had her stroke, I learned that she was being treated for depression. She told me a few years ago that she took an SSRI for anxiety, for panic attacks, but she told me she stopped cold turkey (dangerous). I was unaware that she went back on them for depression.