Who, Me, Dating?

DatingNews.com
interviewed me about dating and marriage while living with bipolar disorder.
Here’s how the article starts:
Kitt O'Malley: Love, Learn & Live with Bipolar Disorder. Blogger Kitt O'Malley Opens Up About Her Experiences Living, Loving & Laughing with Bipolar Disorder

At age 30, Kitt O’Malley moved in with her parents after treatment for debilitating depression resulted in psychotic mania which left her unable to do her work as a licensed marriage and family therapist. She left her career aspirations behind, and she started seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist who treated her for what was still thought to be chronic depression.

So when the guy she was dating said “You’re the most independent woman I’ve ever met,” Kitt couldn’t help but laugh. She had never been more dependent in her life, but he didn’t see those circumstances or her mental illness. He saw her, and that in itself was a small miracle…

Read the rest of the interview here. Thanks!

Recovering from Hypomania

Cut Back Taking it Easy

Recovering from hypomania and subsequent low energy which could be called depression. Honestly, I do not experience the fatigue following a hypomanic or mixed episode as depression. Now, rarely do I experience depressive thoughts during these recovery periods. I simply need to relax. I need to heal. The low energy, the fatigue, calls for me to slow down. My body can no longer sustain hypomania.

In January, I overdid it. I took on too much.

My Son Began College

My son began community college, which I drive him to and from.

My Freshman Experience

Yes, when I was his age (and younger), I could get myself to and from college, sometimes commuting by bus from Hermosa Beach to UCLA. Honestly, though, as my dad worked in Westwood, I’d usually catch a ride with him for summer school classes and hang out in a library or volunteer in the medical center for the rest of the day.

During the school year, I lived on the seventh floor of Dykstra Hall facing the fraternities lining Gayley Ave. I despised dorm life. Too much noise. Not enough privacy. I couldn’t sleep, went home most weekends, ended up suicidal, turned to cognitive psychotherapy, and quit UCLA.

My Son Isn’t Me

My son is not like me. Yes, we both have struggled with depression. But, ever since he was a toddler, he’s suffered severe debilitating migraines (involving headache, nausea, and vomiting). His migraines are much improved with medication, but he still gets them, just less often and less severely.  He also gets motion sick and catches whatever virus is circulating. When he gets sick, it takes him down hard. So much for taking the bus to and from college.

Going to College is a Huge Achievement

Now, it’s a major achievement for him to attend class at all. For those not familiar with my son’s struggles, his migraines, getting sick often, depression, and social anxiety, prevented him from finishing high school. He decided to take the GED, instead.

Unfortunately, he was sick last week (all three of us were), throwing up, not eating, sleeping all day… I hope and pray that he pulls himself together and gets back on track this upcoming week.

Still Visiting My Mom

Remember, I still visit my mom about once a week. Doesn’t sound like all that much. I wish I had the energy to do so more often. Visiting her or taking her out for a meal is challenging. Draining. Emotionally exhausting.

Her stroke in 2015 severely damaged the left hemisphere and frontal cortex of her brain. She has global aphasia and can no longer communicate using language – verbal, written, drawn, or symbolic. She understands facial expressions and emotions. She communicates using face expressions and pointing. She lets me know if my driving makes her uncomfortable with a simple sound, clearly expressing disapproval and warning. (The syllable clearly translates to slow down or watch out.)

Still, I to speak to her, narrating our time together, gesturing and animating what I’m communicating (luckily, I’m a drama geek, very theatrical), and treating her as if she can understand. She’s still a highly intelligent woman who knows what’s going on.

We enjoy visiting diners with photographs on the menu. She chooses what she wants to eat with my help in navigating the written portions of the menu.

Over-Enrolled, Over-Extended

Same week my son began his classes, what did I do?

Creative Writing Course

Started taking a creative writing course through our local community college emeritus program. Great class, but I need time to relax, solitude, not more demands on my time.

For me, social stimulation and demands on my time trigger hypomanic symptoms. I get “energized” in a negative way. My mood cycling begins.

I prefer and need SOLITUDE!

Qigong

As someone living with bipolar, I’ve experienced hypomania and mania with energetic, euphoric, spiritual symptoms. Enrolling in Qigong backfired.

The instructor had us visualize taking the energy of the universe (that’s a LOT of energy) in through the top of our heads, channel it through our bodies, and then into the ground.

Now this may be great for someone else, but I’m highly suggestive. I can imagine the energy of the universe, and it’s simply way too much for me to channel. Needless to say, the exercise triggered hypomania.

I experience hypomania energetically. I’ve had hypomanic and manic episodes where energy filled me up, pushed through my skin, and cleansed me, and I’ve experienced energy that was deceptive, tried to tell me that it was good for me, but felt scary, false, and threatened my sanity. Some of these experiences, I’ve framed as mystical. Some, dangerous. Because I cannot control which way the experience takes me, and because they come at a cost, I no longer seek them.

I MUST BE GROUNDED IN REALITY.

Personal Training Contract

In my hypomanic spree, I signed up for an expensive annual personal training contract with a gym. Gyms are not good places for me. Again, overstimulating.

Overspending, over-committing, over-zealous activity — all symptoms of hypomania and mania — all factored into my signing that expensive contract.

Now, I’m trying to cancel it…

Invested Too Much Money in a Venture

In my hypomanic state, I invested WAY too much money in my friend Sarah Fader‘s publishing house, Eliezer Tristan Publishing (ETP). I’m a HUGE supporter of Sarah and the work ETP does. Sarah did not solicit the money from me.

Riding the high of hypomania, I offered an angel investment that was ten times what she thought I was offering. Think of that. Someone thinks you are generous offering an investment of x. Then you say, “No, I meant x times 10.” For those not algebra inclined, move the decimal point over once to the right:

If x = $100, x times 10 = $1,000.
If x = $250, x times 10 = $2,500.
If x = $500, x times 10 = $5,000.

She was thrilled with an angel investment in the hundreds. I made an investment in the thousands! Yikes!

Honestly, though, Sarah and ETP need the money more than I do. The money is going to good use. It’s doing good things for the writers published and for the world.

ETP’s co-founders, Sarah Fader and Sarah Comerford, are mental health advocates. The publishing company specializes in publishing “nonfiction and fiction works largely focusing on survival, in its many iterations.

Still… Didn’t think it out. Was impulsive.

Yes, I’m impulsive, especially when hypomanic.

Oh, well.

Trying to Do the Right Thing

All these activities, in and of themselvs, seem to be good. I was trying to do the right thing. Writing. Relaxing, meditative exercise. Exercise to improve my health, my cholesterol and triglycerides, which are high in spite of taking medications for them. Still, none of these things were, in fact, good for me. Maybe, if I had taken just one on. Maybe, if I wasn’t exhausted by caretaking responsbilities.

But, as I age, I find more and more, that solitude suits me.

Solitude is Not Isolation

Solitude is not isolation. I am not lonely. I am not alone. I am very much a part of a family. I am very much a part of a community. You are part of my community.

I am loved.

I love.

Michael Pipich Guest Post: Are You Just Depressed or Is It the Onset of Bipolar Disorder?

Are You Just Depressed or Is It the Onset of Bipolar Disorder_

This guest post hits close to home. For twenty-one years, from ages eighteen to thirty-nine, I was diagnosed with chronic depression (dysthymia). I’d tell doctors that I was at least cyclothymic, for I my over-productive workaholism led to cyclical depressive crashes. Finally, at thirty-nine years old, I was diagnosed bipolar II. — Kitt

Are You Just Depressed or Is It the Onset of Bipolar Disorder?

Michael G. Pipich, MS, LMFT

About two-thirds of people with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed with other mental health problems before bipolar is discovered.[1] Among those individuals, a significant majority are given a diagnosis of major depression. Most people with a major depressive disorder that is unrelated to bipolar disorder (typically known as non-bipolar depression or unipolar depression) can be treated safely and effectively with a combination of antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. But when people with undetected bipolar are treated this way, a host of mental health problems can occur, making the underlying bipolar condition much worse.

It’s understandable that someone may not immediately be given the bipolar diagnosis if their first mood swing begins in a depression mood zone. This seems particularly true of people who have bipolar II disorder. And sometimes, there may be more than one depressive episode before a manic or hypomanic episode happens in a person with bipolar.

If you’re wondering about whether you may have depression or the beginning of bipolar, there are some keys to keep in mind when seeking treatment.

First of all, when assessing if your depression is a part of bipolar, know that bipolar disorder has distinct genetic foundations. In other words, it runs in families and is passed through family genes. So if you suspect that any family members may have had bipolar disorder, it’s important to inform your doctor or therapist when entering treatment. If the information is available, a thorough family mental health history can really support a proper bipolar diagnosis. Unfortunately, such information isn’t always asked for, so be prepared to volunteer all that you know during an evaluation or treatment session.

Next, your personal history of mood swings should be explored. If you’ve had severe ups and downs during childhood or adolescence, these may be more than the common tumult of growing up. They may instead be early expressions of bipolar disorder. It’s especially important to review periods of hyperactivity, bouts of unexplained rage, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts or actions that could have occurred at any time in life. There certainly may be other explanations for these, such as early life trauma or severe loss and grief experienced during these formative years. But if explosive behaviors or deep depression occurred at different times, especially with little or no provocation, it can point to underlying bipolar disorder.

Usually, most people with bipolar who seek treatment on their own are currently or recently depressed, or are experiencing consequences of untreated bipolar disorder. Any history of mania or hypomania is less obvious, however. And often, bipolar patients will either not understand manic symptoms or will avoid discussion about them. If you have had at least one occurrence in your life of intense euphoria, excitability, unexplained energy and creativity, avoidance of sleep, or impulsive behaviors, inform your treatment professional. But also bear in mind that mania and hypomania may be marked by intense periods of irritability and agitation, know as dysphoria. This is in contrast to the euphoria that most people think about with bipolar mania. Often a dysphoric type of manic or hypomanic episode can be mistaken for the kind of agitation seen in major depression. This can mislead the course of treatment to focus only on depression, while missing the full bipolar condition.

This brings us to the most important part of knowing whether you have depression or bipolar onset. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition), if a patient is given an antidepressant medication, and it produces manic symptoms, the person is then diagnosed with bipolar disorder.[2] While this is a very clear indication of bipolar, how the mania surfaces in the individual may take different forms. For example, a person in a depression mood zone can improve early in the treatment, and as a result, may not show manic symptoms right away. Any slight improvement may provide a hopeful sign that treatment is working, but when the person starts to get worse because of emerging mania—especially if it’s dysphoric—the unwitting response may be to apply more antidepressant medication. Now we have some real problems.

So, if at some point in your treatment, an antidepressant medication makes you feel more agitated, more irritable, more aggressive, or you start to experience hyperactivity or greater impulsivity, tell your treatment professional right away. This could be the start of a manic episode that is revealing a previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Even more importantly, any increase in suicidal thoughts or possible psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, should be reported immediately, as these can be life-threatening. Any antidepressants will either likely be eliminated at this point, or possibly paired with a mood stabilizing or antipsychotic drug to keep a lid on mania.

With bipolar finally recognized, bipolar medications can be introduced to decrease manic-type symptoms, while keeping depression in check. Alongside medications, it’s important to have therapy focus on the unique challenges facing people with bipolar disorder. Major depression is frequently considered an acute condition because it often can resolve in time, so medications may be discontinued at some point, along with a shorter overall approach to therapy. But bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition. Even though its symptoms can come and go in episodes, the genetic nature of the condition means the bipolar patient will need continuing care through the lifespan.


[1] Hirschfeld R. M., Lewis, L., & Vornik, L. A. (2003). Perceptions and impact of bipolar disorder: How far have we really come? Results of the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association 200 survey of individuals with bipolar disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 64(2), 161–174.

[2] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author, 128-130.


Owning Bipolar: How Patients and Families Can Take Control of Bipolar Disorder by Michael G. Pipich, MS, LMFT. Foreword by Joseph Shrand, MD.

Michael G. Pipich, MS, LMFT is a psychotherapist and author of Owning Bipolar: How Patients and Families Can Take Control of Bipolar Disorder, (Citadel Press, Sept 2018). He practices in Denver, Colorado, and can be reached at MichaelPipich.com.

Press Contact: Janet Appel Public Relations
205 West 54 Street, New York, New York 10019
212-258-2413

 

 

2017 Year-End Wrap-Up

In 2017, this blog was viewed almost 17,000 times by over 10,000 visitors. Since I started writing this blog in September 2013, I’ve enjoyed almost 80,000 views from over 40,000 visitors. 2015 had the most blog activity with over 28,000 views from over 13,000 visitors.

When my mother had a stroke November of 2015, I took on increased responsibilities and wrote less about living with bipolar disorder. Starting September this year, I started organizing my posts into a book. As the holidays approached, I temporarily set aside that task, for this time of year exhausts me. Even though my parents are both still alive and happy, I miss them, as both have dementia.

Most readers (over 5,000 views) landed on my home page or searched my archives (Posts by Categories, My Blogging Journey, or using the Search box).

Top Five by the Numbers

  1. 35 Symptoms of Perimenopause — 671 views (Perennial favorite list shared from Healthline.com in 2015. I’m fully menopausal now. What a relief.)
  2. Freud and the Church — 550 views (I’m a psychodynamically-trained former psychotherapist and have attended Fuller Theological Seminary.)
  3. Mystic or Mentally Ill? — 489 views (Is it possible to be both mentally ill and a mystic? Perhaps. Perhaps, not.)
  4. Am I Still a Mental Health Blogger? — 443 views
  5. About Me & This Blog — 310 views

Favorites, Numbers Be Damned

  1. Barely Fiction: Kate.1
  2. Barely Fiction: Kate.2
  3. So Easily Broken
  4. I do not whisper. I ROAR.
  5. Bad Mom

Thank you, Readers! Hope you all have a Happy New Year! With love, Kitt.