Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dear Joe (When the rainbow is not enuf)

Dear Joe: I can only speak for myself; each individual responds differently to treatment and it can take time to find treatment that works for you. Bipolar is hard to treat because you are treating two different conditions and it can flip flop quickly. Think of it as taking care of a baby: you can thrive, but you will have immediate needs and you will need to be patient with yourself. But unlike a baby, Bipolar never grows up. So it is constant work.But I have made it to 50 and hopefully, one hour at a time, I will make it to 100.

I have had success treating suicidal and manic phases with acupuncture (which stimulates our natural chemical responses) and indica (non-THC cannabis). Cannabinoids are a natural anti-inflammatory and neuro-protector. Suicidal phases are linked to inflammation. MS patients experience suicidal phases more than Bipolar patients for this reason. Sugar produces inflammation, so avoid sugar, starch, and alcohol (starch converts quickly to sugar, and alcohol affects how you process sugar). Whole grains have an anti-inflammatory effect (unlike refined grains)

Make yourself laugh, even if it's contrived. There are yoga classes which engage all our gestures of laughter. They say it works. Watch a funny show. I like to tell jokes and make fun of people and dogs. I like to make fun of myself.

Oxytocin is apparently fast-acting solutions with minimal or no side effects for most patients, though these might be hard to access. I understand one company makes an oxytocin nasal spray that can safely be used on an as-needed basis. Keep in mind our bodies produce oxytocin naturally. But some of us are deficient in these natural responses due to structural and wiring differences.

Ketamine engages the cannabinoid receptors in our brain. We are not talking about "Special K" off the street. Rather in a strict medical setting it is infused used for one-time positive changes in the brain – a switch as it were. Canada has published research online on these studies.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy has been very helpful to me for managing daily life. I have been working with counselors who are graduate students in Psychology. Many schools who offer psychology degrees offer such student-provided services, which are supervised by professionals (who in turn contribute to your treatment!). They generally work on a sliding scale basis. I paid $15 per 2 hour session in the past. I have found graduate students to be much better than professional Psychologists, because they are very motivated to graduate and to have success with their first patients. They are also up on the latest research and techniques, unlike professional MD's who seem to coast on out-dated research and glib responses.

Right now I don't have access to any medications or treatments, as I am waiting for my health insurance to come through. In times like this, lots of sunlight (preferably in the a.m.) and my dog are a lot of comfort. I started running again also to help with my mental state. I can only run a few blocks at a time, but it helps. Yoga has also been helpful in calming down.

I find it helpful to participate in online discussions with others experiencing similar struggles. It can be lonely and frustrating to be surrounded by healthy people who cannot comprehend what you experience all day, every day, and who insist that you need to "snap out of it" or "it's all in your head". Science has established consistent physical differences between Bipolar brains and healthy brains, as well as chemical deficiencies, and differences in thought patterns.

Keep trying and don't give up. Remember this is a medical condition and it's not your fault. There are promising recent advancements in individual genetic-based treatments, which can pinpoint your chemical imbalance and address it, rather than carpet-bombing your brain with unnatural chemicals (which produce side effects and are addictive).

It may seem like the modern world was not made for people like us, but really we just need to construct our own world – just like healthy people do. Successful people invest heavily in the narratives they create about their own lives; they are delusional in a way that helps them. Just go to any Facebook page to find examples of delusional constructed personal narratives. Think of it as a game; we may know better, but it doesn't mean we can't benefit from the same tools.

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