Daily Archives: June 22, 2014

River Town Loop

The first sundress days of June are all bare shoulders, breezy ankles, and upholstery rough against your sweaty back...eyes dazzled with bluesharp sky, you scan for eagles through the windshield...

Interesting Statistics about Bipolar Disorder


    • People with bipolar disorder, on average, suffer 10 years before receiving treatment  and only 49% of bipolar individuals receive treatment. 1
    • The average age of American bipolar disorder onset is 25 years old 2
    • 83% of bipolar cases are considered severe. 3
    • More than 66% of people with bipolar disorder have one or more relatives with bipolar disorder or clinical depression 4
    • Bipolar individuals’ average bipolar episodes last 3 – 6 months 6
    • The bipolar suicide rate is 60 times higher than that of the general public and one in five people with bipolar disorder commits suicide. 8,7
    • Bipolar disorder is the 4th-highest reason for disability WebM.D. AND 200,000 people with bipolar disorder are homeless 9
    • 69% of bipolar patients are mis-diagnosed at least 3.5 times 10
    • 10% of bipolar disorder patients have onset of symptoms in their 40s-50s  11
    • Bipolar relapse rate 80% within 2 years without meds; 40% with meds 12
    • Except for side effects, 90% of bipolar patients are satisfied with their meds 13
    • Mood disorder patients are more likely to be obese, smoke and have heart disease 14
    • Adults who earned high or top school grades are 4X more likely to develop bipolar disorder than their peers 15
    • 80% of those with bipolar disorder have at least one bipolar family member 16
    • Bipolar disorder affects males and females 18
    • Following the first bipolar episode is a 90% chance of recurrence  20
    • Bipolar disorder is more common in high achievers [than the general population 21
    • People with bipolar disorder live 9.2 years less than the average 78 years 23
    • 50% of bipolar individuals abuse drugs and alcohol 24
    • 35% of people with bipolar disorder are obese and are 2X as likely to die of heart disease, diabetes, stroke. 25


World  Statistics:

  • 2.4% of the world population has bipolar disorder 27
  • Less than 50% of the planet’s bipolar population receives any treatment 28
  • More than 33% of world’s Bipolar Disorder people have substance abuse disorders 29
  • Bipolar disorder is the 6th leading reason for disability worldwide 30


  • A child’s risk of having bipolar disorder is 30% if one parent has bipolar disorder, 75% if two parents suffer the disorder 31
  • In children, bipolar disorder is the 3rd highest reason for doctor visits, 2nd highest reason for hospital ER visits 32
  • 3.4 million children and adolescents suffer bipolar disorder 33


Interview Series: Hilary T. Smith

Finally!  Here is the final interview from my Author Interview Series.  Hilary T. Smith, who wrote Welcome to the Jungle was kind enough to answer a few questions.  Please also check out her latest work, here.

Welcome to the Jungle Front Cover

1. I love what you say about the acceptance of meds. Here’s an excerpt that stands out to me;

“Ideally, the purpose of medication is to bring you back to a normal, familiar state of mind—back to your baseline mood. The purpose of medication isn’t to change your personality or turn you into someone you’re not, but allow you to be your fullest, happiest self without malfunctioning brain cells getting in the way. The perfect combination of meds should get you to a place where you sigh with relief and say, “I finally feel like myself again!”

In my opinion, the issue of medication is extremely controversial and is one of the many misunderstood aspects of bipolar disorder. In your experience, what is the most misunderstood aspect of bipolarity?

I’d like to start by saying that I wrote Welcome to the Jungle when I was twenty-three, and my understanding of mental illness and its treatment has shifted somewhat since then. Subjects like medication are much more complex than I presented them in WTTJ; although it would be nice to have a medication that eased your mania/depression while leaving every other aspect of yourself completely intact, that’s not how it tends to work.

With that in mind, I think the most widespread misunderstanding about mental illness in our culture right now is that it is a purely biological problem (those malfunctioning brain cells!) with little or no importance given to culture, family, lifestyle, environmental issues, and one’s own beliefs about oneself and the universe. In our rush to prescribe medication to make the bad feelings and behaviors go away, we leave the context unexamined and unquestioned.

For example, many people take sleeping pills because they can’t otherwise fall asleep at the “proper” time and are in danger of falling behind at their jobs. We have a (societally-produced) expectation that every person should sleep in a single eight hour block and get up for work at the same time each day. In a culture that valued working and resting at one’s own pace, would those people still need medication? Is the insomniac the one with a problem, or is it our industrialized society?

I won’t rant at you too long (oh wait, I already have!). Suffice to say, I think that context is crucial when discussing mental illness of any type.

2. I was diagnosed over eleven years ago, and have researched bipolar disorder extensively as well as am living it myself, and I find your book, Welcome to the Jungle, encouraging and enlightening. (Not to mention, I laughed out loud at your sarcasm and wit.) For example, “You didn’t get diagnosed with bipolar because you’re ugly or because the doctor doesn’t like you. Let’s face it— he’s uglier and his personality needs improving”


If you knew then—at your own diagnosis, what you know now, what piece of advice would you give your newly-diagnosed-self?

To be easier on myself.

Even now, I sometimes feel guilty and stressed that I can’t keep the same pace of life as “normal” people. If I have trouble sleeping for a few nights and lose a day or two of productivity, I feel bad about that–holding myself to a modern, industrialized standard I don’t even believe in–when what I ought to do is accept myself and know that I’m okay.

You’re not “bad” if you can’t work at 9-5 job, or if you need more sleep than other people, or if you don’t live the fast-paced life that seems so normal in our culture. You’re just you. I still need to tell myself that all the time.

3. What is the most important thing you want readers to get from your book, Welcome to the Jungle?

I want readers to feel like they have permission to question things and arrive at their own understanding of what is happening to them–and frankly, to use their imaginations. A mental illness diagnosis can be a devastating and disempowering experience, and it takes a long time to unpack it and figure things out. I want readers to have the critical tools necessary to make good decisions about things like medication and lifestyle changes–to least start that conversation.

4. Tell me about what helps you gain a healthy perspective in your day-to-day life?

Nature is an incredible friend. A few hours in the forest is a great way to get perspective on life. When you’re walking in the woods, everyday concerns start to look really superficial.

5. Tell about a time when the stigma of mental illness affected you.

Recently I was house hunting on craigslist, and was shocked to see roommate posts with comments like “no dogs, couples, or anti-depressants” and “we are a vegetarian, pharmaceutical-free household.” This is insulting whether or not you are taking psychiatric medication. It implies that people who are living under the label of bipolar or depression are necessarily going to be troublesome roommates, or are somehow inferior to their “pharmaceutical-free” counterparts.

Our current housing laws make it very hard for people living with serious mental illnesses to find safe, stable shelter. We’ve made it practically illegal to live on a low income; there is far too little affordable housing, and you can’t pitch a tent in the woods without getting harrassed. People who could otherwise find ways to cope and live with dignity are criminalized. If you can’t or won’t play by the rules of industrialization, there’s no place for you. That’s a tragedy.

6. Who inspires you (and why)?

I’m inspired by anyone who lives with compassion for all people.

7. What does STABILITY mean to you?

Stability means living in right relation to your values; knowing where you stand; not chasing after all the “shoulds” society pressures you to pursue; flowing with changes; feeling love for yourself and all others. For me, that has nothing to do with bipolar.


Thanks again to all of the authors who participated and worked with me!

Mrs Bipolarity

Insensitive Comments

The first time I was hospitalized in 2007 a friend had heard about it. But he didn't know the reason I was in the hospital. When I told him, he said, "at least it's not cancer." I didn't say anything to him. But later I would become very upset about his comment. Mental illness is just as serious as physical illnesses. You can die from mental illness just like you can die from a physical ailment. I never did say anything to my friend. Fast forward six years. When I was hospitalized for the second time in 2013 I finally said something. I even told him about suicide and lack of impulse control. He apologized. And of course he didn't remember saying this to me. I'm glad that I finally said something.

Around 2007/2008, I went to Washington, DC to visit a few friends from college who were in law school. One of my friends was telling us about one of her classmates who had a nervous breakdown. She ended the story by saying, "well, not everyone can cut it." I was highly offended by her statement. But this friend did not know about my own struggles with bipolar disorder. And again, I did not speak up. I regret this to this day. I have never called her out on this.

When I was depressed in 2006, my mom snapped her fingers in my face and said "snap out of it." If only depression worked that way. I knew I was being irrational; I knew I was harboring negative thoughts. But I was powerless to do anything about it. Especially since I didn't receive treatment (therapy or medicine) for the depression.

I give you these three examples to caution you against making insensitive comments. You never know what another person is going through. But try to treat people kindly. "Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about."

A Letter to My Younger Self

I bought this book, but haven't read it yet. The concept is that you write a letter to your younger self, giving the advice you wish you would've received at the time. Here's my letter. I've chosen to write to myself after my first hospitalization when I was working at the Newark charter school.

Dear Krystal circa 2008 (age 25),

Life is not over. You just hit a bump in the road. No one plans on getting sick. You cannot account for how an illness might derail your life.

I know you write your life in pen. You are a planner. You're meticulous that way. I get it. It's one of the things I love about you. But you have to learn that you cannot plan every minute of every day. Learn to become flexible. Trust me. You'll thank me later.

I know you are disappointed that you did not graduate from Rutgers on time. I know it is hard to see all your Duke friends living fabulous lives. To see them in medical school or law school. To see them on track with their goals. You'll get there one day. I promise.

Do not lose sight of your own goals. Yes, you went to graduate school to become a teacher. But working as a teacher's assistant and substitute teacher is not the end of the world. Observe. Hone your craft. You can learn a lot by watching others teach. I know you will view the two years you spent at the Newark charter school as a waste. But don't. You learned a lot about yourself. You learned that even though you had your heart and mind set on teaching in Newark, urban education is not for you. This does not mean that you are not "down for the cause." There are other ways to give back. The cause is not more important than your sanity. You can't make a difference if you are depressed.

Be kind to yourself. Don't beat yourself up over the $10,000 in credit card debt. In a few years your credit will recover.

It will take you two years to finish four papers. It is hard to do school work when your job is so toxic and you are depressed. But push through. Finish the degree. As your therapist says, you don't have to become a teacher, just finish the degree. I know the real reason you are not working on your degree: you fear that teaching will cause you to become depressed again. In your mind you have connected your depression in 2006 with your student-teaching. The two are not connected. Yes, the student-teaching was a trigger. But you can learn to manage your triggers. You will learn bipolar disorder inside and out. You will become attuned to how you act when a manic episode is looming. You will learn how to manage. I promise.

I just wanted to say that I love you. So very much.

June 2014 (age 30)

How I Manage My Disorder

I went six years between my first (2007) and second (2013) hospitalizations. I pride myself on that. Through my three hospitalizations and three IOP's I've met people on their 10th or 15th hospitalization. Some people are chronically unemployed or on disability. They've let their illness dictate the course for their life.

It doesn't have to be this way.

To make sure I stay stable and highly functioning, I do a number of things:

  1. For the past 7 years, I've seen my therapist every 3 weeks and my psychiatrist every 3 months.
  2. I'm a compliant patient; I take my medicine faithfully, go to all follow up appointments.
  3. I make time for leisure (reading, hanging out with friends, going out to eat, getting massages, shopping, watching TV, etc)
  4. For the past year I've been getting acupuncture regularly. I'm trying to balance out my reliance on Western medicine with more holistic practices.
  5. I'm protective of my sleep. Not getting enough sleep can trigger depression or mania.
  6. I exercise two to four days per week. There are numerous health benefits gained from exercise.
  7. I try to eat healthy. I can definitely do a better job at this. I'll be going to see a nutritionist next week.
  8. I try to minimize my stress triggers. Grading my students' essays normally stresses me out. So I try to manage my procrastination. I don't always succeed at this. But I'm trying.

Fitness Update June 22, 2014

Why a Fitness Update on a Bipolar Blog? Medications can wreak havoc on the metabolism of those of us being treated for bipolar disorder or depression. 50 lbs is the typical amount gained by those who begin treatment. Therefore, I have begun this weekly fitness update for motivation. Motivation for those of you out there […]

The post Fitness Update June 22, 2014 appeared first on Insights From A Bipolar Bear.

My brain hurts

I have a headache. My kid has already grabbed the 4 week old kitten by the throat, then started bawling because I chastised her for it. Like she’s in the injured party. It may be a kid thing but it pisses me off. I cannot abide cruelty to animals. Period.

It has become evident I am my own worst enemy. I let these things fester in my mind and it poisons me and I rant and rave and prove the entire point that I am dysfunction personified. It may be the only obsessive compulsive behavior I have, allowing these little seeds to be planted in my brain and grow into giant sequoias.

I received a comment that actually put things into perspective for me. Reminding it’s less about labeling me and more about identifying the problems so that I can be treated accordingly and be as asymptomatic as possible. That makes sense. It also makes sense “you’ll know what’s wrong before they do.”

True that.

I think it’s time to go old school. Back when  I started this bizarre journey into crazy treatment land, not much emphasis was placed on personality disorders. It was more about identifying your long standing issues and dealing with them and how they impact your life negatively.

So screw your labels and disorders. It’s either part of the problem or part of the solution and right now, it’s become the bigger problem than what I was seeking help for in the first place. I’ll help me.

To quote a line from an Evanescence song, “Don’t want your hand…this time…I’ll save myself.”


Help Me Make It Through The Night

Oh yeah, the sleep schedule is unraveling all right, just as summer begins and I continue to lie awake well past midnight, my mind awash in endless torrents of thought. I’m still going to bed by 11:30 every night—well, almost every night—but then I proceed to stare up at the ceiling and try to figure a way out of my current difficulties. And there just don’t seem to be any more rabbits I can pull out of my hat.

I’ve done the math in my head countless times, and there is NO chance that we can continue our accustomed lifestyle with our existing cash flow. Fine. But what the hell are we supposed to do about it? We can’t afford to live here, but we can’t afford to move. I take that back: We can pay the rent and eat, but we won’t have electricity to cook with, Internet or phones to continue my job search, or meds so I can stay reasonably sane amid all this upheaval. Or, we can have all those things but no house. It’s like the choice between the lady or the tiger: pick the wrong one and we’re screwed.

We haven’t been this fucking poor since the way-back days, when we lived hand-to-mouth on food stamps, a wing and a prayer. I thought it was bad last summer when I was getting over $500 a week unemployment benefits and working part-time at the nursing home; now it’s $360 a week and no supplementary income other than Will’s small Social Security check. And yet, our income is still too high to qualify us for any form of government aid, which doesn’t bother me in the least….it’s just that we’re stuck in a middle-class life when we’re not middle class anymore. And there is nothing on the horizon to indicate that the situation will improve anytime soon.

I don’t know what to do about jobs, either. When I think about returning to nursing, my stomach knots up and I get a squeamish, squirmy feeling bordering on nausea. There is an opening at the assisted living where my sister Louise is, but as I recall, the last job I had in a place like that nearly landed me in a psych unit. No thanks. I’ll take my chances on something else…..although what that would be is anyone’s guess.

This is the crap that keeps me up nights, long past the time when I should be asleep. I’ve been taking my nighttime meds around 9 PM, but now it’s almost like not taking anything at all, except for being relatively calm while my mind goes through its mental gymnastics. I don’t think the change in Zyprexa has anything to do with it at all—I was having trouble getting to sleep before I cut it down from 5 to 3.75 mg—but I have noticed a slight uptick in my overall anxiety levels and am half-tempted to take an Ativan at bedtime to help me get past that.

It’s not the most ideal solution to say the least, but I can’t just keep staying awake into the small hours and expect to remain stable. I am not manic or even hypomanic, but I can almost feel it straining against the chemical fence holding it back and that’s scary. Of all the times I cannot lose my shit…..well, perish the thought.

Which brings to mind yet another thought that torments me in the dark when it’s quiet and all my little (and big) fears come out to play: what will I do if I can no longer afford my meds? Most of them are very cheap, but the Geodon is still fifty bucks a pop and when you put that together with all of Will’s and my meds, our pharmacy bill totals over $250 per month. That’s chump change when you’re making $5000 a month, but a big chunk out of the budget when you’re getting less than half of that. Gaaah!

Under ordinary circumstances, I would be able to say “Now self, you’ve been in rough spots before and ALWAYS come through.” Yeah, that worked when I still had a few tricks up my sleeve, but I’m fresh out. And when you get right down to where the cheese binds, yes, I’ll make it through this as well…..just probably not before my life falls apart.

Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer today, but I’m not finding a whole lot to be happy about right now, except the arrival of my new granddaughter, my favorite season, and the promise of warm, sunny days ahead. I hear outdoor living isn’t too bad during the summer months, especially if you’ve got lots of bug spray on hand and a camp stove so you can make coffee in the mornings. I’m just thankful that if I do wind up homeless, I’ll still have Will with me. He’s doing great, and unlike me, he actually LIKES camping. He can also kill large, hairy spiders without going into hysterics.

He knows where the Ativan is, too. Hey honey, can you help me make it through the night?

What the professionals have done for me

The tossing out of “borderline” from the shrink the other day has me in a state of numb denial. I’m not even acknowledging my moods now because then it leads to “oh, get over it, it’s your personality.”

I still say that’s bullshit.

But once the can is open, the worms are squirming everywhere and no matter how hard you try to stuff them back in…It doesn’t work.

If there was one thing about myself I would change…It would be this loophole where certain things manage to crawl under my skin and into my head. I know who I am. Right up til someone suggests otherwise. And because I want to be a decent human being, I entertain whatever fool notion they’ve planted in my head. Because I could be wrong about myself and I never want to be too arrogant to admit that or fix a problem it’;s within my power to fix.

I’ve just done extensive reading and no matter which way I look at it…I don’t see myself as borderline. I can see a facet or two if you play fast and loose, but I am like that with EVERY category except narcissism. Thus the 20 year diagnosis of “personality disorder not otherwise specified.’ That I could live with, it was accurate. I can accept what I am. But for a doctor who’s spent all of 30 minutes with me for the last 8 months…You can dish out psychiatric diagnoses and pills but don’t tell me about my personality because you wouldn’t fucking know.

I know me. I know some of my shit is behavioral. Personality. But some of it is not and it’s not normal so what does that leave. An illness.

Quite honestly, I’m getting tired of all this bullshit crawling into my head. It’s taken me 41 years to get to self acceptance. I like who I am most of the time. I accept that I am a trainwreck in the middle of a plane crash. It’s okay. I suck at relationships. I still keep trying. I am a loner, but I don’t see it as a defect in my personality. I made do with what I had and became an introvert, which is who I basically was anyway when I was done seeking companionship.

No shades of gray?

Isn’t the fact I am willing to entertain the notion that I could be wrong about myself when it’s suggested indicative of me seeing something other than my own side? That’s a shade of gray.

It’s like this poisoned seed was planted and it’s metastasizing, killing me slowly mentally. Hell, I even admit to being a bit of a sociopath, so it’s not like I am in denial of who I truly am. Much like in high school when saddled with the label of whore for wearing short skirts and satan worshiper for wearing black and listening to heavy metal…

I get bent when portrayed inaccurately.

So here I am trying to convince myself I have no mood, good, bad, or in between, because to do so would basically validate the doctor’s little gem of thought. I am on meds and should totally be stable and if I am depressed or moody, then it is my personality and certainly not the fallibility of meds or doctors. It is a complete lack of effort and willingness to work hard and get better.


The fact I’ve been doing this for 20 years, through 7 shrinks and 5 counselors, and not one until this past year ever uttered borderline…Tells me this is just the current psychiatric trend. Like the way they hand down a depression diagnosis to anyone feeling blue for more than two weeks or pass out ritalin and and ADHD tag to those who can’t focus or are too hyper. In the 80′s, it was repressed memories of sexual abuse.

I am a riddle they can’t figure out so rather than admit, we don’t know, they have to transfer my problems to my personality. Which is stupid because anyone who has any experience with this shit knows psychiatric meds and the science itself is a big whodunit. No one knows for sure, it’s all educated speculation. It’s okay to say “I don’t know.”

I say it daily.

The one thing I do know though, is I met a woman who had a borderline diagnosis. Aside from mood swings, there is not a single behavior of hers that i mirror in any way.

But we are taught from an early age to idol worship doctors, they have education and experience and alphabet soup behind their name so they musT know everything and be right. even if they know fuck all about you as a person, you’/re still supposed to take their word as gospel.

I don’t and I won’t.

Besides, I had a doctor who was an osteopath, he didn’t want to prescribe meds for anything he could blame on your personality, diet, or lack of exercise. If I were borderline, he’d have been the first to diagnose it. He was actually, aside from being ass trash, the one who declared me cyclothymic. And it fits.

I just want accuracy. Which apparently is a disorder of its own because how could I possibly know myself better than a doctor who spends no time with me. That just makes me a narcissistic self denial laden whack job.

There comes a time in your life, even if mentally ill and fucked up, where you have to decide if you’re going to think for yourself and submit and let others tell you how you feel, what you think, who you are.

I’m finally ready to do that.

I’m 41 and I know exactly who I am. I keep evolving and growing and in this world, I suppose that makes me seem flaky. I’m fine with it. I am not fine with the moods yanking me all over the place but I’ve lived with it so long, would I really know how to behave if it went away?

It’s not conceding defeat. I will keep trying.

But I think it’s about time I stop letting people, even professionals, tell me who they think I am and who I should be.

If beauty is in the flaws…I am the most stunning person alive.