By Emsie Martin
It’s a struggle to get up. On other days you are alert and quick and your energy comes from an inexhaustible source. The next few days again you are up and down like a yo-yo. Many people suffer from a bipolar disorder for years before they are diagnosed and receive proper treatment.
Until the eighties in general the term was unknown. People spoke of so-and-so as manic, eccentric, moonstruck, or otherwise you were depressed, heavy-hearted and in despair. Sometimes sufferers received shock treatment in hospitals for temporary relief, but for the most part they were just sentenced to living in institutions and preferably forgotten. Fortunately, research about emotional disorders was conducted relentlessly and eventually it was found that manic and depressive tendencies are actually two extreme poles of the same brain disfunction, hence the name BIPOLAR. BI means 2, as in bicycle, bifocal, and POLAR as in North Pole and South Pole.
Approximately 15 billion brain cells transmit information by way of electrically and chemically coded signals. The insufficient provision of certain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenalin affects the neurotransmission from one brain cell to the next. These transmissions or messages influence thoughts, emotions, thinking and behaviour, in other words, the mood. If this function is disrupted, an emotional or mood disorder is created which causes a manic or depressive episode.
Bipolar mood disorder can strike at any age. It differs from person to person, which is why individual diagnoses and treatment are necessary. Correct medication as well as therapy are absolutely essential to regulate the functioning of the brain cells and to make the lives of sufferers bearable, in the same way a diabetic depends on insulin.
The medication has side-effects that decrease with time and vanish, but patients usually become disheartened and rebellious because the reaction to medication sometimes takes months. They stop taking medication and fall into endless misery which can often lead to suicide.
Bipolar mood disorder is a life-long, but treatable illness – and yes, if you yourself aren’t a sufferer, some of these people might be working with you and have not yet been diagnosed.
What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?
The sufferer loses interest and pleasure in everyday activities, is restless, touchy, anxious, experiences eating and sleeping disorders, cannot concentrate or make decisions, feels hopeless and useless, emotionally stunted and even considers suicide. During the depressive episode, which can last for two weeks or longer, it is difficult or even impossible to function.
The manic phase
Usually this is the phase during which sufferers act extremely irresponsibly and unpredictably. They are enthusiastic, social, over-active and blissfully unaware of their actions and frivolities. They are very productive during this phase, fearless, take big risks, drive recklessly, have no inhibitions, spend injudiciously and sometimes make catastrophic decisions. They are now in a heightened condition of creativity and can also do with little sleep. This mood fluctuation from high to low, boisterous and cheerful to depressed and despairing, is unpredictable, involuntary and often cyclic or seasonal, unless brought on by some or other crisis or loss, or by alcohol or drug abuse, if the genetic tendency thereto is already present.
Living with bipolar mood disorder
Bipolar mood disorder has a tremendous effect not only on the sufferer, but also on those who have to work with them or have to assist and support them. In this time when people are working from home this disorder can become worse. Family members are often tried to the utmost by a child, parent, brother, sister or spouse who suffers from bipolar mood disorder. It is important to learn as much as possible about it and to be equipped to handle it. Supporters of bipolar patients should not harbour unrealistic expectations regarding the sufferer or the medical practitioners. In both the manic and depressive phases sufferers’ behaviour is beyond their control. They are not accountable or responsible for their conduct.
Good management of BPD requires regular doctor’s visits and regular blood tests to determine the blood levels of your medication.
Stick to your treatment plan. If you stop the medication or take it irregularly, the symptoms will return fully. Discuss side-effects with your doctor.
Gain the support of family, friends and colleagues. You will need good support at home, work or at school.
For support contact:
South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) www.sadag.co.za
Cipla 24hr Mental Health Helpline
0800 456 789
Adcock Ingram Depression and Anxiety Helpline
0800 70 80 90
0800 55 44 33
Suicide Crisis Line
0800 567 567
SADAG Mental Health Line
011 234 4837
Akeso Psychiatric Response Unit 24 Hour
0861 435 787
Solidarity understands that labour relations specialists, office practitioners and health practitioners experience unique challenges, such as having to work under a lot of pressure, handle personnel suffering from among others bipolar mood disorders and have to possess a wide variety of other information, knowledge and skills. This is why Solidarity’s Occupational Guilds offer you the opportunity to join any one of their guilds. Visit the link https://guilds.solidarity.co.za/ for more information.