Guest Post: My First Experience with Inpatient Hospitalization  By Bipolar Taxi

Hopital DoorThe first time I ended up in a psychiatric hospital I was 20 years old. It was shortly after my first attempt at getting off heroin after being on it for a few years. I don’t exactly remember how I ended up there but it was a foreign place to me and I was scared.

The staff didn’t seem to be all that accommodating or even care at all that I was confused. I was asking a lot of questions like “where am I?”, “how did I get here?”, and “what pill is this?” On two separate occasions I was put into restraints and was forcefully injected with the ever so famous Haldol and Ativan cocktail. I believe they referred to it as my “PRN.”

After several days in and out of isolation, acceptance for my newly found situation had set in. The medication had started working and I became less agitated. I stayed in my hospital bed for several more days. Taking the medication and not questioning why this was all happening.

I started eating again which the food was actually decent. I had spent the last year or so homeless and learned to appreciate a good meal when I could get one.

The daily visits with the prescribing doctor were interesting to say the least. It consisted of him telling me what symptoms I was experiencing (how could he know that?)and telling me “we can talk tomorrow” when I asked him when I was going to be discharged. I don’t quite remember how I ended up there against my will but I must have been petitioned by a governing authority at some point.

I continued to become more docile due to the medication. I eventually just stop asking questions, which was at least giving me some sense of control, because the nurses and techs would just turn their backs and walk away when I did.

After about a week or so, the doctor explained to me that he had diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and that I had had a manic episode. He did not explain to me what a manic episode was nor did he give me treatment options for the condition. He told me that the ONLY treatment for this affliction was a lifetime of mood stabilizers and antipsychotics. I had no idea what either one of those things were or how they worked. None of the professionals on that unit would take the time to help me to understand how these medications could affect my life (positive or negative).

I was released from the hospital after about 4 weeks. No education was provided about the illness. No ways to cope with symptoms were provided or encouraged. No plans for follow up or aftercare were facilitated. But, they did make sure I had a prescription for these new medications upon discharge.

So what went wrong to provide me with such a poor experience? Well, I could go on for hours about mental health policy but I won’t. You see, this was about 15 years ago. Big strides have been made in the mental health field since then. Focus is steering towards more client centered environments in hospitals. Also, much more education and training has given to hospital staff since those times. 

I hope that I don’t sound too jaded but this was not a great first experience with the mental health system. It also would not be the last time I was to have a bad experience at the hospital. In hindsight… it’s okay. I like to take the outlook on life that everything I have gone through in my life has led up to today, and today was another amazing day.

Check out more personal stories and informative posts at Bipolar Taxi 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Worst things About Having Bipolar Disorder

picartBeware:  This is a rather bleak blog, but felt that the reality needed to be spoken.

Overall, I would have to say the worst thing about it is feeling isolated and losing friends.  I am blessed with a husband and family who supports me, but I know many people are not so lucky.  I was blessed to have 25 years of going to college and working full-time jobs where I met a lot of people.  I yearn for those times again.

Secondly, the depression part is hard.  Trying to push yourself to get out of bed, take a shower, let alone go anywhere out of the house can be terrifying.  I find myself having a conversation with my self that I hate my life and then I say back do something about it and then from that point, I can’t get enough energy to do anything.

Thirdly, the manic episodes wear me out and I dread them.  Some people say they like them, but I absolutely hate the feeling of racing thoughts, the energy that I use to do stupid things with. I seem to channel some of that energy into getting the house really clean, etc.  However, for the most part, no matter how many safeguards I have in place, I can’t seem to keep a budget or do things that are embarrassing later.

Fourth, the hospitalizations that I have experienced have been AWFUL!

Then, there is the judgment and the people who find out I have bipolar disorder one way or the other and they never look at me the same again. I told a neighbor I trusted I had it and she therefore told a few others and it destroyed me having a chance to be outside without feeling humiliated.  I say to myself and even to others, don’t care what they think, but it is hard not to do so.

Although the stigma has gotten better, people still don’t understand the illness.  They judge you, don’t try to understand you, they just stay away.

There is some hopelessness in there too as when medications don’t seem to work and you keep cycling, you have to wonder if it is ever going to end.

The bad things might  not end today, but things will get better eventually.  I promise. If you need help call the suicide helpline.

Picture Credit:  Doxycycline on DeviantArt

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Am I responsible for what I do while manic and what can I do about it?

responsibilityI do everything I can to not get manic, but sometimes it creeps in.  Those who love me know that and I am lucky as that is better than most people have.

Yes- I am responsible for the things I do while manic, but people who know me and that I have this illness understand that it was “not me” doing those things. They know if I was not manic, I would not have done them.

When I do things while manic, I am not thinking of the consequences.  I just am doing them.  When my world is rocked and I come back to myself again, I am almost always depressed.  Part of what causes me to be depressed is feeling badly and embarrassed about the things I did while manic.

I hate myself for my irrational behavior and that pulls me deeper into depression.

The trick for me is to not get manic as I regret almost everything I do while manic.  Unfortunately, it sometimes creeps in no matter what I do.

I said yes I am responsible for the things I did while manic, but at the same time, I have to ease up on myself and know that I was sick when I did them and not be so hard on myself.  Making amends to people I have hurt is one thing I try to do.  The money I have spent on things I don’t need, I return as much of it as I can.  I somehow can hide  my mania from a lot of people so they don’t know.  I try and act as normal as I can when I am manic.  I held down jobs this way.   No one knew I had bipolar disorder unless I told them and when I did, they were shocked.

The best things I can do is to prevent myself from getting manic by getting enough sleep, eating right, confiding with people I trust when I think I am spiraling out of control, seeing my doctor, watching my stress level, exercising on a regular basis and taking my medicine.  When I am depressed which is most of the time, it is hard to motivate myself to do these things, however.

So- I am responsible for what I do when I am manic. However, I am not usually to blame for getting manic as I have already stated that I do everything I can to prevent it.  I have stated that I am responsible for everything I do, but at the same time, I am not sure I should be held accountable too much to those who love and care about me as they know about my struggles.  Yes- I still make amends with them and I am sure they probably get sick of it, like I do, but I am  lucky that they love me unconditionally and forgive me.  I know that they struggle right along with me.

I realize I was a little wishy-washy there, but that is because as easy it is to say I am accountable, if I take that on with a full heart, I would  never come out of depression.

One piece of advice, is yes take responsibility, but don’t dwell on the past and right as many wrongs as soon as possible.










Posted in bipolar disorder, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How to be Around People when you are Depressed

crowdsWhen you are in a deep depression, it is hard to motivate yourself to do anything.  It can be difficult to get out of bed, take a shower, talk to friends and even family, exercise, or find anything that you enjoy.

So, if you can’t even get out of bed, how in the world are you supposed to talk to anyone?

I am somewhat an introvert anyway unless I am manic.  Therefore when I am depressed, I am even more apt to  not want to talk to anyone and it is torturous to be in a large crowd.

When I am depressed and don’t want to even go outside, how am I supposed to go to a function and not make it obvious I  am depressed. I can tell some people, but most people don’t understand so I don’t bother explaining.

People have asked me why I am so quiet.  What do I tell them?

I try to avoid going out anywhere, but there are some times I have to go be around people. For example, I recently had  go to a graduation party.  I dreaded it because I knew I  would be around people. Granted, I knew some of them, but very few of those people knew  I suffered from bipolar disorder and even the ones that do don’t really understand deep depression.

I suppose the way I deal with people when I am depressed is fake it until I make it.  I  tried to hang around my husband most of the time, but when he went off and did other things with friends he had not seen in years, I was left alone and only knew a few of his family members and others.  I just give that fake smile (yes-the one that people who suffer from depression have to do) and would try to listen to others and say something once in awhile so it was not totally awkward.  Thank goodness there were some people who loved to talk so  it was not too strange I did not say much.

Luckily, I found someone who I did not know who struck up a conversation with me and we kept the conversation going for a long time. I was proud of myself for doing that.  If I had my choice I would have crawled up into a ball and not talk to anyone. I actually enjoyed the conversation. Of course, there is always the question what do I do for a living.  I can answer I used to be a teacher and worked for my dad for awhile, but am currently looking. It is mostly telling the truth, but I am on disability and I can’t just tell someone that I hardly know.

I have not written in awhile because I have been depressed and can’t think of any topics that might interest anyone.   I like to end on a positive note and try to “teach” something to my readers. I am not sure if this does either one, but wanted to write something.

On a positive note, like I like to end it:  You can do it!     The worst thing that can happen is people think you are strange or quiet and you can just brush that off.  Like my dad says, “who cares what people think”  I know that is easier said than done.

Be proud of yourself for forcing yourself into the situation even though you have been dreading it for weeks.  Pat yourself on the shoulder knowing that you did the best you could do.  You pushed yourself and got out of the house and will actually feel better by doing so.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Guest Post: Sleeping and Mental Health by MA Sleep Institute

sad sleeperA bit of background on sleep and mental illness

While historically our theory on the interplay between mental illness and sleep disorders was simply that mental illness can cause sleep disorders. Recent research has made the link between the two stronger and more complicated.

As opposed to mental illness being the cause of sleep disorders, new evidence suggests that sleep disorders can cause and/or exacerbate mental illness. The relationship between the two groups of ailments varies based on the specific disorders involved and can change on a case-by-case basis.

One mental illness may develop in part due to a specific sleep disorder, but it can also be a symptom of the same mental illness — creating a positive feedback loop. Some mental issues may show no causal relationships with sleep at all. And some sleep disorders have no relationship with mental disorders whatsoever.

Mental illness and sleep disorders are still fairly misunderstood compared to other pathologies, in no small part because of their origin in the wild, unexplored frontier of the human brain. Only about fifty years ago did we end the barbaric and widespread use of lobotomies and electroshock therapy used to cure a whole host of mental disorders in the mid 20th century — including depression, anxiety, or even the perceived sickness of homosexuality.

Just now we’re beginning to understand the complex synergy between mental and sleep health, and we’re still only on the cusp of reaching a basic understanding of these interactions.

Let’s take a look at the overlap between these disorders.

Sleep disorder prevalence amongst individuals with mental health issues

With one in six U.S. adults suffering from some form of mental illness and 10-18% of adults living with a chronic sleep problem, understanding the causal factors involved in the two groups of disorders and the interplay between them is no small issue.

It’s been known for years that those with mental issues are at a much greater risk for sleep disorders than those without. While about one in five Americans suffers from some sort of chronic sleep disorder, four out of five Americans with mental health issues have an accompanying sleep issue.

  • Somewhere between 65% to 90% of adults with depression suffer from a sleep disorder.
    • The most common sleep disorder among those with depression is insomnia, but 20% suffer from (the more easily treated) sleep apnea.
  • For adults with anxiety disorder, 50% also suffer from a sleep disorder.
  • Those with bipolar disorder are plagued with sleep disorders at a rate anywhere between 69-99%.
  • About 25-50% of children with ADHD suffer from a sleep disorder.

Unsurprisingly, the most common sleep ailments here are insomnia and hypersomnia (sleeping excessively) during manic and depressive phases respectively.

While not all with mental health issues present a sleep disorder, it’s clear that a great many do.

Now that we’ve established a strong basic link between the two issues, let’s delve into the synergy between them and think about the methodology used to determine this link.

How do we determine that sleep disorders can cause or exacerbate mental illness?

There are a few ways to try and figure this out.

One approach is to identify people presenting sleep disorders with no evidence of mental health issues as determined by testing and follow them over time. While a robust approach, it does leave to question whether the same genetic, lifestyle or psychological factors that could cause sleep issues may also play a role in depression that tends to manifest itself at a later date than the sleep disorder (see lurking variable).

This study from the Henry Ford Health Sciences Center makes use of this type of experimental design and serves as much of the basis for what we know about sleep disorders potentially leading to mental health issues.

Additionally, to see if sleep disorders can worsen mental illnesses, we need to see if treating a sleep disorder (but not necessarily psychiatric issues) helps to improve the psychiatric issue. This may hint that sleep disorders can be a cause of mental illness. However, due to the structure, we can only say with certainty that the presence or severity of sleep disorders can affect the severity of mental health issues.

study from Oxford has provided some of the most compelling research on the intersection between mental health and sleep using a form of the above methodology.

These studies are difficult to get right, and there are some things we should keep in mind when discussing them.

Inherent difficulties in establishing causal relationships between sleep disorders and mental health

Let’s say, hypothetically, that someone ruins their knees after years of physical activity.

They can no longer exercise and as a result, begin to suffer from sleeplessness early on. Because they can no longer exercise, they find themselves feeling less fulfilled or they gain weight, later showing signs of depression.

The knee injury preventing exercise causes first insomnia and then depression — making it appear that one causes the other whereas the injury caused both, just at different times.

One single factor that affects two different variables (independent and dependent) but isn’t controlled for in studies is called a lurking or confounding variable — something that is important to keep in mind in these chicken vs. egg questions.

Establishing the chicken and egg relationship

I can hear you screaming to get to the point, so here we go.

Depression appears to be the mental illness with the most evidence that suggests it may be caused or exacerbated by sleep disorders.

Let’s focus on this in particular.


In the Henry Ford Health Sciences Center study, young adults were brought in for an initial interview that included questions on sleep and mental health issues and returned again three years later to follow up.

The research showed that individuals who in the initial interview reported episodes of insomnia but no signs of major depression were four times as likely to develop major depression by their second interview three years later.

A more recent study, also done by the Henry Ford Health Sciences Center, employed a very similar experimental design and presented similar results. The team discovered that those expressing insomnia or insomnia-like sleep issues were again at a significantly greater risk of developing a major depressive disorder than those without sleep issues. This study specifically controlled for stressor events, age, and gender, making it extremely strong evidence for sleep disorders as a cause for depression.

Let’s throw some more evidence into the pile. Researchers in a long-term study on twins discovered that while sleep problems at age eight were a statistically significant predictor of depression by age ten, the opposite relationship was not true.

Even if we want to put our cynical hats on and reintroduce the idea of lurking variables or lack of controls into thinking about this, these studies paint a pretty clear picture that insomnia and depression have a strong causal link. While the possibility of lurking variables in this research is present, the case for insomnia as a cause or sign of major depression is becoming very compelling.


The studies on insomnia exacerbating (but not explicitly causing) depression are extremely robust as well. The aforementioned Oxford study focused on treating students presenting mental health and sleep issues for only their sleep issues through something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.

Though CBT intervention focused on insomnia treatment, researchers found that as insomnia symptoms decreased, so too did psychiatric symptoms like hallucinations, paranoia, and depression.

It’s also been reported that depressive individuals respond worse to treatment if they present sleep disruptions than those without, and that individuals with treated depression were more prone to relapse if they have untreated sleep disorders.

Additionally, other studies have shown that those unlucky enough to suffer both depression and insomnia as opposed to simply depression rank much higher in terms of suicidal behavior.

So can we conclude with absolute certainty that insomnia can cause depression?

Not just yet.

Let’s approach this with some level-headedness and scientific literacy.

While it appears that insomnia often precedes depression, and while treating the symptoms of insomnia can ameliorate the symptoms of depression or other mental illnesses, the studies aren’t ironclad and robust enough to come to a conclusion.

We’re close, but until we see more detailed and long-term studies, or research elucidating the biochemical or genetic foundations behind depression or insomnia, we can’t with 100% confidence conclude that sleep disorders like insomnia cause mental illness such as depression.


What we can take away from this is that we can use insomnia and other sleep disturbances as a probable early marker of depression and other mental illness, and can begin preventative or treatment steps before these mental disorders set in.

Parents who notice their children have significant sleep difficulties may want to take them in to see a mental health specialist. If you find yourself up all hours of the night, you may want to speak to a doctor about treating your sleep issues. In addition, getting information on identifying and preventing the onset of major depressive disorder symptoms could be helpful early on.

The presence of a sleep disorder could be an important red flag that something might be going wrong with your body or brain chemistry. Pay attention to it.

While research hasn’t yielded an “aha!” moment on the subject yet, we’re heading in the right direction. We’ve gotten that much closer to determining that mental illness may be developed through sleep disorders.

Some more useful information:

Our Guide to Sleep After Trauma
– The Relationship Between Depression and Insomnia
– Why Sleep is So Important to Mental Health
– Sleep & PTSD
-How Addiction Impacts Sleep 

Disclaimer this is from Mattress Advisor and contributed by Christine, a community outreach coordinator.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder I

bipolar disorder pic

Bipolar disorder I has extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression)


  • delusions of grandeur
  • risky behavior
  • talking rapidly
  • talking non-stop,
  •  talking about unrealistic things
  •  feeling that you are unstoppable, oftentimes
  • irritability
  • need to sleep less
  • racing thoughts
  • can’t concentrate
  • change in appetite
  • increase in activity
  • sometimes hallucinations
  • reckless behaviour
  • hypersexuality
  • more creative
  • unusual focus on religion
  • spending money excessively
  • inappropriate humor
  • europhia


  • extreme sadness
  • suicidal thoughts
  • change in appetite
  • unmotivated
  • difficulty concentrating
  • fatigue
  • decreased energy
  • feeling empty
  • feeling irritable
  • hopeless
  • anxious
  • feeling guilty
  • insomnia
  • aches and pains
  • sleep change-usually too much
  • loss of sex drive
  • thoughts of death
  • agitation
  • thinking dark thoughts
  • restless

You do not need to exhibit all of these to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder I.  However, most people with severe illness do experience most of them from time to time.

When you have bipolar disorder and cycle rapidly, it can be very discouraging to say the least.

However, there is hope out there. Therapy and medication are two examples of things that can help.





Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Guest Post: A Bipolar Diagnosis is Not a Death Sentence by Carrie Cantwell

biopicI can’t believe I ever wanted to die. But then again, things right now are really good. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it felt like to be so hopeless I was willing to end my own life. But that’s why the saying “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” makes so much sense. Just because one day, one week, even one year or more of your life is rough, that doesn’t mean things will be that way forever. Death is forever. And you can’t take it back.

I have bipolar disorder, which means I’m vulnerable to emotional stresses that can trigger a manic or depressive episode. My dad—who also had bipolar disorder—committed suicide in 1998. I remember when he started getting really sick. My senior year of college, my mom had left him. He’d been buying guns and shooting holes into the ground. He’d driven hours away to cheap motels and called her threatening suicide. He washed and dried my mom’s work suits in the washing machine, shrinking them and hanging them back up on the same hangers. I imagined little doll-sized suits wrinkled and mangled beyond recognition, and my dad—a deranged lunatic—standing over them.

I was working at my punk clothing store salesgirl job when my mom showed up to tell me my dad had just killed himself. I was numb until four years after his death, when I crashed, suffering my first major depressive episode. I felt like I was encased in a black slimy ooze that slowed my mind and body. I cried constantly. Completely unable to function, I went on disability from work. My mom (who is a therapist) sent me for a psychological evaluation and after six hours of testing, I was given a nine-page document. Laid out in black and white, there it was: I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. I was horrified to learn I had the same disease that killed my dad. Would I end up committing suicide too? At that moment, a bipolar diagnosis seemed like a death sentence. I started seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist. I tried antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, antidepressants and mood stabilizers. The struggle for chemical equilibrium in my brain was grueling, but I finally found a cocktail of medications that helped even out the intensity of my moods.

In 2012, I was married to a controlling, verbally abusive man. My husband had convinced me that everything wrong with our marriage was my fault. It was my second marriage and I wrongly thought I’d be a failure if I got another divorce. My self-esteem was so low I felt worthless. We were renovating our condo, and I’d been demolishing the kitchen and bathroom, hauling loads of concrete and cast iron, and meeting with dozens of contractors. It was incredibly stressful. I was agitated and irritable, and my racing mind was catastrophizing everything that went slightly awry. After a nasty argument with my husband, I took a bunch of pills with a balloon glass full of $7 gas station Merlot.

So, there I was, thirty-eight, bipolar, and trying to kill myself, just like my bipolar dad had done when he was fifty-five. What the hell was I thinking? I know what it feels like to lose someone to suicide. My mom and I have gone through so much pain because of what he did. This would destroy my mom. I was her only child. My friends and family would be devastated. But I was under the spell of mania. I wasn’t thinking about any of that.

I ended up in the emergency room, strapped to a gurney and having seizures every half hour or so. I was in and out of consciousness, being violently thrown into and out of reality as I pulled and kicked against my restraints. I was then transferred to an in-patient mental hospital. I was admitted late at night and shown to the room I’d be sharing with my just-got-out-of-jail roommate. The next two nights, I was kept awake by the all the lights constantly being on, and the schizophrenic woman down the hall. During the day, she was a kleptomaniac who stole everyone’s jeans and kept them in a pile in her closet. At night, she’d walk up and down the echoing hallway, screaming both sides of an unintelligible argument to herself. I was terrified, but I held it together and proved I was well enough to be let out after three days. I promised myself I’d never go back.

I can’t forget the look on my mom’s face in the emergency room. I’d put her through what my dad had, and even though I knew better, I did it anyway. That’s what bipolar disorder does. It makes you lose insight, narrowing your focus to a needle point, and everything and everyone else gets lost in the periphery. It’s total self-absorption.

As I began my recovery, I finally understood the gravity of my illness. This mood disorder can be fatal, if not managed properly. I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I know what happens when I don’t take care of myself and give in to the voices that tell me to stay up a little later tonight or skip my meds. I need to be especially careful when something goes wrong in my life, because any little hiccup can awaken the whispering voice in my head that tells me I can escape by dying. My dad must have heard that same voice. And I don’t want to end up like he did.

I’m both a survivor and an advocate. I am currently writing a book about my experiences entitled Daddy Issues: A Memoir. I hope that by sharing my story, I can give hope to the millions of people whose lives have been affected by bipolar disorder and suicide. I have bipolar, but it doesn’t have me. I know every day with this illness is different, but I’m a pretty damned resilient person. I’ve made it through several major manic and depressive episodes, and I’ve come out on the other side. I struggle all the time, but I just do my best and try to set healthy limits for myself.

I work in the film industry as a graphic designer. I’ve always loved movies, and I feel so lucky that I get to design graphics that bring fictional worlds to life. Several years ago, I was working on a movie that had a hospital set. I was tasked with creating the logo and all the signs. While I sat at my computer, designing a large red and white emergency room sign, it hit me. If I hadn’t survived my suicide attempt, I would never have been there. My life could have ended in an emergency room. Instead, I was living my dreams doing what I love most. The horrible experience that made me want to end my own life was over. It had been temporary. Had I died, it all would have been permanent.

I’m living proof that a bipolar diagnosis is not a death sentence. I haven’t just survived, I’ve thrived. I’ve obtained two Bachelor’s Degrees in English and Graphic Design. I’ve been interviewed on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and my artwork has been published in a college art school textbook and exhibited in national and international art museums. With more than 33 movie and television credits to my name, I’ve been working in the film industry for over 13 years, earning two Emmy nominations and an Art Director’s Guild award. I also have a blog where I share my stories about living with bipolar disorder: And while I’ve had many professional achievements, I’m most proud of my recovery, my hardest-fought battle.


Posted in bipolar disorder, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Mental Illness and Addiction–To Have Children or Not by Adam Durnham

preview16Mental illness and addiction can figure prominently in the decision to have children or not. One’s own struggles with either or both certainly weigh heavily in the balance if there is enough presence of mind to consider the wisdom of having children or not.  Life can be overwhelmingly difficult when mental illness and addiction are unmanaged. Adding a child’s needs to the mix can exact a staggering toll on coping and emotional resources alone.

Apart from one’s own mental illness or addiction, a family history of them, even living relatives with them, can figure prominently in the decision to have children or not. Mental illness and addiction have taken a severe toll in countless families–through the generations, and often among several family members at once in a single generation.

The Trauma of Parental Mental Illness and Addiction

People who grow up in families with mental illness and/or addiction often have chronic problems including trauma symptoms, relationship difficulties, depression, anxiety and substance abuse. These issues will certainly affect their own attitudes and behaviors as parents. And, if they lived with such parental issues for a long period of time as children themselves, chances are they have what is known as Developmental Trauma which can increase the problems they will face as parents many fold.

Living with parental mental illness and/or addiction dramatically increases the risk of living with such as adverse conditions as poverty, neglect, abandonment, abuse and exposure to violence. Consequently, children in these situations are at great risk for developing a form of PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) which is often called Developmental Trauma that can cause lifelong problems.

At minimum, in the case of unmanaged parental mental illness and addiction, children’s basic needs for emotional security, consistent support, protection, connection and guidance can go unmet. This leads to missing important developmental milestones that require a secure connection to a protective parent and having a consistently supportive environment to live in.

People with such family histories can be seriously concerned they may pass on their own childhood legacy to children of their own, and research proves their worries may be well-founded. Adults who suffered childhood adversity such as parental addiction and parental mental illness, have children who are four times more likely to have mental health problems.

Mental Illness, Heredity and Environment

We know now that mental illness can be strongly linked to heredity, so concerns about the genetic nature of such problems is reasonable when deciding whether or not to have children. Simply having lived with a parent who suffered from a mental illness is impactful enough to give one pause when thinking about having a child. Many wonder if the same will happen to them—will they become ill and cause their own children to suffer as they did, or if not, will the family illness be passed on to any children they may have.

Mental illnesses overall are believed to be caused by both inherited traits and environmental factors, but research shows clearly that some are genetically predisposed to mental health problems. This means that genetic links to mental health problems have been identified—more for some disorders than others. Among those clearly shown to have strong genetic links are schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, autism, and hyperactivity disorder.

It’s common practice for healthcare providers to look for a family history of such conditions in previous generations and among siblings. Overall, people whose parents had a mental illness are at a higher risk of having one themselves at some point in their lifetimes. And, it is not only genetics that carry on a family legacy of mental health issues. Learning dysfunctional world views and coping strategies can also make one vulnerable, as can adverse living conditions caused by a suffering parent.

Addiction, Genetics and Environment

Research has shown that addiction runs in families and that many have a biological predisposition to substance problems. Those who are genetically vulnerable stand a significant chance of developing a problem if they begin substance use. In fact, research suggests that genetic factors are 50% of the risk profile for developing an addiction.

Research has found also that there is not simply an addiction gene, but that the issue is far more complex. For example, genes that affect mood can significantly play into the risk for addiction, as can genes that determine the individual metabolism of substances.  These are just two examples. To make matters even more complicated, environmental factors play a role, too.

The use of substances itself is a learned behavior. There are many realms of life in which such factors arise—family, school, social settings, community, work and the culture at large. Environmental factors such as having access to substances, and being in the company of others who use, increase the risk of use and later problems, for example. Other environmental factors that increase the risk of addiction are the attitudes of people around us socially, as well as in our families.

Addressing the Issues and Your Decision to Have Children

Certainly, many manage mental illness very well and many successfully recover from addiction. They go on to have successful lives and happy families. However, when either condition is not well managed, life in every aspect can destabilize. The ability to work, manage a home, adhere to a daily schedule, have healthy relationships, keep finances in order, carry out responsibilities and even tend to personal self-care can be seriously compromised. Dependent and vulnerable children living with parents who cannot cope with the basics of daily life suffer from neglect at best, and endangerment in the worst-case scenario.

If you are concerned about your own risks in having children who may ‘inherit’ the effects of mental illness or addiction, here are some things to ask yourself as you explore the issues in greater depth. Do you or your life partner:

  • Have a family history of mental illness and/or substance problems
  • Have primary relatives (parents, siblings) who have either problem
  • Use addictive substances
  • Have symptoms such as depression, anxiety, poor impulse control, mood swings, hallucinations, delusions, flashbacks, obsessions, compulsive behaviors
  • Have a history of growing up with unmanaged parental mental illness or active parental addiction

Naturally, these are simply starting points in anyone’s exploration. However, they are basic and significant issues. If you or your significant other is struggling with the symptoms of mental illness and/or addiction, there are effective solutions. A family legacy of struggle can be resolved in your life with the proper drug and rehab treatment center and commitment.

You do not have to ‘pass on’ the psychological and behavioral effects of your own untreated mental illness or addiction to your children, nor that of their extended family. This will not, of course, alter genetic risks, but will give you a head start in recognizing warning signs and intervening promptly if you do have children who develop problems. If you need help, reach out. Help is available.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse by Sharon Torres

substance-abuse-torn-pieces-paper-450w-724878184Bipolar disorder is a condition where the person experiences dramatic changes in mood, activity, behavior, and energy. This constant shift will shape the person’s ability to live, much less perform daily tasks.

This should not be mistaken for mood swings because the effects are more severe in the sense that their ability to function is impaired.

Bipolar disorder is quite common despite the prevailing myth that it’s quite rare. This thought process is understandable considering that you may live all your life without really meeting somebody with this condition.

For instance, the National Institute on Mental Health estimates that there are almost 6 million adults, translating to about 2.6%, in the United States have this mental health issue.

Meanwhile, around 13.2 million adults or 4.4% have suffered from bipolar disorder at some point in their lives.

It should be noted, however, that not everyone with this condition could no longer function.

In fact, only about 8 in 10 people with bipolar disorder have symptoms that are so severe that their lives are seriously impaired. The rest has mild to moderate impairment or also called functional impairment, where the symptoms may have an impact on their occupational functions and social relationships.

The Uncertainty of the Severe Mood Swings

Any bipolar person will tell you that they fear the unpredictability the most.

There are three types of bipolar disorders:

Bipolar I – The person will experience a manic episode, which may be followed by depression.

Bipolar II – This is when the depression will last two weeks at the very least, then followed by a hypomanic period that can last for four days at the minimum.

Cyclothymic Disorder – These individuals are constantly suffering. They can either be depressed or manic throughout the whole year. In fact, they can count themselves lucky if they don’t experience any symptom for about two months in a year.

For people who don’t know, the depression and manic states don’t swing violently like a pendulum. In fact, the bipolar will be more often than not be depressed rather than feel euphoric.

The important thing is to get treatment. This is the only way they can reduce the symptoms. However, it’s good to know the triggers that can cause mood swings:

  1. Insomnia or sleep disturbance
  2. Stress from work or family
  3. Sudden changes in work schedules
  4. Thyroid problems
  5. Prescription medicines like corticosteroids and antidepressants
  6. Caffeine
  7. Alcohol
  8. Changes in the season

As a result, they often feel anxious and have trouble concentrating, even on very simple tasks. They act irritated and will lash out at people around them, including their loved ones. They will also lose interest even on hobbies they are passionate about. When good news is shared, it’s likely they won’t react with joy.

They will also fail to empathize when something tragic happens to a loved one or friend. Or worse, they will experience hallucinations or detachment from reality.

On the other end of the spectrum, they will have a distorted image of self-worth when they have a manic episode. They will be very talkative and even skip sleep because they are too full of energy. They will have a million ideas racing through their heads but fail to act on a single one. They would engage in risky behaviors that may have long-term repercussions to their health or finances. They would also tend to be hypersexual.

How to Cope with the Episodes:

Now that you know the triggers, you can at least anticipate if an episode is coming.

  1. Limit the amount of stress – This may be easier said than done, especially for some people who can’t stand when they lose control of the situation. Take time off from your work to travel and just enjoy life.


  1. Lay down the ground rules – It’s important that you are supported by family and friends who will offer their full support and avoid becoming stressors in your life.


  1. Talk to your superiors about a regular schedule – If there’s a rotational night shift in your office, it’s best that you are excluded from this routine. In the same vein, make sure to keep a schedule of your daily life—even the time you eat and sleep—and keep it.


  1. Sleep at the right time – If you have trouble sleeping, make sure to change your habits. Take the TV out of the room, invest in heavy curtains, play some relaxing music, and sex.


  1. Exercise – Get some sweat in. You will be surprised at how your mood will improve after a good workout.


  1. Refrain from drinking caffeinated and alcoholic drinks – Alcohol is a depressant while caffeine is a stimulant. Those substances are the last things you want in your system.

Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

Speaking of substances, people with bipolar disorders are likely to also have a substance abuse problem.

According to the American Journal of Managed Care, as shared by, revealed that more than 5 in 10 of bipolar individuals have struggled with alcohol and drug addiction at least once in their lifetime.

Almost 5 in 10 of them have an alcohol abuse disorder while 4 in 10 have a drug addiction.

The relationship between bipolar disorder and substance abuse, however, is rather complicated.

Scientists have yet to map the brain to find a direct link between addiction and mental health disorder. But they are one in saying that one aggravates the other.

Bipolar disorder can be blamed on hormonal imbalance although the exact cause is unknown. There are some who suggest that this condition is inherited while others think that it’s caused by environmental factors.

The answer probably lies in between.

Looking for Answers

You can’t dismiss outright the genetic factors because a child is 30% more at risk if one of the parents has a bipolar disorder. On environmental factors, people who’ve experienced violent trauma were also diagnosed with this condition later in their lives.

In bipolar disorders, the neurotransmitters in the brain are not functioning as they should, which led to severe mood swings.  In should be noted, however, these include dopamine or serotonin.

Illicit drugs work by overstimulating the brain with dopamine or serotonin, which produces that feeling of “high.”

Researchers believe that this same action in the brain in a bipolar person is what makes him seek out alcohol or drugs.

Another reason why bipolar individuals are at risk of being addicted is their tendency to self-medicate.

The problem is that they are not even aware they have the disease in the first place. For instance, around 2 in 10 of bipolar patients are mistakenly diagnosed, which means they are not getting the right treatment.

For example, they are prescribed with anti-depressants by their primary care doctor who thought they are suffering from depression.

And as stated above, anti-depressants can trigger the severe mood swings. Instead of getting better, they are actually getting worse.

One reason why the mania is often ignored is that nobody really thinks of it as a problem compared to depression. After all, how is it a bad thing if the person is full of energy and mirth? How can you complain when during this episode you are most productive?

A 2005 study titled “Mood Disorders and Substance Use Disorder: A Complex Comorbidity” showed the glimpse of how people with bipolar disorder select the type of substance to abuse. For instance, those who are trying to cope with depression do take stimulants like cocaine.

People who have uncontrolled aggression and rage tend to abuse drugs like opiates, which can calm them down.

Alcohol is probably the common denominator, regardless of the symptoms mainly because it’s very accessible.

Treating Co-Occurring Diseases

Rehab centers like Sunshine Behavioral Health in Texas have been treating co-occurring diseases or dual diagnosis. These cases are actually more common than you think.

Dual diagnosis is a condition where the rehab patient is dealing not just with substance abuse but also with a mental disorder. The mental issue can come in many forms such as bipolar disorder, ADHD, depression, severe anxiety, and post-traumatic syndrome disorder.

Substance abuse will aggravate the mental condition in such a way that the symptoms become more severe. Bipolar patients who are genetically predisposed are especially vulnerable to this because the same chemical imbalance in their brains will be exacerbated by alcohol or drug use.

However, tracing which of the two conditions is the triggering factor is an exercise in futility. Rehab centers have a protocol of addressing the addiction first before moving on to the mental health issue.

The patient will undergo detox—which is nothing more than the procedure to manage the withdrawal symptoms—to flush out the toxins from the system. After which, the person may undergo behavioral and psychosocial therapy in the hopes of getting to the root of the addiction.

It’s important that the family should first inquire whether the rehab facility offers dual diagnosis treatment. In instances when this is not offered, the patient may be endorsed to another facility that specializes in bipolar disorder treatment.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Depression: Steps to take to feeling better

depressionThere are five main categories to feel more vital, balanced, and free from depression.  These categories are mental care, support from people, physical care, your lifestyle, and spiritual self-care.

Mental care includes:

  • positive self-talk and beliefs
  • using a mood journal
  • being able to feel your feelings
  • working through grief
  • working with a  good therapist
  • creating a list of positive memories

People Support includes:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Therapist/ Psychiatrist
  • Support group
  • Doing volunteer work
  • Talking to a minister/rabbi, etc
  • Peer Support groups during day treatment setting

Physical Care

  • Exercise
  • Eating nutritiously
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Drinking 8-10 glasses of water every day
  • Taking medications if necessary (and/or supplements)
  • Breathing exercises


  • Set times during the day to relax
  • Creating structure during the day
  • Setting goals (even if they are small) to feel accomplished at the end of the day
  • Fulfilling goals you have set for the day
  • Spend time outside
  • Do things you enjoy

Taking care of your spiritual needs: 

  • Have a spiritual community
  • Meditate
  • Pray
  • Forgiveness
  • Finding purpose and meaning in your life

The overall theme of all of these is to take care of yourself.  Don’t take on too much at once.  Set small goals and don’t feel like you have to do all of these things every day.  Try to do at least 5 the first day and then challenge yourself to do more and more each day.

Depression is an awful thing and oftentimes it feels like it is impossible to get out of,  but following these ideas might make it more bearable, and might even get  you out of it completely.  It doesn’t hurt to try.












Posted in bipolar disorder, depression, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment