Dec 14, 2011

Addiction, Psychiatry, and Bipolar Disorder...What do you think?

I'm not sure if I have ever talked about this on my blog before, but I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder when I was 18 years old. Since then I was put on loads of different medications searching for one that worked for me. I was in and out of the hospital multiple times, I have been on the news, in magazines, and newspapers, and NAMI organizations talking about my struggle, how hard it is for people to get health insurance if they have mental illness, and I have also been a speaker to many different medical schools and medical conferences talking about the reality of life with Bipolar Disorder. For those of you that don't know what Bipolar Disorder is, here is a link explaining a little bit about this disease. I know I can get much more detailed then that, but that will give you a basic idea. In short, I struggle with mania more than depression. 

Since I was 23 I have been on a medication that has worked great for me. It keeps me stable and I am able to live my life as much as possible. There are somethings that I am just not able to do. Because of my physical health and also my mental health I am unable to work, I can't get overly stressed, I have to exercise, take care of my spiritual health, and see my doctor regularly. I still go through ups and downs on my medications but over the last 10 years I have learned to manage my illness very well. I know that I have to take my medication 100% of the time and I can't stop taking it because I am feeling better. I am feeling better because of the medication. All of these things took years to learn, and a lot of work with therapists and amazing doctor's. With that being said I'm going to go into the main reason I am writing this post. 

I know this isn't my regular type of post, but I had an opportunity to go to a medical conference today as a guest instead of speaking. My psychiatrist asked me if I would like to go with him to hear a bunch of speakers and researchers at a local medical school. It was all about mental illness and psychiatry. I jumped at the chance. As we were sitting there and I was listening to this particular psychiatrist, he made a comment about addiction. He said that he has seen the brain scans and he knows that certain parts of the brain light up when people are seeing pornography, or heroin, or food, or any other addicting substance, but he truly believes that there is no such thing as addiction. He believes that if people would just learn self control that they would be fine. People have come up with excuses to justify there poor behavior. All they need to do is just say no, basically.

I found this so interesting as I have had many people in my life suffer from "addictions". It got me thinking what do I believe? I felt like I had a food addiction a long time ago, but I overcame that. I quit cold turkey (because I had to).  Over the space of a year and with some counseling I was able to overcome it. Food to me is now a way to keep me alive and not for me to live for. Researchers say that 6% of addicts will recover completely.  So, was I addicted and just one of the lucky 6% or did I really just learn self control? 

This is my reason for this blog. I am genuinely interested to know what my readers think about this. I want to know if you think that addiction is real or if it is just something that we need more will power to overcome. 

Psychiatry is fascinating to me, as is mental illness. I have learned through my ups and downs with bipolar that mental illness is very real. It is something that so many of us struggle with and yet are so ashamed of. I have embraced my disease and use it to my greatest advantage now. I make sure to take good care of myself physically and emotionally, and I believe that I am proof that anyone with a mental illness can live a "normal" life with the right medication and right self help. Those things go hand in hand. You can't just take a pill and expect to be well. You have to be doing certain things to help you along with your meds to get the fullness out of your life.  I have learned that I HAVE Bipolar.  I am NOT Bipolar.  My disease does not define me and make me who I am.  Bipolar is a part of me, but it is not me.

Anyway let me know your thoughts. I am extremely interested in hearing all about what you have to say. I hope you are all having a wonderful Holiday season, and I can't wait for Christmas and post about all the fun things we are doing. 



jes said...

jill, thank you so much for your kind words... my interactions with fellow bipolar people are few, and it was so refreshing to see how positive you are about your life and your future.

and to answer your question, i believe in change. if an addiction existed that was truly insurmountable then my whole notion of the universe and god and the capacity to become falls apart.

Theresa said...

most interesting. I don't think that addictions CANNOT be overcome (double negative...I get it). However, I do not necessarily think it requires will power. I know lots of fat people (as well as alcoholics) that WANT to quit overeating/drinking and try every day to get on the wagon. I believe it becomes a chemical addiction. To just say "buck up" and deal with it is like saying to a diabetic (in my opinion) "just deal with it - eat right and exercise, you'll be fine". In some cases that's true...but in others: not so much. I am going to guess that this was a doctor with NO difficulties in life. In that I mean he has never been overweight or drank too much...etc.

I have a brother-in-law who has always been fit. He doesn't understand the difficulties I go through trying to lose/maintain my weight. It would be interesting to see what the doc says when someone he is close to struggles with an issue. hmmmmmm.....

Just sayin.