This week has been calm at work. I haven’t had many client conversations, but one of them has been very much on my mind. Usually I don’t think too much about my clients between sessions, but when I get worried about a client it’s hard not to. The client has dissociative identify disorder, and one of the parts is suicidal. The part is young and doesn’t trust other humans, understandably so. Life has been unsafe and unpredictable, so the part has done what everyone would do in a similar situation: keeping its guard up. I asked this part if he is familiar with the people in my clients life today, and my client told me he knows about them, but he doesn’t connect with them emotionally. My client has been in therapy for many years, and even if things are somewhat better, my client still suffers every day. Nightmares, lack of sleep, daily dissociative episodes, and at the moment, a feeling of hopelessness.
I wonder, how can I help this part to recognize that his circumstances are different now? That he has people in his life who care and would be shattered if he disappeared for good? How can we work together on ways to regulate the intense pain he lives with everyday, when he has no experience with coping when things gets too much?
Yesterday I finally had the courage to see 22 July. In Norway that day will never be the same. It’s our 9/11, our tragedy. Norway is a small country, so we were all directly or indirectly touched by Anders Behring Breivik’s mass murder of 77 innocent people the 22th of July. Seeing the movie was hard, but necessary. I remember how surprised I was by the reactions after the attack. How the trial focused on our core values, democracy and not giving in to fear and love. I remember how people gathered in our cities, showing their respect with roses that littered the streets. News headlines from other countries also reflected the surprise: Where was the outrage ? We were suffering, but we didn’t respond with bullets or hate.
Fear is dangerous. Maybe I’m a bit naive, but the answer is not to monitor everyone to be more secure. Crimes does occur and we must always try to minimize it. I have worked with trauma through my career, and know the pain sufferers and survivors endure. But the solution is not to become overly suspicious. Some countries are closing their borders after terror attacks, to protect their own people. But we are all humans, and by having a court system where we defend people who’s committed crimes we condone, we feel stronger. Revenge seldom helps, but trying to move on and focusing on what’s important, can. This doesn’t mean that feelings of hate and rage aren’t valid. We must be allowed to feel grief and the unfairness of meaningless acts from a person like Breivik. Healing is being able to feel different emotions at the same time and realize that it’s okay. We can feel strong and weak at the same time, love and hate. But how we act on those feelings, is what matters.
This is a reblog from the blog the bipolar writer. The post if written by Allie, and I found it very informative and inspiring.
Reading it felt even more useful after the first day on a conference I’m on, where Allen Frances, a main contribution to the DSM-IV spoke. He told us more about the American mental health care system, and how hard it can be to get adequate help. Posts like these can help those who suffer from a mental health problem.
1 in 4 Americans suffer from a mental disorder, and out of those millions of Americans, 5.7 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, characterized by erratic moods consisting of mania (an elated state of being) and the more familiar depressive episodes. I am one of those 5.7 million Americans.
Bipolar disorder is often considered the “artist’s disease,” from Sylvia Plath to Vincent van Gogh exemplifying the creative bursts of energy, severe depressions, and unstable highs and lows that come with the disorder. There is a range of creative treatments that safeguard mood stability, including traditional medications and therapies that are universally recommended to treat bipolar disorder. Often, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and psychotherapy are the first lines of defense, alongside a good support system, to prevent mania and depression. However, three simple life changes can safeguard against serious bipolar episodes and help those who suffer from bipolar disorder maintain a stable, healthy lifestyle.
Early to Bed, Early to Rise – Healthy and Wise
Sleep is perhaps the most important preventer of manic relapses and a strong source of mood stability. Bipolar disorder is directly related to insomnia. The fewer people with bipolar disorder sleep, the more likely they are to become manic. The Center for Disease Control recommends seven hours of sleep daily for adults. Having a healthy sleep routine, such as an established bed time and avoidance of caffeine after 2:00 PM can help people with bipolar disorder achieve a good night’s rest. As someone who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has worked for years to combat insomnia, I have found that turning off screens (from televisions, phones, computers, tablets, etc.) an hour before bedtime and having a strong sleep routine where I turn in around the same time each night works wonders. If insomnia persists, one can talk to a doctor about sleep aids available by prescription and consider using Melatonin or a Circadian rhythm stabilizer (available over-the-counter).
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
Exercise is another great mood booster, especially during depressive episodes and to combat the side effects of bipolar medications that often cause weight gain. The NIH recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. When you are active, dopamine floods your brain and gives you feelings of happiness similar to a runner’s high. This is especially important for bipolar disorder sufferers, whose serotonin levels are often imbalanced. However, staying active can be a challenge during depressive lows. I like to hike or cycle, which leaves me feeling satisfied and helps keep the pounds off from medicine. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it is biking or running, and watch as your mood improves.
Nourishing Your Brain, Nourishing Your Soul
Finally, good nutrition is directly linked to mental health, especially for those with bipolar disorder. Nourishing one’s body with healthy foods like whole grains, veggies, and lean meats, while reducing intake of fatty and sugary foods, and using probiotic supplements can improve mental health, buffering mood swings. I rediscovered my love of cooking healthy meals and have seen vast mood improvements since choosing a diet that works for me, specifically the low carb diet. Perhaps the Mediterranean or vegetarian diets will suit you? Experiment with food groups you like and remember to take probiotic supplements for a happy gut and brain.
Your brain, body, and emotions are all linked, bipolar or not, and with these healthy lifestyle changes, supplemented by the proper medication and therapy, bipolar disorder patients can not only survive but thrive.
I am at the airport right now, waiting for my flight to Stavanger. In Stavanger I will attend a three-day long conference where the main theme is ‘connections’. One of the main headliners is Judith Beck, widely known for her work with developing cognitive behavioral therapy. I’ve read some of what she’s written, and am excited to hear her talk about the therapeutic relationship. There will also be other known scientists and others who will talk about their work, and it will actually be hard to decide which mini-seminars I should attend while I’m there.
In addition to getting inspired, I will finally meet some old class-mates again. I’ve kept in contact with both of them since we became psychologists together, but since then one of my friends now has a little baby I still haven’t seen.
It is nice to sit here and wait for the plane. The last couple of weeks has been filled with everyday chores. We recently moved house, and that is a challenge in the best of circumstances. With two kids, it is even more busy and stressful, so sitting here, not needing to do anything, is luxurious.
Humans have always been fascinated by what we don’t understand. We love riddles, trying to figure out what we just haven’t grasped yet.
Loving complexity is easy, especially when it comes to people. Hidden layers under the surface are endlessly fascinating. If you discover that somebody turned out to be very different from what you thought, the world stops for a split second. You think: There’s so much I don’t know yet. I was wrong. And strangely enough it feels good, because broadening your perspective is meaningful. Maybe it’s even what life is all about.
Some of the most interesting people I’ve met, have also been the most complex. Different layers that leave you flabbergasted. How can a person consist of so many sides and still have one identity? One girl I know loves unicorns, but she can also be so tough that it surprises me. This contrasts makes me want to know her even more.
Is every person we meet complex? Has everyone we know sides we never knew about, experiences we never thought they could have? I still haven’t met enough people to give a scientifically answer, but I have been taken aback time and time again. Realization has hit me when I see that I really knew nothing about people I thought I understood.
I try to not judge people, both at work with my clients and in my own life. I also try to not be offended when people don’t like me, remembering that they have only seen some parts of me.
Complexity is easy. We crave it, we need it, we feel satisfied when we pursue it. We might not always get the answers we wanted, but we might have learned something new.
I went swimming earlier today, and although I was energized there and then, now I’m dead wood. Tomorrow will be a hectic day too, since work will be busy and then I have to go right to the city center for an memory event I’ve arranged together with the library in Bergen. The memory expert is a well-known man who almost won the Norwegian talent-show, and I am lucky enough to know him. I love arranging events, but I get tired, too.
My boyfriend and his twins are traveling to Canada on Tuesday, and although I will miss them, it will also give me some peace and quiet. We have bought a new apartment and are in the middle of selling his, so some of the time I should be relaxing will be used for preparing the place for a photo-shoot. In addition to that I have planned another event, for children. A friend can paint faces, and if the weather is good on Saturday, we will be in the park and make little children happy.
On Friday I am meeting some friends for drinks, and Saturday I have to go to another party. That one will hopefully be fun, since it’s arranged by a doctor I work with. She is so nice and I have a little girl crush on her. There will be lots of people there I don’t know, but usually that is exciting and energizing. Next week I will really try to relax, by reading, making songs and puzzling. I hope my batteries will be filled to the maximum when the week ends, because this autumn will be a challenge. The mother of my boyfriends twins has moved, so we will have them full-time. They are super-cute, but also a handful when they get angry from some slight. But I think that the stability we will provide in our new home, will calm them. Hopefully.
Life is stressful sometimes, so I must remember to draw my breath and go with the flow. Only then can I handle the challenges coming up.
I was in Budapest for five days. I attended a Hungarian wedding, and felt a bit isolated at first. Around me people were laughing, chatting in a language totally foreign to me. But then I met a British, wonderful man that managed to shift my perspective. That doesn’t happen everyday, especially not when you’re lost in translation, feeling like a bleep on the canvas of the universe.
We met after the wedding and he made my head spin. Being challenged in what you believe is unsettling, and for a moment there it felt like I was falling into a black hole. We talked about the universe giving you what you need, and also about space-time. The concept was somewhat familiar to me, but my head starts aching when I’m thinking about the mystery out there. I told him about particles being at two different spots at the same time, and he told a story about just that, but with humans: He was together with two friends, where one of them sat in the bed opposite him and the other friend. Suddenly this friend was in the bathroom at the other end, and they had not seen him walk over there. The friend who suddenly was at another space, did not understand he suddenly was there, too. I didn’t believe this story, so I will need verification from his friends, but it made me think about how little I know about this world. I recently read an article about consciousness where the author proposes a solution to the unfathomable mystery of our minds and souls. He compared ‘a common consciousness’ with dissociative identity disorder, where many personalities exists in the same body. He said that this might just answer the question related to how every human beings consciousness is completely unique: If consciousness exists all around us, even in other materials like plants, and it still can be unique for every creature, dissociative identity disorder might provide some answer to what scientists have struggled with for centuries.
Other than these discussions, I found a really good friend.
Am including some pictures from Budapest, a truly beautiful city.