Forgiving Insanity: The Key to Surviving Bipolar Disorder
2:18 am - The telephone rang, snatched me from a fitful doze. An authoritative, southern drawl came on the line. "Hello, may I speak to Alicia Singleton?"
"This is Officer Bakeman of the Georgia State Police Department. I'm calling about Rosa Samuels."
The mention of the name knotted my stomach deeper toward my spine. "Yes, she's my aunt. Is she alright? Is she hurt?"
"As of 11:30 pm she wasn't hurt. We have numerous vandalism, disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct complaints filed against her. Do you know where she is?"
"No. I had no idea she was in Georgia. I haven't seen her since yesterday morning."
"Ms. Singleton, this is the second time this month complaints have come in against your aunt. Folks state that she seemed unstable. If you don't do something about her, the next time she's in Georgia, she'll be apprehended and committed to the state hospital."
It would take four more weeks of phone calls from authorities in two states, more complaints of harassment, illegal picketing, disorderly conduct, and an APB before my aunt was forcibly hospitalized. Her diagnosis, Bipolar Disorder.
The National Institute of Mental Health, defines Bipolar Disorder, also known as Manic-Depressive Illness, as a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Aunt Rosa's symptoms during her manic phase were classic: Inappropriate agitation and irritability, marked insomnia, reckless, aggressive and inappropriate social behavior, paranoid rage, excessive spending and a warped sense of self-importance.
While our family dealt with what occurred during Aunt Rosa's manic episodes, a hospital social worker taught us steps to cope with the illness:
• Educate yourself, family and friends about Bipolar
• Encourage your loved one to maintain their prescribed
• Monitor your loved one's moods.
• Reduce your loved one's stress and identify their
• Know and accept the fact that people with Bipolar
Disorder don't have power over their moods.
• Accept your limits. Support your loved one as much as
possible. Ultimately, recovery is the responsibility of
the person with Bipolar Disorder.
• Don't take Bipolar symptoms personally. Hostile, cruel,
aggressive or reckless words or actions are common
effects of the illness.
• Be prepared for a crisis. While your loved one is in
remission, develop an action plan in case of another
bipolar episode. Plans should include steps for taking
over your loved one's medical decisions, business and
financial matters if needed.
• Seek support. Dealing with a loved one who suffers from
Bipolar Disorder can be very stressful. Seek counseling
for yourself and family members if needed. Join a
chapter of NAMI, US National Organization for the
Mentally Ill and Family Members.