Monday August 21st 2017

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Dealing with bipolar and addiction: Real-life suggestions

Comorbidity: Substance Use Disorder and Mental Illness

Comorbidity, by definition, is:

The simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient.

In my case, it was Bipolar Disorder, a panic disorder, and substance use disorder. I recognized and accepted the latter two. However, I ran away from the bipolar diagnosis for six years. Here is my story.

Suicidal Tendencies While Drinking is Common in Bipolar

In May of 2011, I was admitted to a psychiatric ward, voluntarily, due to suicidal tendencies. I attempted to jump in front of a fast moving train. While there, after the 72 hours minimum hold, they gave me the choice of being involuntarily committed or committing myself until I can find a bed in a dual diagnosis facility.

I chose the latter. I figured I wouldn’t win going up against a judge when I came in with a .34 BAC and trying to kill myself.

I am not sure of the number of days I was in that facility, but while there, I was given a diagnosis I knew nothing about and wanted to know nothing about: Bipolar Disorder.

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Bipolar is More than Mood Swings

All I knew about the disease, ignorantly, was that it caused mood swings. Like everyone else, I thought that it was kind of like extreme PMS. You know, “She’s just bipolar today.” The other patients in the facility, the others with comorbid disorders, were convincing me that they “slap the label” of bipolar onto everyone who is coming off of substances because it can cause mood swings. In my mind, that explanation is all I needed to eliminate that diagnosis from my record.

When I left that facility, I did not ever allow the documents to be released from that visit. I stopped all meds and continued on my path to sobriety.

Coming to Terms with the Diagnosis

Recently – meaning almost six years later – I have come to terms with my diagnosis. It’s not because I became more intelligent, or had a doctor or therapist. I still attended the recommended therapy. They told me that I should probably be on meds for Bipolar. However, it was an extreme manic episode that rocked my family and me.

Without going into details, I can say that during an extreme Bipolar episode in addictionr recovery I:

  • crossed boundaries
  • engaged in destructive behaviors
  • neglected my hygiene
  • neglected my responsibilities
  • stayed up for nights on end

It was only by the grace of God that I did not relapse during this manic episode.

Putting it All Together and Getting Help

When I finally thought back to that psychiatric diagnosis, did some research, put two and two together, I admitted defeat. I told my husband about the diagnosis I had six years ago that I never told anyone about or even thought about until now. I told him how looking back, I can see the pattern:

  • I heard the audio hallucinations.
  • I cried in bed for days.

This is not normal depression or anxiety. This is an extreme mood disorder that needs to be treated.

Medication Can Help Bipolars Achieve a Better State of Mind

Fast forward: I am now on medication to manage my mental health illness, and it is making my recovery that much stronger. I thought I had an active recovery the last six years. Now, I am not going to say it wasn’t recovery, or it wasn’t even real recovery; because it was. I will say, however, that being in my right state of mind has made me realize a lot more of the reasons why I used and abused substances.

Where can you go for help?

  1. Check out the National Institute of Mental Health and their topics on Bipolar Disorder
  2. Look into topics on Medscape, a wbsite targeting medical professionals.The Journal of the American Medical Association, published a great article on comorbidity in December 1990: It’s a good starting point for looking into Mental Health and Addiction.

Finally, if you suspect that you or someone you know may have a mental illness or an addiction problem, please have them reach out for help. End the stigma that comes along with these labels!

Leave a Reply

2 Responses to “Dealing with bipolar and addiction: Real-life suggestions
10:09 am March 5th, 2017

The term “comorbidity” is slightly misleading. There are often causal links that makes the one more likely when a second condition is present. In most mental illness there is either a greater need for mood and behavior regulation (leading to fatigue and subsequent addictive behavior) or a straight up reduction in prefrontal cortex´ ability to regulate behavior.
Both of course leading to more situations where a quick fix seems the best way to proceed..

12:12 am April 19th, 2017

Lars, thank you for your comment. It is my understanding that the prefrontal cortex is damaged (reduced) in someone who had symptoms of mental illness before a substance use disorder. I could be wrong and would love to know the correct way to label mental illness &a substance use disorder. I see my mental illness first and my substance use didorder as a secondary. Maybe that’s where it would not necessarily be a comorbid situation. Please correct me if I am wrong, knowledge is what I seek.

About Kayla Greenhalge

Kayla is a freelance writer and entrepreneur with a passion for helping people overcome their addictions. After having been an addict herself, she decided she wanted to give back to those still struggling. Her expertise include: Medical Marijuana, Drug Addiction, Drug Abuse, ACOA, Meditation, DRT, law reform for non-violent drug offenders, overcoming grief, the 12 steps, NA, AA, plus more. She has contributed to many blogs trying to raise awareness to this epidemic.

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