On the high seas, a “harbor of refuge” is known to be open to any distressed vessel in need of assistance, regardless of the flag it flies or its native country's doctrines.
Harbor of Refuge bipolar website is intended to serve as a safe and comfortable place for people who are receiving appropriate medical treatment for their bipolar illness, including appropriate medications. The Harbor of Refuge seeks to foster support, interaction, learning, mindful expression, and mindful listening among its peers. Friends and loved ones of those with bipolar disorder are also more than welcome.
You'll be glad to find that Harbor's chat room conversation typically ranges from humor to “unwinding” to respectful debate, and everything in between. And please know, if you're curious about specific issues, by all means “jump in” and your concerns will likely be addressed immediately. You'll also discover that chatters can have quality information on so many topics, including bipolar disorder. Come be a part of Harbor – by doing so we can all be enriched and feel a greater sense of community.
Whatever it is that will ease your burden.
Bipolar disorder usually affects each person differently. People from all walks of life manifest the illness in varying degrees, even when treated: depression, hypomania (mild mania) or mixed states. An untreated bipolar person can suffer the extremes of these moods until they achieve stability through a proper medication regimen. Harbor of Refuge is not equipped to serve the needs of people who choose to go untreated for bipolar disorder. Although our greatest strength is the peer-to-peer support we offer one another, we are not licensed mental health professionals.
While we feel extreme compassion and empathy toward people who are experiencing thoughts of suicide, we are not in a position as an online community to attend to needs of that nature. We strongly encourage anyone in that situation to immediately contact support people and/or crisis intervention services in their home community.
If you are having a suicide emergency call 911 or go to:
National Crisis Line : 888-SUICIDE
National Youth Crisis Line: 800-999-9999
Befrienders online (offers email support w/n 24hrs): www.befrienders.org
Samaritans online (also has email): www.samaritans.org
For peer support go to: www.suicide.SupportGroups.com
Following are some of the questions we're most often asked at the Harbor of Refuge.
Please keep in mind that everyone's situation is different. Never let a bipolar label overshadow who you are as an individual. However, while individual differences shouldn't be underestimated, it's also amazing the amount of common experiences people with bipolar illness share. It's hoped that these questions and answers will get at some of the basic information you may need as you begin to explore what bipolar illness means in your life.
Do you have other questions (that would be of interest to a general audience) that you think belong on this page? Please use the e-mail link at the bottom of the page to submit them, and we'll do our best to answer them.
If you're asking the question, it is possible that you might be bipolar. If you are experiencing any signs, call your doctor right away. The doctor will probably have you get in touch with a good psychiatrist or psychologist. When you have your appointment be sure to tell the doctor what all of your symptoms are. Don't leave anything out. It may not seem significant to you, but it may be to your psychiatrist. This will help you in the screening process.
Some of the signs that you may be bipolar are: one or more manic episodes which have persistent euphoria, irritability, insomnia, rapid thoughts, rapid speech, grandiosity, distractibility, accompanied by one or more major depressive episodes which are characterized by depression and loss of pleasure or indifference to most activities, usually lasting a minimum of two weeks.
Manic Depression is an older term for what is now more commonly called Bipolar Disorder. There is no other difference in the meaning.
Simply put, you have a chemical imbalance that affects your brain. You are not crazy or losing your mind. The messages going through your brain get sidetracked and take a round about way to get where they belong. Unfortunately the chemical imbalance plays with your emotions, you can go from extremely depressed to manic and this can cause major complications in your life and the lives of the people you love. In the extreme, it can endanger your well-being and your life. The medications you take will take help you level out your emotions, and feel more in control.
This is why it is important to take your medications religiously. This also means you have joined thousands of other bipolars. You are not in this by yourself. You have family, friends, and doctors there to help you. There is also other support like chat channels. Harbor-of-Refuge is one such chat channel. It is a place where you can come and ask questions, be supported along with other bipolars, and relax without being judged.
Many people suffering with bipolar do think they are going crazy; this is because they know how they should be feeling but don't know why they are feeling and thinking other thoughts. It is frustrating and confusing. We have not met a crazy bipolar yet.
Many people choose not to tell their co-workers about this, because unfortunately there are people who do not understand what bipolar disorder is, and it may cause friction. People who love you, like family and friends, will probably know. They may notice you are acting more yourself lately after you have begun your medicine.
We are all tempted to stop taking the medicine once we start to feel better. Unfortunately we end up back where we started. It takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks (and sometimes longer) to get the medicine working in your system. Call your doctor before you go off or take any more medication.
The medicine is slow acting, it takes time to get into your system, and your body to adjust. It may take 2 - 6 weeks to get results. Hang in there, we have all been through it. Come and talk with us, you will find it will help.
Your doctor is right to send you to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist specializes in these disorders, and knows how and what to prescribe. You are both doing the right thing. If your family doctor does offer to treat you, ask him for a referral to a psychiatrist.
A Manic Episode is a distinct period of abnormal and persistent heightened or irritable mood. It lasts at least 1 week. It must be accompanied by at least 3 other symptoms ranging from inflated self esteem, pressured speech, rapid thoughts, distractibility, increased involvement in goal-directed activities, and psychomotor agitation, to excessive involvement with pleasurable activities with a high potential for painful consequences. The symptoms are severe enough to impair social or occupational functioning, and sometimes hospitalization is needed.
You may be told you are a rapid cycler, or it might be you are in a chat and hear someone say they are rapid cycling. This is when a person will have a mood swing, but instead of the mood staying for a longer time, their mood swings back. Every person has a mood cycle. An average mood cycle is four or less in a year. It is a slow process. A rapid cycle can happen in a matter of a few hours, and cycle back again.
Hypomanic Episodes are identical to Manic Episodes with the exception that it is not sufficiently severe enough to cause extreme impairment in social or occupational functions, and is not severe enough to require hospitalization. *Caution, some hypomanic episodes can evolve into manic episodes.
Alcohol is a drug. Mixing drugs can do a lot of damage. If you would like an occasional drink, talk to your doctor first.
Caffeine is another drug. It can counteract your medication, and make you feel agitated. There are a lot of alternatives as well as decaffeinated drinks on the market. Again you should check with your doctor.
Drinking too much soda can throw you into a sugar high. Be aware how much sugar you are taking in. The high may feel good, but don't forget you will come back down.
If you cannot sleep, it is best to call your doctor. S/he may prescribe something to help you get to sleep. There are a lot of non-habit forming sleep aids. Check in with your doctor from time to time. Some people only need sleep medication for a short period. Others need it longer. Do not self- medicate, if you plan to, make sure you have talked it over with your doctor first. When a person self medicates, it could be detrimental to her or his health.
This can happen when a person is going through a manic episode. You will find that you are doing other strange things but the most obvious is the money. Many people pacify themselves in this way and may buy things they would not normally want, or they think that they deserve to splurge. Over-spending is a big problem for many bipolars, and it is good that someone cares enough to limit you.
Suicidal thoughts are not a threat to your health in and of themselves, but a big concern to you as the person having these thoughts. To a certain extent, having suicidal thoughts (also called suicidal ideation) is a part of being bipolar. Don't kick yourself for having them.
Having said that -- take these thoughts seriously. Given the nature of this illness, people with bipolar disorder are at a much higher risk in terms of suicide than other people. So error on the side of caution. If you find yourself having persistent suicidal thoughts, or making a definite plan, get help immediately -- let your trusted loved ones know, and call your doctor and/or a local crisis intervention helpline immediately.
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