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Mental Health, especially Bipolar - - anyone else?

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Fritz Nuffer · · The Western Slope · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 430

So I just got out of the psych ward. I was inpatient for two weeks due to a severe manic episode.

I was diagnosed Bipolar I at the age of fifteen, and I've been medicated and occasionally hospitalized ever since. Those of you who saw my crazy gear sale post last month got a cross-section of my mind right before I got banned (sorry if I offended anyone).

I've been on twenty-plus different pills, mostly lithium and Seroquel. The former gives me a hand tremor, polyuria and a general emotional numbness. The latter is a pretty heavy sedative...12 hours of sleep, and walking a couple blocks is tiring. I'm tapering off Seroquel, but it's a persistent little bastard. Dosing down too quickly yields the flu, insomnia and possible relapse.

Thanks to books like Anatomy of an Epidemic and The Body Keeps the Score, my wife and I are discussing a gradual, physician-assisted withdrawal of all meds, closely supplemented by lots of therapy.

Anyway, I was wondering if anyone else out there deals with similar stuff, especially bipolar mania. I'm just going through the usual post-episode recovery / tending to the financial and relational fallout / struggling on warmups.

Thanks for whatever insight and encouragement you guys have.

(Side note: I don't solo or run stuff out when I'm manic.)

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 868

Just posting this takes balls.

It's a sure fire bet we have folks all over that spectrum on here, you aren't remotely unique in this, but I'd guess we've got even more of the "self medicating", "no problemo" people on here.

Good luck on the supervised plan to get off everything. Be really careful, obviously, and keep your support people close. That's a crux move also. Climbers tend to ornery and independent, which makes it hard to admit simple mistakes, let alone actual problems, or, gasp, accepting help.

Do remember lots of people care what happens to you, especially when it matters, even strangers.

FWIW, I'm just simple garden variety depression, managed pretty well without meds, for quite a long time now. I just have to pay close attention and be sure to head it off at the pass.

There's a great, inspiring thread on here, something like "If you've ever really sucked, how have you got it back".

Best, Helen

keithconn · · LI, NY · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 35

Good luck! We're all a little (or a lot) wacked for even partaking in this sport. Just know that we're all behind you!

All the best!

Abel Jones · · Bishop, ca · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 315

Matt samet's book Death grip is his story about working his way off meds. He didn't have bipolar disorder but it was a great book about climbing and overcoming his anxiety and panic attacks and his severe withdrawals from medications. Check it out, it's a good read that may give you some ideas. Thanks for taking to us and good luck to you man.

fossana · · leeds, ut · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 13,231

Best wishes in tapering back/off the antipsychotics. From a climbing standpoint your approach sounds valid. "Normal" is overrated.

p.s. I'd highly recommend Anatomy of an Epidemic to everyone. It's well researched and covers the history behind how many non-specific pharmaceuticals (e.g. lithium) came to be considered standard treatment and also how normal behavior (e.g. kids that have trouble sitting still) is now pathologized. For context I have a background in molecular bio/epidemiology and am not anti-science or anti western medicine, but I also understand that there is much room for reform in the pharma industry/FDA.

Merlin · · Grand Junction · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 10

Just my two cents, throw all the prescription stuff down the toilet (gradually with a doctor's support of course). They're terrible and make any situation worse. Try edibles and day hiking to gain some calm. Some of those pills have absolutely horrific side effects.

Good luck by the way.

Billy Danger · · Asheville, NC · Joined Mar 2005 · Points: 242

Thanks for sharing and putting yourself out there. I work in mental health, and would generally agree that many Americans are over medicated. I have found that medications are frequently used to treat symptoms of problems, yet they rarely address the underlying causes for the issues that manifest when neglected. However, not all medications are harmful, and there are certain diagnoses that respond very well to medications. I won't comment on the specifics of your situation, because I don't know the details associated with it, but I would encourage you to see a psychiatrist to devise a strategy to both get off medication and establish some skills to better cope with future triggers. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help

KevinCO · · Loveland, CO · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 60

Research Dr Mercola's website for the dozens if not hundreds of articles he has written on mental health.

Here is one...hypothyroidism is connected to bipolar depression. An under active thyroid can be caused by fluoride in the tap water and iodine deficiency.…

Dustin Stephens · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 625

Just to put this out there, Bipolar Disorder is a biological illness and generally requires lifetime management with medication. I know it is fashionable now to disparage medications and attempt to live without them, and this is realistic positive goal for many chronic conditions that can be managed by lifestyle change. Bipolar Disorder, however, is not one of those conditions. Best of luck regardless and kudos on the bravery in putting this out in the public sphere.

Rob Gordon · · Hollywood, CA · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 105

I'm not diagnosed, but I fit all the criteria for bipolar 2.

Once I realized it and researched it, I stopped drinking and smoking and now try to maintain a healthy sleep schedule and diet. Yoga every morning is the ideal, but you know...

If I keep to the routine, things seem pretty good. Routine is key. Both of my major hypomanic episodes came when I was getting only a couple hours of sleep a night for extended periods of time. >1 week. Though that might be a chicken/egg thing.

Good luck, man. I can't imagine full on mania. The weird thing is hypomania feels better in a lot of ways than the more persistent depression cycle. I get a hell of a lot of work done.

normajean · · Reading, PA · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 100

Just wanted to throw in another strong vote in support of good medication regiment. I am not a prescriber or pharmaceutical sales rep and do not have any love for psychotropics. I do work in mental health and have worked with a number of bipolar patients and their devastated family members. Successful management of bipolar is ALL about getting the right mix of meds for your individual neuro-anatomy/chemistry and then working on improving lifestyle and avoiding stressors as much as possible. Regular sleep schedule seems to be very important.

If I were you, would throw in my effort into finding a good psychiatrist. Don't get discouraged if your meds don't work for you. Just work with the doc towards eventually finding the right mix. I have seen people do really well on meds, fully returning to their crazy hobbies! Also look for a therapist who has a lot of experience working with bipolar patients. Wish you the best!

Scott McMahon · · Boulder, CO · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 1,425

Damn man. My aunt has similar issues and I can tell you there is a light at the other end of the tunnel.

That being said the lithium DESTROYED her kidneys. I think she is running at like 17% right functioning now. Something to maybe think about.

Scott McMahon · · Boulder, CO · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 1,425
Tim Lutz wrote:thanks for posting. My wife was diagnosed bipolar, put on a bunch of pills. The pills made her crazy. She read Samet's book and titrated off all pills. She is doing much better now.…
I've read that book twice and i'm not even on medication. Anyone that wants or has any insight into the pharma industry should read this.

Actually everyone should read this book.
Its Isaac · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0

My best friend from high school has severe, severe bipolar. Every 6 months it's back to the hospital for extended stays. Had to watch him run from the police, destroy his possessions and relationships, fall into severe drug abuse. When he's coming up from depression but pre-mania, he always has a plan to safely ween himself off the medication. This time it'll be different, now he feels better, he can manage it etc. It never works.

For him, at least, I wish he would stop screwing around with alternative therapies. Stop smoking weed and start getting some regular exercise. I wish he would stop thinking there is a way out of it besides clean living and following what his doctor says, and attending therapy.

I can't imagine what its like to live with it. Watching him go through it, and trying to be there for him is the most painful thing in my life. I really really hope whatever you try works for you, you've got my hope and support.

Fritz Nuffer · · The Western Slope · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 430

Thanks for the responses, including the critical ones.

Medication noncompliance has never been an issue for me in fifteen years. Nor has alcohol or drugs. In hindsight, my manic episodes make much more sense when viewed through the lens of childhood trauma, not biochemistry. My views in this regard are very much confirmed by non-quack Bessel van der Cook in "The Body Keeps the Score."

If I withdraw from lithium, it will be with the advisement of a psychiatrist, and it will be gradual (from 1200mg). I'll keep a PRN stash of Seroquel for if my sleep gets disrupted or my wife notices any mania recurring.

And yeah, maybe I'll crash and burn in two years ... It's not like faithful adherence to medication has been able to prevent that.

Fritz Nuffer · · The Western Slope · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 430

(Side note: if I had a quarter for every time a well-meaning practictioner said "You Need Your Meds Just Like a Diabetic Needs Insulin," I would have a rack of Valley Giants. Seriously though, I always resented diabetes because of that remark.)

[Offwidthophilia is the next diagnosis to be added to the DSM-VI]

Robert Rowsam · · Grand Junction, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 110

Fritz you're the man, I've been lucky enough to climb with you a couple times and its good to see your doing well and recovering from your episode. This is a valuable thread and I hope it gets some more responses.

I've been reading The Body Keeps the Score and have found it to be truly eye opening. It's genuinely changed the way I look at world around me, and I would think any information you've gotten from it could only be a net positive. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Good luck with your treatment, next time you need a partner in Junction give me a call!

(Maybe once Offwidthophilia is diagnosable I'll be able to find the Freudian explanation for my tower obsession)

Kevin Di · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 0

Really interested to see this thread pop up. Sorry I can't talk as someone w/ bipolar but I just went back to school to become a psych NP and my big motivator was wanting to help people get off meds. After working in a psych hospital for a while (and Reading Anatomy of an Epidemic) I felt like we really needed more people with healthy skepticism of drugs stepping up as prescribers. Sounds like you're going about this in a great way and hope the best for you.

Billcoe · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 833

I wish you the best on your journey. I want to point out that many mental health issues are created or exacerbated by diet. I'm not saying yours are, but it's not uncommon I believe many go undiagnosed. It can even be such a thing that a little of an item is OK (say Soybean or Soybean oil) but there is a certain amount above that where a person can go from being OK to full blown psychosis. As it's not an immediate effect, it goes undiagnosed as a horrible food allergy.

SO, that said, if you choose to withdrawl from the chemicals they are giving you (and that's a damned worthy goal), make sure the food allergy/diet component is not ignored.

Wow, courage you have already to face such a thing, I wish you success and happiness.

Alton R. · · Boulder, Co · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 160

Fritz - Don't know you, but I think I've seen your name around here. Thanks for posting this, like previously said, shit takes some balls.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II a couple years back. At the time was seeing a therapist in Boulder and prescribing meds was never a thought.

I've never personally had any major manic episodes, but I feel like I have been pretty close a few times. This summer especially, dealing with relationship issues, money troubles, etc. After looking back on it, diet was likely the cause for me at that time. I was saving money to buy a vehicle and was eating maybe one meal or barely two a day most weeks. Went on like that most of the summer until a few weeks ago. I've smoked weed fairly regularly for several years and only in the last few since CO went legal have I started researching it and getting "smart" so to speak, about what strains I intake, when and how much. For me, it works. I know most people argue against it, but it's what I have found to keep me stable and leveled. The last couple weeks I've been traveling for work, bud free (got them CO plates...) and have been having a terrible time getting to sleep and staying asleep. When I do, it's filled with crazy, very lucid dreams ranging from ok to horribly terrifying. While I've felt good about not smoking for an extended period of time, I'm kind of looking forward to getting back to green state. Even during the day I find myself slipping and I know a small burn would do the trick. Anyways, I digress.

I do know that it has affected my climbing in so many ways. Not only is hard to motivate or even feel inspired, I just simply didnt care about it anymore, or life at all, for a while. I was convinced I was going to die, or kill my partner or something like that and I was starting to feel my absolute worst when I would tie in. I've thrown more then a dozen wobblers on route (usually sport climbing) and after so many, people stopped wanting to climb with me and be around me at all. I've been forcing myself back onto the rock and into the gym lately and I feel so much better already because of it.

While I truly can't understand what you feel like, I think I have a pretty dang good idea. You are certainly not alone. I think there are many other climbers and mountain folk out there suffering from these types of issues whether they know it or not. I think thats what draws us to climbing.

Keep fighting the good fight. Those around you are there to help. I know I need that when it matters most. Again, thanks for posting.

Peter T · · New Joisey · Joined May 2016 · Points: 10

I'm not diagnosed with bipolar but work in the mental health field so I know plenty of people that are. From what I've seen there are some people that get by just fine without meds, but there are others who need to stay on medication to avoid a manic episode and all of that it entails. After all this is a medical condition that in some cases takes more than a healthy diet, self-care, and therapy to treat. That said, I support you trying to go medication free! I think its best to do all this under the supervision of a psychiatrist, which is sounds like you're doing. It's great that you have your wife there to support you. Hope your recovery goes well and you don't struggle on warmups much longer!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

General Climbing
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