Why Tolerate Distress?

Many people with mental health issues tend to go to extremes with their emotions because they are unable to regulate them successfully. When I go to extremes, I add another problem on top of the one I’m already dealing with. It’s not just the situation itself,  it’s also the fact that my extreme emotions are running the show.

I relate this to what happens in the body when something irritates it — a splinter, a “scratch” on the inside of an artery, a bacterium such as N. meningitidis (meningococcus). The irritating factor is bad enough, but what happens next can be worse, as the body’s inflammatory responses kick in. The use of immunosuppressants such as steroid to treat bacterial meningitis is counterintuitive, but it works, because inflammation is part of the problem.

Distress tolerance skills give me a way to handle inflamed emotions without hurting myself or other people (hopefully, I don’t destroy property either). Continue reading Why Tolerate Distress?

Anticonvulsant effects of valproic acid uncovered: Research reveals new underlying factor of seizures; ScienceDaily

Researchers have identified the mechanism by which valproic acid controls epileptic seizures, and by doing so, also revealed an underlying factor of seizures.

The drug protects the flow of potassium between neurons which is called the m current. During a seizure, the m current is inhibited, which allow the neurons to become too excitable. A seizure is the result.

Many people with bipolar disorder (including myself) also take valproic acid (divalproex/Depakote). The new mechanism explains how the drug helps with manic episodes, when neurons are hyperexcitable. But what about depression?

If manic episodes result from too little m current, perhaps depressive episodes occur due to too much m current. In that case, Depakote would work by limiting the m current.

This may sound contradictory, but if it is true, it is just one more example of homeostasis in the human body. Most conditions of the body — sleep, temperature, heart rate, growth of new cells, availability of nutrients such as protein — are best kept within a range of values that is generally the same for all people. One can have too much vitamin A or too little. Body temperature can be too low or too high.

Bipolar disorder results when the underlying factors (such as the m current) are not kept in balance, but swing wildly from one extreme to another. Drugs that adjust those underlying factors are potential treatments for bipolar.

Source: Anticonvulsant effects of valproic acid uncovered: Research reveals new underlying factor of seizures; points to new drug discovery approach — ScienceDaily

World Suicide Prevention Day





I don’t know if I was ever completely serious about taking my own life. I know I wanted to hurt myself, though. And some of the things I did to hurt myself could have killed me, whether I intended that or not.

I felt so miserable at those times. No matter which way I looked I felt pain — unending, mind-crushing pain. There seemed to be no way out. I believed that I was a bad person, a complete failure, and that I had no business being on this planet making other people unhappy.

Bipolar disorder is a strong risk factor for suicide. The rate of suicide for the general public is about 1%. For those with bipolar, it is 15-17%. Suicide is the leading cause of premature death for bipolar patients. It is more likely if the person is undiagnosed or untreated. By “untreated” I mean “not taking medication.” The person may have the medication but refuse to take it. This is a very common problem for bipolar individuals — because they feel so good when they become hypomanic or even the early stages of mania, they don’t want to take a drug which will prevent both downswings and upswings.

I wonder how many people with bipolar take their meds as prescribed? Do you take them properly, or do you go with the temptation to skip them sometimes?

I’m a Puffer Fish

… or at least a part of me has taken up acting like a puffer fish. They are those poisonous little fish that can go from little to big in a matter of seconds, by taking in water and sometimes air. It’s amazing how different they look!

Some puffer fish have smooth skin, while others have spikes, like this one:


When a “porcupine” puffer feels threatened, she inflates to look as large as possible and to push out her spikes. There might be times when  something unfamiliar approaches and she puffs just to be cautious. Or if she sees something that is the same shape as a predator, out come those spikes. It may not actually be a predator –and that is the crux of the problem.

My “predators” — I call them triggers — make me puff too. They can be anything that causes me shame. I cooked the chicken too long and it dried out. I wasted too much time doing puzzles. I binged on Goldfish crackers. I did something in the past that destroyed relationships with other people (I’m a certified bridge-burner). I forgot to do something. Anything

All of these  cause me shame, but I pretend I don’t feel it until it gets brought to my attention by someone around me. Immediately I inflate and jab the person with my spikes — irritability, sarcasm, rage, and other unpleasantries.

I don’t enjoy being this way. Puffing my spikes takes a lot of emotional energy, and oh yeah, it can ruin relationships, too. My next task is to find a way to short-circuit the puffer fish part of me and use that energy to actually solve the problem.


Watch “Criminalizing Mental Health • This Is Crazy • Part 1 of 3 • BRAVE NEW FILMS” on YouTube

Please watch and read this to learn about the horrifying ways police treat people with mental illness. Thank you!

Bipolar For Life

I am so glad to see this! 

This is a documentary about what happens when mental illness and police intersect.  This is the “weapon” we need, to fight ignorance by means of information and education. 

My personal psychiatrist spends most of his time in prison.  He is a prison psychiatrist.  He tells me that roughly 50% of the prison population have a pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis–and he gives me a sardonic smile as he says, “And the rest are undiagnosed.”

Whether or not you agree with that, I’m sure you will agree that beating, shooting, tasering, and incarcerating people who may simply be disoriented, delusional, hallucinating, or displaying side effects of anti-psychotic medicines such as stiff gait and slurred speech, is not only inappropriate and inhumane, but criminal.

If you agree with the message of this film, I urge you to go to the authors’ website and see how you can…

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Learning to forget through your prayerful imagination

Susan has some truly excellent, God-inspired insights on her website. Whether you are Catholic or not, I strongly recommend her writings and music.

Be as One

My monthly column on The Catholic Free Press and Catholicmom.com

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Learn to forget? Seems to me I have to first learn how to remember! Those of us past a certain age know that feeling well. So do young mothers, workaholics and anyone else who is overly busy. We all know that sinking feeling when we’ve forgotten an appointment. How many of us search for a word in the middle of a sentence, only to have it pop into our heads hours later?

Then again, there are things I would like to forget. That scary movie I saw just before bedtime. The dirty house that I have no energy to clean. The accident I had last summer that now makes taking any left turn into traffic an ordeal.

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