Mankato Clinic helps make a difference in the lives of those with bipolar disorder by hosting support groups
One in four Americans lives with a mental health condition that is treatable. Studies show that one of the best ways to treat and live well with a mental health condition including bipolar disorder is with the love and support of family and friends. Mankato Clinic is helping to make a difference in the lives of bipolar sufferers and their loved ones by providing the support they need by hosting bipolar disorder support groups twice a month. Mary Beth Trembley, registered nurse in the department of psychiatry at Mankato Clinic, facilitates the support groups on the first and third Wednesday of every month, from 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m., in the Mankato Clinic conference room, located at Madison East Mall in Mankato. Sessions are free and open to the public, age 18 and older. Reservations are not required.
“There is evidence-based data that shows people who attend support groups for illnesses have better overall health outcomes and gain valuable insight and information from others,” said Trembley. “Support is vital. One of the most powerful things a person can hear or say is that they have been there and understand what another is going through. Bipolar can be an isolating illness and support groups break down barriers and stigma.”
The ups and downs in life can be hard to tolerate for both the bipolar sufferer and their loved ones. Therefore, Mankato Clinic bipolar support groups give hope to not only those who suffer from the illness but to those whose lives are affected by the illness of another. Thirty percent of bipolar support group attendees are there as part of a support system including children whose parents are bipolar, parents whose kids are bipolar, spouses, family, friends, neighbors, work colleagues and even students from Minnesota State University looking to learn more. The groups are there for anyone who wants to learn more about illness and wants to receive support or give support. About half of attendees come alone and half are accompanied by friends or family.
“Those whose lives are touched by bipolar disorder need support from people who have been there and who understand the bipolar journey,” said Trembley. “Our support groups offer an opportunity for others to share their experience, provide ideas and meet other people in the community who can relate to their experience in a confidential setting.”
Sessions are facilitated by Trembley and are completely confidential. The group is open for sharing dialogue and ideas, seeking validation and information, asking questions and finding comfort and direction. “The sessions are very dynamic and upbeat,t and offer practical ideas for managing illness,” said Trembley. “It is common for attendees to bounce ideas off of each other and get feedback from group. I provide education about treatment and diagnoses. I have 25 years of psychiatric nursing experience which is unique to a peer-facilitated group.”
Those attending the bipolar support groups are finding that it is making a difference in their lives. One bipolar sufferer said “because of the support groups, I now have a better relationship with my spouse because he has more knowledge about bipolar disorder and I have a better understanding for what he is going through living with my illness.” Another says “I have found it helpful to hear others’ perspectives and experiences and it is comforting to know that I am not alone.”
Carole Milner, a support group attendee who has been living with symptoms of bipolar disorder since childhood, says the support groups have helped her manage her illness through education and insight. Milner also says the support of others helps keep her on track when she begins to go off course. “When I am having a bipolar episode and feeling depressed, others at the meetings remind me of what has worked for me in the past because I tend to isolate and forget,” said Milner. “A simple reminder from a peer to journal is an effective way to work through the episode.”
She says it is also therapeutic for her to help others. “I attend the support groups both when I am feeling well and when I am struggling,” said Milner. “When I am feeling well, it makes me feel good to go to the meetings and see what kind of support I can provide to another. It gives me a feeling of self worth to provide my insight and help someone else who is struggling with bipolar.”
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depressive illness, is a medically diagnosed and treatable disorder marked by extreme changes in mood, energy, thought and behavior. The disorder causes a person’s mood to alternate between the highs of mania on one extreme to the lows of depression on the other.
The cycles of bipolar are more than just a temporary good or bad mood and may last for days, weeks and months. And unlike ordinary mood swings, mood changes associated with bipolar disorder are so intense that they may disrupt the ability to function in daily life. It may affect work and school performance as well as personal relationships.
The mood swings between mania and depression may be very abrupt or subtle. During a manic episode, a person might feel refreshed and energized after only a few hours of sleep and impulsively engage in erratic behavior like spending sprees. On the other hand, that same person may feel like sleeping all day, feeling hopeless and worthless.
The signs of bipolar vary largely from person to person by pattern, severity and frequency. The first episode generally occurs in late adolescence or early adulthood although the initial presentation may occur in childhood.
General symptoms of bipolar disorder include patterns of sleep disturbances, variations in energy like having restless energy one day and no energy the next. A manic state may include racing thoughts and an abundance of ideas at once which are hard to sort through. Depressive states reflect lack of creativity and spontaneity. There are four types of bipolar episodes including mania, hypomania, depression and mixed patterns. Each type has its own unique symptoms.
Symptoms of mania or “highs” of bipolar
• Heightened mood and exaggerated optimism
• Little need for sleep
• Excessive agitation or irritation
• Inflated self-esteem and self-confidence
• Noticeably elevated moods including hyperactivity, increased energy, racing thoughts and lack of self-control
• Reckless behavior including impaired judgment, reckless spending, sexual promiscuity and binge eating and drinking
• Tendency to be easily distracted
• Delusions and hallucinations
Symptoms of depression or “lows” of bipolar
• Low moods daily
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
• Fatigue, loss of energy or listlessness
• Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
• Persistent thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts
• Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
• Withdrawal from friends and activities normally enjoyed
• Feelings of worthlessness and guilt and loss of self esteem
• Unexplained aches and pains
Please visit the bipolar alliance website at dbsalliance.org or call Mankato Clinic at 625-1811, for more information.
Tue, July 19, 2011
by Ceceli Polzin filed under