World Bipolar Day: the Birthdate of Vincent Van Gogh

Posted on March 30, 2015 by

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After over a decade of – granted, very rocky – general stability, I suffered a mental health episode in my late 30s that both came as quite a shock to me and pretty much knocked me out of the playing field for quite some time.

I had to cause recently to list a number of the things that were different about myself – about my very essence – after that episode, than before.

They were pretty essential. They included things like, although I was a voracious reader, ever since the time I could read, and used reading as a form of escape and comfort, and was a literature major in college, writing a 100+ page thesis on a contemporary poet, today I can hardly sit and concentrate to read a book at all. My doctor has me on a regimen of 15 minutes a day–which I split up (I never asked if that was alright), into 3 sections, each of which pretty much involves reviewing the last.

My sense of time was fundamentally altered. I went from feeling a constant pressure that I didn’t have enough time, a pressure so intense I even felt it in my chest, to a feeling that time had expanded on me, like a hot air balloon, and that I would be unable to fill the minutes. That song from Rent plagued me–you remember the one.  The one that starts off, “Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes. . .”? That’s what each day felt like. No–each hour.

And then there was the matter of my intelligence. I actually – and I know you have to take this on faith – was once quite smart. And there are some people who say – you would know them if you met them, as their last names are Finkel –that my intelligence remains.

But sickness and treatments can take their toll, and a recent IQ test showed a number I wouldn’t care to share here.

All that is fascinating background to the following relevant change: I was compulsively early my whole life. I would get to class, say, 20 minutes before it started, and just twiddling my thumbs in the car. But, like I say, times of changed. today I find myself running around the house, usually with my water bottle with its top off spilling haphazardly, one shoe on come out one shoe in hand, my meds in my mouth, dissolving unpleasantly while I somehow don’t use the water bottle–& ways, always I am looking for the keys, is the time for a class or an appointment draws perilously close.

So last year I missed it completely.

So I am here to inform you that today is the second world bipolar day.

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Bipolar people, on average, suffer 10 years before receiving treatment231

Major Depression is the #1 reason for disability worldwide 235
Bipolar disorder increases suicide risk by 15X more than that of the general population 230
Less than 50% of bipolar disorder patients take their medications 236
Antidepressants are prescribed second only to analgesics (painkillers)54
15% of bipolar persons may not experience the usual clinical depression that accompanies bipolar disorder 232
Bipolar disorder is the 4th-highest reason for SSA disability awards62

That bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world (WHO)?

That only 1 in 4 bipolar sufferers receives an accurate diagnosis in less than 3 years?

That all of the following people were thought to now have or to have suffered from bipolar disorder in their lives: Agatha Christie, Drew Carey, Edgar Allen Poe, Isaac Newton, Jim Carey, Larry Flynt, and Winston Churchill?

And of course, Vincent Van Gogh.

It’s good to be in such worthy company.