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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Bi-Polar Disorder

Uploaded: Aug 13, 2014

I've been bi-polar most of my life. I was diagnosed with depression when I was eight years old. The Principal of my elementary school told my mother that I seemed sad in class. I was often bored, and I didn't play with the other kids, so I was sent to a Child Psychiatrist. I thought she was silly and tried to analyze her.

Bi-polar disorder is also call Manic-Depressive. The depression seems to get most of the attention because sufferer seems so, well, depressed. But don't dismiss the manic side. Often people are attracted to manic personalities because they are so energetic and upbeat.

Robin Williams' manic side is what he based his wild, creative, energetic comedy on. Everyone thought he was just being funny, but if you watch him in one of his comedy routines or a movie or TV show, he was manic. And when you are that high during a manic phase, the lows of depression must be really terrible. It's like going from the top of the Empire State Building to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

I have my manic side too, but my swings were never as extreme nor as entertaining as Robin Williams. My outburst at the City Workshop on the Cemetery is an example of my manic side. I got all excited and babbled incoherently while thinking I was saying something very intelligent. It's much easier for me to tell when I'm depressed than when I'm manic.

When I got depressed, and most of my bipolar depression is fortunately behind me, I felt like I was a failure and a phony. I wanted to sleep all the time and get lost in lucid dreams. Lucid dreams are where you can control what is happening in your dreams. So I could change, edit and reshoot scenes in my dreams. I could sleep ten or 12 hours at a time when I was depressed. I did not want to leave the house.

When I was working at a regular job and had to be at in an office from 8 am to 5 pm, it would be difficult to control my mood swings. I took medication for it. First it was Librium, then Lithium, and some other prescription drugs I can't recall. Now I'm on Lexapro, which works to raise the serotonin level in the brain. That's what certain foods do, especially dairy like cheese and ice cream.

Food worked better for me than drugs or alcohol. I drink wine or hard cider occasionally, but I was never attracted to alcohol and I never used any kind of non-prescription drug, not even marijuana. I would fixate on food and cooking and feeding my demons. I probably would have committed suicide years ago if I did not have the comfort of comfort food.

But because being obese, or even merely fat, is so societally unacceptable, the weight of disapproval from my family members, or strangers who make nasty comments, and even from myself, only added to my depression.

So I am labeled (everything is labeled these days) "Morbidly obese." Heck I'm going to be 72 in October and do not have any life-threatening conditions from my obesity. My blood pressure isn't high. My sugar levels are pre-diabetic and have been for over 30 years. I used to be concerned about that, but since they are holding steady just below diabetic, I'm not worried about it anymore.

I feel sad for Robin Williams and his family and his fans. If he was on medication, it is too bad that it didn't work well enough to keep him from doing what he did. I will keep taking Escitalopram (generic for Lexapro), and I will keep eating the kind of food that helps keep me level.

Comments

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Aug 13, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Roz, what good news to know that you are doing what is necessary to care for well being.

Not all of the information regarding Robin Williams is in at this time. Of course, like many others, I feel a sadness about his death.

I will not assume that his suicide had to do with his Bipolar Disorder. I don't believe that enough information has been made public to assume that he hanged himself because of a clinical depression.

May He Rest In Peace.




Posted by Cholo, a resident of another community,
on Aug 13, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Is there absolute proof that Robin Williams suicided? Could the hanging have been accidental? Is there reason to suspect that he may have been murdered?


Posted by Cholo, a resident of another community,
on Aug 13, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Auto-Erotic asphyxia can lead to death...that's how the actor David Carradine died.


Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 13, 2014 at 8:52 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Cholo,

He had knife marks on his wrists, indicating he tried cutting them first. So it was almost certainly suicide. However, the reports say he was having financial problems, so that might have been a factor too. It's just so sad whatever the reason.

Roz


Posted by Thanks Roz, a resident of Country Fair,
on Aug 15, 2014 at 11:55 pm

Thank you Roz for all the great blogs. I truly do enjoy reading what you have to say!


Posted by Al, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Aug 16, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Thanks for telling us, Roz. Your straight talk is helpful, and I am grateful for it.

I've been v depressed, and I've been v close to someone who had a triple bypass, which is indeed very very hard on body and mind and emotions.

To me, the Williams suicide seems like he was just too tired of the pain of depression, the difficulties of heart-surgery recovery, and now Parkinsons ahead of him. Staying away from the temp relief of drugs/drink must be a huge ongoing struggle too. Money troubles? Sure, with trusts for his children all set, he might have had to work things out for his own part of his estate, and sometimes one gets really weary of that struggle, whether one has as many resources as Williams or is a parent trying to make ends meet with inadequate resources: it's just so hard.

I know how it feels to be too tired. Most of us have some compelling reason to stick with it, even if it's a tiny dog, as Joan Rivers said about her Yorkie Spike when she was considering suicide -- that he was such a mean little shit, that no one would care for him and be as good to him as she was, so she just had to go on living. And she did. And Robin didn't.


Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 16, 2014 at 7:44 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Thanks Al and "Thanks Roz,"

I do this because it gives me something to do and something to say and it is nice when someone else like you two find it helpful.

Great line from Joan Rivers. I'm sort of a semi-fan. She can be really offensive at times, but very funny at other times. She of course was the victim of suicide. The victims are always the families left behind.

Roz


Posted by Wow, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Aug 17, 2014 at 4:51 pm

While I respect your plight and knowledge of your own health conditions I do not agree with your arm chair diagnosis that Robin Williams was bipolar. There are many forms of depression. Too attribute his comic genius to manic states of this disease in my mind belittles his talent. I have never heard even a murmur that he was inconsistent in his work or unprofessional in any way. If his comedy was fueled by manic states it seems we would have heard about him showing up late or missing unexplained amounts of time from work or some other problems. His work was not such that he could fly below the radar on off days. This is also true of what we heard about his personal life. He is referred to consistently as funny kind and caring with as much emphasis on the latter to attributes. This is not to say that he wasn't bi-polar, just that we don't know and I don't believe being the best improve artist of our times is evidence that he was bi-polar. Depression, sadly yes, the origins or type we don't know.


Posted by Wow, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Aug 17, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Sorry, Improve should have been Improv


Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 17, 2014 at 6:18 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Wow,

You are right, I am in no way qualified to diagnose Mr. Williams psychological conditions. However, if he did have extreme manic phases, his depression would be so much worse than even I experienced. That's all I meant to imply.

The recent news about his diagnosis with Parkinson's Disease changes the theories about his motives, but since none of us were there or that close to him personally, we can only speculate.

Roz


Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 18, 2014 at 8:50 am

You are really right Wow. We don't know all the facts, even though much of his (RW) antics and life face to face media discussions DO point to a life hugely influenced by both drug use and depression. Bipolarism is very, very difficult for those close to the person who has it? DEAL WITH. I too, question that was the cause. We have a member of our own family that has made it virtually impossible to cope with due to what we suspect, is this disorder, who has never sought help in 40 years+. She has single-handedly, "unrooted" much of our family (-and that's ANOTHER story)


Posted by Spouse, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Aug 18, 2014 at 10:30 am

First day discussing Robin, longtime female doctor on Today show used the word bi-polar, but more official comments from family never mentions bi-polar. Maybe 'his children' were intentionally never told he was, if he was.
Real bi-polars self-medicate with something. My teen-age husband used Scotch. My handsome, young, talented, husband accelerated at lightening speed in several top 50 companies in his 20s, and early 30s. For assorted reasons, he switched companies in one or two years, by choice,..positions most would have sold their bodies or families to get. All the while, he started on scotch at 5pm and had very long 'cocktail hours'....never daytime...so "he wasn't an alcoholic". His parents had always been evening heavy scotch drinkers so all thought that was normal, at that time. However, he progressed in intensity with extreme highs and lows. So through 20s & early 30s I thought he was just "an alcoholic like his parents" (who were upper-middle class business owners). I always kept misc. notes in my daily calendar, because of our rapid re-locations to different states. So each year he had a different doctor, different location, never extended family around, as we were making corporate switches. He was talented and the next place he applied was happy to be able to get him, because of where he was coming from.
He had severe non-functional crying depressions for many weeks at a time.
Doctors were still clueless in those days, one said give up coffee. He avoided doctors when he was in a 'high' and feeling grand. Then one day, listening to Dean Edel I heard Dean talk about this thing called manic-depression. OMG,"that's the real problem"! I ran to the library for the one book he mentioned. My husband was 'textbook' manic-depressive ...
..cycles and odd manifestations were predictable, in retrospect. Pure turmoil with rapid highs of excessive spending, drinking, talking, talking, talking, from age 35-40. Difficult to get a 6 mo divorce, when the personality switches were so rapid. I had 2 very different people to deal with. Crying about be unworthy of me, I deserved better.
He had often talked of suicide during his depressions. During a 'high', he was cleaning his pistol (threatening me) as we divided our houseful of belongings, and he always kept a loaded AR15 under our bed. Living back in CA, a community property state, I had to get divorced fast because of the giant debts he was accumulating, and that I would be responsible for. We split equity to the penny to cover he debts. Because of rapid corporate switches, he was never 'vested' or got a penny over base pay when he 'quit'. So this still-young, living large, power couple wound up with nothing after a 25 year marriage. On the 'way up' this new hot-shot at the local top corp, bought large homes with views, 3-car garages, balconies, wet bars, before the days anybody had thought of McMansions. 25 years, I walked with not a penny, there was no cash, no house. We signed the papers, paid debts, and it was over. I knew he would shortly be unemployable. Sadly, he did attempt suicide a number of times in future years, with a shot in the head he wound up under state care, but eventually homeless. Today, UNdiagnosed 'bi-polars' are everywhere. Excessive spending, excessive talking, self-medication...and brilliance are often clues.
We weren't close enough to Robin's depressions or highs to be able to know or speak, or, if he and his wife never wanted to discuss with children or public, for whatever reason, we should not speculate either.


Posted by Spouse, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Aug 18, 2014 at 12:41 pm

I was remiss in neglecting to mention the key, number one manifestation & clue in a high phase, the 'feeling of grandeur' regardless situation, 'zero fear of consequences', total lack of 'judgment'. Fear of losing the 'grand feeling' is what keeps them from agreeing to see a doctor. That grandeur, along with excessive spending, excessive talking all together is real bi-polar. Often, along with self-medication and brilliance, but not always. I say real bi-polar because years ago most doctors misdiagnosed bi-polar, not knowing anything about it. Many then and now, confuse schizophrenia with bi-polar and others. Many victims go undetected or wrongly detected forever. Psych MDs are needed, not psychologists or GPs


Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 18, 2014 at 6:55 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Spouse,

That is a very accurate description of the manic phase of bi-polar disorder. As you pointed out, your husband kept getting promoted to higher and higher jobs, because when someone is manic he/she exudes confidence and high energy and these are valued traits in business. Unfortunately most of the great ideas manic people have are not practical, but the manic person is so convincing of his/her vision that others follow like the pied piper.

Roz


Posted by Spouse, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Aug 18, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Yes. In mid 20s, after 6 mo he was promoted to a sales manager for a top 10 company, by 30 a sales manager with a top 50 company, on and on, until descending, then was finally fired during an extreme manic episode. Often, then and now, I described him as a pied piper. Somehow, out of the blue he acquired several refurbished antique slot machines that he suddenly said was his new 'company'. There was no company...his mind was creating. People always found him entertaining and fascinating.
One thing I learned after mid-life, unless a person's history is verified, the test of time is needed. The more history, the longer the test.


Posted by Spouse, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Aug 19, 2014 at 9:54 am

The book that is still today the simple straight talk from the Psychiatrist who pioneered use of lithium to stabilize swings, is "MOODSWING". I read it in 1980-81, and was written around that time, by Dr. FIEVE. He now has a new 'depression' Moodswing book. However, the really bizarre behavior that alters employment, marriages, and finances is during bizarre 'highs', when they think nothing can happen to themselves. Depressed for the most part are just quiet and avoid interaction, as long as not so severely depressed they cannot function.
The bi-polar female doctor was the basis of this season's 'Black Box'...real life story. She is a functioning bi-polar.


Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 19, 2014 at 11:37 am

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Spouse,

Thanks for adding that. I didn't know what Black Box was about. I haven't watched it, but I'll look for it online now.

Roz


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Aug 19, 2014 at 5:49 pm

There are many Americans who function well on medications and maintain healthy and productive relationships with their children, spouses, families, and employers, etc. In many instances, nobody has the slightest suspicion that an individual has a bipolar diagnosis.

Remaining stable can be difficult for some but not all. Not all patients are compliant.

I have a hunch that the public may never know what led to the death of Robin Williams. Eventually, perhaps somebody will write a book that clarifies the circumstances. A very tragic death.




Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Aug 19, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Others with Bipolar Disorder: Web Link

The GOOD NEWS is that the illness is treatable!


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Aug 19, 2014 at 6:08 pm

People with Bipolar Disorder: Web Link

It's important to know that this illness is treatable and that lithium is SAFE.


Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 19, 2014 at 6:31 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Cholo,

You can overdose on Lithium. I was told never to take more than prescribed when I was on it, but it worked very well for me at that dose.

Roz


Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 19, 2014 at 7:19 pm

LITHIUM is a rat poison of years gone by and? -An older med. for mental issues these days. The problem with 90% of all drugs such as Prozac, zantax (sp) lithium as well as the rest? Your system builds a tolerance and thus every six months to a year? Either dosage must be changed for a while OR a completely new drug introduced.

Lithium increases blood calcium and creates a pretty substantial weight gain for most and affects the thyroid gland. Sure not my "drug of choice" IF I had bipolarism.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Aug 19, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Millions of good people have survived and lived happy lives while on lithium.

Medical science has come a long way and many good people worldwide have survived because of science.

Medical science is continuously improving. I say THANK YOU science! It could be worse!

More people die in car accidents than from ingesting rat poison.



Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Aug 19, 2014 at 7:41 pm

People make medication changes for various reasons. The good news is that when they benefit from a change, their doc is looking out for them!

It's good medical practice to know when to stop taking a certain med(s) and exploring options. MEDICAL SCIENCE has come a long way since hoop skirts!

I'm appreciate good folks have options and consulting for different medical options.

VIVA MEDICAL SCIENCE. VIVA!



Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Aug 19, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Correction: I appreciate that good folks have options and that they can consult with other qualified physicians re: Rx options.


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