As some of you may know, I am getting a Masters in Counseling. I have reached the point in the coursework where the more difficult classes are on the docket to be taken. One such course is Pyschopathology and DSM (diagnostic and statisical manual). The manual was just revised this year and so we are one of the first classes to use the DSM 5 (which is significantly different than previous versions). In order to help us prepare for the mid-term and final, the professor is creating ways to help us study for the specific disorders and their criterion. We just finished up schizophrenia (which I would encourage you to watch the TED video with Elyn Saks to get an inside look at this disorder) and are moving on to the bipolar disorders.
To help us with this particular set of disorders, she created a contest based on mnemonics. A mnemonic is something created (such as a song, a poem, acronym, etc) to aid in the retention or memorization of material. The challenge was to create two mnemonics which would help us remember the characteristics of manic episodes and the characteristics of major depressive episodes.
Here is what I created for a major depressive episode:
Major Depressive Episode
Daily seeing the gray as I wither away,
Sleeping no more,
Slowing to a halt.
Weariness abounds, but who really cares?
Thinking has become so hard, so much so I will just pass away.
Now, let me share the characteristics I am describing: diminished interest or pleasure, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation or retardation, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt, diminished ability to think or concentrate or indecisiveness, nearly every day, and recurrent thoughts of death.
As I was sharing this with the class, I felt the heaviness and depth it described. Now, I do not suffer from this disorder. However, what this exercise brought to my attention is how many people I know who at sometime during their life feel this way. What it also helped me realize is just how severe both bipolar I, II or a major depressive disorder is. I have come to appreciate the depth and life-altering capabilities such disorders have. I think we sometimes use words like “bipolar” or depression so casually in conversation we forget how debilitating it truly is. Also, I did not realize this: it is a lifelong disorder!!! Yes, medications can and do help, therapy helps, but it is always with the person who suffers with it.
Mental health, or illness, is fragile! If you know someone who suffers from this, let them know they are loved and be ever so cognizant of the toll it can take, because it truly does!!!!