Friday, May 11, 2012


This topic was brought to the LBC for the Friday topic by the Grand Old Man himself, Ramana Rajgopaul.  However, I must caution that between yoga and walking, the fitness of the GOM is taking him to the level where he may be becoming the Grand Young Man, the GYM!



Above are two pictures of Lafawnda Fossil, apple of my eye!  They were both obviously taken at different points, the first expressing the joy of cuddling “Dolly” who got her through most of childhood.  The second expresses the misery following wisdom tooth extraction!  Different moods.

Everyone has them, different moods; happy, sad, angry, peaceful.  But it is a different circumstance for Lafawnda … and one of my nieces … and my paternal grandfather.  We have some kind of genetic strain, we Fossils, that surfaces like blue eyes or brown hair, a genetic strain that is the root of Bipolar Disorder.  What the rest of us take for granted must be managed by them.

People with Bipolar Disorder have moods like other people and they can be normally happy or sad.  But, they also have (as Lafawnda puts it) “episodes.”  These episodes are of a different nature and are cyclic.

From the outside, I probably can’t describe the difference with the accuracy that Lafawnda could, but I’ll try to offer what I’ve been able to glean.  She says that a normal mood is a response to a normal cause.  Someone gets married and that makes you happy.  Someone steals your car and that makes you angry, etc.

But a Bipolar episode comes from left field and is severe.  It isn’t like a normal mood and might be a severe depression or an extreme euphoria.  My grandfather had two-year cycles, if you can imagine.  He would be euphoric – to the extent that you never knew what he might say or do in public or what weird contraption he might invent – for two years at a time and then severely depressed, literally staying in the basement away from everyone for two years.  His pathology was so severe and so classic that when my father wrote of it in detail for an Abnormal Psychology class the professor accused him of just stealing it from a textbook and gave him a C for the paper!

My niece and Lafawnda cycle much more quickly than that, usually cycling within a day.  Of the three, Lafawnda is the least severely afflicted, but you can trust me that you would not want it.  She manages with a medication that in part moderates the manic phase (which may manifest as euphoria or may manifest as agitation, a need to literally get out of her skin!).  If the manic is moderated, it helps to stop the exhaustion of resources and the slide into the depressive phase.  The medication lessens the depressive phase directly, too.

She moderates the cycling by getting regular sleep, steady diet, exposure to sunlight and consistent exercise.  Meditation also helps as does a special light during the seasons of shorter daylight.  Structuring her time and focus helps.  And, oddly for an achiever like Lafawnda, she has learned to not draw on that “5th gear” that is available to Bipolar sufferers, a state of energy, awareness and alertness that the rest of us cannot call upon.  The psychiatrist told her that it is so tempting when a project needs completion, but so damaging in the cycling it generates.

Possibly more important than anything else above, Lafawnda recognizes her episodes, and has from the start, as something that happens to her and recognizes a regular mood as something that she generates as a response.  Lafawnda meets the challenge of her disorder directly, honestly and responsibly while the rest of the Fossils and her fiancée Flash are all supportive.

I think the main thing for the rest of us to gain from the story is an appreciation of our normal moods, something too easily taken for granted.  I am also grateful for the normal moods for Lafawnda that come from a managed situation, normality that can extend now for pretty long periods of time.  It means that the disorder need not define her life.

These realizations make me happy!


  1. I admire people who open up about facets of their private lives. So hats off to you.

    Whilst one may say I do have a temper I don't have moods, of the unpredictable kind. And when I am in a bad mood, for whatever and usually tangible reason, I will warn others on approach. It's only fair. So, how very wise of Lafawnda Fossil "...a normal mood is a response to a normal cause". Indeed. Which is why some of us feel like having to walk on eggshells when no discernible "cause" for a bad mood readily offers itself.

    What strikes me, and possibly a different subject you may pick up another time, how those dealing with a bipolar in the vicinity often appear to be more freaked out when the bipolar goes into the manic phase. I am speculating here since I have only ever known one true bipolar. He was very candid about his condition and, like the lovely Lafawnda, kept his condition under control with the help of pharmaceuticals and the patience of friends and family.

    By way of comfort Mademoiselle Fossil: It might be pleasant and tranquil to meander, yet there is a lot to be said for a joy ride.


    1. Bipolar Disorder is like so many other mental health issues, a spectrum disorder. It can range from relatively mild to homicidal, suicidal or psychotic. Your friend may or may not represent our experience as a family.

      I will see if I can get the Mademoiselle herself to respond to your suggestion for a joy ride. She seems to have plenty of joyous romps in her life, but I don't think she would ever consider either end of a cycle to fit into the category!

  2. Alas - genetric stains are much more prevalent than may imagine. I deal with one reqularly as you know with Lynn. Then there are my own genetic deficiencies that come from the sperm donor that is responsible for half of my genetic makeup. He was a lifelong criminal, thug and all around loser. Unfortunately my tempermant comes from him. I've managed to keep it under control for the most part but have endured periods of varying degrees of darkness. SO hats off to Lafawnda in her efforts and her parents for their love and support.

    1. shackman, ours is easy compared to yours. And, as to your inner darkness at times, you have seemed to externally deal with it well. And, that is part of what makes it oh so difficult to compare our experiences one with another. We tend to deal with them well externally.

  3. I can't begin to imagine a 2 year mood! That must have been miserable for him! I had a friend who was diagnosed with "uni-polar", which she said meant that she only had the lows, and never got the highs that come with bi-polar. But her sister was bi-polar, and was able to create amazing art during the "Up" side of her disorder.
    Sadly, many people who are bi-polar won't take medication because they don't get the "up" side when they are medicated. Lafawnda is wise to try to keep her's in check!

    1. Delirious, I asked my grandfather once about his periods in the basement and we talked honestly about thoughts of suicide under such difficult circumstances. His response was that he never thought of that, because he knew that eventually his mood would change each time. I should think that under the circumstances, that is a pretty extraordinary view.

    2. I wish more people could keep that kind of perspective!

  4. TOF, When I reach GYM stage, I shall invite you and yours including Lafawnda to listen to me improvise on this song with just one word changed - instead of Dolly, Toffy.

    What a fantastic post my friend. My heart fills with wonder and pride that I have you in my life.

    One close friend's 51 year old son is bipolar combined with a couple of other complications and lives with his parents. Another common friend has helped by giving the lad a job in his business and I pitch in whenever the negative pole takes over, usually when he forgets to take his medication for a few days, and I am called to control the lad. For some reason, he listens to me, but often it is a scary task.

    I have done a bit of studying about it because of this involvement and can understand your entire post. That is also the reason for the wonder and pride.

    1. Rummuser, your experience with the friend's son sounds much more difficult than ours with Lafawnda in that she is not belligerent and is VERY responsible about doing everything she can to deal with the situation. I can easily see where you would be the person he would listen to, though.

      The scariest time was before the diagnosis was complete and Lafawnda would fall into suicidal depressions. She said the thoughts were there, but she always resisted consideration of acting on them. Those times were really tough. And it manifested so suddenly that she could tell you the exact day of her first depressive episode.

      Her manic phases we didn't even recognize until we gained wisdom by hindsight (a phrase one of my wisest friends uses!). It is difficult to tell a high achieving teen from a manic one in some cases.

      As for the compliments, I don't know if they are deserved, but they certainly make me feel good!

  5. I am pleased that medication is available these days to help provide a more normal level of moods for Lafawnda, unlike in your grandfather's day.

    1. You and me both, GM. It is not a fall-off-the-log diagnosis or prescription, though. Indeed, the girl has gone through periods where her body has changed for unknown reasons and the medication efficacy has changed. The medication that worked for her was the second one they tried, not the first, and she has now migrated slightly so that they have her on a third medication in careful balance with the second.

      Her blood levels have to be checked periodically and dosages sometimes need to be adjusted if appropriate.

  6. Very enlightening, thanks to you and Lafawnda. I feel much better informed about bi-polar now and the seductive 5th gear.

    By the way - thanks for the blog address clarification. The link over at mine should be working now.

  7. Dear Friend---I have been hearing about this disorder but have not had it so clearly explained. Thank you so much...and I hope and pray that the vineyard wedding is a burst of champagne in all your lives--bubbly, enjoyable and memorable. Bless you!

  8. What matters is not the condition as much as the attitude which takes it, head on, deals with it and overcomes it like it was a walk in the park. What I see in her is an overwhelming commitment to live life to its fullest and not let anything pull her down. The way I see it, hers is not a condition but an inspiration. Be sure to tell her that :)


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