Bipolar Depression

Depression is categorized as bipolar and unipolar. A bipolar or manic-depressive illness has two poles: highs (called manic moods) and lows (depressed moods). One of the foremost experts of this illness, Kay Jamison (she struggled with manic depression herself) wrote a fascinating book entitled Touched With Fire revealing the fine line between genius and madness (mania). Some of the most creative people in the world struggled with this illness. The following is a partial list that she compiled: Writers; Hans Christian Anderson, John Bunyan, Samuel Clemens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, *William Faulkner, *Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, *Tennessee Williams, *Virginia Wolf, and Composers; George Frederic Handel, *Robert Schumann, Peter Tchaikovsky, *Irving Berlin, Noel Coward, Stephen Foster, Cole Porter, and Artists; *Vincent van Gogh, and Michelangelo.

Those with an asterisk spent time in an asylum or psychiatric hospital. Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Wolf, and Vincent van Gogh committed suicide. In her autobiography, An Unquiet Mind, Jamison describes her incredible accomplishments during her periods of mania. Treating her illness with lithium brought her great relief but also decreased her creativity and productivity. She also said that taking medicine was not enough and that she needed the objectivity of someone else to help her get through the depressive cycle.

The transmission of a message through the brain cell requires a certain balance of sodium (positive) and chloride (negative) ions. Sodium chloride (NaCl) is a salt. In a similar fashion, electricity flows through copper better than it does through iron due to the chemical makeup of each substance. In a bipolar illness, the balance and polarity of positive and negative ions is abnormal. In depression the sodium ions increase about 50% and with the mania they increase as much as 200%. The drug of choice for bipolar depression has been lithium carbonate, which is an inert salt. This reduces the number of sodium and chloride ions which allows the transmission to proceed through the cell and into other neurons. In such cases medicine is the primary answer, but I have seen God set many people free who were incorrectly labeled as bipolar.

Dr. Neil

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