I feel very honored to get to interview Samina Raza. She is Manic Depressive similar to me and has been blogging about the disorder since August, 2014: Bipolar1Blog.com. She writes from a personal angle, sharing her struggles with mania and depression plus includes pertinent science-related information. Both make her writing of much value to others – I love her posts!
She also blogs for the International Bipolar Foundation and the Huffington Post. She is incredibly inspiring. She is a molecular biologist, has a MSEd, an amazing son (lawyer!) and devoted husband – they’ve been married more than 28 years.
1. Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in India, grew up in Pakistan till I was 11 years old and then moved to Buffalo New York, when both my medical doctor parents brought us to the USA. I have a Master’s degree in Molecular biology and an MSEd in Education School Counseling. I am an extremely proud mother of a son who recently graduated from Law School and passed the NYS Bar Examination!
Note from Molly: That is awesome, congrats to both of you 🙂
2. What events led to you receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder?
My younger brother was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder, possibly Schizoaffective disorder. Because of the immense stress of him coming down with his illness, my symptoms also surfaced. It was an awful time for my family, my mother went into a severe, unremitting depression, I also went into a depression at first.
We tragically lost my brother to mental illness when he was only 26 years old.
When I was put on antidepressants without a mood stabilizer, I went into a full blown manic phase and had to be hospitalized for a month! When I was released, my “out of touch with reality” thoughts were gone, but I still suffered from massive amounts of anxiety. However, that also dissipated after a while.
3. If you don’t mind, can you share how old you were at the time of diagnosis and what type of bipolar illness you have i.e. Bipolar I Disorder (BP-1), Bipolar II Disorder (BP-2), Cyclothymic, etc.
I was 25 years of age upon diagnosis, and I have Bipolar 1 Disorder.
4. Do you have other diagnosed medical conditions besides bipolar (physical or mental)? For example, I have fibromyalgia and deal with chronic fatigue. I also have a form of subclinical hypothyroid. All of these have affected my bipolar states and when treated successfully my severe bipolar illness states (mania, suicidal depression) improved much.
I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system literally attacks your thyroid gland and knocks it out. Mental illnesses seem to be associated with immune system abberancies. I also have food allergies and sensitivities. The gut is also associated with mental illnesses.
Note from Molly: Exactly, and better early diagnosis and treatment for these (rather than a psych label and psych meds) so that many can avoid long-term disability and worsening of symptoms – especially those who primarily suffer with depression (i.e. BP-2). Yes?
5. Now for the good stuff! What things – medications, vitamins, therapy, books, alternative treatments, etc. – have helped you to not only survive this difficult illness but thrive in your life?
What helps me when I’m sick is Lithium and Seroquel. By sick I mean in a depression or in a manicky phase. If I’m not in those phases, then of course exercise as in Zumba, yoga, meditation, walking, reading books, cooking, dancing and acting are my favorite things to do.
Note from Molly: Excellent. Some have to use meds at times, glad you found ones that help you live a quality life.
6. What advice do you have for others who may be overwhelmed by the symptoms (hypomania leading to impulsive behaviour, rapid cycling mood changes, hospitalizations due to severe depressive episode or a manic episode resulting in psychosis…) and feel discouraged or without hope?
The only thing in my opinion that will take you off of a depression or hypomanic phase is medication. Seeing a psychiatrist and getting the proper medications will do a world of good.
Note: For people with bipolar disorder, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) are completely contraindicated. They can cause us to have mixed phases, which are very unpleasant, to say the least. And anxiety as well.
So nice of you to take the time to share here and is much appreciated.
I get the medication focus – especially for Manic Depression. BP-1 is much more difficult to treat than depression. We get both, the severe depressive episodes characteristic of a Major Depressive Disorder diagnosis, plus the insanity of mania that no one can really understand unless they have lived it.
I’ve lived it, as you have and agree completely it needs medication when is severe. And also that we need better understanding and non-harmful treatments. It’s happening, they’ve successfully treated a young college student (age 19 I think) who went manic and was hospitalized with charcoal in the gut.
Fascinating no? We’ve got to keep fighting. Hugs.