DBSA e-Update January 2017

The Loss of a Legend: Carrie Fischer
Life Unlimited: Meet Rebecca Lombardo
Parent Connection: Join Our Community of Support for Parents
Video on Starting a DBSA Chapter
PLC Live Chat about Goal Motivation
Ask the Doc:Are there any seizure control medications that have no crossover for use in bipolar treatment?
bp Magazine: 3 Unexpected Signs of Bipolar Depression
Train to Become a Peer Specialist
What’s the status on repeal of the Affordable Care Act?
Potential Effects from Repealing the Affordable Care Act
Wellness Tips from Peers
Save the Date

Allen Reflects on the Loss of a Legend: Carrie Fischer

As we settle into a brand New Year, it’s useful to take stock of what we learned and lost in 2016. Many legends—inspiring people who helped make our lives a little brighter, humorous, and real—sadly left us last year. One of those individuals was Carrie Fischer.

Best known as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series, Carrie was so much more than an actor or, later, author. She was a living example of how to live a full life while dealing with bipolar disorder. But bipolar disorder wasn’t her whole story.

In addition to being an outspoken advocate for normalizing mental health conditions, she was also a devoted mother, insightful cultural observer, beloved actor, author, and daughter. As many of us recall, Carrie bravely shared her up and downs with bipolar disorder in her books Postcards from the Edge and Wishful Drinking, but I think we should also remember that she never let struggles or a label define her.

Because of the full life she lived, fans began to share their own experiences with mental health conditions using the hashtag #InHonorofCarrie to celebrate her legacy of hope. However you remember Carrie Fischer, be inspired by her willingness to be a whole person, one who didn’t let bipolar disorder eclipse a multi-faceted life. 



Life Unlimited: Meet Rebecca Lombardo

At 19, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. From that point, life was a struggle. My moods were all over the place. I never knew what to expect. In my late 20s, I decided that I wanted to take my life. In the end, I just couldn’t do it.
After being committed to inpatient treatment on two separate occasions, and losing every job I ever had, I had no clue where my life was headed. Anyone that I dated dumped me due to my mental health condition. Eventually, I met the man that would become my husband, and we were married in August of 2001. He was there for me when nobody else would take the risk. In 2006, we moved into our first home and things seemed to be looking up.

Life changed drastically when my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer in September of 2007. I promised her I would be at her side for everything; and I was. She passed away in January of 2008, and my life fell to pieces. I was filled with grief that I was unable to overcome. 

In June of 2013 depression hit me like a brick. Overwhelmed by sadness and grief, the suicidal thoughts were taking over. I missed my mom immensely. I couldn’t cope with my life any longer. I cut myself and took an entire bottle of pills. Sensing something was wrong via text, my husband came home and took me to the ER. I stayed in the hospital on suicide watch for five days. I was then told that the state was having me committed.

When I was released, I promised myself that I would never put my husband or my family through any of that again. I decided that if I told my story, it might help people. By helping others, I knew I would be helping myself. I began writing a blog detailing my struggles with bipolar disorder.

People from all over the world have written me to thank me for coming forward. My writing has been the best therapy I have ever known. I continue to write my blog, and I’m extremely proud to be able to say that I’m now a published author. I consider myself an advocate for mental health.

Life is much better, but I need to be realistic. I will never know life without bipolar disorder, and medication will forever be a part of my life. I am OK with that. If anyone I know isn’t, I don’t need them in my life. I’m taking care of myself for the first time. I’ve lost a lot of friends and even family members because of my suicide attempt. Some people consider me selfish. 

I’m here to tell you that suicide has nothing to do with being selfish. Having bipolar disorder doesn’t make you selfish. Allowing yourself to find happiness doesn’t make you selfish. I’m 43 years old, and I’m living proof that you can succeed despite your mental health condition. It will take a lot of work, and you will stumble more often than you sprint, but it can be done.  

Read more inspiring stories.

If you would like to participate in our Life Unlimited feature by sharing your story, please submit your contact information.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Parent Connection appears each month in the DBSA eUpdate. Here, parents and guardians can expect to find up-to-date information and resources about parenting children and adolescents with depression and bipolar disorder. We also feature news about Balanced Mind Parent Network online support communities, the Helpline and other family-focused programming.

Parent Connection: Join Our Community of Support for Parents

The Balanced Mind Parent Network (BMPN), a program of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), provides online, family-focused support and information for parents of children living with a mood disorder. Parents can turn to the BMPN for reliable information about mood disorders and their child’s needs. 

Parents may also join BMPN’s online community that offers resources, connection, and hope. Parents can connect with a network of allies, accessible anywhere, anytime, including 10 support communities made up of parents of children living with depression or bipolar disorder, ranging from toddler to 'transition age' (late teens, 'young adults').

Learn more.

DBSA Chapters

Start a DBSA Chapter

Watch this video to learn how you can start a DBSA Chapter and offer hope, help, and support to people living with depression and bipolar disorder in your community!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

PLC Live Chat about Goal Motivation January 25

Certified peer specialist and peer supporters are invited to participate in a live chat on PeerLeadershipCenter.org (PLC) with fellow members about staying motivated in your goals as well as in supporting others goals. Learn more.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Joseph Calabrese, MD Director, Mood Disorders Program, UH Cleveland Medical Center Professor, Psychiatry, CWRU School of Medicine

Ask the Doc

Ask the Doc: My adult son has Bipolar I and has lacked the insight to take medication regularly for about ten years. Two years ago, he developed epilepsy and he refuses medication because the ones they have offered him are also used for bipolar disorder, and he thinks it’s a trick. Are there any seizure control medications that have no crossover for use in bipolar treatment?

Yes, only some seizure control or anticonvulsant medications have been shown to be helpful in reducing or preventing mood symptoms. There are three groups of anticonvulsant medication for treating of bipolar disorder:

Medications officially approved for treatment of bipolar disorder:

  • Valproate (brand name Depakote) is officially approved for acute or short-term treatment of manic and mixed episodes in bipolar disorder.  It is often used for maintenance or long-term treatment, but it is not officially approved for that purpose.  The evidence that valproate can prevent mood episodes over the long term is inconsistent. 
  • Lamotrigine (brand name Lamictal) is officially approved for the prevention of depressive episodes, but has not been shown to be effective in the short-term treatment of mania, mixed states, or depression.  To diminish the risk of rare but serious skin rash, the dose must be increased slowly over several weeks so lamotrigine isn’t usually considered an acute treatment.
  • Carbamazepine (brand names Tegretol, Carbatrol, Equetro) has been used for acute treatment of manic or mixed episodes.  Only the Equetro sustained-release form of carbamazepine is officially approved for treatment of manic or mixed episodes, but reasonable evidence indicates that other forms are also effective. No form of carbamazepine is officially approved for long-term treatment, and there is no clear evidence that carbamazepine can prevent mood episodes over the long term.

Medications that are NOT officially approved, but have some evidence for effectiveness:

  • Oxcarbazepine (brand name Trileptal) is a close relative of carbamazepine.  It is not officially approved for treatment of bipolar disorder, but there is weak evidence that it may be effective for acute treatment of manic or mixed episodes.  There is no evidence that it prevents mood episodes in the long term.

Medications without evidence for effectiveness:

  • Gabapentin (brand name Neurontin) was used frequently for treatment of bipolar disorder, but controlled studies found it was no more effective than a placebo; however, it is sometimes helpful in the treatment of anxiety.
  • Topiramate (brand name Topamax) is often prescribed to help reduce appetite, but there is no evidence that it helps to control mood symptoms in the short or long term.
  • Zonisamide (brand name Zonegram) has been prescribed for both short- and long-term treatment, but the available studies do not show it to be better than a placebo.
  • Tiagabine (brand name Gabitril) has also been prescribed for short- and long-term treatment, but there are no controlled studies showing it to be effective.

There are reports of individual patients who have experienced improvement in mood symptoms after being treated with some of the other anticonvulsant medications.  However, mood symptoms can improve with or without medication.  That is good news, but it means we may give medication credit that it sometimes does not deserve.  Because every person can respond differently to medication, you’ll do best if you are well informed about your options and pay attention to your own individual response to different treatments. 

DBSA does not endorse or recommend the use of any specific treatment or medication for mood disorders. Consult your doctor for more information about specific treatments or medications. Some of the uses under discussion above may not have been approved by the FDA.

Got a nagging question? Submit your questions to Ask the Doc online. Also, take a look through our Ask the Doc feature page, a comprehensive archive of past columns, which may already have the answer to your questions.

bp Magazine

bp Magazine: 3 Unexpected Signs of Bipolar Depression

There’s weepy, sad, and needy depression—and also irritated, unloving, and restless depression. Get rid of your negativity by treating your mood disorder. Read the article.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Train to Become a Peer Specialist

Are you or peers you support interested in attending peer specialist training? Save the date for DBSA Peer Specialist Training! The DBSA Core peer specialist training is scheduled in Chicago the week of June 5-9, 2017 and the DBSA Veteran peer specialist training is schedule in Chicago September 11-16, 2017. Learn more. Or Email Training@DBSAlliance.org.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

What’s the status on repeal of the Affordable Care Act?

The landscape around repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) changes daily. Much of the rhetoric for immediate repeal has been diminished as Representatives and Senators are hearing from their constituents. According to the most recent data from the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, 43% of adults view the health reform bill as favorable and 46% as unfavorable. The unfavorable rating has gone down from a high of 49% last April. Perhaps as more and more people realize that their family members, neighbors and friends are benefiting from and accessing health care through the ACA, their views are changing.

The message might even be reaching the U.S. Senate. The Chairman of the Senate health committee, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) distributed a press release from his office on January 6, 2017, stating that “there should be a simultaneous repeal and replace” of the ACA. The message now coming out of the Senate is that Senators need to work across party lines to “figure out how to replace it before fully repealing it.”

There are many ways the ACA has increased access to care for people living with a mental health conditions. The website mental health.gov has an excellent fact sheet outlining these benefits, including:

  • expanding Medicaid
  • creating the health plan marketplace, and
  • establishing mental health care as an essential health benefit.

Advocacy groups have been working around the clock ever since the election to make sure that the voices of people who rely on the ACA to access health care are heard. It is encouraging to see that these advocacy efforts are changing the conversations from “immediate repeal” to “repeal and replace.”

You can do your part by familiarizing yourself with the facts and sharing those facts with others. You can also subscribe to the DBSA advocacy platform. When you subscribe, in addition to receiving the monthly advocacy newsletter, you’ll receive timely emails advising you when it is most advantageous to contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives on legislative policies that are important to the DBSA community. During January subscribers received two different action alerts informing them on how they could participate in two different Congressional call-in days in support of the ACA, Medicaid, and Medicare.

It’s a new year. Make it your resolution to have your voice heard!

Potential Effects from Repealing the Affordable Care Act

More people have health insurance, insurance companies are required to cover mental health care, and denial of coverage for preexisting conditions became illegal because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But the incoming Congress and the President-Elect have vowed to repeal the ACA. This week Professor Jeffrey Harman looks at the potential consequences of this action on our advocacy blog, Care for Your Mind. Read the article.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

Keep telling yourself that you are amazing—even if you do not believe it yet. Your brain is a sophisticated organic computer—you can reprogram it.

Reason for Sadness
Think about it, the only reason you feel this sad is because you’ve felt happy before and that means that you can be happy once again.

Focus for the New Year
In the new year, I plan to focus on the things that are working and experiment with some tools that I’m interested in and may find helpful. During periods of depression or mania it’s so hard to focus on anything so I have created a safe place, physically and emotionally that allows me to rest and be safe. So for me focus is important but so is being safe.

Visit the FacingUs.org to get more tips, create your own tips, track your wellness, and connect with peers. Joining the Facing Us Clubhouse is easy and free.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

Live Chat about Motivation
Peer Leadership Center
January 25, 2017
Register or learn more.

Core Peer Specialist Training
Chicago, IL
June 5-9, 2017
Apply Now

Veteran Peer Specialist Training
Chicago, IL
September 11-16, 2017
Apply Now