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David Baxter

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Sean Astin: Bipolar Disorder
March 13, 2006
by Christa Andrade, The Clearinghouse

"Being sympathetic is not the same thing as being informed." ~ Sean Astin

Most people know Sean Astin as Samwise, Frodo?s number two in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He is also the son of Patty Duke, an actress who battled with bipolar disorder for much of her life. Astin was eleven when his mother received her diagnosis. He said on his web site that the actress was relieved to know that there was a name for the turmoil she?d experienced much of her life. More importantly, there were steps she could take to make her and her family?s lives better.

As an adult, Astin founded the web site http://www.learnaboutbipolar.com/. The site contains useful information on recognizing and treating bipolar disorder, as well as tips on how families can help their relatives with bipolar disorder. He also provides information to people who have bipolar disorder and their families, by speaking around the country. Astin has been outspoken about his experiences growing up with a parent with mental illness and made a great effort to shed more light on this disorder, dispel myths, and divest the term ?bipolar? of its stigma.

The most encouraging aspect of Astin?s efforts is the idea that family members act as partners with their relatives who have bipolar disorder. Partnership between people with bipolar disorder and their families is integral to the recovery process...

"Although my Mom was the one who struggled with the symptoms, the impact of bipolar disorder was felt by my whole family,? he states on the site. ?I?d like to help other families recognize the sings early so they can get the help they need.? Astin points out that family members can act as ?mirrors?, pointing out behavior that could have a negative impact on the health and relationships of the person who has the disorder.

The idea of family members engaging in equal partnership, as opposed to serving as custodians or chaperones, is one of the first steps on the road to empowerment and recovery for many consumers.
 

Brenda

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This is very interesting. I just started reading Patti Duke's book a few weeks ago. A friend of mine who also has bi-polar manic depression loaned me the book. I cannot believe how many similarities we have. This illness has caused a lot of havoc in my life. I was diagnosed in 1987 after I tried to commit suicide. At first, the doctors tried different medications to see which one was right for me. I was taking Lithium at the time, and that worked well. Ten years into my illness, the doctors started changing my meds and I was like a roller coaster. I was either up or down. I never had a happy medium. I still don't Right now I am on a high. I have been hospitalized numerous times to adjust my meds. Last December I tried suicide again. I wrecked my car and spent the night in temperatures that reached 20 below wind chills. I had frostbite on my toes and I almost lost some of them. Good think I don't smoke or have diabetes. I am almost healed.

This illness has cost me good jobs, good relationships, and friendships. Right now I am filing for SSI. I am working part-time as a Blackjack dealer just to get out of the house. I got my CNA license a couple of years ago. I loved that job, but I was terminated this January because I couldn't be on my feet because of my frostbite. I feel I was discriminated against, but the administrator said I wasn't. So I just left it at that and moved on.

I have three children. My youngest son is 14, then I have a 16-year-old daughter, and a son who is 22. My oldest son was given up for adoption when I was 18. When he turned 18, he wanted to meet me. On the day he graduated, I got to meet him and his family. What a day that was. We now keep in touch through the mail, and on the phone. He comes to visit in the summer. He is attending college in Arizona.

My children have had to deal with my highs and lows for years. It is hard for them to see me stay in bed for a week at a time. They want to help me, but there really is nothing they can do. I have to do it. The medication I am on helps, but I have to do the rest. I am on Trileptal, Lithium, Wellbutrin, and Seroquel. In the past 20 years I can't even count how many different meds I have been on.

I take one day at a time. That is all I can do. Some days I take it a minute at a time. I have so much support from my parents, my children, friends, and a very special friend who has been there for me when I needed to go to the hospital and all my follow-up appointments. But it hasn't been easy for my support system. They don't understand a lot of it. How one day I am dressed to kill and the next day I am in bed hiding under the covers with the door closed and the shades pulled.

I hope someday where will be a break through in the treatment of bi-polar manic depression. I know I will have this the rest of my life.
 
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