Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another player in the bipolar game

Today DH went to see a neuropsychologist. The reason that he went dates back to the three weeks when he was hospitalized about a year and a half ago. At that time, they did some kind of scan, I think it was an MRI, of his brain, and were rather shocked by the fact that it appeared that the left temporal lobe of his brain was severely damaged. Nobody ever followed up on that possibility, though, until now. We've been so busy just trying to keep the bipolar under control, that we had pretty much forgotten about the brain damage thing.

Anyhow, so today he finally went in for some tests. Even though the actual test results won't be available for a couple of weeks, DH was shocked by his inability to answer some pretty simple questions, and his inability to think logically.

He told me that they asked him questions like "what is the difference between a cat and a dog?" and he said, "It was the strangest feeling. I knew the answer, but there were no words for it, and no way for me to explain it. I have never felt that way before. It was very strange."

He also described a test where there were two decks of cards. The person administering the test was to show him one card at a time, and when DH had figured out the pattern, they would put that deck away. He said that the girl who was administering the test seemed very surprised, as DH went through both decks completely and never saw a pattern at all.

Apparently the neuropsychologist mentioned that the tests that DH didn't do well on were all related to the left temporal lobe, so the connection has been made.

A lot of this is not news to me. I've known for at least a year and a half that there was something wrong with his thinking, but I thought it was the bipolar. I'm not sure if its good or bad that it could be a brain injury instead. I have a lot of questions: How is it that the symptoms seemed to get so bad all of a sudden? Is there some kind of therapy that can help retrain other parts of the brain to do things the left temporal lobe usually does? Is it going to get worse? I guess we'll find out in a couple of weeks. So is the bipolar something entirely different, or is it related to the brain damage? It seems like the added meds in the last couple of weeks have made a difference, so maybe its some of both.

And something else the doctor told DH: About a year and a half ago, DH was still functioning normally, and went to the eye doctor. He learned that the glaucoma test had come out "positive" and he was supposed to make an appointment to get rechecked and come up with a plan of action. But it wasn't too long after that that everything fell apart, and he never went. Today the Dr. told him that his left eye is getting progressively worse, and DH can expect that he will probably be blind in that eye within 2 years.

So, even though the glaucoma thing is very upsetting to me, DH is more concerned about the fact that he "flunked" at the neuropsychologist's. He keeps saying "I don't want to be disabled." I said to him "well, you haven't exactly been "abled" in the last few months", and he agreed with me and then we both talked about how things are better now than they were 6 months ago, so whether its the bipolar or the brain damage, we both know things could be worse.

I think for me it will be very helpful to know exactly what the brain damage means. It'll be easier for me to plan, easier for me to accept some things, like his problems with his memory. Instead of me getting disgusted by the fact that he can't remember anything from 5 minutes ago, knowing that there is a brain injury will make it easier for me to accept. To me, knowledge is power. And he's truly no worse off mentally or physically than he was yesterday, he just has more knowledge. I'll keep you updated on what we find out.


Pann said...

Hi Carol,

You seem wise to know that knowing is better than not knowing.

Your DH's behavior makes a lot more sense when you can have some physical problem to point at and know is causing some of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carol,
Your post discribes what i have been fearing for the past couple of weeks. I personally was diagnosed with bipolar after a mixed psychotic episode and hospitalization but with very little follow up.

I am not on any medication and have started a new job with my mood fairly flat though just happy i can feed myself i suppose....but my head hurts. It has hurt for the past 6 months and my head feels like mush! I ask stupid questions and well i can't describe the humiliation of not retaining simple information regarding my new job.

I am interested to know what the outcome was for your son. Did his brain damage heal??

What may be my fate??

Anonymous said...


It it is almost 6 months since you posted your comment but PLEEEEEZE get treatment/meds for your BP condition.

Work with a good Dr and find what works for you - everybody's brain chemistry is different and there are many drugs, many dosages and many combinations.

As one Psychiatrist said: if he had to accept a mental illness for himself - he would gladly accept BP - but only if he could have treatment as well - he notes that with treatment, it is not that big a deal. However, if he had to accept BP but could not have treatment, he says that he would ask for a gun as BP without treatment is "living hell"

Secondly there is now growing evidence that untreated BP can cause increased brain damage.

And finally do you really want to inflict the consequences of BP mania/depression on those around you if you have another "episode" bearing in mind that you might be one of the last to realise that the episode has started and by that time much damage might already have been done.

Anonymous said...

I have Bipolar 1, and it has gotten increasingly severe over time. As a psych major (ended up dropping out 1 course from completion), I do a ton of my own research.

The most recent studies all indicate Brain damage/abnormalities in Bipolar patients, with a progressive loss of Grey matter, particularly in the Temporal Lobe. There are also studies that link diabetes with Bipolar, and that treatment with lithium helps to reduce and guard against the damage. Continued treatment is necessary, even if symptoms go away (I do not know if other mood stabilizers have this effect, which is why I switched back from Lamotrigine to Lithium. This was accidentally discovered when patients taking Litium were given meds from diabetes to combat and prevent the weight loss that is sometimes associated with Lithium

There is too much research to post links, but just search for "Bipolar disorder brain damage" and "bipolar disorder diabetes"

If it helps, my Grandmother was found to have shrinking of her temporal lobe, but it was assumed to be damaged caused my multiple strokes (she died of a stroke. The brain damage is not necessarily related, and it was progressive). I now suspect that it was Bipolar disorder, as no one else has any knowledge of a genetic link in our family.

But...if it helps, my Grandmother was happy, and although she super dreamy and a little out of it most of the time, she was never diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, and I do not know of mood swings.

I grew up very spaced out/dissociative, believed that I was abused by my father (now I suspect that it was psychosis), I thought I saw ghosts, memory trouble, math disability, foggy thinking, no friends, and suffered from long periods of depression.

Currently, my Bipolar disorder is manifesting as a serious anxiety disorder, so I am taking Valium (weening off of Xanax). I am tapering off Lamotrigine, on Lithium, Cipralex (this was a LIFE saver! Made me unbearably ill for months, but worth it! I take 40mg which is a high dose), and the Valium as I taper off Xanax. I don't recommend Xanax or any other benzodiazepine unless completely necessary, and then go off it asap. It causes amnesia, and loss of cognitive function, but it does help a great deal with anxiety. It's dangerous to go off of, and very addictive. I was on it for 3 years, and wish that I was well enough to stop sooner. That chunk of my life I can hardly remember