Will Lithium Help?

I can’t help thinking of my poor bipolar brother-in-law while reviewing the news in Turkey for 2009 vis-à-vis the Kurds.  The ups and downs have been jarring, to say the least.  Both my brother-in-law and Ankara are in need of some serious pharmacological interventions if they want to survive 2010.

So I’m stuck in a café for a few hours with my laptop and I decided to look through some online websites to see what the parallels were between a bipolar person and a bipolar country.  My unscientific, though convincing, findings are below.  The parallels are uncanny.  I do want to apologise in advance to any bipolar readers or those of you who have bipolar family members for what may seem to be an irreverent posting.

The text I lifted from the various medical websites is in italics.  My comments follow.

Causes of bipolar disorder are not exactly known, but there is much speculation that it is heavily involved with genetics. Genetics.  The Ottoman Empire gave birth to the Turkish Republic.  Okay, like father, like son.

Bipolar patients have also been known in many cases to have suffered childhood abuse and/or trauma. The Treat of Sèvres, Great fire of Smyrna in 1922, Attatürk’s death in 1938, Erzincan earthquake of 1939 (30,000 dead).  The new republic suffered lots of trauma at a young age.

Symptoms for bipolar disorder are varied and depend on the individual, but in general, they are divided into manic and hypomanic episodes, and depressive and mixed episodes. Some people (countries) will have more of one type of episode and some people (countries) really do vacillate back and forth equally between both.

The primary symptoms of bipolar disorder are dramatic and unpredictable mood swings. Here’s a new TV channel in Kurdish, Erdoğan speaks Kurdish; Türk speaks Kurdish in parliament, an outrageous provocation!  Please have a washing machine and vote AKP, DTP trounces the AKP in the elections in the southeast, mass detentions of DTP officials. The Kurdish opening!, euphoria, wait…er, make that the Democratic Initiative, 34 Kurds return home.  How dare they celebrate! Depression. Close the DTP, arrest every Kurdish politician in sight.  How about the BDP?  Arrest them too! Say that everything is fine.  Keep saying you will push ahead with the Kur-, uh, Democratic Initiative despite ‘setbacks.’

Mania symptoms may include excessive happiness, excitement, irritability, restlessness, increased energy, racing thoughts, and a tendency to make grand and unattainable plans. Grand and unattainable plans: The Kurdish opening?

Bipolar disorder patients often suffer dysphoric psychosis, which can make a person think the most awful, disgusting, shameful, racial and violent thoughts. As terrible as this is, it’s normal. Hey, it’s normal!  That makes it easier to accept the racism and violence.

Psychotic symptoms are the result of abnormal neurochemistry, but the content of hallucinations and delusions incorporate figures and themes such as Jesus or Chairman Mao that are understood in a cultural context. For example, a person in Saudi Arabia may have delusions about Mohammed. People often draw from images of power and authority whether they are euphoric or dysphoric. Euphoric visions of grandeur could be about Napoleon or the president or even a famous movie actor. I remember for a while after Elvis died that for about five years people thought they were Elvis or that Elvis spoke to them, but then that ended. Jesus, of course, has been a constant. I guess how enduring a person is as a character in a delusion is a testament to the impact they had. Attatürk. Attatürk. Attatürk.

Bipolar disorder can be sneaky. Symptoms can defy the expected manic-depressive sequence. Totally.

Bipolar disorder is often not recognized by the patient, relatives, or friends.  Even when family and friends learn to recognize the mood swings, the individual often will deny that anything is wrong. Some oft-heard comments: ‘We are all brothers.’  ‘There is no problem between the Turks and the Kurds.’  ‘Many famous politicians were Kurdish.’  ‘The Kurds they have all the same opportunities as the Turks.’  ‘There is no problem here!’

And finally, the topic header in a discussion board: Bipolar disorder is a strange and scary bitch. Will lithium help?

UPDATE: April 2010 It is with a deep sadness that I have to say that my brother-in-law did not survive 2010.  He passed on while in police custody…in an unnamed Middle Eastern country.  We will remember you always, Ahmed!


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