About

Bipolar HK is Hong Kong’s first peer-led bipolar support network. We are a collective of Hong Kong-based professionals, students, writers & artists, the majority of whom live with bipolar disorder. Our mission: to fight the stigma and stereotypes attached to mental illness in Hong Kong (while also occasionally – and mischievously – reveling in them). Most importantly of all, we’re here to remind YOU that you’re not alone in your quest for innovative and creative ways of managing your mood disorder.

Whether you have been diagnosed with bipolar, or suspect you might have bipolar, whether you’re Bipolar 1, or Bipolar 2, whether you hate your mood disorder, or LOVE your mood disorder, we’re here to remind you that you are far from alone. In fact, you share your mood disorder with one in twenty Hongkongers. (The rest are just nuts.)

Bipolar Hong Kong is your chance to unite with others like you, explore and experiment with fresh ways of reducing your bipolar symptoms, receive the peer support you need and deserve, and perhaps change the way you view your mood disorder forever, as well as the way others perceive you.

If you’re looking for 100% fact-proven medical advice written by a leading psychiatrist with a jumble of indecipherable letters after his/ her name, this site is not for you. But if you are looking for provocative theories based on self-research and personal experiences, peer advice (including details of Hong Kong’s Bipolar Support Group), alternative remedies, creative inspiration and humor, join us!

Relax. Go crazy! Be yourself. Be anyone else your bipolar mind has created. After all, if we can’t share our experiences in a 100% confidential, supportive, creative environment and occasionally laugh at ourselves, we’re probably screwed. 

The striking artwork on this site is courtesy of our friends at Art Saves Lives, a non-profit arts organization delivering free inspirational and inclusive art projects to disadvantaged and marginalized artists. You can also share your stories (credited or anonymously) in the quarterly Art Saves Lives Magazine

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Panel 1

‘The Bipolar Express’ on RTHK

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The Bipolar Express broadcasted on RTHK Saturday March 5th 2016

New RTHK documentary on bipolar disorder. Come ride The Bipolar Express! 

Check out the doc on the Radio Television Hong Kong website HERE

The Bipolar Express is an irreverent 30-minute roller coaster through the euphoric highs and debilitating lows of the bipolar mind. Produced and presented for RTHK Radio 3 by Sadie Kaye, guests include Central Health psychiatrist and Hong Kong’s leading expert on Bipolar Disorder, Dr. Barry Connell, local comics Ruben M and Josh Walters and Hong Kong ballet star Kiki Wong. Expect the unexpected in this quirky documentary, which RTHK Controller Hugh Chiverton has praised as “funny, engaging and enlightening, really original – an enthralling piece.”

The documentary was Highly Commended by the Association For International Broadcasting in November 2015 at the AIB Media Excellence Awards in London. Read what the judges had to say about the doc below. 

http://aib.org.uk/AIBs15/Winners_Book.pdf

In June 2016 the doc received an internal Radio Television Hong Kong Award

LINKS

The Bipolar Express on the RTHK Website 

Sadie Kaye’s Website

The Bipolar Express at the AIB Awards

The Bipolar Express Podcast 

AIB’s Award Factual Excellence – TVB Europe 

AIB Awards Announce Winners

AIB’s 2015 Winner’s Book

2016 RTHK Award Winning

RTHK Podcast

The Bipolar Express on Radio Television Hong Kong 

The Bipolar Express on iTunes 

The Bipolar Express on IMDb

 

Panel 2

Support Group

If even your imaginary friend thinks you have mental problems, Hong Kong’s first BIPOLAR SUPPORT GROUP could be for you. EVERYBODY WELCOME!

We are a motley crew of Hong Kong-based professionals, artists and students who have each, at some recent or long ago stage in our lives, been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Our support groups are peer-led by us. By sharing our stories and being afforded an opportunity to vent to those who have a far better chance of being able to understand us than our non-bipolar friends and family, we have each found the benefits of meeting regularly.

PLEASE NOTE: We used to meet at 7pm on the last Monday of every month at Starbucks Sai Kung. However, due to popular demand from Centralites (who equate a 40 minute bus journey to Sai Kung with a space voyage to the Moon) we now alternate between Sai Kung and Starbucks on Duddell Street in the heart of Central. So, monthly meetings won’t always be a few steps from your door, but you won’t always have to make the pilgrimage to Sai Kung either.

Should you prefer to attend group from the comfort of your own home, email us your Skype details. If you wish to keep your mental health a secret even from us (!), you are probably being a little paranoid (we’ve all been there!) but you can still join our support group anonymously by setting up a fake Skype address and wearing a wig, fake mustache, beard and robbing your Granny’s glasses (unless you are a granny and already wear glasses, in which case don’t bother – just squint at the screen.)

We look forward to welcoming you to our Peer-Led Bipolar Support Group – Hong Kong’s first! – in whatever shape, form or attire you wish to join us! 

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This is NOT what goes down at monthly Bipolar HK Support Group meetings

Panel 3

Helping a Loved One with Bipolar Disorder

Respect to you! It can be a nightmare caring for a loved one with bipolar disorder! Trust me, I’m bipolar….

During the extremes of our bipolarity, we are incapable of seeing things from your perspective. We are relentlessly inconsiderate of your feelings. It’s always ten steps up, twenty steps down with us. We’re exhausting. And the worst of it is: when we’re wrapped up in the chaotic irrational thinking that heralds our extreme mood states, believe me – you and your feelings don’t enter our minds for a nanosecond. Not when we’re so far removed from our own personalities. And what you don’t understand scares you. Sometimes, you’re frantically trying to protect us by predicting our thoughts (you’re not even close, Mystic Meg), tortured by premonitions of behavioral worst case scenarios that haven’t happened yet, and possibly never will. You’ve been tippy-toeing on eggshells around us for soooo long in your own home, you now have a permanent limp and secretly fear you’re the crazy one. And by the way, if you think you’re “normal”, you could probably use some therapy yourself….

Whether we’ve retreated into our second womb (our bed) for days, or we’re bouncing off the ceiling, caring for a bipolar loved one during the extremes of bipolarity can be strenuous. If your own mental health is suffering, or in jeopardy, it’s time to step back from the fire. Sacrificing yourself to support us is not doing either of us any good. While your support is invaluable to our recovery, we need YOU to be healthy and strong, not pretending to be healthy and strong, like a bad vaudeville actor. We’re bipolar, we’re not stupid.

 So, how can you realistically help us without damaging yourself?

The first way you can help yourself is to research our disorder. It won’t make you an expert on what’s going on in our minds, but it will clarify that it’s not personal, it’s a mood disorder.

The second most important thing you can do for us (my own bipolar point of view, of course) is offer us endless hope and encouragement by believing in the hope and encouragement you proffer. With bipolar disorder, it’s a mathematical certainty that any abnormal psychology we’re experiencing will pass, so you can be utterly genuine in reminding us we won’t be feeling this way for ever, while retaining your own healthily detached perspective – and you can be absolutely certain that you are right. (Just don’t keep reminding us in a running commentary loop of I-told-you-so’s.)

If you’ve got the time and energy to do so without sacrificing your own needs, you can also help by keeping a track of our moods – how long they last and the symptoms. By doing this, you become a partner in our treatment, without fear of becoming a nag. This is reassuring for both of us. We’ve all got our limits and unless you’re a clone, your limits will be entirely different to your friend’s limits or another family member’s limits. Don’t think “Ooh, maybe I should be doing more?” Set healthy realistic personal boundaries based on your own limits. We want you to be healthy and well, so we have someone to turn to, even aspire to. Despite what we may say, we want you to support us, but not as malfunctioning robots.

We need you to encourage us to seek support and continue our treatment, even when we’re feeling miraculously “cured”. If it sounds too good to be true, then it is. Because when we’re psychotically euphoric about how amazing our life is, how well we are, and how enthusiastic we are about everything and everyone, the last place you are likely to find us is sat in a doctor’s surgery, waiting patiently for a check up, or a repeat prescription of meds. We need you to be our emotional compass. Preferably without pissing on our enthusiasm, because we’ll remember your sarcasm the next time we’re “GOING DOWN!!!” to depression. I’m a rapid cycler, so you may find it helpful to think of me as a high-speed elevator. Got the picture? Okay, good. But whether we’re elevators, or take the stairs, it’s the same old shit we experience over and over again.

NEVER wait to see if we get better. If we’re suicidal, or doing the loop da loopy, encourage us to see a doctor and get treatment straight away. It may just be our regular dysfunctional personality shining through, but if you’re concerned, don’t take risks. With severe bipolar depression and ‘mixed episodes’ (when we’re simultaneously manic and depressed), there is always a risk of suicide. Be as patient and as soothing as you can, without driving yourself to a nervous breakdown.

If you can’t afford to pay for your loved one to see an expensive psychiatrist, there are other free, hugely beneficial things you can do to help. You can find out the nearest bipolar support group in your area, drive your loved one there yourself, call the Samaritans, find your nearest bipolar charity. You can cook them a delicious meal full of naturally mood-stabilizing ingredients, suggest vitamins, and you can encourage us to get outdoors. We need Vitamin D. Even if we’re weeping and wailing, or lashing out verbally (if we’re being violent, call a healthcare specialist immediately), we’ll be humbled by your selfless support once our extreme mood state stabilizes. And they will stabilize. Having bipolar disorder does not mean constant yo-yoing from one end of the bipolar spectrum to the other. That really would be exhausting. We generally experience long periods of mood stability, where we’re more grounded than you are, between our extreme ups and downs. This is one of the main difficulties we face in achieving an accurate early diagnosis.

You’re not responsible for your loved one’s mood, but you can help us to help ourselves. Support groups are our chance to open up about our struggles, experiences and “enthusiasms” to a sympathetic bunch of people who have been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. Ok, they’re not clones of your loved one with identical personalities and experiences of bipolarity, but they still have a far greater chance of being able to offer constructive advice and support than you do. And even if your loved one’s not in some kind of therapy, the chances are they are. We also offer 121 peer mentoring, where we grab a coffee (ironically, since caffeine’s bad for us) once a month and speak on the phone. Family members of a loved one who is struggling with bipolar disorder are also invited to attend our monthly support group meetings. Together, we can help your loved one manage mood swings and offer any crisis support.

To summarize, dealing with our bipolar ups and downs can be hugely testing, traumatic, and extremely difficult when we’re experiencing extremities of mood. The important thing is not to do it all on your own. Encourage your loved one to take advantage of all the support he/ she can get their hands on without bankrupting yourself, or them. (There is a good chance we’ll have already bankrupted ourselves thanks to our irrational impulses to spend, spend, spend when manic.) Make sure you are kind to yourself; set responsible healthy boundaries based on your own limits, and encourage us to do the same. Don’t be our emotional crutch. Help us to help ourselves. You’re only as stressed as you allow yourself to get. Accept our illness for what it is and don’t confuse our character with our moods. It’s not personal, it’s an illness. Resist the temptation to denounce our enthusiasm, or tell us it’s not real, even when it isn’t. If you trample on our hopes, we will become hopeless. Encourage us to lead active, fulfilling lives, but don’t force us to smell the roses. (We’ll smell them when we’re ready to smell them – and not everybody enjoys the stink.)

When we’re coping, we’re coping: trust us to manage our moods without you. Don’t waste your time wondering what’s going on in our minds. Be mindful of your own mind. Be our encourager, not our jailer. The past is history. Yes, our illness, especially pre-diagnosis, is likely to mean we’ve behaved reprehensibly, shamefully, deeply hurtfully, perhaps unforgivably (that’s your choice to decide, not ours) at times. But the future is a mystery. If we’re already accepting treatment, don’t worry endlessly about things that haven’t happened yet and probably never will. It’s up to all of us individually to mend, build or burn bridges. The present as a gift.

You may not feel it deeply enough, but on behalf of myself and your bipolar loved one, WE ARE SO ETERNALLY GRATEFUL FOR ALL YOUR LOVE & SUPPORT!

Mania warning signs and symptoms:

  • Sleeping less

  • Inexplicable elevated mood (though if the person with bipolar disorder’s a natural optimist, this can be tricky)

  • Restlessness

  • Speaking rapidly (yackety-yak-yak-yak) and more loudly than usual

  • Increase in activity level

  • Behaving inappropriately and irrationally

  • Irritability or aggression

  • No appetite

Depression warning signs and symptoms:

  • Fatigue and lethargy

  • Sleeping more (or staying in bed all day)

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Loss of interest in activities

  • Withdrawing from others

  • Change in appetite (eating more or less)

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Panel 4

What is Bipolar Disorder?

For those who know little or nothing about it, bipolar disorder (formerly known and arguably more conveniently explained as manic depression) is a complex mental illness defined by dramatic and unusual mood episodes of extreme highs (mania) and lows (depression). Symptoms affect mood, sleep, energy, thinking, behavior and appetite, representing a sudden, dramatic change from the person with bipolar disorder’s apparent ‘normal’ self.

Our bipolar mood swings can be profoundly destructive and very disruptive to our own lives, as well as to the lives of our families and close friends. They can also be profoundly enjoyable. In manic periods, we are elated, ecstatic, reckless, impulsive and volatile. Our judgment is severely impaired as imagination and reality blur and we can hallucinate and experience prolonged delusions (often of grandeur).

In depression mode, we feel utterly worthless, self-disgusted, suicidal, and isolate ourselves from friends and loved ones. A frightening 25% of we bipolar types will succeed in killing ourselves. There is no single magic pill or instant cure for bipolar disorder at present. It is something we must learn to live with. However, with appropriate treatment and a switch to a healthier diet and lifestyle, we really can beat the worst of our symptoms.

Mental illness runs in families and is so commonplace that almost everyone on the planet will have a relation who has suffered from mental illness, whether it was diagnosed during their lifetime or not. A staggering 40% of the world’s population will suffer from some form of mental illness and experts believe that figure is rising, as the world itself becomes increasingly bipolar. 

Bipolar HK provides a roadmap for people with bipolar and other mental illnesses on improving diet and making choices that can improve both our mental and physical health. With psychiatric help, meds, a strong support network, regular exercise and a switch to a healthy diet for our bodies and our minds, bipolarity is no barrier to leading a highly successful, personally and professionally rewarding life.

Useful Links on Bipolar Disorder:

Mind – the mental health charity

Central Health (HK)

Sanofi Medical Site (HK)

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Panel 5

Managing Bipolar

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The following article talks about ways to manage bipolar disorder and things you can do in addition to taking medication.

Often it seems that bipolar disorder dictates and dominates the lives of sufferers, but bipolar disorder CAN be managed. Managing bipolar disorder is much more than getting diagnosed and taking prescribed medication.

Some of the strategies people can use to manage bipolar disorder (and live a healthier life anyway) include:

  • Project management

  • Rational thinking

  • Meditation

  • Walking / swimming

  • Nutrition

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Project management for bipolar disorder is a life-long project whose goals are to keep illness at bay and live the fullest, happiest, most successful life that you want. Because there are two goals there are two groups of strategies.

To keep mental illness at bay, first learn to recognize your own particular idiosyncratic symptoms of becoming unwell. Secondly, plan how you will respond to those early warning signs. Involve your partner / family/ doctor/ shrink/ support group member/ peer mentor and decide together how you will stop your mood disorder or mental illness from getting worse. Organize what you will do when you spot the signs of getting very sick, so that you and your own “Early Warning Team” can all spring into action, be safe and take good care for you in a crisis.

  • To live your life to the fullest, try not to become overwhelmed by gloomy thoughts of bipolar, mental hospitals, or how you have to rebuild your life. When we think about those things, we are stereotyping ourselves and acting out the stigma associated with mental illness so that more non-bipolar people can judge us and remain ignorant of our condition.

  • Get your life back into the mainstream! Mix with people who do not have a mental illness outside of your support group.

  • Get a job, do some charity work for a cause that matters to you; set goals, live your dreams, play tennis, go skating, join a choir, get some running shoes and use them!

  • When you are ready, go back to your old dreams or create some new dreams, then follow them!

RATIONAL THINKING

In the face of difficulty, rational thinking says, ‘I have a problem that I had better deal with.’ Too often, (and bipolar disorder makes this harder), we tend to say ‘I have a problem that is too big and too hard to fix, so I will just be miserable, or angry, instead of dealing with it.’

Depression

Between the two extremes of our bipolarity, when we are experiencing periods of ‘mood normalcy’ (whatever that is), we have a clear choice: we can think like a stoic, or we can give up and find ourselves at the mercy of future events. If, when well, you assume that you will be able to find a positive solution to your problems, then you are far more likely to find one!

However, try not to be hard on yourself if you can’t think this way. After all, our bipolar depression affects our thinking, attitude and shitty outlook as well as our mood.

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Rational thinking also compels us to seek alternative natural remedies when our medication fails, or our bipolar moods transcend our medication and we are in need of a boost.

WALKING, SWIMMING, MEDITATION

As our mind slows and changes during meditation, rhythmic brainwaves have been observed. It has been found that rhythmic activities benefit everyone, regardless of whether it is rhythm of the mind, or rhythm of the body: the benefits of walking briskly five hours a week have been shown to lift even moderately severe depression! So get outside in the (moderately to severe) fresh air and take a hike! Meditation, too, improves our sense of well-being.

NUTRITION

According to nutritional medicine, there are at least three biochemical subtypes of bipolar disorder. Depending on your subtype, there will be a specific range of supplements that will help you manage your mood disorder symptoms. If you visit a nutritional medicine practitioner, they will carry out detailed biological tests and the results will then indicate the supplements you need.

Nutritional supplements that are hugely useful in treating bipolar disorder include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids

  • B group and other vitamins

  • Sea salt

  • Alkaline water or diet.

These are just a few of the coping strategies you can use to manage bipolar disorder and live a happy, successful and fulfilled life. Part of the journey to the life you want is researching and discovering your own coping strategies and remedies. Find what works for you, and follow those steps! Then, share them on our site! They may work for others too!

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