Is post-mood episode cognitive impairment permanent?
April 9, 2012 3:05 PM Subscribe
Significant cognitive impairment following first major bipolar manic/mixed episode -- is it permanent?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a 30ish woman recovering from my first six months of full-on bipolar 1. After a lifetime of short, severe depressive cycles, I entered my first manic episode about six months ago. It was bad. I ended up in inpatient treatment for a weekend. Once I got out, I careened straight into a classic mixed episode -- angry, irritable, but full of energy and ready to destroy the fuck out of everything I knew and loved. I then spent a week in the hospital and came out much better. New meds, more mindful approach to life in general.
I've always been an extremely high-functioning person. Excellent memory, quick thinker, organized and logical to a fault. I've been very successful in life. I'm a well-known expert in my field and I have a great job with a ton of responsibility (and pay to match).
However, since I left the hospital the second time, I haven't been able to think straight. I have no short-term memory. I can't recall basic facts. I don't remember what I wrote at the top of this post, for christ's sake. I make dumb spelling mistakes. I get lost at Target. I spend impulsively. I can't organize and prioritize tasks to save my life. I haven't been able to return to work -- my entire job is thinking fast, prioritizing and delegating tasks under extreme pressure, and not losing track of anything -- and I know I can't do it anymore. It's humiliating. Instead, I go to art classes and cry when I can't follow the directions, even though I was paying attention. Cognitively, I'm half the person I was six months ago. (I know it looks like I can write fine, but I rely on spellcheck and heavy editing to remove the statements I repeated because I couldn't remember I already stated them. That might be normal for some people, but it is NOT normal for me.)
My doctor says this kind of "executive dysfunction" is normal during recovery. It's not the lithium or the Seroquel, it's just me, and I'll get better. Then I see articles like this, suggesting that cognitive impairment is just part of the disease: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22329479
I mean, jesus, the tests they list there are tests I know I would fail right now. It's terrifying.
I feel like an athlete who's been in an accident and may never walk again.
I'm looking for personal anecdotes and more journal articles discussing my situation in particular -- late-life diagnoses of otherwise normal and successful people. Is the cognitive impairment that's apparently a normal part of bipolar 1, will it affect people who never had it before? Or is my doctor right, that it's just part of recovery and I'll get better?