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A simulation of a month living with BiPolar Disorder
A simulation of a month living with BiPolar Disorder
138 backers pledged $1,120 to help bring this project to life.
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Break Kickstarter - Bipolar Explorer

$1,120

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Living with bipolar disorder is not a fun game.

In fact, for 5.6 million adult Americans, their families, friends, and acquaintances, bipolar disorder is not a game.

Most adults with bipolar disorder lead fairly normal lives. They're all around you -- neighbors, teachers, nurses, coworkers.

Bipolar Explorer is a tool to help people understand what it is like to live with bipolar disorder by simulating a month with the condition.

Disclaimer

I am not a mental health professional – the purpose is not to diagnose, or treat any mental health issues, but to educate and help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness – bipolar disorder in particular.

If you are experiencing extreme emotions, moods, or thoughts of suicide, please seek help. In the United States, you can call 1-800-273-8255, twenty four hours a day and speak with someone.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

The National Institute of Mental Health describes bipolar disorder as “a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day to day tasks.

There are four basic types of bipolar disorder, classified by the severity of mood and the frequency and duration of their shifts.

People with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotions, atypical sleep patterns, and activity levels.

During a manic, or “up” episode, people may experience:

  • lots of energy
     
  • feeling jumpy or wired
     
  • trouble sleeping
     
  • agitation or feeling “touchy”
     
  • feeling like their thoughts are going very fast
     
  • doing risky things or poor impulse control
     

During a depressive, or “down” episode, people may experience:

  • low energy and activity levels
     
  • trouble sleeping – either too much or too little
     
  • feeling sad, down, or hopeless
     
  • trouble concentrating
     
  • forgetfulness
     
  • thinking about death or suicide
     

These are not a complete list of symptoms, nor will everyone necessarily have all of these symptoms. Sometimes a mood episode may include symptoms of both manic and depressive moods at the same time. Or they may experience less severe moods.

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder needs to be made by a mental health professional.

About The Project

I had originally wanted to do this project and campaign as a "Break Kickstarter" -- a campaign which turns the typical Kickstarter campaign on its head. It's very much geared toward that end in its design and the quirks -- like a (mostly) silent video and running the simulation live during the course of the campaign.

Bipolar Explorer is a tool to help people understand what it is like to live with bipolar disorder by simulating a month with the condition.

How it Works

The main interface is the mood tracker, which looks like this:

Moodtracker
Moodtracker

 Here's a guide to the Mood Tracker:

Annotated Mood Tracker

A pencil and deck of cards (not included) are needed to fill in the mood tracker.

For each day of the month, you draw a card and based upon the card certain events can happen:

  • Mood changes
  • Symptoms
  • Events triggered by symptoms

Additionally, certain days of the month have events - these are indicated by the colored columns on the tracker.

A month's run might look something like this (previous version of the tracker):

Sample run of the simulator
Sample run of the simulator

Each run of the simulator is different, though common patterns emerge between runs. In total, over 25000 runs of the simulation have been performed during testing.

There are some simplifications which the simulation makes:

  • You work five days a week & are paid ($1) each day for your work.
  • For simplicity, bills are reduced to food, medication, and rent. A day's work gives you $1. Two weeks' food is also $1. Rent is $6, and medication is $3.
  • If you go without sleep for over three nights, you miss a day of work because you're too tired to work.
  • If you miss three (3) days of work, you lose your job.
  • The simulation cycles a bit faster than many people with bipolar disorder do -- it only runs for 28 days and I'm trying to give a taste.

The simplifications make the simulation more accessible and reduce the complexity.

The campaign will also feature a run of the simulation – each day of the campaign will have an update which focuses on a simulated day with the results from the tool. Additionally, to keep it real, I’ll be adding simulated diary entries -- as if the simulation were happening in “real life”.

A sample update would look something like this:

Day 4

You are Moderately Manic today.

You are currently experiencing the following symptom(s):

Excitable

You have $6.

You've missed two nights of sleep, it's starting to catch up with you.

You have 10 day(s) of meds.

You have 3 day(s) of food.

You have missed 0 days of work.

Dear Diary--

I couldn’t sleep last night (again). I had an idea for a new project and it was so exciting – I had to do work on it, just so that I could get some sleep.

I really think this project is very important! I think I can get it done pretty quickly, too.

I’m a little tired, but I can sleep tonight.

At the end of the campaign, contributors will receive their rewards.

Why Bipolar Explorer?

Living with bipolar disorder is a journey – there is no magick wand or fairy godmother to wish it away. It takes work and dedication. The sooner you seek help and start treating it, the better.

I lived with undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder for many years. It affected my health, finances, jobs, and relationships with others. In the process, I hurt a lot of people, made a lot of poor choices, and engaged in a lot of impulsive or risky behaviours which were not healthy or good for anyone.

Once I sought help, it took a long time and a lot of hard work to become stable. I still have bipolar symptoms, but I had achieved the ability to mostly recognize the symptoms and to mitigate them.

My tools include self introspection, cognitive therapy, and medication which helps to moderate the extreme moods.

In 2017, I had a reaction to medication – the pharmacy changed to a different manufacturer for my prescription and I was not absorbing the medication properly. Over the course of a couple weeks, I saw my symptions deteriorating – I tried taking the med earlier and earlier to try to achieve my usual state. I ended up in the hospital.

The issue has since been resolved, thanks to a doctor and an excellent pharmacist. Things are getting better.

During that ordeal I lost a lot of ground. I lost a lot of hard work, and it really sucks! I am still not back to where I had been prior to the episode.

But some good has come of it, I believe. I have become a lot more open about bipolar disorder, and am striving as an advocate to educate, inform, and reduce the stigma of bipolar disorder and other mental health issues.

Creating this tool is an effort to help educate people about bipolar disorder and how it affects the lives of others.

How can you help?

On old maps, there are places labeled “Here Be Dragons” - the unfamiliar, the unknown. As humans, our imagination spins fantasies to fill those empty spaces on the map, and we are more likely to fill them with cautionary tales than with those of the fantastic. Don’t do X – you don’t know what’s there; you might get lost, hurt, killed, or worse.

But time passes, and as people explore, there are fewer and fewer dragons left on the map. The unknown becomes familiar, and now we can see and interact with people and places on the other side of the world. The unknown is known; dragons and fear give way to understanding.

The same is true with mental health issues – as we learn, explore, and come to understand, we remove stigma and taboo. This allows people to be accepted and once more part of society. This is the true goal and reason for Bipolar Explorer.

First and foremost, you can help through self-education and helping to educate others. Far too often, there is a very strong stigma attached to mental health and a taboo against speaking out or acknowledging it.

Education shines a light into darkness and allows people to talk more about mental health. Mental illness is a health problem - like diabetes, but with far more stigma.

Education makes it easier to talk about it and leads to acceptance, understanding, and assistance for those who have bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.

Your contribution to this project will bring this tool to life - to help you and others learn more about bipolar disorder. More importantly, you can help after the campaign by sharing what you’ve learned with others, being more open and understanding of mental health, and becoming an ally of those who have bipolar and other mental health issues.

Reviews


Interviews

Stretch Goals

Risks and challenges

Bipolar Explorer has been extensively tested -- over 25,000 runs of the simulation have been performed. The rules are stable, and all that remains is the final layout and printing of the booklet.

If stretch goals are met, then there will be a little time before the website or the mobile app are delivered. I have been working in IT for 30 years and have done web development since 1995. I have the technical skills and understanding to be able to produce the website and mobile app. Moreover, a rough draft of the software was used to test the simulation. Despite downtime producing a website and/or apps (if unlocked), backers will receive regular progress updates, screenshots, etc. There's nothing I hate more than a poorly communicated project!

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1

    Supporter

    Show your support for Mental Health Education. No physical reward for you, but your support will help inform and educate others.

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    1 backer
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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $2 or more About $2

    PDF Print & Play

    PDF Print & Play edition of Bipolar Explorer

    Includes:
    • PDF of Bipolar Explorer
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    49 backers
    $

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Printed Copy of Bipolar Explorer

    Receive a printed copy by mail.

    Includes PDF Edition

    Includes:
    • PDF of Bipolar Explorer
    • Printed copy for yourself
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    36 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    PDF for Me & Give a Book

    This reward is a bit of both worlds. You get a PDF copy of the simulator, and a printed copy is given in your name.

    Includes:
    • PDF of Bipolar Explorer
    • Printed copy for a mental health organization
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    14 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Get One, Give One

    Receive a printed copy by mail. A copy will be sent in your name to a mental health educational organization.

    Includes PDF Edition

    Includes:
    • PDF of Bipolar Explorer
    • Printed copy for yourself
    • Printed copy for a mental health organization
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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    35 backers
    $

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    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

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Funding period

- (28 days)