Monday, March 26, 2007

Writing To Heal (Part 1)

I've always known that my ability to write about all the horrific experiences I've encountered since my diagnosis literally saved my life. At every stage in the process, I wrote about what was going on. I wrote to try and make sense of the experience.

Almost nothing my succession of psychiatrists did made sense to me. It didn't make sense when they told me bipolar depression was a "mental illness." It didn't make sense when they gave me medication that made me sicker rather than better. It didn't make sense when they said it would take weeks or a month for the medication to "kick in" although they weren't sure if it would "kick in."

It didn't make sense that none of the medication worked and I was labeled "medication resistant." It didn't make sense that the medication not only pushed me into my first manic episode but it also made the depressive episodes last longer and become more severe. It didn't make sense that the medication caused erratic behavior that I'd never experienced before. Finally, it didn't made sense that the medication caused rapid cycling and so I became a bipolar II medication resistant rapid cycler. get my drift. So, I wrote about everything that was happening. At first, I wrote sad stuff because I felt my doctors were destroying my life, I needed help, and I didn't know where to turn. But the sad stuff made me feel more sad. Then I wrote with humor because I figured that poking fun at my doctors and my illness was the only sport in which I could participate.

Then I wrote song lyrics (to old songs that I love), dialogues, monologues, a book, letters, prayers, a few different blogs, journal entries, and so much more. What I didn't realize was that this was all part of a method of healing called Emergent Emotion Therapy that was pioneered by Dr. James Pennebaker at the University of Texas.

Stay tuned for Part II. In the meantime, visit Dr. Pennebaker's website at the University of Texas. It's great. Go to the Online Research section. He provides a bunch of easy tests you can take to learn more about yourself. I thought they were great fun and quite illuminating.


Rob Johnson said...


What are your thoughts on Dr. Pennebaker's book "Writing to Heal"?



Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

This is the seminal book in the field and well-worth reading. He's got great exercises to do, and he's just such an important writer and researcher in the area.