Sunday, May 6, 2007

A Confession (Part 1)

When I started this blog a few months ago, I had only communicated once before with someone who's bipolar. Although my illness was diagnosed almost 18 years ago, and I started researching it on the Internet a few years later, if you think back, the Internet was fairly new then--at least for me.

Initially, there were few sites from which to seek advice. At the time, the one I liked best was Dr. Ivan Goldberg's Depression Central. He's a well-known New York psychiatrist and researcher with credentials up the kazoo. What I liked best about his site was that it wasn't funded by pharmaceutical companies, and he included articles in their entirety. He didn't have a point of view. And he published a ton of information that I couldn't find elsewhere.

I learned a lot but I found it very depressing. Within a few years, I had evolved from an "atypical bipolar II" to a "medication resistant rapid cycler." Although I could find almost nothing on bipolar II, I learned that "medication resistant rapid cyclers" were one of the most difficult populations to treat. At the time, I felt that my reading validated the lack of success I was having with medication.

The other site I frequently turned to was Dr. Philip Long's Internet Mental Health. As far as I remember, he was the first person to provide non-biased information on medication. Each time I tried a new drug, I looked it up on his site. He, too, wasn't sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies so I felt that his information was non-biased. I tend to trust people who aren't making a profit on this illness.

When I just looked up Internet Mental Health to find the link, I see that in 2005 they launched three support groups: for bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. FYI...They say they offer "state of the art interactive psychiatric tools at their new website, MyTherapy. You can use your computer to: make psychiatric diagnoses, keep a private diary (to document, graph and statistically analyze your week-by-week progress), and test your brain (memory, concentration, verbal fluency, orientation, and thinking speed or executive functioning)."

By 1998, when the first Weblogs were launched, there were literally hundreds of different bipolar sites, many of which I was familiar with. While I spent 10 straight years researching this illness and related subjects, I never joined any of the bipolar communities. I only posted once on one site (as a visitor), and in a moment of desperation, when I was losing hope, I wrote to a group leader on another site. To her credit, she was very supportive and provided a lot of information (most of which I knew but still, I appreciated her willingness to share).

According to Rebecca Blood, who's a well-known author in the field, the blogging movement didn't take off until 1999 when Blogger was launched, and well, the rest is history. You can find the entire story on Rebecca's Pocket.

By then, I had read almost 100 books on bipolar mood disorder, depression, and related subjects. I had downloaded 1,000 pages of information. I knew about tons of sites and online support groups. Although I had literally spent years trying to find "real success stories," I couldn't find examples that resonated with me. In 2003, when I began seeing the doctor of integrative medicine, I began researching wellness and healing and stopped researching all things bipolar.

And now for the confession...a few months ago after I arranged to have my new book published, Bipolar Depression Unplugged: A Survivor Speaks Out, I decided to launch this blog. Over the years, I'd tried writing a few other blogs--even a few on this subject--but never stayed with it. As I have mentioned before, when I'm depressed it's never made me feel better to share my darkest feelings. When I'm hypomanic, I've never been interested in thinking about this illness.

For most of my life, I never thought that my illness defined me. Still, I've been writing my memoir, on and off, for the duration of my illness. For more than 15 years, I've written essays about being bipolar in diaries and journals. I've also written bipolar song lyrics. My career as an author stalled because there was nothing else I wanted to write about besides this illness.

(to be continued)


"Dootz" said...

Susan, I hope you keep writing about your illness and what you've learned. There's a dearth of good -- and good-humored -- writing on bipolar and your work fits the need.

Also, there's a dearth of good science out there, so thanks for all the referrals to other sites in this Confession Part I. I look forward to Part II!


JayPeeFreely said...

Very uique post...I can relate - I really can - to the ideas, path and circumstances you have dwelt in for a number of years.

I hope you succeed in the further explanation, correctly, of what goes on with people that are often blessed, but often constrained, by this situation.

I'll try to keep up with your thoughts.

Polly said...

I started journalling online about my illness in 1999, but none of my older journals are still online. I also stopped doing it for quite a while. It's weird to be blogging about it again.

I'm treatment resistant, but that label has only ever been applied to me by myself. Most of the doctors I have seen appear to believe that if the first or second drug you try doesn't work, it must mean you're personality disordered or schizophrenic rather than manic-depressive (or that you're manic-depressive but not trying hard enough to get better) and not treatment resistant.