Thursday, November 29, 2007

Where Are The Bipolar Success Stories (Follow-Up)

There was a burst of activity on the subject of "Where Are the Bipolar Success Stories? (Part 1) so I decided to follow up. First, I'd like to thank casdok, JayPeeFreely, Syd, and Marja for their contributions. I've highlighted a few of their comments but I'm hoping you'll read them in their entirety.

casdok who has an autistic son found the post to be "Food for thought indeed." Perhaps she has similar feelings about the way autism is perceived and the way the media portrays it.

JayPeeFreely wrote, "I always find that love is missing from the hearts of people that can't rightly know what it is that people depressed or (psychotic) endure through. They just can't put aside their pre-conceived, pre-ordained notions as to what people under this problem have to get through."

I couldn't agree more!

Syd wrote, "Unfortunately the media chooses to focus on the most extreme and disturbing cases because they make for higher ratings. And to be honest, many within the BP community perpetuate the 'awfulness' of this disorder by focusing almost exclusively on how terrible their lives are."


Marja wrote, "...I believe that, one day, psychiatrists will subdivide bipolar into a bunch of different illnesses. I think there's a great difference between us in the way we suffer. The bipolar 1 that I suffer with had been hell for me for many many years, with many psychotic episodes. That must be different from those who have depression as their primary symptom."

I share this view completely. Although I didn't know a single bipolar person before I began writing this blog, it is clear to me from the comments I've read in the last ten months (and the other bipolar blogs I've visited) that people experience this illness totally differently.

I think there is a huge difference between people who come to this illness from the manic side and those of us who come to it from the depressive side. I believe that people who suffer from psychotic episodes have a completely different experience from those of us who don't. I also can tell you from experience that bipolar medication can cause "quasi-psychotic" behavior for people who have never experienced it before (and won't again after they stop taking the drugs).

I find it inconceivable that the doctors and researchers who study this illness lump everyone together and prescribe medication with a "one size fits all" mentality.

And finally, in response to another comment by Marja about my feeling that working in a mental illness facility isn't "uplifting," it just goes to show you--once again--how different we are.

While Marja hosts a weekly support group for people suffering from mental illness at her church (and I think it's terrific), that would be a tremendous "downer" for me. What I have learned, over time, is that I need to focus on wellness, not illness. I read very few bipolar blogs because, as I've mentioned before, I don't find them uplifting. Being with people who are depressed depresses me.

While I would agree that I am a bipolar success story, I'm not a member of any mental health organization nor do I plan on joining one. In fact, I'm even having difficulty publicizing my new book: Bipolar Depression Unplugged. My problem is that while I believe the book provides important and unique insights about the way bipolar depression is treated--oh so badly as we all know--my focus is more on illness than wellness.

I wrote the book because the act of writing about my treatment saved my life. I could never have survived such an idiotic, inhumane, ineffective, and downright horrific treatment regimen without being able to poke fun at it. And I want others to understand that they are not alone. Most of all I want them to know that if I could survive 120 depressive episodes, so can they.

But...and this is a big "but"...I also know that without a vigilant stance--which in my case means focusing on the positive and surrounding myself with others who feel and act similarly--my depressions could return.

And perhaps that's why there aren't more bipolar success stories. Maybe, there are others--like me--who are well most of the time but neither wish to be defined by this illness nor spend the rest of our lives reliving it.

While the trend in treating physical illness is to focus on wellness, that's not the trend in treating so-called mental illness. While people who are suffering from cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease and a host of other illnesses can participate in inspirational and motivational treatment programs--that isn't the case with so-called mental illness.

And until it is...I'd rather play my Autoharp for seniors at assisted living facilities than spend time with my fellow bipolars.


Syd said...

Great post, Susan!

JayPeeFreely said...

I think your last statement, about until we treat mental illness the same as physical problems, you'll do the autoharp, makes tons of sense.

If I allow for a moment (and I will) that my behavior for six months (Oct 2000-April 2001) was actionable by people around me, what I wonder is, wasn't it mental illness and not criminal? And what solution was provided for me? Surely not understanding, or even, hope.

I think we do major disservice to people (that were not violent -- and I wasn't) by stripping them of what little dignity they have, throw them away and expect them to thank us for "doing what is best for society." (Sorry, general protection of others is not much a priority as it is a Cop Out to the solutions needed to be carried out to solve many mental disorders.)

I hope to be able to pick up your book at the local bookstores. (I would order it but, alas, I have no Credit that's out.)

Anyways, enjoy your blog and the comments of others. They are all successes in my book.

TIV: the individual voice said...

I posted this weekend about the stigma of "bipolar" and my fear of attaching it to me, a therapist. I usually say I'm just a cycling depressive but, funny thing, lithium helps more than any "antidepressant" ever did. I have my bad days, but I'm a Harvard Ph.D. psychologist who works as a therapist, so that must make me a success story. I mostly don't post about my moods. I, like you, define myself as much more than that toxic label. Come visit.

sara said...

That's what I was looking for when I found this blog. People like me, who aren't out to get more disability benefits and so on, whose identity doesn't revolve around this.

Sorry to see you have given up writing.