I also think there's a big difference between people who try a few medications, stabilize, and feel good within a reasonable time frame--and those of us who don't. And maybe sometime in the future, I'll be able to say there's a difference between those who are diagnosed, begin an exercise program, participate in neural path therapy, change their diet, receive insightful counseling, and stabilize--and those of us for whom it took a much longer period to reach the same outcome.
For me personally, unipolar depression turned into bipolar disorder after many years of undiagnosed episodes combined with antidepressants. When an illness is medication-induced (and perhaps even when it's not), I don't think it's unusual to mourn our "lost healthy self," which was the topic of yesterday's post.
While Ellen Frank, Ph.D., author of Treating Bipolar Disorder: A Clinician's Guide to Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy, and her colleagues may have found that mourning our "lost healthy self," is unique among bipolar patients, her reasoning why this is so, astounds and infuriates me!
She writes, "Some of our colleagues who are experts in IPT for unipolar disorder have argued that this problem area is more appropriately thought of as a subset of the role transition problem area, but we have found that presenting it to patients as a form of grief has a very profound impact and tends to motivate them to work on this issue in a way that presenting it as a role transition does not. Perhaps this is because 'becoming bipolar' has a kind of unalterability that is more like a death than the loss of a job or even a divorce."And it's this very paragraph, which represents everything I despise about the psychiatric profession's attitude toward bipolar disorder. To present a bipolar diagnosis as a form of death is exactly what so many psychiatrists do--either knowingly or not. In one fell swoop, they destroy a patient's hope for achieving wellness, and their dreams of living a life with any possibility of normalcy.
One only has to substitute any other illness for bipolar disorder to see just how ridiculous it is. What if a diabetes researcher wrote, "Perhaps this is because 'becoming diabetic' has a kind of unalterability that is more like a death than the loss of a job or even a divorce."
I can guarantee you that researcher would be publicly condemned--within the medical and diabetic communities. What's so strangely awful is that Dr. Frank has a wonderful reputation and has done some excellent research in the bipolar field. But if she doesn't really have a clue what a huge disservice it is to tell bipolar patients that their illness is more "like a death than the loss of a job or even a divorce" than it's no wonder the suicide rate for bipolars is so high.
And, we who disagree with "the death knell analogy" need to find some way to voice our disapproval so loudly and so publicly that our voices will be heard from Washington D.C. to Ottawa to London to Canberra to Manila to Moscow to Beijing and beyond!
P.S. While I'm focusing on Ellen Frank in this article, I don't truly mean to single her out. As far as I'm concerned, her attitude typifies every bipolar researcher in the field who preaches despair rather than hope, and dwells on illness rather than wellness.