Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bipolar Hope

I rarely post on the weekend. But I wanted to make an exception because the Ellen Frank quote I shared in my last post so distressed me that I've been feeling bad about it for 24 hours. The way I retain wellness is to determine what's making me feel bad, and to take action.

In this case, my action is to share my final thoughts about what Dr.Frank wrote, to discuss what bipolar wellness means to me, and to provide a few inspirational quotes.

To me, bipolar wellness (as a frame of mind) means thinking positively about bipolarity rather than negatively. When psychiatrists, psychologists, or other mental health professionals say, "Bipolar disorder is 'like a death,' or it's a lifelong illness, or we need to grieve for our 'lost healthy self,'" I sometimes need to acknowledge what has been said, refute it, and move on.

Unlike earlier periods in my life, I don't allow other people's negative perceptions of bipolarity to depress me. One of the greatest values of writing this blog has been to meet other bipolar wellness seekers. Before my blog, I'd never talked with one person who had been labeled "bipolar." Now, I have more than 44,000 hits on this blog, and I have read comments from hundreds of people, and responded in kind.

What I've learned is that we all approach our bipolarity differently. We have different symptoms. Some of us come to this illness from unipolar depression, others from mania, and still others from psychotic episodes. But I believe the reason we have come together as a "virtual support group" is because we all seek wellness.

When I started Bipolar Wellness Writer in February of 2007, it was because I wanted to share the information I had learned, and the wellness activities I had developed, and learn new ones. I wanted to discover people who were "more than their illness."

I felt that if we could tell each other what was working for us, it would help us in our quest. If we could share disappointments, it would make them less difficult to deal with. And if we could provide hope for each other--when it's so lacking within the mental health professional community--we would strengthen our collective resolve in seeking wellness.

And I believe that has happened in a significant way. So, rather than ending the week on a negative note, I wish to end with some life-affirming quotes about hope.

"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge,
That myth is more potent than history.
I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts
That hope always triumphs over experience
That laughter is the only cure for grief
And I believe that love is stronger than death."
~Robert Fulghum, Storyteller's Creed

"Become the change you seek in the world."
~Mahatma Gandhi

"Your hopes, dreams and aspirations are legitimate. They are trying to take you airborne, above the clouds, above the storms, if you only let them."
~William James


P.J. said...

I love this virtual support group. I was looking for a real one in the city I live in, but it was no longer running. Apparently, there had been 8 or so that met regularly, then it dwindled down to none. Sorta like those who drop out of blogging, I guess.

I'm just glad for the support I have here - help I'd never be able to get in real life. There's SO much to be said about life experience, and living in our own little world doesn't usually bring access to that experience.

There is MUCH hope as we all draw strength and information from each other.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear PJ,
I've never been a "support group" person, so this virtual group is better than anything I could have anticipated. Of course, other's swear by seeing people in person. But I do think it's great we can "all draw strength from each other."


Jazz said...

I'm fairly new to this blog and the whole blogging thing in general, but I think it's a very positive thing! I've found more support here than on the support forums I used to go to. It's been great finding like-minded people like you.

And I love your inspirational quotes--especially the Storyteller's Creed--I need to post that above my desk!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
At first I was hesitant to blog about bipolarity because most of the blogs were so negative and despairing. I figured that if I had survived 120 depressions, I sure didn't need to read about sadness and angst.

But once I decided to address the topic from a wellness perspective rather than an illness one, I figured I could attract like-minded readers.

Still, it seemed to take forever to get people to comment. I remember the days when I was really excited if three people commented. And I tried before to have "discussions" on topics, but only a few people would participate.

About six weeks ago, I almost stopped writing this blog because I couldn't generate the kinds of discussions I wanted to. I felt I was investing too much energy for such a small return.

And suddenly, a host of new people seemed to find me. And, like you, they are thoughtful and insightful, have spent time researching wellness and illness, and openly share their feelings and opinions.

It's become everything I hoped it would be, and a very satisfying experience.


Jazz said...

I'm surprised you kept at it so long without finding many like-minded people. I know that my opinions on bipolar and meds are not mainstream or popular...but I've been that route, and it didn't work for me, and seems like I'm finding more and more people who feel the same way.

I agree with you about the negativity in a lot of the bipolar blogs. I don't read that many of them, either, for that very reason. They might be good for people who need to not feel like they are alone in what they are feeling, but for me, that validation isn't enough. I need to take a more active role in recovery and in staying well.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

I think the problem is that I don't fit into a well-defined group. I'm neither pro- nor anti-medication. It didn't work for me, and I have strong feelings about the way it's prescribed, but I do take two medications when I need them, and feel other people need to do what works for them.

The alternative medications, multivitamins, amino acids, SAMe, St. Johns Wort, and so forth and so on didn't work for me either. Like medication, I think it's great if it works for other people, but I don't attract that audience either.

So...while I have strong feelings about wellness, and do believe in exercise, neural path therapy (although it's new to me), diet and nutrition, writing to heal, music and art therapy and a host of other wellness activities, I don't fit into any group.

And my blog is personal. I don't provide news about what the pharmaceutical companies are doing or about bipolar people who have been "shafted," and stuff like that. (Dwelling on the negative aspects of this illness tends to propel me into a downward spiral.)

So, I'm not quite sure why people read me, but I do know that I'll never be recommended by any of the big sites.

Once, I tried hosting a blog on PsychCentral (which carries a lot of weight and publishes free blogs) and they deleted it after my first post. I think I wrote about some medications that weren't working, or I castigated the NIMH for the amount of money they spent on the STEP-BD, the big bipolar study. (It was awhile ago and I'm not really sure what I wrote about.) I'm assuming they didn't like my point of view. (At least, that's why I figured they canceled it. They never responded to my emails.)

When it comes down to it, I'm considered a "non-compliant" BIP because everything I believe in is out-of-the box.

Alas...I think people find me who are destined to find me. And me, them.

P.S. Sorry for the length of this reply. But, this is a topic I never thought to write about, and obviously have strong feelings about.

Jazz said...

I think I must fall into a similar category! I don't like meds for me, but I am still taking trazodone (trying to taper it down right now) and I take Ativan if things get hairy. I also believe that meds should be a personal choice, but I do not agree with the way they are marketed, or with the way the pharmaceutical companies are allowed to operate, and I have a real problem with children being on multiple psych meds.

But I'm not sure I want to blog about all that. At least, not regularly. I've been trying to decide which direction I want to go as far as the stories about pharma and whatnot...everyone's talking about that Newsweek article about the little boy who's been on 38 different psych meds and I've been trying to decide if I want to post about that. I'm leaning towards not, just because, as you say, it is just another negative, and I'd rather focus on wellness, to be honest. It's easy to complain about the way things are...harder, but infinitely more satisfying, to look for ways to make things better. Even if it only makes things better for a small number of people. I had one commenter tell me that my journal series had inspired her to start a journal, and that made me feel great! Maybe something I wrote can make a difference in someone's life, and that's pretty neat. Another post ranting about the Bipolar Child isn't going to make anybody feel good.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
I agree that enough other people will write about the child that it's not going to make a difference if one more blogger expresses her outrage. If there was a petition to sign to effect an action, that's different.

I think it's great that because of your journal series, someone will begin journaling. That's my philosophy too--although every once in a while I rant about something.

What I've learned--for myself--is that negative thoughts and emotions generate depressive feelings. So, I prefer to concentrate on wellness than illness, and to provide hope rather than dwelling on all the incompetence and despair.


Jena said...

This is exactly the reason I write my blog. Not only to be supported but also to support. It truly is a community where we can be there for each other in the good times and in the challenging times. And not to judge, but to reach out and try to understand. Thanks for writing this post, I thought it was really supportive :)

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jena,
I believe all of us who write about bipolarity in a positive way are providing important support to others. Thank you for your blog!


Coco said...

I'm glad you stuck with blogging Susan, and I'm really appreciative of your positivity. You're an inspiration, and you may not fit into any one group, but that's what makes you real, and very special.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Coco,
Thanks so very much! It's getting comments like yours that makes all of this so worthwhile!