Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bipolar Research: What a Crock!

I believe one of the reasons I have recently felt under the weather is because in my attempt to figure out if any of the bipolar books in my home library offer positive advice for wellness, I have had to skim seven or eight of them. Quite honestly, aside from Marja's book, Riding the Roller Coaster: Living with Mood Disorders, there are few if any bipolar books that I find the least bit inspirational.

I could discuss in detail all the reasons I dislike these books--their initial supposition that bipolarity is a lifetime illness, the negative prognosis, lack of success stories, and chapter after chapter about all of the "challenges" we face, the burden we are to other people, the bad behavior we exhibit, and the hourly vigilance we must maintain to control our moods, deal with our anxiety, withstand our depressive episodes, and so forth and so on.

In short, what a crock!

No wonder I was ill for the entire decade I researched this illness. And despite the value I think there is in discussing bipolar behavior and working with you to develop wellness strategies, I must say that there is an alternate way to deal with bipolarity.

It is to ignore everything*** that is written about manic-depression, and do what every other survivor does--develop our own wellness techniques, pursue our life's mission, maintain relationships with people who are nonjudgmental, loving, upbeat and positive, and pursue activities and interests that are pleasurable and give our lives meaning.

Tomorrow I intend to provide some inspirational quotes from a book I'm reading and loving, A Big New Free Happy Unusual Life: Self-Expression and Spiritual Practice for Those Who Have Time for Neither, by Nina Wise. Stay tuned!

***I'd like to qualify this statement and say I believe there are some important things we all need to know--and you probably feel that way too. I'll discuss my opinions on this subject next week, and perhaps you'll share yours as well. We can also find out: What books have really helped you and why?


Anonymous said...

Well, as someone recently diagnosed and reasearching the heck out it, I'm definitely going to take your viewpoint into consideration. I think you can easily get caught up in all the negativity, yes, and lump yourself in with it all rather than trying to chart your own course to wellness. Your words lift me up and give me hope, thanks. canadian coco

bart said...

susan, i think you're on to a good thing here... i think it's not useful to describe a disorder, a handicap or a limitation in any negative way since that's not really the issue... the real issue is finding strategies and workarounds to make life as comfortable as possible, make life fulfilling and complete on our own terms before allowing onself to be stereotyped as being different, difficult, odd, strange or whatever...

hope i'm making sense this afternoon, i've lost myself a little... sigh...

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Canadian Coco,
I'm going to revise my piece a little because I do believe there is "some" value in researching this illness. You need to know some basic information about bipolarity, symptoms, behavior, recommended treatments,the importance of keeping a mood chart, and a few other things.

But, on the whole, I believe that the label, the focus on medication to the exclusion of other treatments, the focus on illness rather than wellness, and so much more about the treatment is wrong.

Just wanted to clarify!


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Bart,
As I wrote to Canadian Coco, I'm going to qualify my point of view a bit--but yes, I do believe that most people get sicker after their diagnosis because they take too many medications, don't have a wellness strategy, and focus on the negative--which is easy because you're bombarded by it.

P.S. You're certainly making sense; don't sweat it.

Jazz said...

I couldn't agree with you more. There needs to be some positive literature out there for us! I am better now, after ditching most of the meds and working on my own wellness program (including yoga, meditation, good nutrition, journaling, and sleep hygeine) than I have been in the last decade--before or after the diagnosis. I'm currently working on a book about finding our own way to wellness, without necessarily buying into the current mental health paradigm.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
We're obviously on the same wavelength, I'm writing a book on the topic as well.


marja said...

Hi Susan, Thank you so much for the mention about my book. I was so pleased that you recognized it as a positive piece. I believe we can find meaning in our lives, in spite of where we might be with our health...and sometimes even thanks to our poor health. There are many advantages to knowing all sides of life, as we who live with bipolar disorder do. We can have a deeper understanding of things than people for whom life has been easier. And we can use that deeper understanding for good. (Look at all the creative people who have had bipolar disorder.)

The subtitle for my new book, "A Firm Place to Stand" is "Finding Meaning in a Life with Bipolar Disorder." It's a very spiritual - in a Christian way - book. But also full of hope.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
You're welcome! Not only do I think your book is positive, but you're a real role model to people!


P.J. said...

I need to know the "generalities" of bipolar, and the book I am reading now called "Mood Swings" is helping me in incredible ways. Have you read that one, Susan??

I need to know the basics and how the disorder generally works, and what has worked for others in coping with it (personal accounts) but other than that, I don't want to get wrapped up all that research stuff you described. We certainly need to be taught the positive - we can sure see the negative for ourselves.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear PJ,
Yes, I read it years ago although it isn't in my home library. Maybe you could write something in your blog about what information is helping you the most, and I'll link to you.


Gianna said...

I find the bipolar label completely useless and wish I had never heard of it.

I don't use any clinical language to describe my experience anymore.

The outcome is that I don't think of myself as mentally ill, I instead think of myself as human with my unique issues in my human life. I find that while I empathize with those who still embrace the label I don't truly identify anymore.

I'm not sure if my experience is different or not, but I've never felt like I was typical of those with the label. As a social worker in mental health I worked with hundreds of people with the label and now, of course, I'm familiar with dozens online.

I shed the label at around the same time I started my blog...I wish I could change the url to my blog since that existed several years before the blog as it stands now existed. Unfortunately it's kinda a brand one wants to use the long name I've attached it! ha!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
I completely agree. Since it took 25 years for me to get a diagnosis, and my undiagnosed depressive episodes preceded the days when people took Prozac like it was aspirin, I just figured I had these episodes of unhappiness, which counterbalanced my general state of happiness.

After the diagnosis--when I was 43--I didn't feel any different so I didn't accept the label either.

I call myself the Bipolar Wellness Writer because without using the word "bipolar," I didn't know how to target the audience I was seeking.

Still, I wonder whether there's a huge emotional divide between those people who consider themselves "mentally ill" and those of us who don't.


Gianna said...

yes..that is one of the reasons I keep bipolar in the sub-title of my blog...

bipolar blast: a thing of the PAST

need to attract people someway...and my hope is to help others disengage from it.

but still at some point if this blog continues well into the future I will change my url. I feel a bit the hypocrite using just doesn't feel quite right...but changing everything takes too much effort right now...

I do have a separate page on my blog called "undiagnosing myself." It's not one of the most commonly visited pages though.

Gianna said...


this sounds important:

Still, I wonder whether there's a huge emotional divide between those people who consider themselves "mentally ill" and those of us who don't?

but I'm not sure what you mean.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

I was going to change my blog to "Wellness Writer" because I felt that many of my wellness activities and feelings about healing would resonate with anyone who's seeking wellness.

But, then I felt that I've had such a typically horrific bipolar experience due to medication (and I would like to share some of my experiences), the bipolar population has some unique issues, the suicide rate is so high, the level of suffering is off the charts, and the treatment is such a travesty, that I needed to speak to this audience.

As you know, I still vacillate on whether or not to change the orientation of this blog. But I'm committed to it for now.


lily12 said...

I just read all the comments.Lots struck me as comment-worthy, but Jazz mentioned sleep-hygiene. I sat straight up. I have had some peculiar sleep problems all my life, and my present (And so far favorite)pdoc specializes in Sleep Studies. She put me on Provigil, which has been great. AND I just read on a science blog today that lithium is one of only 2 or 3 substances known to affect circadian rhythms in humans and others. They've known that for ages. How come I just found out today? I can feel something coming together.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Lily,
I don't know why you didn't know about "sleep." Maybe because the books just discuss that you need to make sure you sleep enough.

But perhaps there's a whole group of people (like you) who have sleep problems, and that's part of the causal factor of their illness. You should discuss this with Syd from Bipolarity. She's got sleep apnea and went to a specialist who finally dealt with it.

I am familiar with the issue of circadian rhythms and we should both probably post about it.

Glad this discussion helped!


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

I just found your comment about my comment regarding the "emotional divide between people who perceive themselves as mentally ill and those who don't."

As I said earlier, I have never perceived myself as being mentally ill. I have never accepted the label.

And I believe that's why I was able to fight so hard to survive even when the medication was making me feel so terrible that death would have seemed like a reasonable alternative.

I wonder if it isn't easier for people to "give up" if they somehow believe they're "mentally ill." I wonder if it isn't easier for them to be destroyed by this illness if they believe their doctor's prognosis rather than knowing--deep in their soul--that their doctors are part of the problem.


Nancie said...


For me personally, my diagnosis with proneness to bipolar disorder brings hope and open doors for me to seek help. For many years I suffered from severe depression and I hid my sufferings because I was confused over what I was going through and there was such a terrible stigma associated with mental illness.

I was accused of being emotional and lack of faith. My diagnosis brings a relief to me to know that I am not alone in my sufferings and that it was due to a medical condition that can be treated. With this label, I began to seek to understand what bipolar is all about, how it can affect me, what are the triggering factors and how best I can manage my condition with medical and various helps. I am more functional now because of these information.

The books that greatly helped me are "An Unquiet Mind" by Dr Kay Redfield Jamison and "Broken Mind" by Steve and Robyn Bloem. These 2 books have helped me to understand bipolar and depression a little better and how these individuals found help, hope and wellness in their sufferings.

Like you, I too hope to write more about wellness strategies rather than dwelling on the negative sides.

Thanks for this great post. I enjoy your posts very much. Take care.


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Nancie,
Your view on this makes a lot of sense as well. It's so difficult to feel bad and not know why. And thanks for sharing the books that have helped you! As always, I so appreciate your kind comments about my blog!


P.J. said...

I agree with Nancie. I am GLAD I know why I was a basket case all the time. That brought me hope - that my moods were more than "just me". It's also brought peace to one of my closet friends - she said she feels like she doesn't have to be walking on eggshells around me anymore, wondering what "mood" I'm in. It has brought me closer to a lot of people, and it deepened my relationship with my mom.

I don't have to live in agony anymore - things may be rough, but at least I know why.

I never say "Mental Illness". To me it's a "Mental Disorder".

Illness means "Poor health resulting from disease of body or mind"

Disorder means "lack of order or regular arrangement; a disturbance in physical or mental health or functions"

I don't think my mind is diseased; I think it's genetic order is different than most people.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear PJ,
I'm glad the diagnosis worked so well for you, and brought you hope, and treatment. We all come to this from different paths and different life experiences.

What's important is that people get the help they need. All of us should characterize ourselves in ways that make us feel good about ourselves. We all need to pursue treatments that make us feel better.

Mine is just one opinion, and I'm glad you and Nancie (Marja shares your viewpoint although she didn't write about it here) and others can present different viewpoints!