In yesterday’s post, I wrote about Rupert Isaacson’s book The Horse Boy: A Father’s Quest to Heal His Son. Today, I promised to write about what I learned about bipolarity from reading Isaacson's book.
1. The Horse Boy reinforced my belief of how little is known about most “mental conditions.” When Rupert Isaacson and his wife Kristin found out that their son Rowan is autistic, they learned that the most effective treatment is applied behavioral analysis (ABA), which is an almost Pavlovian approach to controlling autistic behavior.
Like those of us who have been diagnosed (whether correctly or not) as bipolar, Rupert and Kristin also learned that despite their willingness to research treatment options, it’s never easy to determine what will really help, or to find people who are competent, capable, or insightful. There is a maze of red tape to go through. The treatments are very expensive, yet insurance pays a small percentage. And even when it’s obvious that someone is not getting better, no one admits it.
2. The Horse Boy reinforced my belief that you’ve got to go with your gut feeling. When Rupert realizes that Rowan responds more positively to riding horses than to any other activity, one of the few professionals who truly listens to him is an adult autist who is a professor of animal sciences. And when he tells her about his plan to take Rowan to see shamans in Mongolia—and explains the kinds of ceremonies they engage in—she explains why that kind of repetitive activity might be effective.
When Rupert asks if she thinks there is a value in going on this trip, she says, “The worst thing you can do is nothing. All the experts agree on that, even if they can’t agree on much else. Take your son to Mongolia if it seems to agree with him.”
3. The Horse Boy made me realize that I’ve been right in thinking outside the box. While it’s difficult to imagine how hard it was for Rupert and Kristin to take Rowan (and a film crew) to Mongolia, I think it would have been far more difficult to sit at home and watch him fail to progress.
Yet, the moment any of us tries something different, it’s amazing how angry it seems to make people who can't or won't think outside the box.
In fact, just yesterday I was stunned to receive two very nasty emails from a former psychiatric nurse who berated me for the post I wrote about the poor treatment my friend had gotten from her psychiatrist. The nurse felt I was negative about medication. The truth is that I have repeatedly written I am not opposed to medication for others. It is an individual choice. It didn’t work for me, so I have tried alternative forms of healing.
Yet, some people just can’t keep their negative feelings to themselves. Why should my quest to pursue alternative healing cause anyone else to be angry? I have no idea. Why should anyone feel she is entitled to criticize me when I have spent 15 years actively seeking wellness. I haven’t got a clue.
But, what I do believe is that many people—who are unwilling to do the research and the hard work it takes to heal—find it far easier to strike out at those of us who do than assume responsibility for themselves.
4. The Horse Boy made me feel that whether we are an autistic child or a bipolar adult, we all need people in our lives who love us enough to help us help ourselves. In my case, the initial support came from my husband and my mother, who stood by me for so many years when others were so willing to abandon me. And now, it also comes from readers who have become friends, and support me at every step of the way.
5. The Horse Boy confirmed my thesis that healing is possible as long as you don’t give up hope. Today, Rowan Isaacson is doing so much better because he had a father who pursued a “crazy idea of taking him to see shamans in Outer Mongolia.”
Today, I am doing better because I wouldn’t allow my psychiatrists to convince me that bipolarity is a life long debilitating illness.
More than ever, I now feel that our belief in ourselves is a primary component of healing. If we continue to believe we will get well, it doesn’t matter how many naysayers we have to deal with or how many disappointments we have to overcome. Our ability to achieve wellness depends upon whether we believe wellness is possible.