Today I was going to complete my two-part series on Keeping a Mood Chart and Journal, but I realized that since Lily, who's recently been diagnosed as bipolar, is clearly in need of some information, tips, and advice, I should respond to her immediately. She commented twice on last week's post, Top 10 All or Nothing Changes, and I responded twice. (There were other great comments on this post as well; thank you one and all.)
While I spent this weekend at my pruning class, gardening, and taking my dog Jack to obedience class one week early (which obviously shows I need obedience training as well), at the back of my mind I kept thinking about what I should tell Lily. What advice would I want if I were a newbie BIP (bipolar person)?
This should be a fairly easy post (or series) for me to write. After all, for those of you who are new to my blog, I researched bipolarity and depression for 15 years. I've read more than 100 bipolar and depression books (as well as those on related subjects), including great chunks of the 938-page textbook, Manic-Depression Illness (1st Edition) by Frederick K. Goodwin, M.D. and Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D. (and my good friend Marja's book, Riding the Roller Coaster: Living with Mood Disorders).
I've visited at least 200 bipolar and depression sites, reads dozens upon dozens of blogs, and downloaded more than 1,000 (probably way more) pages of facts, stats, and information. I've read studies, brochures, and info on the subject from the National Institute of Mental Health, NAMI, DSBA, the Black Dog Institute, and scores of other organizations.
I spent days studying the largest bipolar study ever commissioned within the United States, STEP-BD, and for awhile I used to download and read information from all the International Conferences on Bipolar Disorder. At one time, I read every single bipolar post that Dr. Ivan Goldberg (He was one of the first people to provide good info on this) compiled on Depression Central, as well as everything on John McManamy's site, including his book, Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder.
I've followed medication threads, and visited at least 50 sites that Dr. Bob has included as resources. I researched every single one of the 26 medications I've taken--which includes Abilify, Adderall, Ativan, Buspar, Celexa, Concerta, Cymbalta, Depakote, Effexor, Geodon, Klonopin, Lamictal, Lexapro, Lithium, Lunesta, Neurontin, Parnate, Prozac, Seroquel, Strattera, Tegretol, Topamax, Trileptal, Wellbutrin, Zoloft, and Zyprexa--and studied drugs, treatments, and more on Dr. Phillip Long's Internet Mental Health.
I've studied The Stanley Medical Research Institute site, and at some point I read all the bipolar info on PsychCentral, and PsychEducation.org as well as Jim Phelp's book, Why Am I Still Depressed: Recognizing the Up's and Down's of Bipolar II and Soft Bipolar Disorder.
My dear readers, I could go on and on, but I'm making myself ill recounting this. To have worked so hard for so many years and remained so sick for so long is difficult for me to even think about.
And I not only studied traditional treatments and medications, but I spent the same kind of time and energy (and money) on alternative treatments. While there are few I personally recommend, you can learn about different options on the blogs of two good friends, Gianna, who writes Beyond Meds, and Duane Sherry who writes Discover and Recover,
So...having given you a short list of my credentials (Actually, I believe my years of research should qualify me for some sort of advanced degree in bipolarity, depression, and pain and suffering), what advice can I give Lily?
First, "less is more." Don't freak out about this, and don't feel that if you read a ton of stuff, you'll find the answer.
For starters, let me just say I think most of the treatment options suck. What we need are the smartest people in the universe thinking outside the box. What we're getting are drugs that the pharmaceutical and insurance companies are pushing.
But, don't let that discourage you. The fact is that BIPS are getting better each and every day. People are developing their own wellness programs that work. They're pursuing a vast array of treatment options that I'm hoping they'll share with you. And one of the keys to success is to become an "exceptional patient," a topic I'll write about tomorrow.