Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bipolar Recovery (Part 1)

I've been reading this great book for cancer survivors called Writing for Wellness: A Prescription for Healing by Julie Davey. As I've written many times before, I find books like this much more helpful and inspirational than books on bipolarity or depression.

One of the reasons is because there are so many wonderful free services for cancer survivors, from writing for wellness classes to nutritional counseling, exercise programs, spirituality classes, art therapy, and so much more.

The other reason is the attitude of the cancer survivors--at least the ones I read about in these books. Many of the exceptional patients do all the same research I have done, and share my attitude about recovery. While they may have a life threatening illness, they're fighters who are continually seeking ways to heal.

Quite honestly, I don't get that same sense from many people who are bipolar and/or depression survivors. I don't see the same resolve to continually pursue new treatments until they "cure" themselves. I don't see the same belief system that suggests they can get well.

I wonder why that's so. My own feeling is that a tremendous amount of negativity comes from our doctors. If our psychiatrists don't believe we can achieve wellness, then it's difficult to sustain hope during the bad times. If we feel our doctors desert us during our sickest periods--which is how I feel when I'm depressed--then we lose trust in them.

Can you imagine what would happen if an oncologist deserted a cancer patient just because the cancer reoccurred, or a cardiologist deserted a heart patient when she had a heart attack?

And yet, I have often felt deserted by my psychiatrists in my darkest hours. Also, it's so clear to me that they know so little about healing depression, that I don't trust them to be able to help me when I'm depressed. (to be continued)

How do you feel about the possibility of bipolar/depression recovery? Do you have a wellness team in your corner? Are you getting the help you need?

For my readers who aren't bipolar or depressed, the questions are the same. How do you deal with the stressors in your life? When life seems overwhelming, do you have people you can turn to for help? Are they providing the help/advice/succor you need?


Coffee Table said...

I'd never even begun to think about these things - or rather think about them specifically. I have though lately - I said to my doctor yesterday that the thing that bothers me the most about my illness is that I can't 'do whatever the hell I want" anymore. That's hard for me - I am single, no children, and very involved in my community, my life etc. Having to consciously stop and say, "no I can't" or "I'll have to let you know" is a big step for me towards really accepting this illness.
I will think about these questions. Thank you - I cross posted your link and hope that's okay.

quillcards said...

While reading this I thought that a sense of power to make things get better is essential, and that a sense of defeat may not be just a part of the environment in which a sufferer might exist, but a part of the internal nature of the affliction.

What do you think?

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Sue,
Thank you for cross-posting. For me, every post has the potential to be a dialogue with others. Some topics are so important that it would be great to have a number of different bloggers post on the same subject, and share their own perspectives.

The question is why you have to say, "I can't or I'll let you know." If it's because you're not feeling well, I completely understand.

But, in general, I'm now at a stage again where I can do everything I used to do without any limitations. So, the real question is what's the causal factor for your limitations?

Glad this is food for thought!


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Quillcards,
I believe that without a sense of hope, no one can achieve wellness. In my case, the loss of power came from feeling so sick on the medication for so long.

But, I never gave up hope. Eventually, I realized that, for me, medication wasn't the answer. And, for me, seeing doctors or therapists who didn't believe in wellness was a truly negative experience. So I changed doctors until I could find someone more supportive.

Had I found an insightful therapist years ago, I believe I could have resolved the issues that caused the initial depressive episode.

Had I learned new skills for dealing with stress, I believe I wouldn't have had to suffer from so many undiagnosed depressions.

What I'm not sure about is whether my own experience is somewhat unique. My current therapist believes I was misdiagnosed (so do I), and that the diagnosis should have been "clinical depression." And that it's curable. I agree.

But, I imagine there are people who need to be on medication, and whose biochemistry is far different from mine.


sallyo said...

I tend to agree with Quilcard. I've noticed with my husband that when his mood cycles from mania to depression he becomes gloomy about everything. He tries to fight it, but sometimes it feels like a losing battle. There are times when he really reminds me of Eyore of Winnie the Pooh; the donkey with a perpetual cloud over his head. When he doesn't take his medicine it becomes increasingly harder for him to work through.
I work through bouts of situational depression with work, prayer, meditation, reading, school, family, and taking odd moments of time for myself.
The solutions seem to be about as individual as the person.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear sallyo,
Thanks for sharing. It always interesting to me how different everyone's experience is. And I think it's really helpful to understand that.


Mariposa said...

Hi Susan,

Thanks very much for all the support...I apologize for not being around much lately. My job is nice and I love it, just that I am handling several programs and one is very much challenged and I was just devoting most of my energy at it. Today however I am so proud to share with you success! All efforts I've poured into that program for the past days (since I got back from my trip!) has been paying. I am smiling BIG typing this...just so you know.

I have a lot to catch up here I know...all good stuff...I promise to flood you comment box this weekend.

Again...thanks very much for your support!

KJ said...

I think that this is a really relevant post. I obviously can't speak from my experience, but I think that is exactly what happened to Joe. He has lost the belief that he can get well. I think there are many factors why but I think a huge part is the doctors and his own family. When people tell you this is the way it is and you are not accountable or cannot control anything that is happening to you, you begin to stop being empowered and start believing it!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Mariposa,
I'm so happy for you. It's always stressful with a new job, and I just wanted you to know that I've gone through it, and wanted to provide support for you!

But, how lovely to be so successful right away! Congrats!


Wellness Writer said...

Dear KJ,
I think a lack of belief that a person can get well is the primary reason why people don't.

If they/we feel that we have no control over our behavior, the illness will last forever, and it will get worse over time--all of the crap that doctors tell them/us--then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

While I feel I've said this many times, I sense that few BIPS agree, which is why I think so few people get better. Alas...


mmaaggnnaa said...

Hi, Susan -

Yes, I share your thoughts . . .

I believe that much of mental illness is due to imbalanced body chemistry -- and much of the imbalance of body chemistry comes from disordered thinking (our physical body responds to our thoughts).

I believe much of our disordered thinking comes from unchallenged core beliefs.

I believe that much of our mental and physical ill can be healed by shifting our thinking. That often means digging into our foundational, core beliefs and learning what we really believe -- and shifting those beliefs to align with reality.

For me, reality is defined by my belief in a higher power.

- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marie,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Actually, I agree with much of what you've said, and I appreciate your point of view.


Wendy Love said...


I have been absent from blogging, both working on my own and reading others, for quite some time and am enjoying the break. Today however,I decided to visit your blog and as always was challenged by your ideas and by your questions.

I am sure there is some truth in the assumptions you make about the difference in attitude between those struggling with cancer and those struggling with depression.
A significant difference that I would like to add is that when you go to the doctor with a cancer diagnosis, the doctor and your friends do not wonder why you have cancer. The doctor doesn't ask you all sorts of questions about your personal life and suggest you try and change everything. Neither doctors nor friends wonder why you just don't handle your life better. They don't judge you.

I do not suggest that those of us who live with depression need to lie back and take it. I agree that there are strategies that can help and sometimes even cure depression. I believe that the journey that many of us are taking, the journey toward wellness, is worth the effort.

Keep up the good work Susan. You ask some challenging questions. Your resources are a wealth of well thought-out information. Your motivation to help others towards wellness is admirable.

I continue to pray for you,
Wendy Love

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendy,
Glad to hear from you, and I appreciate your comments about this post. And, of course, I agree with you about the difference between seeing cancer doctors and psychiatrists!