Friday, July 31, 2009

So You Want to Be an Author (Part 2)

This is the second in a series about being an author. As I posted yesterday, when I sat down to write my first book, I just did it. I didn't take any writing classes. I didn't read any books about writing. It was more of an intuitive thing for me.

However, many people truly need some help and guidance. Because I live in Los Angeles where there are lots of resources, I'm well aware that the UCLA Extension Writer's Program is one of the best programs in the country. And they offer online course as well although the price is fairly steep for both onsite and online classes.

But, I'm quite sure that other colleges and universities offer excellent classes. Usually, it's just a question of going online and Googling writing programs, or checking out your local community college, high school night school, or university.

And there are plenty of books as well. Years ago I read Judith Applebaum's How to Get Happily Published, and I remember thinking it was a very good book. If you're considering publishing your own book, I'd recommend the Complete Book to Self-Publishing by Tom Ross. He and his wife Marilyn also have a great web site, Self-Publishing Resources.com.

Another good source for self-publishing is Lulu.com, which is a site, which will enable you to publish your book. There's no money up front; and it's a print on demand operation.

If you're writing a memoir about your illness, another option is Chipmunkapublishing in London. They published my memoir, Bipolar Depression Unplugged as an eBook, and the top guy there, Jason Pegler, is bipolar.

Finally, a few more recommendations. Two books I really like about writing are The Writing Life by Annie Dillard and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Two books I like on writing memoirs are Writing for Your Life by Deena Metzger and Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington.

One of the best books on writing (at least to me) is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. And two books I like on promotion are The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson and The Author's Guide to Building an Online Platform by Stephanie Chandler.

As one author to others, "Good luck and God bless!"

Thursday, July 30, 2009

So You Want to Be an Author (Part 1)


I decided to write this two-part series because there are a number of readers who are interested in writing books, and I felt that if I told my story, it might help others pursue their dreams.

In 1982, I wrote the first manuscript for my book, Job Search Strategy for College Grads. I'd never written anything before other than college papers and one other book (it was fiction) that I didn't feel was very good and didn't submit anywhere.

This time I felt I really had something to say, so I sat down and wrote the book. I'd never taken a writing class in college. I majored in history rather than English. But, I knew I had a story to tell. Ultimately, the manuscript was rejected by editors at 20 publishing houses. But, the last editor wrote, "You have a really good voice (writing style), but you're not a career counselor."

I took this to mean that I needed to team up with a career counselor so I called my undergraduate counselor from UCLA, and asked if she wanted to partner with me. She did, and we rewrote the book.

This time I was able to find an agent, but he sent out the manuscript to a number of publishing houses who weren't interested in it, and that was that. I found two other agents. One rejected the manuscript, and the other submitted it to a few publishing houses who rejected it.

So, I decided to sell it myself. I found a list of publishing houses that were the right houses for this property, and wrote a very professional marketing package. I submitted the manuscript and was rejected by 10 or 12 houses before Bob Adams, who had just started his own publishing company in Boston bought it.

The bad news was that Bob was new to publishing and the cover was one of the ugliest I've seen in the history of publishing; I cried when I saw it. Also, Bob had hired a Harvard student to copy edit the manuscript, and when I received it I found 140 errors (which they corrected). Finally, his marketing strategy was to sell the book for $3.95, which meant that my partner and I only made five cents a book, which we split.

The good news was I was a published author when I was 32 years old. Because of that, my partner and I wrote articles for Business Week's Guide to Careers, and we were hired to write two 50-page brochures for the AT&T College Series. We gave job search seminars, and there were lots of other positive opportunities we were able to pursue because we had coauthored this book.

What I learned was this: I was able to write this book because I believed in it. I was able to sell it because I wouldn't take no for an answer.

Here's what I believe: Each year in the United States, there are approximately 50,000 books published. My question to myself was, "Is your book as good as some of those 50,000 books?" The answer was, "Yes." Given that, I decided I wouldn't quit trying until I sold my book, and so I did.

As an aside, Bob Adams went on to great success. Years later he sold his company Adams Media for a small fortune. In 1995, I sold my second book, The Mommy Guide to Contemporary Books, a midsized publishing house in Chicago. In 2001, my third book The Mommy and Daddy Guide to Kindergarten was published by McGraw-Hill. After a long drought, I'm currently working on a new book, which I'll disclose in the months to come.

Question: What do you want to know about writing or publishing?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wellness Activity: Reading

One of my favorite wellness activities is reading. And, I always have plenty of books that I find on remainder tables (the ones that only cost a few dollars) on hand. My latest buy was Inspiration: Your Ultimate Calling by Dr. Wayne Dyer. And I found a wonderful passage I'd like to share with you.

"One of my favorite mentors and storytellers, Anthony de Mello, was a Catholic priest who lived in India and could convert complex philosophical issues into understandable and simple teachings using the art of storytelling. Here's a short tale from The Heart of the Enlightened, in which Father de Mello does a good job of summing up much of what I want to convey to you about living in-Spirit.

"The devotee knelt to be initiated into discipleship. The guru whispered the sacred mantra into his ear, warning him not to reveal it to anyone.

"What will happen if I do?" asked the devotee.

Said the guru, ''Anyone you reveal the mantra to will be liberated from the bondage of ignorance and suffering, but you yourself will be excluded from discipleship and suffer damnation."

No sooner had he heard those words than the devotee rushed to the marketplace, collected a large crowd around him, and repeated the sacred mantra for all to hear.

The disciples later reported this to the guru and demanded that the man be expelled from the monastery for his disobedience.

The guru smiled and said, "He has no need of anything I can teach. His action has shown him to be a guru in his own right."

* * *
Tomorrow and Friday, I will be posting a series on Freelance Writing. I know this is an interest that a number of us share. And, it's something I've been doing for the last 20 years. So, I thought I'd offer a bit of information and advice.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Final Advice to a Newbie BIP (Part 2)

This is my last post to Lily who wrote a number of comments on my post, Blogging to Learn.

Dear Lily,
I'm going to write this in a letter form because it's easier for me. I must say that I can't address all the issues you raised because it's just too exhausting for me. Actually that's one of the reasons I write on wellness rather than illness. Focusing on illness depletes me; focusing on wellness makes me feel good. However, I'm hoping that the sites I've recommended are helping you, and perhaps others can address these issues.

Today, I'd like to focus on your job and the problems you mention. During my life I've had many careers; some of which were fulfilling and some of which weren't. And, I, too, can't do jobs that I don't feel are meaningful.

But, what I have learned is that sometimes a project or job is meaningful, but it still makes me sick. Soon after I was diagnosed I began writing a book on all the terrible experiences I was having with my psychiatrists, the medication, the side effects and so forth and so on. One of my strengths is that I can write with humor about things that are truly devastating.

I actually thought that writing about all this would be really helpful. But, what I learned was that it wasn't. Dwelling on negative things--even if I did it with humor--produced negative thoughts and feelings.

So, I guess what I'm saying is this: "If your job is meaningful, but it is making you ill you should discuss it in therapy. There are tons of meaningful jobs out there for all of us. And they don't have to be in the mental health field.

If you love children, then perhaps you might do something associated with them. I imagine it's also quite possible to take your background and utilize it in a different environment.

I guess the point I'm making is that I believe that our jobs can make us ill. While I've learned that many people want to blame their biochemistry for feeling sick, the fact is that I believe it's far easier to blame our biochemistry and far more frightening to understand that it can be caused by our work, our relationships, our families, and dozens of other stressors.

I'm not suggesting you quit your job, but I do believe it's a topic you should be discussing with your therapist. If there's anything I've learned in the past 15 years, it's that making life changes and coming to grips with our demons can truly make a difference.

Whether we're bipolar or not, we need to resolve our issues to get well. And that's perhaps the best advice I can give.

I also believe that we need to develop a wide array of wellness activities that we utilize on a daily basis. I know I feel better when I garden, play music for seniors, walk my dog, exercise, spend time with friends, and remain outdoors. I know I feel worse when I focus on illness, spend too much time on the computer, write about negative things, and remain indoors.

I know that keeping a mood chart and journal is a critical wellness activity. I also know that learning stress reduction techniques makes a huge difference.

Most of all I believe that if we focus on wellness, maintain hope, and dedicate ourselves to healing, we can achieve it. Good luck and God bless!

Warmly,

Susan Bernard

Monday, July 27, 2009

Final Advice to a Newbie BIP (Part 1)

In today's post, I'm going to try to respond to Lily's comments from my post on Blogging to Learn. As a newbie BIP, she has a lot of questions and concerns, and I believe my answers will have application for others. So, here goes.

1. I'm not anti-medication. I do believe that most BIPS are badly medicated or over-medicated. I believe our doctors prescribe medications they know very little about, and don't research enough alternatives. I believe that Big Pharma and the insurance companies are determining our treatment rather than people with any insight at all. I believe most of the medication for bipolar mood disorder, which has been developed for other illnesses, but is being given to us is ineffective at best and can be truly harmful, which is what happened to me, Gianna, and many others.

I don't agree that all BIPS have to remain on medication for the rest of their lives. After 15 years of research on bipolarity, depression, and related topics, I believe that the treatment protocol for bipolarity is sadly lacking. I believe that most BIPS can profit from therapy, dependent upon the insight and skill of the therapist. I believe that if a BIP requires medication, it should be part of a larger wellness program. I believe that BIPS can achieve wellness.

However, having said that, I also believe there are people who read my blog who should remain on medication. In some cases, pre-medication they heard voices, and now don't. In other cases, their manias were off the charts, and now they are controllable. And in my case, Adderall has saved my life during some horrific depressive episodes. I'm hoping I'm off it for good, but if I need it again in October (when my depression usually hits), I won't hesitate to use it.

But...those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know what I truly believe in is taking responsibility for one's illness, engaging in a wide array of wellness activities, keeping a mood chart and journal, and seeking wellness in a disciplined and thoughtful way on a daily basis.

2. I believe BIPS can be good parents. My son who's now 20 was four years old when I was diagnosed. When he was seven, I started taking medication, which unalterably changed my life for the next six years, and made me so sick I had to fight each and every day to survive. Despite being happily married, doing work which provided great fulfillment, and having people in my life whom I love dearly and who love me, it was my son who saved my life.

When I was so sick that death might have seemed a reasonable alternative, I used to hold a key chain my son made me in preschool (It was a Gerber's baby cap with his picture in it) as an amulet, and quietly affirm the following: "I will never abandon my son. I will never abandon my son. I will never abandon my son." I believe my love for him saved my life.

However, I don't believe we should have children to save our lives; I was just lucky that I'd given birth before my diagnosis. And if I had not been given 26 different medications in different dosages and different combinations, I never would have gotten so sick and none of this would have been an issue.

I also believe that everyone shouldn't be a parent. In fact, I have read about BIPS who have been or are terrible parents. In some cases, their illness is so out of control that they cannot provide the stability, love, and care their children need. Others seem to think only of themselves, behave badly, take no responsibility for their behavior, and have no clue that all of this isn't a healthy and positive environment in which to raise children. (Of course, there are people who aren't BIPS who are terrible parents, but that's not the focus of this blog.)

But, I believe there are still others like me, who ended up being really sick, but who work (or have worked) so hard to provide our children with a "normal" and healthy environment, and equally hard to achieve wellness that we've still been good parents and good role models despite our illness and perceived shortcomings.

Wow! This is all quite emotional for me...so I'll continue tomorrow.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wellness Activity: Photo Therapy

Although I had initially planned on continuing my Bipolar Recovery series today, and then I promised Lily I'd respond to her hugely long comments, as I write this I'm exhausted. It's been a very busy day and week. And when I feel depleted, I always switch to a wellness activity. So...I'm going to share a few more photos, and I'll honor my commitments next week.

At the Park

In My Neighborhood

At Will Rogers State Park

P.S. Lily, if you read this before Monday, there are a few sites I've thought of that might help you until I respond to your comments. The first is Mary Ellen Copeland's Wellness Recovery Plan. She's a Ph.D. who's also bipolar, and she's got a program that's evidently very effective in helping people control their illness. The second is the National Empowerment Center whose executive director, Daniel B. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D. has recovered from schizophrenia.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy weekend! (I'm going on a field trip today with a friend so I won't be monitoring comments until late this afternoon. But I will respond to each and every comment before I got to bed tonight.)

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?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind (Part 2)

Yesterday, I provided information about the book, Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, which has been edited by Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalist. Today, I'm going to share quotes from an essay that has already made a huge difference to me personally.

In Praise of Sweet Darkness was written by Shepherd Bliss, an educator and Vietnam War-era veteran who owns Kokopelli Farm in Sepastopol, California. In the early 1990s, Bliss was tired of the city and bought the farm as a weekend retreat. Later he moved there full time, and grows "labor-intensive, delicious and healthy, organic boysenberries."

Given that my depressions are seasonal, and I begin feeling depressed in October and it gets worse and worse as the days grow shorter and the sky darkens, I was particularly interested in this essay about darkness. Bliss writes:
"Sweet darkness is one of the many psychological lessons I have learned about in the past 15 years of farming. Darkness is a door. When opened, it can provide access to gifts, treasures, insight, and wisdom. The dark door may appear locked or formidable, but keys exist to open it. What waits on the other side of that door may be helpful. Although phrases such as 'in the dark,' are meant to be negative, actually being in the dark can be a creative, even illuminating place to be, offering alternative perspectives.
"...Darkness can be fruitful. The lively steamy compost fields on my farm are full of spent plants, chicken manure, kitchen scraps, and a wide variety of decaying organic matter. That compost nourishes my berries, apples and other plants, giving them life. Everything that lives perishes--individuals, relationships, nations, empires, species, even planets. Other living things grows from what remains of the departed. I see this natural cycle every day on the farm and have come to appreciate its healing growth-inducing powers."
Recently, I have learned that sometimes it's better for me to read something and live with it rather than analyze it. So, while the above passages have taught me to think about the seasonal changes in a different way, that's all I have to say about it for now.

Any thoughts on this?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind (Part 1)

Sometimes I read a book that makes such an impact I consider it a life-altering experience. Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, which is edited by Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist is one of those books.

So, what is ecotherapy? "According to Howard Clinebell, who wrote a 1996 book on the topic, ecotherapy refers to healing and growth nurtured by healthy interaction with the earth. He also called it 'green therapy,' and 'earth-centered' therapy."

Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist write, "As an umbrella term for nature-based methods of physical and psychological healing, ecotherapy represents a new form of psychotherapy that acknowledges the vital role of nature and addresses the human-nature relationship. It takes into account the latest scientific understandings of our universe and the deepest indigenous wisdom. This perspective addresses the critical fact that people are intimately connected with, embedded in, and inseparable from the rest of nature. Grasping this fact shifts our understanding of how to heal the human psyche and the currently dysfunctional, even lethal, human-nature relationship."

In the foreword to the book, David W. Orr, the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College and a James Marsh Professor at the University of Vermont, writes:
"...The promise of ecotherapy lies in the possibility that such work can initiate healing rooted in our affinity with the natural world and can sponsor sanity in a world gone mad. In time it might restore our rootedness in particular places, based not on intellectual abstractions of religion, philosophy, or ideology but on the tug of something already deep inside us. By any name it is a homecoming of sorts to the sights, sounds, smells, sensations, and tastes of the only world we will ever know. It represents a saner kind of sanity and a more rational rationality.

"Ecotherapy begins with the fact that we indeed live in the lap of a great intelligence, as Emerson once said. It is a practical acknowledgment that health, healing, wholeness, and holy are related not just by linguistic accident but by the fact that they are one and inseparable."
I realize that these descriptions may not enable you to understand what ecotherapy actually encompasses, but perhaps this final quote from Buzzell and Chalquist will help.
"The contributors to this anthology envision ecotherapeutic healing on many levels and in many contexts. Together they represent a community of practitioners called to write about what they sense so sharply in themselves and in their surroundings: how to begin healing the pain of a world under siege by manic industry and lucrative tehnologized indifference. Having moved beyond psychic numbing into an awareness of the intricate connections between planetary health and human well-being, they have crafted and practiced approaches for reawakening our natural psychological connection to the world."
Tomorrow, I'll write about what I've learned that is going to help me deal with the seasonal aspect of my depressions. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Telling Our Friends We Love Them

I'm writing this post because my dear friend Emma, a frequent commenter on my blog, was in a terrible automobile accident in Sydney, Australia. Her car was destroyed, and while she's banged and terribly bruised, she's okay...although it's still quite traumatic.

While I know she'll survive this, I emailed her to tell her how much her friendship means to me. And I realized that this is something I have done with with others--during the past 15 years. As I recall, Paula Joy once posted about this or perhaps I'm thinking about a comment she left on one of my posts, and perhaps others have posted about it as well.

My question is this: Do we tell our friends we love them because we're bipolar and our emotions are sometimes more intense than the emotions of people who aren't BIPS? Or is it because we've experienced such pain and suffering and are so grateful when others tell us how important we are in their lives--even during periods when we don't feel we're contributing very much to anyone?

Whatever the reason, it's one of the good aspects of being a BIP. At least I feel that way. Do you?

P.S. The photograph comes from the following site.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blogging to Learn

I've learned an interesting lesson this week, which is that for me--because I'm a person who blogs to heal and learn rather than blogging for money--I should only post about topics that satisfy my own needs.

While I went out of my way to respond to an anonymous reader who was recently diagnosed as bipolar, and to another who asked about dealing with uncontrolled manias, the fact is that as I'm writing this, neither have left comments on this week's postings.

And, as is evidenced by my stats and the lack of comments, this series isn't particularly interesting to my regular readers. So, my initial desire to respond to two people who asked for help has been replaced by a low-level irritation because I spent more time than usual on writing these posts, they're not subjects that interest me at this stage in my own healing process, and I got very little in return for my efforts.

While it may seem somewhat petty to some of you, the bottom line is that in the last 29 months I've posted almost 600 times, and spent a lot of energy responding to comments as well.

Today I realized that expending this kind of time and energy only works for me if I get feedback--which I usually get immediately from my regular readers. So...my new policy is to eliminate all anonymous comments, and go back to my policy of posting on topics that interest me. That way, even if no one comments, I can still find pleasure in the fact that I have explored a topic of interest to me, and learned something from writing about it.

I wonder if any other bloggers feel that way? If so, please let me know. In the meantime, I'm taking tomorrow off, and will return on Monday...hopefully in a more charitable mood.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Photo Therapy Interlude

While I had promised to post today on undiagnosed manias and depressions--as part of my Advice to a Newbie BIP (Part 3)--last night was my "Pruning Class," and when I came home I was too tired to write this post.

So...today will be a Photo Therapy Interlude, which just means that I'm posting a few of the photos I've taken, and I'll continue my series on Thursday.

Santa Barbara Botanical Garden

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

The Learning Garden

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Advice to a Newbie BIP (Part 2)

In yesterday's post I said I would talk about being an "exceptional patient." That's actually a term used by Dr. Bernie Siegel in Love, Medicine, and Miracles. The ways he defines the term is that exceptional cancer patients are the ones who research their illnesses, ask questions of their doctors, don't accept information they disagree with, and participate fully in their treatment.

I believe that we should all be "exceptional patients" if we want to triumph over illness. The primary difference between dealing with cancer and dealing with bipolarity is that much of what we're told isn't true. Witness the following:
  • No one has proved that bipolarity is any more "biochemical" than a cold is. Yes, your biochemistry changes when you have a cold. But does that mean you'll have a cold throughout your entire life?

  • They talk about brain kindling, which suggests that your brain automatically responds to stressors in a certain way. But any number of BIPS have learned how to change the way they deal with stressors, whether by learning how to brainswitch, use meditation or yoga, or in my case, deep relaxation.

  • They tell you that you need to be compliant and take medication for the rest of your life. In my experience, medication only works for a small percentage of the bipolar population. And at least with bipolar depression, there is absolutely no evidence to prove it will make you feel better rather than worse.

  • They tell you that bipolarity is a spectrum illness, which means that you'll have it forever in some form or another. What's interesting is that cancer isn't a spectrum illness, and once a person has been cancer-free for five years, they're considered "cured." Why is no one ever cured of bipolar disorder?

  • While "exceptional patients" research their illness, a part of me recommends that we, who are exceptional BIPS, probably shouldn't research ours. The reason being is that if everything you read is "lies" or "unproven," then what's the purpose of researching it?

    But, there are some very valuable aspects of bipolarity, about which I'd like to know more...and I'll discuss them tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Advice to a Newbie BIP (Part 1)

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.

Friday, July 10, 2009

An Extraordinary Healing Experience

Dear Friends,
Yesterday was the most amazing day I can remember in a very long time. For the first time in my life, I went to a healer who truly healed me, and I can't even describe how well I feel.

Sometimes there are experiences that defy description. And somethings things happen that are so wonderful you want to savor them, and contemplate them privately rather than writing about them.

All I can say is that Judith Simon Prager is truly a miracle worker. And I feel so grateful for the time we spent together.

I'm taking today off. On Monday, I'll write the second post on Mood Charts and Journaling. See you then. Have a happy and healthy three days!

Susan

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Keeping A Mood Chart and Journal (Part 1)

For those of you who have read my blog for some time, you know how important I feel mood charts are, and you can read my series about it. But, what I realized this year was that perhaps I didn't explain the importance of keeping a journal as well.

For more than 25 years, I have used the Day-Timer system to track my life. When I was first diagnosed, I spent six years keeping a daily account of the medication I took, the dosage, how it made me feel, what the side effects where, how much sleep I got, and sometimes what I ate. I also kept track of all my activities, and my freelance writing career.

In those days, I used the 2-Page-Per-Day system. What that meant for me was that I had an extra page that I used as a journal. While it was a great way to organize things and to chart my illness, none of my psychiatrists were ever interested in the system I established. And even though I would come to therapy sessions with a typed page of how things progressed between sessions, they always asked me to read it aloud rather than reviewing it so we could analyze the larger picture.

The only psychiatrist who asked me if I kept a mood chart wanted me to switch over to a system he preferred. And I was furious at his inability to recognize the importance of my system, which was far better than the one he had taken from another shrink.

In fact, as I look back on all this, I am incredulous. First of all, let me state for the record that I feel these records were more valuable than any of the treatment I received (aside from the Adderall, which I actually believe saved my life, and which I'm now trying to wean myself off entirely), and the work I'm doing with a therapist whom I truly believe might help me achieve wellness.

Second, what I didn't realize all those years ago was the importance of the journal. A number of years later when I was no longer very busy each day because I was so ill, I switched to the 1-Page-Per-Day system, and despite its expense, there were years when I barely entered any information. I guess I just didn't see the point anymore.

And when I started blogging five days a week, I mistakenly thought that my blog was fulfilling the same function as my journal had. But it didn't.

Because this is a really important topic, I'm going to continue this series tomorrow. But, I need to let you know that today I am also going to see a psychotherapist who does transformational healing, and hypnosis. I'm reading her book, which I think is terrific, and it's something I'll share with you at a later date.

As always, I welcome your comments. But I'm leaving the house at 10:00 my time and won't be home until about 3:00. So, bear with me if it takes a long time to moderate your comments. I will respond to them after I return home and rest a bit. I hope everyone's day will be as "transformational" as I anticipate mine will be.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ebbs and Flows

Yesterday's post led me to think about energy ebbs and flows. Although I didn't have this problem before I began taking medication fifteen years ago, and even though I'm off most everything, the problem has remained.

So...when I have a bit too much energy, if I'm not careful (and I've learned to control this to a great degree), I over-commit myself. It used to be a huge problem, so I vividly remember the worst of this behavior.

Suffice it to say that it's one thing to enthusiastically embrace new projects. It's quite another to commit to too many things at once, to assume a leadership position in every project, to make promises that are unrealistic, and to have to bow out (at some point) because my energy flow has begun to ebb.

As embarrassing as it used to feel, I would ultimately have to say, "I'm sorry. I've over-committed myself. I can't possibly do all the tasks I've volunteered for. So...while I'm willing to continue (or not), I need others to step forward or I'll have to step down.

When I put it this way, people truly didn't have an option, which was exactly my intention. If they said they'd help me, I'd stay involved--although to a much lesser degree. If they didn't, then I, too, would quit.

And actually it usually worked itself out. The bottom line was that I may have been over-involved, but they were usually under-involved. And that wasn't fair either--even if it was my own fault.

These days I rarely have this happen. But, there still are times when I have to learn the same lesson over again. And as painful as it feels, I've made great progress.

Question: How do you handle situations where you've over-committed yourself? What tips and advice can you give to others?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Top 10 All or Nothing Changes

I've written about this topic before, but an email from a friend reminded me of its importance. So...here goes. If I were at a 12-Step All or Nothing People Program, I would have to introduce myself by saying, "Hi, my name is Susan. I'm an all or nothing person, but I've been seeking a middle-ground for 30 days."

After the applause dies down, I'm assuming I will spend hours listening to dozens of other all or nothing people try to explain their lack of flexibility. What amazed me today was that I was able to give such good advice to my friend--when it's so difficult for me to try and break this cycle myself.

But, just in case there are other all or nothing people reading this, these are the Top 10 All or Nothing Changes I'm focusing on.

1. I don't have to post five days a week or feel that the only alternative is to stop posting all together. If I'm feeling depressed or if posting is beginning to feel more like a burden than a pleasure, I can post less often.

2. I don't have to develop new material for every post despite worrying about whether my readers will feel disappointed. After all, I've posted almost 600 times, and there is "old" material that most of my readers haven't seen.

3. I don't have to feel it's unfair to the people who read my blog if I don't read theirs at all or with the same level of frequency that they read mine. As I've written before, I don't find it healthy to spend too much time online, and I don't find it healthy to read blogs that have a negative spin.

4. I don't have to include every blog of every reader in my blogroll. Philosophically, I truly believe that people who consistently focus on the negative aspects of any illness won't heal, and thus I can't support blogs like this even if I personally like the bloggers who write them.

5. Since my blog is part of my wellness program, I have to do what's best for me even if it sometimes seems like I'm not engaging in reciprocal relationships.

6. Moving away from blogging and thinking about other aspects of my life, I don't have to do my best on every project in which I participate. There are times when I'm spread too thin, and I need to be more realistic in order to reduce my level of stress.

7. I need to realize that my expectations of others are often unrealistic, and I need to work harder on adjusting them. (What if someone is doing their best, but I consider the end result mediocre?)

8. Once a day, I should say aloud, "The world isn't black or white; it's composed of shades of gray (and try to believe it).

9. I am trying to convince myself that even if people don't act responsibly, it doesn't always mean they're bad people.

10. I am trying hard to convince myself that just because I can't follow through on everything I start (particularly during an increased energy spurt) doesn't mean I'm a bad person. (However, I always write a note of apology to those I disappoint.)

Well, if that isn't an honest assessment, I don't know what is.

So...how many of you are "all or nothing people?" What habits are you working on changing?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Thanking My Virtual Community

First, I'd like to thank my friends and readers who commented last week when I was undergoing my dental problems, specifically: Mariposa, Gianna, Paula Joy, KJ, and Marja. Part of the pleasure of blogging for me is getting such supportive responses when I'm having difficulties.

Second, I'd like to thank those people who commented on my Blogging to Heal two-part series. It is an important topic for me, and I appreciate those people who so generously shared information, specifically: KJ, Gianna, Toria/Deb, sallyo, Marie, Paula Joy, James, and Jalessa (who wrote a really nice essay explaining themed blogs and networks, a sub-topic about which I know next to nothing). Again, as someone who's posted almost 600 times, it's very encouraging to have people respond when I ask them to.

Finally, I'd like to thank Emma (who was very supportive offline), and David (who not only commented, but also responded to a number of offline questions.

I hope I didn't miss anyone. If I did I'll add you later. I'm rushing off to the periodontist. Hope everyone has a nice day.