Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I Think, Therefore I Read Way Too Much

A little late on the Tuesday entry but today was one of those days where time slipped by and here it is, almost 7 p.m.

Books on manic depression. Yep, I have three that I like and own. One is a reference book, the other two are a memoir and a treatise on manic depression and creativity.

The reference book that I have used, New Hope for People with Bipolar Disorder by Jan Fawcett, Bernard Golden and Nancy Rosenfield, is the perfect primer for the newly diagnosed as well as parents and spouses/significant others who live with bipolar children and adults. It's easy to read, has a lot of good information and addresses many, many concerns.

What makes this book worthwhile is that it was co-written by a psychiatrist (Fawcett), a psychotherapist (Golden) and a manic depressive (Rosenfield). Truly a balanced viewpoint of the disorder. While I would not wholly depend on any book for medication info, since pharmaceuticals, dosages and side effects can change, New Hope talks drugs in layman's terms. New Hope is practical (how about a real, down-to-earth disorder management plan), friendly and understanding. And above all, it does give you new hope. Really.

The other two books, An Unquiet Mind and Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperment, are both by Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychologist who is also manic depressive. An Unquiet Mind is the story of Jamison's manic-depressive life and how she took control of it. Very inspirational and well written. Her other book, Touched with Fire, deals with how the illness affects creativity and discusses famous poets, writers, painters and other creative souls who were bipolar or depressed. Completely fascinating, especially when you consider that treatment for bipolars has come a long, long way. Certainly An Unquiet Mind should be required reading for anyone who has been diagnosed bipolar. And perhaps their family members, too.

Jamison, who teaches at Johns Hopkins, is a highly regarded figure in the bipolar world. She and Frederick J. Goodwin, M.D., have written a comprehensive book on the subject, Manic-Depressive Illness, which is commonly acknowledged as the definitive tome. However, this is not written for the masses. It is a serious reference for psychiatrists and tough going for most people. But it's comprehensive, to the nth degree.

I know that when I was first diagnosed, I wanted to know absolutely everything I could about this disorder. I still do. Because I keep learning, even ten years after the fact. These are not the only books on the subject but they are the ones that gave me hope and encouragement. And I re-read An Unquiet Mind once a year, just because it's such a good book.

If anyone else has some good books, let me know. I'm always on the lookout.

You know that whacked-out Tony what's-his-name with the Gazelle exercise contraption on TV? I swear to God, whenever I get bogged down, I hear his crazed voice in my head screaming, "YOU CAN DOOOW IT!"

You can. I can. It's all about being big boys and girls and not fobbing our disorder off on parents ("My mother hates me so that's why I spend too much"), spouses ("He makes me so crazy"), kids ("They make me so crazy") or anyone else. Ya wanna be well? Take responsibility for yourself. Read some books. Get some knowledge. Talk honestly to your doctor. Don't decide that you're hopeless or that it's your "fault" that you're sick. Keep at it. And sound off in the Comments, if you want.

I've heard it all before and believe me, I've probably been there and done that. If there's some topic or question in particular that you'd like me to write about, let me know. I'm not a doctor but I've been around the Horn with this thing, so if I don't know the answer, I might be able to point you in the right direction at the very least. This is your sounding board, too. So use it.


Milinda said...

Heyla. I tried posting the other day but it was returned to me by email post. At any rate, thank you for taking the time to write this blog. I have just been diagnosed as bi-polar, at 45--originally I had been told that I was border-line. Looking back, I can see the screaming rages in my teens. I feel like I have been cheated out of a chunk of my life but am slowly in the process of reclaiming it, thanks to proper medication.

The one book that I have read is by Patty Duke and Gloria Hochman called A Brilliant Madness. I've added your three to my wish list & will be ordering them when next I place a B&N order. I have so much to learn.

birdie said...

Hi, Marilyn. Here's my question: can you tell me how you personally proceeded to seek help? You know, that initial step?

I've been fighting with myself, for years now, to go see a doctor, get a diagnosis, see what kind of help there is out there for whatever this is that I have (sadly I don't really know, although what I've read on manic depression, and what you have described, sounds so painfully familiar) but I'm finding that's easier said than done. The thought of getting out and talking to someone about it makes me feel like my toes are hanging over an impossibly high cliff, and the vertigo I experience is frustrating. No matter how much rationalizing I pep myself up with to stop being chickenshit and get out there, and no matter how repulsive I find the phrase "I can't"...I haven't been able to. Some kind of invisible brakes are engaged.

Do you know if it's common for people to have a near-impossible time taking that first step? Did you?

Pat said...

Birdie, I know your question was directed to Mar, but my recommendation is to find a psych (MD) who is partnered with a psycholgist or other professionally qualified therapist. I spent years being treated with random antidepressants by PCPs (primary care physician) for depression until I finally got a correct BP diagnosis and mood stabilizers. I learned that it takes an average of 11 years from the 1st attempt to get an accurate diagnosis.

Marilyn said...

It's not "I can't," Birdie. It's "I won't." You really don't want to deal with your situation and I think that you're just plain frightened into doing nothing. Until you decide that you want to fix what's wrong, nothing will change. It took me a long time to decide that what I really wanted was to be well. There's sometimes a lot to be gained by staying sick, even though you might not recognize. So go to a psychologist/psychiatrist. Call your local hospital and ask for names. They'll be glad to help. That's how I found my first psychiatrist and she was wonderful.

Pat is absolutely correct. You cannot expect the proper treatment by a PCP. They are not adequately trained in the administration of psychotropic drugs. And you need the talk therapy too. It's not just about popping pills. It's about understanding yourself, your behavior and your disorder. Take that first step. You can do it. Pick up the phone and call. It just might change your life.

birdie said...

Interesting that I never saw it that way ("I won't"). Such a simple thing, really quite the eye-opener. In my mind I pictured this total mess of a process, but it is just a matter of picking up the phone isn't it.

Thanks for the responses, Pat and Marilyn. Your thoughts are much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your website. I have two friends who are diagnosed as BP and I will certainly direct them to your site. Your frank, honest words are so insightful and I wish you lots of good karma in the coming years.