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"Bipolar"

"Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic." Thomas Szasz

 

My Thoughts on the Label "Bipolar

One Man's Story of Getting Off Medication

Adolescent French Speaking Disorder - A satire by S. Hein

Two recommended books

 

My thoughts on the label "Bipolar" (This page was started in August 2000)

First I don't like the label. I don't like the way it categorizes and brands people. It implies there is something wrong with them. Usually it is thought that there was something wrong with their genes. I simply don't buy this. I have known too many people labeled as "bipolar" to believe this. The people I have know personally are simply highly intelligent, highly sensitive people who were repeatedly invalidated, judged, disapproved of, restricted, punished, controlled etc.

I suspect that if you could take person who has been thus labeled and go back and put him in a different environment, he would be called highly productive, highly creative, etc,. which in fact many so-called bipolar people already are. But with a different childhood, I believe these same people would have more positive labels assigned to them than negative. By the way, I have a close relative who has been labeled first manic depressive, then bipolar. I know the emotional environment he came from. I know how he was repeatedly invalidated by his mother and frightened by his father. There was a near constant underlying tension in the home. His mother attempted to mold him to fill her emotional needs -- her needs to feel adequate as a mother, for example.

I have also experienced extreme moods myself. No doubt some psychologists or psychiatrists would be quick to prescribe drugs for me. But I have learned much about why I have had these mood swings and how to avoid them while remaining off of drugs, alcohol, tobacco etc.

I don't like drugs, by the way. I believe we are capable of producing our own brain chemicals. And if we have a problem with extremes, then we will be helping ourselves to learn how to manage our own emotions and thoughts. This may take years, but I believe it is worth it. Drugs are a quick fix which in reality fix nothing.

I believe the human species as a whole needs to take a longer term view. Drugs are certainly not addressing the causes of extreme emotions and extreme behavior. Thus they are treating the symptoms, not the problems. One thing I am trying to do with my web page is to shed some light on a few cause-effect relationships. In particular the relationship between the child and the adults in his or her young life.

From my web pages I have also heard from many highly intelligent, highly sensitive people who were invalidated consistently and emotionally abused in other ways. So, although I have no titles or degrees, except perhaps a Ph.D. in life, I feel confident that there is some truth and some value in what I have to say.

At any rate, I have a few suggestions for people who are labeled bipolar. I need to say that I do believe that there are definitely times when extreme behavior and extreme moods are unhealthy, for the individual and/or for others. Here are my suggestions:

- Learn about your emotions. Read my site carefully and completely.

- Learn about emotional abuse.

- Learn to identify your specific feelings. Study the page on emotional literacy.

- Learn to recognize the early signs of extreme moods and behavior. I believe our feelings and our "self-talk" will alert us if we pay close attention.

- Join or form some kind of emotional support group.

- Try to get yourself out of invalidating environments and into emotionally supportive ones.

- Keep a journal.


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Here are some references and notes about them

David Burns - His book "Feeling Good" helped me identify many of the unhealthy ways of thinking I was in the habit of. As I look back though, it was too heavily weighted towards cognitive techniques. Some time after I read his book, I started feeling my feelings instead of trying to talk myself out of them as he suggests. He oversimplifies things and discounts the importance of our feelings. Still his list of cognitive distortions is very
insightful. And he has a good discussion of drugs even though it is a book from the 80's.

Nathaniel Branden - As I say elsewhere on my web page if I could recommend just one author, it would be him. He helped me understand the importance of self-acceptance. He didn't just trivialize it by saying something like: "Stand in the mirror and say 100 times, 'I love you. You are perfect just the way you are.'" He also is extremely perceptive when it comes to understanding cause-effect relationships. About the biggest complaints I have with him are 1) He failed to return an email of mine, and 2) I feel a little disillusioned in him because while he spoke very disparagingly of conformity in his tape "Honoring the Self," he still is wearing a tie in his photo on his web page. If there was ever a sign of conformity, it is a suit and tie! 3) Branden must certainly be a millionaire. I don't understand why he is still promoting the sale of his books and tapes on his web page instead of freely giving away all of his valuable knowledge. This is a complaint I have with many so called successful and famous people. There are people around the world that first of all don't have the money which Americans have and second don't have access to libraries, as I did.

Alice Miller - Alice Miller has done a superb job of identifying the cause-effects between parents and children, from what I have read by her.

Francis Wickes- Francis Wickes wrote a book back in 1927 called "The Inner World of Childhood." I recommend the first few chapters at least. By that time she has pretty well made her point that the child picks up on the unspoken and even unconscious problems of the adults. And of course it is the most emotionally sensitive children who are the most porous sponges to soak up such problems in their surroundings.

In the sixties or seventies there were a couple of books written that offer many insights. They are about something they called Radical Psychiatry. Even then they were saying there was too much use of medication and too much attempt to force people to conform to social norms. I don't know if you will be able to find these books, but I have extensive notes on them here:

The Radical Therapist - Jerome Agel

Readings in Radical Psychiatry - Claude Steiner, ed.

Here are few notes on some web pages.

Yahoo's Mental health page:

On this page they list the symptoms of what they call the bipolar disorder:

In the manic phase:

  • increased activities
  • increased energy
  • flight of ideas or racing thoughts
  • inflated self-esteem
  • delusions of grandeur
  • decreased need for sleep
  • talkativeness
  • easy agitation
  • poor self control

In the depressive phase:

  • loss of self-esteem
  • withdrawal
  • helplessness
  • fatigue
  • overwhelming sluggishness (inertia)
  • difficulty concentrating
  • loss of appetite

I have experienced all of these. Yet what I found is that if I write in my own journal, my racing thoughts take care of themselves pretty well. I might write 10 or 15 pages non stop. I might never go back and look at it. But there is some processing going on. There is something the brain needs to express. So I say, let it be expressed. If you are an artist, this is when you will be most creative and productive. There are times when this extra energy does not fit into where you happen to be in society at that moment.

So I say, instead of believing you need to adjust to society, get away from it, at least for a short time. Use your intelligence and creativity to figure out a way to be somewhere in some environment where you won't be invalidated, called crazy, locked up etc. And where you won't hurt anyone else. Hurting someone else is a real possibility because it is true that you temporarily have an inflated sense of self. This has caused problems for me which I will share with you on a one on one basis if you so desire.

This idea of changing the environment instead of the person was one that Maria Montessori used in her dealings with children. She urged educators to design a classroom and school which fit the natural child, rather than trying to force a child to fit the unnatural environment of a typical schoolroom.

I believe after you go through this "manic" phase you have learned something. Or produced something. Something good has probably been accomplished. It seems to me the key is to learn to channel this extra energy. To focus it on something which will help the world. What I personally believe is that there are certain people whose genetic makeup says to them something like "You have the potential to do great things, to help your species." I believe on some level we know that we are a bit different, we do have something a bit special. If we are discouraged from believing this we are betraying our true self. I think this is the beginning of mental illness. Or it can be one of the beginnings, let's say.

I believe this inner voice continues relentlessly to speak to us. So the best thing to do is listen and not fight it. Instead, work with it. Get in tune with it. In harmony with it, while learning to keep balanced. Balance for you, is not the same as balance for me or anyone else. You must find your own balance points. I believe you feelings will steer you in the right direction.

As far as decreased need for sleep, this is normal when your mind is active. There is a book called "Flow" which talks about people who are high achievers and one of the commonalities is they don't sleep much when they are in this state he calls flow.

Talkativeness is also natural because you have a lot of things going through your head. The trick, I believe, is to either find someone who will listen or to write or find some means of expressing these thoughts which yearn and in fact need to be expressed. I read that someone said nature is wasteful, a million seeds and one plant, for example. So perhaps it is the same with your thoughts. Perhaps one will truly be of great value. But how will we get to this thought if we are told we need to take medication? If we are told to slow down, not think so much? To not talk so fast? Are we talking too fast or are others not capable of listening any faster? Why accept the standards of the average person as your own? This is not to encourage delusions of grandeur. It is to encourage realistic appraisal and acceptance and even honoring of your talents and potential. Besides who decides when one is feeling inspired as opposed to "manic?" Why do we accept other people's definitions of terms? Why do we accept their labels? Just some food for thought.

As far as the depressive phase is concerned, I believe there is good reason to be depressed if you are sensitive and intelligent. Because you are sensitive, you react to the troubles you see. Because you are intelligent you know there could be a better way. But because you are too intelligent and too sensitive for most people, generally you are invalidated, misunderstood, etc. Of course this is depressing. And it is easy to feel discouraged when few people give you the positive emotional support which all humans naturally need, and perhaps sensitive people need it more. I am not sure why nature set it up this way, but this is the way it seems to be. I have known my share of depression and discouragement. But they both have served a purpose. They have helped me reassess my values, my beliefs, my goals, my dreams. They have helped me become stronger on my own and helped me stop paying attention to the opinions of others. They have given me a time to "go inside myself," something which I believe has helped me both individually and as a member of this large group we call humans.

These other symptoms naturally are associated with discouragement, for when we are discouraged, we feel drained of our energy. We may feel hopeless and helpless and weak. But as long as we do not commit suicide, chances are good that are resiliency will spring us back to life. I believe the faster we can identify our feelings, and the more specific we can be, the faster we can get out of these low periods. Sometimes I have used other people or relied on other people to give me encouragement and energy. This wasn't healthy for either of us. But I have kept striving to manage the chemicals inside my own brain as self-sufficiently as possible. It has helped me to keep moving forward, even if very slowly and sporadically, towards my own goals. I have changed my goals a lot during the process. And for a time I was hard on myself about this. But then I decided just to accept the fact that I change my goals a lot. I said to myself, well, that is me, at least right now, I will eventually settle on one that is right for me.

On Yahoo's page, they also say that prevention is unknown. Well, as I have said earlier, I believe the way to prevent unhealthy mood swings is through validating parents. Perhaps one day this will be researched and I will be affirmed. But for right now, you might do well to

a) look at how much you were invalidated or underestimated

b) begin validating yourself

c) avoid those who invalidate you

d) search for people who accept you, your thoughts and feelings

All of the above is more or less what I have done and it seems to be working for me. I have a fairly detailed journal of my past few years and as I said earlier I will share some bits and pieces with you one on one, so you might feel a bit less alone, and more encouraged, understood, hopeful, etc. You can see that there were times when I felt suicidal but those times seem, for now at least, to be a thing of the past for the most part. Certainly it has helped me to think and believe that I am helping other, even if this is not true. But based on the feedback I have gotten so far, what I am doing does seem to be of some help to some people. Sure, I wanted to change the world and still do, but does that mean I should go on medication? I don' t think so.

At the end of the Yahoo page, it says:

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you feel yourself accelerating your activities or speech patterns, or others comment that you are talking faster than usual, or you find yourself not sleeping and are still not tired and a feeling of increased energy and self importance

I feel a bit cynical about this. It sounds like it was written by or sponsored by someone who would make money if you took their advice.

 
Editorial

I came upon a mental health page which talked about "mood disorders in children." I noticed there was almost no mention of parents, except to say that children of depressive parents are more likely to also be depressed. This is about helpful as saying that children of French speaking parents are more likely to speak French. Here is the link:

http://www.uncg.edu/edu/ericcass/depress/docs/chldmood.htm

I asked myself, "Why is this presented as if it were a major discovery? Why was it not even "discovered" till 1994?"

This line in particular bothered me: "It is important for children suffering from mood disorders to receive prompt treatment..."

Does the mental health industry want prevention or just expensive treatment? Is it in the best interests of the pharmaceutical companies, for example, or of the psychiatrists, or psychologists?

This reminds me of something I heard when consulting for a cancer treatment center. They said there was a joke around the cancer treatment industry that they don't really want to find a cure for cancer, they just want to find ways to keep the patients alive longer so they can get more medical insurance money.

I was then inspired to write this little satire of the mental health industry

 
Books

WAR AGAINST CHILDREN OF COLOR: How the Drugs, Programs and Theories of the Psychiatric Establishment are Threatening America's Children with a Medical "Cure" for Violence, by Peter R. Breggin & Ginger R. Breggin. The authors expose the Federal Violence Initiative and a broad and growing trend toward the biomedical social control of children, targeting African Americans and Hispanics. Many of the research plans that are still in operation, involve searching for a "violence gene", finding "biochemical imbalances" and intervening in the lives of schoolchildren with potent psychiatric drugs. "Meds" are replacing adult responsibility and social reform. They warn that the low priority on the rights and emotions of children is the real epidemic that must be addressed. 279 pp. (my italics)

TALKING BACK TO RITALIN: What Doctors Aren't Telling You About Stimulants for Children, by Peter R. Breggin. Millions of children are taking Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine and other stimulants. Parents have been told these drugs are safe and effective, but there is no solid science behind the widespread "ADHD-diagnosis" and good reasons to seriously question the ritualized "psycho-medication" of children. This book details how Ritalin works, what stimulant drugs do to a child's brain, their long-term effects, the truth behind claims of improved academic performance, and the growing problem of Ritalin-addiction and stimulant abuse by older teens. 402 pp.

 

 

News Flash (satire)

Moved to Adolescent French Speaking Disorder -