Daily Archives: July 25, 2014

What If

In the 1998 movie “Sliding Doors” the films protagonist, Helen, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, rushes to catch a train before the sliding doors close. From that point the movie splits into two parallel storylines. In one storyline, Helen was able to jump on the train in time. In the other storyline, the doors close and […]

The post What If appeared first on Insights From A Bipolar Bear.

What If

In the 1998 movie “Sliding Doors” the films protagonist, Helen, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, rushes to catch a train before the sliding doors close. From that point the movie splits into two parallel storylines. In one storyline, Helen was able to jump on the train in time. In the other storyline, the doors close and […]

The post What If appeared first on Insights From A Bipolar Bear.

Read Your Way to Sanity

As reported in Smithsonian magazine, “Doctors are now prescribing books to patients with depression, hoping that reading will help them find connections.”

Here’s the link, but I’ll hit the high spots for you. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/doctors-are-now-prescribing-books-to-treat-depression-180948211/?no-ist

First, let’s note that this is third-hand information – from the U.K. National Health Service to the Boston Globe to the Smithsonian. (Fourth-hand, if you count this blog.) Many of the details and even the explanation of the concept may have lost quite a bit in the transitions. But here are the basics:

 If your primary care physician diagnoses you with “mild to moderate” depression, one of her options is now to scribble a title on a prescription pad. You take the torn-off sheet not to the pharmacy but to your local library, where it can be exchanged for a copy of “Overcoming Depression,” “Mind Over Mood,” or “The Feeling Good Handbook.” And depression is only one of over a dozen conditions treated.

There are also books prescribed for other conditions including, I presume, bipolar disorder. And they sound a lot the old self-help books of the sorts we read in the 1970s, of the Women Who Are Ambivalent About Women Against Women Against Feminism sort (h/t The Bloggess for that awesome title).

Back then I was diagnosed with depression, and back then the Common Wisdom said, “Depression is anger turned inward.” Now that we know more about brain biochemistry, neurotransmitters, and such, advice from a book called “Mind Over Mood” is not likely to be all that much help. And God spare me from anything called “The Feeling Good Handbook.”

Of course the Brits’ prescriptions are not actual bibliotherapy, which is a real thing, defined by  The American Library Association thusly:

The use of books selected on the basis of content in a planned reading program designed to facilitate the recovery of patients suffering from mental illness or emotional disturbance. Ideally, the process occurs in three phases: personal identification of the reader with a particular character in the recommended work, resulting in psychological catharsis, which leads to rational insight concerning the relevance of the solution suggested in the text to the reader’s own experience. Assistance of a trained psychotherapist is advised.

This is a much better idea, but again, it’s advisable to check the publication dates on those books. The extremely popular book I Never Promised You a Rose Garden was written before anyone really knew about the genetic and biological components of schizophrenia.

I’m sure there is modern fiction that would be useful in bibliotherapy. Personally, I think that the Dementors in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books provide as good a description of depression as I’ve ever heard:

[T]hey glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them… Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. … You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.

Rowling herself has spoken about the connection:

It was entirely conscious. And entirely from my own experience. Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It’s a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different. I think [dementors] are the scariest things I’ve written.

As for me, I find insight into mental disorders primarily in nonfiction – though not necessarily in books with a psychiatric or psychological perspective. The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon is, I think, essential for any collection. It combines the author’s own experiences with historical, cultural, philosophical, and other ways people have thought and written about depression.

Generally, though, I prefer memoirs of people who have lived through or with the conditions they write about. Although my diagnosis is bipolar disorder type II, I also read memoirs about people with other conditions. There are many similarities of experiences, symptoms, feelings, and other aspects that I find familiar or helpful.

Being an ardent bibliophile as well as a psychiatric patient, I believe in the potential of bibliotherapy. Being a former consumer of self-help books, I sincerely doubt that genre will do much good.


Sick of the skin I’m in

I overslept today which did not make the day start well. I drank a little too much orange cream vodka last night and my motivation was hankered by a headache and lethargy. I don’t know why I do that to myself. Maybe because for a few hours I got to take a vacation from myself.

There was no vacation today. The mood was just tired but the anxiety…oh, it was a monster today. By hour three at the shop I was pretty sure my skin was trying to crawl off my bones, the anxiety was so bad. There was no trigger aside from being outside my safety zone for more than an hour.

Paranoia began to rampage. I smell smoke, is my car on fire? R’s tone was a little short, did I make him mad somehow? I hear a siren, is my home finally burning down? That lady driving by looked at me funny, what did I do?

On and on it went.

I did what was needed and finally declared I was leaving. I couldn’t stand the panic that was boiling up and making me feel out of control and nutsy fucking kookoo.

I try so very hard to “talk” myself out of the moods and anxiety attacks. It never works. It’s like my nerve endings and the very skin I live in are in cahoots to misfire randomly and in abundance so I never quite know if I am paranoid or if the anxiety just makes me feel that way.

Now I am back in safe space and we are supposed to go to R’s house tonight to have wine with his wife. Truth be told, I’m not feeling it. But I begged off last week for the same reason so I am going to force myself to go and put on the mask of sanity and optimism.

I’d rather crawl into bed with Deadly Women playing and just vegetate until tomorrow when I am sure to be in different mind space.

On top of it all, my ovarian cysts seem to be in some sort of uproar and are causing cramping and random “fist squeeze” pains so that’s dragging me down as well.

I am a bucket of ick at the moment but at least the anxiety is subsiding.

I should have gotten a least competent award today. I was instructed to gut a DLP tv and I couldn’t even get all the screws out. R got them out in like ten seconds.

Then mention of craziness was made and I was awash with guilt for my own bouts of being a crazy bitch. ‘Cos like I totally asked for my brain to be this way and I should feel bad when my illness complicates the lives of others. This ingrained need to apologize and feel guilty for having an illness makes me mad. Compassion and empathy are a figment of the imagination when it comes to mental illness.

Yeah, I know I’ve gone off on several disjointed tangents there, my bad. Mental purge.

I’m done.

Maybe someone needs to wear my skin for awhile to understand.

Ha, get the inside joke, Bex?


The “Hrmph” from the back of the Car

(pic compliments of dailynewdig.com) What is it about depression that the older generation, (those who are seventy and onwards – or downwards!!,) are so skeptical about? I can tell veritable strangers how my bi-polar affects me, but when it comes … Continue reading

My Facebook Fast

A week ago tomorrow I was done.  Absolutely finished.  I couldn't stand one more minute on Facebook.  So I decided to take a break.

I didn't start out planning to be off for a week.  Just a few days to cleanse my system.  It was making me anxious.  I was feeling social pressure (that probably wasn't even there but was just in my own head).  I felt compelled to like this or comment on that to make sure she knew I was reading her stuff or he knew I still paid attention to his life or she felt like I liked her.  Seriously, it was ridiculous.

I was not feeling peace.  I wasn't acting; I was reacting.  I wasn't being true to myself.  And I am not okay with that.

So I announced my departure and went away.

And very soon I was anxious about being away.  I missed it terribly.  And I started to wonder why.  I started to examine my feelings and their causes.  Why was I uncomfortable being away?  What was it that Facebook was fulfilling in me that pulled me back even though it had been causing me negative feelings?

So I spent the next few days watching my own behavior and paying attention to the pull.

This is what I learned.

The thing I missed most was knowing what was going on in my friends' lives, especially within my own neighborhood.  I missed knowing when a friend was having a bad day or hurting.  I missed knowing who was having a birthday that day.  I missed knowing when someone in my neighborhood needed help.  Facebook has opened up communication in a way that just wasn't there before.  People share more.  I can get the info immediately or whenever it's convenient for me.  We can have a communal conversation over several days.  It's awesome like that.

But the flip side of it is over sharing or people sharing things I just don't want in my life.  Political/religious disagreements.  Posts with the F word.  Griping/whining in a victim-y way, with the same complaints over and over with no intention to try to make their own world better.  Pity parties.  Sexual images and/or status updates.  Non-stop selfies.  Contentious behavior of all kinds.  And certain people who just rub me the wrong way no matter what whom I hid from my feed but then they show up anyway because one of our friends in common likes or comments on their post.  I didn't miss those things.

Of secondary importance, I felt like I lost my voice.  My ability to communicate with the world was severely diminished.  Many times a day I wanted to share something and didn't.  I think this was the most important area for me to evaluate and an area I still need to work on.

I've always been curious.  I find many things interesting and always have.  Growing up I used to talk all the time -- ALL THE TIME!  I made people crazy.  I could sometimes sense it but didn't understand why.  The things I was saying were so interesting (I thought).  I don't remember how old I was when I finally understood (but it was probably much older than I should have been).  I don't remember what happened to precipitate it, but I remember distinctly realizing that I didn't need to share every thought that popped into my head.  In fact, it made people crazy that I did that.  It was truly an awakening moment for me.  It's taken years for me to learn to be quiet, because my brain never shuts up.  (It was many more years after that before I learned that other people want to share, too, and it's so important to listen.)

Facebook has been this lesson all over again.  I find so many things interesting in a day.  I have so many thoughts that I think are incredibly clever.  So many observations I find fascinating.  So many news stories I think are noteworthy and/or important.  I want to share them all.  And some days I know I'm sharing more on Facebook than others want to read/know, but I just can't stop myself.  I can hear people rolling their eyes at me when I post the third news article in a 15 minute time span.  To all of you who are my Facebook friends, please know I do try and I do censor and you aren't getting half the things I want to share.  You're welcome.

And it would be bad enough if that were my only sharing problem, but it isn't.  I started paying attention to the status updates I wanted to post.  So often this last week I found myself wanting to post snotty or complaining status updates.  The kind of communication that has become so much a part of our society.  The kind of communication that takes place on so many of today's TV shows that it's just become how we communicate with each other.  The kind of communication that's flippant and sarcastic, that we've all come to accept as appropriate humor.  The kind of communication that isn't Christlike or kind or sincere.

I don't want that to be my communication style.

Facebook is just too easy and quick and removed.  I don't have to think through, censor, or see the reaction to my thoughts the way I should.

I also missed seeing the updates from my daughter who is on a mission and knowing she's still okay.  That was hard on my heart.

There are lots of other things I missed and lots of other things I didn't miss at all.

So am I ready to get back on?  Kind of.

I still don't feel sure of my ability to regulate my behavior in a way that will bring me peace.  So I'm going to ease into it.  Tomorrow I will begin reading Facebook again.  I will communicate through the private message system about important things.  I will like my missionary daughter's posts so she knows I'm seeing them.  But I will not "like" any other posts.  I will not comment on any other posts.  I will strive to be an observer for a while as I continue to examine my thoughts and feelings.

When I feel like I can be true to myself and behave in a way that brings peace to my heart, I will participate fully again.  Until then, I'm going to practice observing and listening.

Rilke on Great Sadness

"So you must not be frightened, if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen...