Daily Archives: May 14, 2017
And I really don’t care.
Whatever they decide the cause is, I still have bipolar disorder. No matter if it’s toxoplasmosis, gut bacteria, or faulty synapses that are behind it, I still get to experience the lows and (sometimes) highs, the apathy and psychological pain, the weeping and despair, the irritability and touchiness, the anxiety and the gloom.
Knowing the cause will not alleviate my symptoms one bit.
I know that people believe that discovering the cause will bring us that much closer to a cure.
But will it really?
If the cause is genetic, how am I supposed to go back and change my genes? Or does anyone really believe that gene therapy will be available to the mentally ill when even hospital beds are denied them?
If the cause is viral, does that mean that a cure is right around the corner? We now know what virus causes AIDS – HIV was discovered in 1983 – but nearly 35 years later, a cure is still far away. Yes, there are treatments that improve health and extend life, but there are also treatments that alleviate some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Will any advances be orders of magnitude greater, or merely incremental? And how much money will be devoted to finding those treatments when Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and a host of other conditions are still without a cause, a cure, or sometimes even minimal treatments?
With most bipolar sufferers being treated (if at all) in community mental health centers, via EAPs, or through six-weeks-and-out insurance programs, what are the odds that any new breakthroughs and any new treatments that result will be available to the bipolar-on-the-street (or in the group home or even at home or at work)? Will someone really arrange MRIs or TMS or brain implants for the homeless?
With bipolar disorder once again considered a pre-existing condition and not given parity with physical ailments for insurance purposes, will any advances trickle down to us at all?
What do you want to bet that any breakthroughs regarding the causes of bipolar disorder will lead to more pharmaceutical research and yet another pill that costs more than the average person can pay or the average insurance will reimburse? And how long will that treatment take to get through the FDA pipeline to reach the people who need it?
Nor is knowing the cause of a disorder necessary to cure it. Isaac Semmelweis didn’t need to know the cause of childbed fever, a disease that killed thousands – perhaps millions – of new mothers. Germ theory wasn’t even developed until decades later by Lister and Pasteur. But Semmelweis knew that if only doctors washed their hands between conducting autopsies and putting their hands in pregnant women’s vaginas, the death rate would decrease.
So when I hear that there’s a new theory on the cause of bipolar disorder – and they seem to be coming with increasing frequency – I say, “Where’s the treatment? Where’s the cure? Who will be able to access it? Who will be able to afford it? When will it produce positive results for me and those like me?”
Get back to me when you’ve found something that will help. Until then, keep splicing your genes and culturing your bacteria and stimulating your synapses. I’m getting pretty good results with what you’ve already discovered. For now.
Don’t keep raising my hopes until you have something more than “mights” and “some days.”
Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: bipolar disorder, cause of bipolar, media and mental illness, mental health, mental illness, mental illness in the news, news stories, rant, treatments
“There is no love without loss.”
When I walked into the British Library, or, later that same day, the Poetry Library, I wasn’t thinking of my sister, who’s a medical librarian. I wasn’t even thinking of my late mother, who was a children’s librarian, and the key person responsible for my love of books.
That day, last week, it was all about me, and them: those magnificent keepers of the world’s knowledge, and passion. Because what is poetry, if it isn’t full of love, and loss, and the bittersweet experience we call life?
Today, though, I feel the distance between myself, and those I love: the distance of an ocean, and air miles, in the case of my sister; and death, in the case of my mum.
Can books, and in particular, poetry, bring us closer to those we love? I believe they can.
So many books take real people as their starting point. Sometimes they’re novels, with a person – living or dead – the basis for one or more fictional characters. Other times, they take the form of biographies, or even autobiographies, where the writer’s purpose is as much to bring back lost loved ones, as to record their own accomplishments, and – if it’s a good autobiography – failures, and more memorable mess ups, too.
Last Wednesday, I made a library sandwich, visiting the British Library in the morning, and the Poetry Library in the afternoon. The filling was the meeting I went to, inbetween. Both my library visits were brief. I had breakfast in the cafe in the British Library courtyard, where I also wrote a poem, then hit the gift shop.
I’ve been to the British Library at least half a dozen times now, but this was my first visit to the Poetry Library. My gratitude goes to my friend the author Stephanie Cage, who suggested my visit.
The Poetry Library is on the fifth floor of the Royal Festival Hall, some place else I’d never been before, and which I found thanks to a friendly Londoner who was originally from Sierra Leone, and was attending his daughter’s concert at the Hall.
The library itself was much less grand than I’d expected, yet it was no less of a pleasure to visit. After a long, information packed meeting, it was good to get on the Tube, and then walk to, what was essentially a small, poetry-specific, library.
Having taken some snaps, and had a quick (Michi)gander, I decided to read some poetry by a writer who I’d previously avoided. All three were edited by her late husband, the Yorkshire poet Ted Hughes, whose festival is next month.
I’m sorry, Sylvia. I’m going to borrow one or two of your books from the local library. I’m still staying away from the “Bell Jar”, though. There’s only so much my bipolar tendency toward severe depression can take.
I like to think you’d understand.
It’s easy to misjudge people: write them off due to their mental, or physical health; or, indeed, both. To avoid them because of the way they smell, or think, or come out with inappropriate remarks from time to time.
Because they are them, and not us.
I took several photos of Nelson Mandela’s statue, as well as reading the inscription below. The older I get, the more I’m impressed by people who can move from positions of great suffering, and / or hatred, toward working with those who oppose, and opposed, them. People like Mandela, and Gandi; the Irishmen Martin McGuiness, and Ian Paisley. Which isn’t to suggest that they were all necessarily admirable people, for no one is, not all of the time.
Over the years I’ve shown a tendency to act like a record which keeps sticking, and skipping, in the same grooves, over, and over again.
It’s hard to move on, difficult to let go. And difficult to know when we should move on, and when we should stick to our metaphorical guns, and turn to our physical pens, and pencils, and keyboards.
I wish you a blessed and thoughtful Sunday, whoever, and wherever, you may be. May your thoughts be helpful ones; your library, peaceful.
Tagged: bipolar, British Library, family, grief, libraries, London, Nelson Mandela, poetry, Poetry Library, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Ted Hughes Festival 2017, The Bell Jar, writing