Bipolar recovery can mean recovery from:
In recent times, for me, it has also become about recovery from:
For you or for the person you care for it may be about any or all of the above.
Few businesses have ever grown as fast as the bipolar business. I unwittingly became involved in its growth after I was given Prozac then given lithium in an attempt to correct the imbalance that the Prozac created. All these drugs made me less and less well, so I had to find out what was going on..
From 2002 to about 2006 I was training people about the importance of diagnosis and the need for medication. Since researching what was really going on I can now present a more balanced view.
I would rather not be part of the bipolar industry. Like members of the Critical Psychiatry Network view I believe there is too much diagnosis. What very emotional people need is to be listened to and helped to resolve the causes of distress.
It is time we started to rethink our views of bipolar. Should it even still be a diagnosis?
> If you have a bipolar disorder diagnosis and are looking for immediate support, I can say I found: www.bipolarsupport.org to be helpful.
> If you have a loved one with bipolar diagnosis or at risk of diagnosis I am told www.bpso.org is a good source of information and support.
Starting with just a few people with manic depression, the name change to BIPOLAR in 1980 propelled this diagnosis to be one of the most common in the world. Yet how many people with the diagnosis really have a disorder that is best described as episodes of high mood and episodes of low mood?
Here are 3 ways of tackling bipolar disorder diagnosis
1. Bipolar Recovery:
Accept that you have been having 'bigger moods' than most people do and that the troublesome moods are mainly:
> low energy with negative feelings = depressive
> high energy with positive feelings = hypo-manic or manic
If this describes the way you are, then recovery is about lessening the extremes. Having learned and practiced the skills needed to avoid the extremes, (This could include the use of psychiatric drugs) you may be able to choose between seeking ever less mood variation or as Tom Wootton suggests start to bring your bipolar in-order. Tom's ideas are about not seeking to eliminate changes in mood but making use of this as a gift.
2. Elimination of your bipolar diagnosis
Bipolar diagnosis is based on observations and interpretations of behaviours. Even psychiatrists say that more than 50% of bipolar diagnosis are incorrect.
> If you are wrongly diagnosed what can you do about it?
> Could it be that you have been told you are bipolar whereas really you are mainly anxious?
> Do you have the information you need to talk with your doctor?
Rethinking bipolar is for people who:
> are at risk of diagnosis and want to gain better control of their mood to avoid diagnosis
> have the diagnosis and want, one day, not to have this diagnosis
3. Working towards the eventual eradication of the bipolar diagnosis. Some people will always get more upset by events and more excited by possibilities. What is needed is a way to help the next generation of these people without labeling them as mentally ill.
In the UK I provide training for health professionals wanting to understand mood.
I have been told that, "nobody ever recovers from bipolar". This ideas takes away hope. Are there enough of us who have recovered from having unstable moods to give hope that one day un-diagnosis after having bipolar disorder will be the norm?
Should we be re-labeled as 'Bipolar In Order'?
Could there be rediagnosis to something like 'exceptionally anxious person' or 'very emotional person'.
If the extreme moods were caused by drugs/medications then could diagnosis be changed to, 'Unusually sensitive to drugs' such that health professionals could help us to steer clear of the ones that caused trouble in the past?
Would it not be better to simply have professionals with time to listen and speed up a return to being well.
Providing a few of us believe it can be done then one day we will start to eliminate the bipolar disorder diagnosis.
What is different about we are doing?
We want to challenge the whole idea of bipolar. A lot of people believe it is an illness or disease due to some physical anomalies in the brain. It is not.
The diagnosis is based on symptoms and none of the symptoms are unique to the bipolar diagnosis.
Any individual put under great stress and examined closely will start to reveal symptoms of bipolar, such as not sleeping, anxiety, eating more or less than usual, being more talkative or quieter than usual. It would seem that anyone can gain a bipolar diagnosis yet once life returns to something like normal these diagnosis are not being removed.
We recognise that this sort of work may not be popular. It is just that it is time to look at bipolar from a different viewpoint. Rethinking Bipolar Blog
"These days anyone who has particularly variable moods is likely to be described as, or describe themselves as bipolar. This has brought bipolar into everyday language, promoting the idea that the way we experience moods is more of a spectrum (Ref 1) than simply; "most people are well and some people are different because they have a disorder."
Most 'bipolar people' do not have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
Many people who attend my courses tell me they; know they are bipolar, do not talk to doctors about their moods, avoid medication and certainly do not want a diagnosis. They are getting on with their lives appreciating they need to understand more about moods. They look after themselves to avoid a serious disorder that might 'seem to run in the family’ or ‘happen to stressed out people’.
Bipolar disorder is certainly something to be avoided. There is nothing good about having a disorder. Psychiatrists think long and hard before giving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. They see no cure and know that statistically prospects are not good. Most people with the diagnosis are on medications with serious side effects. They have deteriorating mental health and their physical health deteriorates more quickly, with a high probability of early death (Ref 2).
Surprisingly there is nothing wrong with being bipolar. In fact, it often seems that 'bipolar people' who can keep their bipolar-in-order have many advantages in life (Ref 3). Perhaps these come from the different views of the world gained whilst 'high' and 'low'. Perhaps advantages come from periods of great enthusiasm and productiveness. However, such advantages are difficult to measure and easily lost if the 'bipolar person' fails to take care of themself.
Where do we start?
Studies of recovery have identified that the process of acceptance is important (Ref 4). Precisely what you come to accept or reject about yourself, and what you accept might be wrong is your choice.
I have found it useful accepting that I always will be prone to changes in mood, whilst seeing disorder as in the past and to be avoided in the future.
Although I have been well for 13 years this proves little and millions more need to recover and stay well for bipolar disorder diagnosis to become more like the old manic depression where recovery was normal.
And the first step?
There are many places you can start with bipolar recovery. I am going to suggest start by learning about emotions, where emotions come from and how moods change.
This site is rarely updated - see www.rethinkingbipolar.com for more recent writings