When three people independently send you an article and urge you to read it, there is something very important contained in that article.
A New York Times article by a woman with bipolar elicited that kind of response from people who know me.
The article talks about the struggle of a woman who discovers that she has bipolar, struggles to rebuild her life, and then tries to make sense of it all.
She notices that the issue seems not to interest her therapists and psychiatrist who are mostly focused on helping her with her symptoms. But she also comes to understand that defining a new identity for herself that encompasses the mood swings and how they affected her and her family and friends is vitally important.
The many books by Dr. Kay Jamison (see my blog on her books), a psychologist with bipolar, are a similar attempt to define a new identity and to understand and explore the various aspects of bipolarity. I think that may be why her books are the ones that people most often tell me they have read and appreciated.
I am reminded of the school of existential psychotherapy. Viktor Frankl, and others, wrote about the idea that a fundamental aspect of human life is trying to understand one’s place in the world and to discover a meaning for one’s life.
These are the issues that fascinated me as a young man, and are the reason why I decided to pursue psychiatry. Ironically, with little time and with lots to do (managing people on multiple medications and making sure that all of the potential adverse effects are being monitored for, etc, etc), I often find that there’s little time in my sessions to talk about these issues with the people who come to consult with m.
This is particularly troubling when someone comes in and is newly diagnosed with bipolar. There are so many questions that they have on their mind and a suggestion that they “go read a book,” doesn’t seem quite right.
In large measure the sense that there is much missing in the practice of psychiatry in working with people with moods and helping them to find a creative path to adapt to and live with those moods is the reason for this blog. In particular, it was my vision of an active dialogue among intelligent people with bipolar and depression that is at the heart of the idea of the forum that I have been trying to nurture and nourish.
It seemed to me that conversations between people dealing with the same issues would be very valuable. However, the forum has also had trouble taking off because of everyone’s busy schedule. And perhaps also because it’s difficult to talk or write about these things with anyone, much less a stranger.
I’m going to post something on the forum on this topic, but I would also like to encourage people to post comments about this thread and this topic.