Talking About Recovery at DBSA - A Sneak Peek

John McManamy Health Guide
  • As I revealed in earlier blogs, I am an unreconstructed introvert - an INFP on the Myers-Briggs to be more precise - the type of person who could happily stay snowed in by myself in a mountain pass for the next 300 years with just my books and music and internet and didgeridoo.


    Slight correction. Scratch the snow. Snowed in without the snow is more like it.


    Anyway, being what I call a "double intro" - an introspective introvert - genetically wires me for a career in writing. Fortunately, I do perk up around people, but no job counselor is about to tell me to apply for any positions in sales.

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    But - irony of ironies - the more successful I have become in my life as a "double intro," the more I am compelled to live the life of a "double ex," an exuberant extravert. This includes public speaking.


    Fortunately - make that miraculously - soon after my book, "Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder," came out, I met Tom Wootton, a seasoned corporate speaker who does bipolar workshops, who transformed me from a quivering mass of unmitigated protoplasm into Mick Jagger.


    Let me modify that slightly. Instead of cowering behind a lectern reading from a prepared text, I can now deliver a 35-minute talk without notes (plus more time to answer questions), communicating directly with my audience, extemporizing as I go. I've done about 15 talks since my book came out in October, and they've all gone very well.


    In the miracles department, let's put it this way - it would take Paris Hilton transmogrifying into Albert Einstein to top what Tom Wootton did for me.


    A funny thing happened since I started doing my first talks: The brain science portion of my presentation just grew larger and larger. At first, the brain science came up merely in passing. Then, I felt I had to explain the in-passing comments, then explain the explanations.


    Brain science is kind of a crusade with me. I feel that we all need to appreciate at least a little bit of what is going on under the hood in order to better "know thyself." But if I get carried away with the topic I'm going to turn people off.


    Next month, I will be speaking at the DBSA national conference in Orlando. The theme of the conference is "Making the Recovery Connection."


    Hmm, doesn't sound like they want to hear much on brain science. Time to start retooling my talk.


    You're going to love this. In order to put less emphasis on the brain science, I wound up putting more emphasis on the brain science. It's the same principle that governs "fast-paced" action novels such as "The DaVinci Code." These authors actually slow down the pace to a crawl. Dan Brown takes 454 pages to chronicle 24 hours in the life of an art professor. By contrast, in my edition of the Bible, Mark dispenses with the final action-packed days of Jesus Christ in only 20 pages.


    Here's where I'm coming from: A lot of the cutting-edge brain research has to do with what can best be described as the "fear-stress" pathways. Basically, many of us are genetically predisposed to over-react to whatever life throws our way. The convergence of brain scan studies, gene studies, and population studies are beginning to produce some convincing smoking guns.


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    The payoff for us is that we don't have to wait 20 years for pharmaceutical companies to come up with the appropriate meds. We can get to work on this right now.


    Ah, the "recovery connection." If overstimulating our fear-stress circuits poses a major risk to our mental health, then working to manage our stress becomes a high priority. Being dealt a bad genetic hand needn't disable us, so long as we're smart enough to play our cards right.


    This is my cue in my talk to mention a few things that work well for me. "Mindfulness" will get special mention in my presentation - the ability to stay microscopically attuned to subtle shifts in our thinking and moods and emotions and behaviors and energy levels and to make the necessary adjustments before the situation spirals out of control. Sometimes the solution is as simple as "stopping to smell the roses."


    Virtually all of modern talking therapy is based on mindfulness, which dates back from the time of the Buddha 2,600 years ago. Throw in yoga and other ancient wisdom and who needs medical science?


    Correction: Modern science is actually validating the ancients and other common knowledge. Not only that, modern science is unequivocally showing that we can literally remodel our own brains using mindfulness and yoga and other techniques. Our fear-stress brain circuits need not incapacitate us, and I'm willing to get up and prove precisely that point before a live audience.


    That's something I think everyone needs to know. Don't you?




    I will be speaking at the DBSA conference in Orlando, being held Aug 10-12. I look forward to seeing you there, and to meeting as many of you as I can.


    For registration and program details, please check out the DBSA website.



Published On: July 13, 2007