An important message was waiting for me in my email box. “Susan, wake up,” I said, not able to hold down my excitement. “It’s from Dr. Goodwin.”
Frederick Goodwin MD is a professor of psychiatry at George Washington University. He is the former director of the NIMH, former host of NPR’s “The Infinite Mind," and the author (with Kay Jamison) of the definitive book on bipolar disorder, “Manic Depressive Illness.” Much of what we know about bipolar disorder we owe to Dr. Goodwin. He is the world’s foremost authority on our illness. No one else comes close.
In an email a few weeks before he had written:
“John, thanks for having your publisher send me the manuscript for the new book; I've now been through it cover to cover and am very impressed. It is a truly a unique resource …”
My book, “Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You … That You Need to Know,” will be published in October by Harper Collins. Almost exactly seven years ago, as a patient new to my diagnosis, I tentatively sent out my first email newsletter, “McMan’s Depression and Bipolar Weekly,” to an audience of about ten.
So began a long and often lonely but ultimately rewarding journey.
I first heard Dr. Goodwin speak at a DBSA conference in Boston in 2000. We had crossed paths in a hallway, but I was too shy to approach him and introduce myself. It was my very first conference as reporter for my own newsletter. The day before, just before the start of the conference, I fought off a panic attack in the bathroom. I couldn’t go out there and face all those people. Someone was bound to unmask me as a fraud.
Now I turned to the Dr. Goodwin’s email. "While among the ever expanding array of popular books on mood disorders there are many to recommend,” his review read. “Here is one that truly stands out.”
So far, so good.
“Like other authors of this genre,” Dr. Goodwin went on to say, “McManamy draws upon his deep well of experiences as a bipolar patient. But he brings so much more - a vast trove of knowledge and insight accumulated in the process of producing … “
I caught my breath, then read aloud to my wife, “… the most influential newsletter in the field.”
Most influential newsletter. This was as close as I would ever come to getting a pat on the back by God. “And, like his newsletter,” Dr. Goodwin concluded, “this book will become a source of information that will prove indispensable not only to patients and families, but also to clinicians and scientists.”
Clinicians and scientists! He was recommending the book – MY book – to his peers! You like me! You really like me!
But Susan under the covers could only respond with something resembling a semi-automatic grunt. She was too busy dealing with her depression to share this moment with me. And therein lies the painful lesson: Yes, Dr. Goodwin’s high praise really matters to me. So do the outstanding reviews I had already received from other experts I very much admire. But I have seen too many patient and family advocates lose their way seeking their own respective pats on the back from God. Yes, I need to be constantly communicating with the experts, but the reason I am talking to them in the first place is for people like my wife. The moment I forget that is the moment I should be looking for another job.
Yes, it’s been a long journey, but what started me on it in the first place and kept me going through the hard times was the support and encouragement of people like you. When all is said and done, you’re the ones who really matter.
My book, “Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You … That You Need to Know,” will be published in Fall 2006 by Harper Collins. It is available as a pre-order on Amazon.
Published On: May 30, 2006
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