In my wanderings on the Internet I am always searching for people who give me inspiration not because of what they say but how they have lived. I personally get the most inspiration from people who have forged their way through the fires of mood disorder and emerge with something to show for it. C.E.Chaffin is such an individual. His poetry and writings are the creative artifacts and testaments of his survival of one of the most potentially life disrupting mood disorders, Bipolar disorder. Despite his many challenges he had made a career as a doctor and then as a published poet and writer. His poetry is some of the finest I have ever read because I know that each word was written from the depths of both human suffering and of joy.
I hope that you will find both hope and enlightenment as I have from reading about Mister Chaffin's life and experiences in dealing with a most brutal mood disorder.
I now introduce to you C.E. Chaffin.
C.E. Chaffin, M.D., FAAFP, edited The Melic Review for eight years prior to its hiatus. Widely published, he has written literary criticism, fiction, personal essays, and has been the featured poet in over twenty magazines. In the last ten years he's had over 500 pieces published. Credits include: The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Pedestal, The Philadelphia Inquirer Book Review and Rattle. His new volume, "Unexpected Light: Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008," was just recently published.
* So tell me a about your diagnosis. When were you officially told that you had Bipolar Disorder?
I was thirty. I had dropped out of a psychiatric residency in my third year to return to general medicine in a state of abject depression before I was finally hospitalized and the diagnosis made. That suicidal depression, not my first by any means, lasted sixteen straight months.
* What things help? Do you take medication? Therapy? Alternative treatments?
I have truly found only two things that work for the illness: medications or electricity. Sadly, during my recent depression of two years, ECT didn't even work--it made me worse. Mostly it's luck; your mood changes, you go to your doctor, he tries new things until you get lucky. I am presently on five medicines for my mood disorder. It took the addition of three new ones to finally pull me out of my longest depression a year ago. Anything but supportive therapy has been shown to be of little if any help.
* Tell us about your work as a doctor. Did your mood hinder your abilities to perform your job?
Externally not. I was an excellent doctor to all appearances, and in my family medicine group the most difficult cases were referred to me by other doctors because I had a reputation for never giving up. I learned from three decades as an untreated bipolar how to appear normal. Nevertheless internally my world could be psychotic; while depressed, after seeing a patient, I became convinced that all I said was meaningless gobbledygook and that my treatment might harm them. For a year I used to often weep between patients in the bathroom, then use Visine to clear my eyes in order to see the next one. Before my diagnosis there appeared no way out.