The Bipolar Year In Review
In a recent post, I did an end-of the-year review from a personal perspective. Let’s take a more general bipolar and a depression look, as reported in my posts here on HealthCentral "
News story of the year "
This is a no-brainer - the tragic suicide of Robin Williams. As I wrote, once I heard the news:
Depression, when it overwhelms us, is not funny. Life, when it overwhelms us, is not funny. Too often, I find myself on the verge of tears just trying to cope with the ordinary. When I’m really down, I often find myself saying, One day I’ll laugh at this. Robin Williams seems to have lived that kind of life. He found a way to laugh, then make us laugh. Then the laughter died.
The news story no one is reporting "
In the wake of the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, police everywhere are under increasing scrutiny for their use of force. The issue is framed in a racial context, as well it should.
Earlier in the year, however, I reported on the police in Albuquerque, NM gunning down James Boyd, a homeless man with mental illness. Police video reveals a firing squad-style execution. The event received some media attention, but quickly became yesterday’s news.
I did my own research and crunched my own numbers. My disturbing conclusion: Police are killing the mentally ill in the US at a rate higher than lynchings in the south back in the heyday of white supremacist violence.
My question: Why aren’t people taking to the streets over this?
High times "
This was the year that it became legal to sell and buy marijuana in two states in the US. In the meantime, an ever-increasing number of states permit "medical marijuana" use. This prompted a series of pieces exploring the weed’s possible application for treating bipolar.
There are many issues to consider here. One of them involves restricting ourselves to "medical doses" as opposed to binging on "recreational doses." The catch is - can we trust ourselves?
Meanwhile, on the recovery front "
In a crisis, meds tend to be our first option, but over the long haul it’s all about the things we need to be doing for ourselves, from getting out the door to insuring we get decent sleep to maintaining an optimal home environment to exercise to proper diet.
The big story this year from a recovery perspective involves a complete food science turnaround on saturated fat. Apparently, the real public enemy number one appears to be sugar, which - aside from everything else it has going against it - has a way of getting stored as fat and clogging up our arteries.
Freely translated: Eat the butter, throw away the bread - but use your head.
Widespread skepticism - and even ridicule - over psychiatry’s latest iteration of the diagnostic bible, the DSM-5, raises serious questions over how we define mental disorders and the profession that purports to do the defining.
Don’t expect any of these questions to be answered any time soon. Likewise, don’t hold your breath waiting for a DSM-6.
Meanwhile, outside psychiatry "
The knock-me-over-with-a-feather studies continue to come in. Imagine the possibility of treating bipolar by recolonizing the microbial populations inside our guts. Some researchers already are.
Identity crisis "
We can’t conclude this without a reference to you. But who are you? Sometimes, it’s advantageous to think of ourselves as having bipolar. Other times, it’s wise to disregard the label entirely. The trick lies in knowing when. As I wrote last week:
Along the way, we all pick up and discard a number of working identities. Making the transition to the next one is likely to be as comfortable as it is disconcerting. In my case: John, meet John. Each time, it’s like meeting myself for the first time.
The issue is made more complex by the fact that our illness is deeply embedded in our personality. Suppose, for instance, there were a magic pill that could cure you of your bipolar. How would you feel about waking up a completely different person?
Questions, questions, questions "
That was the year that was "
Till next year "
John is an author and advocate for Mental Health. He wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.