Bipolar Planet on Facebook

June 18, 2009

The Bipolar Planet has made it to the 21st century. Social Networking is all the rage, and though The Bipolar Planet has provided a private email list for over ten years and a web page for 15 years as of May 2009, I’ve resisted wandering. Ok, here we go… Become a fan at the official Bipolar Planet Facebook page.


The Power of Irrationality

March 27, 2009

If you haven’t read Kay Redfield Jamison’s “<a href="Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament“>Touched With Fire; Manic-Depressive Ilness and the Artistic Temperament” run out and get a copy. She is a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins and is bipolar herself.

“I believe that curiosity, wonder and passion are defining qualities of imaginative minds and great teachers; that restlessness and discontent are vital things; and that intense experience and suffering instruct us in ways that less intense emotions can never do. I believe, in short, that we are equally beholden to heart and mind, and that those who have particularly passionate temperaments and questioning minds leave the world a different place for their having been there. It is important to value intellect and discipline, of course, but it is also important to recognize the power of irrationality, enthusiasm and vast energy. Intensity has its costs, of course — in pain, in hastily and poorly reckoned plans, in impetuousness — but it has its advantages as well.”
Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Author and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University
in “The Benefits of Restlessness and Jagged Edges”
NPR Morning Edition, June 6, 2005

There is a video of a speech she did about Exhuberance on YouTube that was quite inspiring. She wrote a great book about the love of life called Exuberance: The Passion for Life

TFTD: Self-reflection

June 24, 2008

Byron Katie Newsletter: June 2008

The following quote is exactly what I have been going on about, the need to have an objective observer, one who pushes the ego out of the way and takes a good long look at who we are. The first step to healing is to know what has to be healed.

Byron Katie’s “The Work” is an interesting tool for examining how much misery we cause ourselves by forgetting that what is, is.

Stop by The Work web page to read and listen to the freebies.

I want to go to one of the 5-day events.

“To question that things might not be as they seem can shake the very foundation of habitual clinging. This questioning spirit is the starting point for self-reflection. Could it be that this tightly-knit sense of self is not what it seems? Do we really need to hold everything together, and can we? Is there life beyond self-importance? These kinds of questions open the door to investigating the cause of our suffering.

“The actual practice of self-reflection requires us to step back, examine our experience, and not succumb to the momentum of habitual mind. This allows us to look without judgment at whatever arises, and this goes directly against the grain of our self-importance.

“Self-reflection is the common thread that runs through all traditions and lineages of Buddhist practice. It also takes us beyond the boundaries of formal practice. We can bring the questioning spirit of self-reflection to any situation, at any time. Self-reflection is an attitude, an approach, and a practice. In nutshell, it is a way to make practice come alive for us personally.”

— Aryadeva, Buddhist teacher.

The Zucchini Patch » A Slave to Cigarettes

December 17, 2007

The Zucchini Patch » A Slave to Cigarettes

Jessica of The Zucchini Patch wants to quit smoking. This is my comment. It deals mostly with the money aspect of smoking. They don’t talk about that much in the anti-smoking ads. They talk about cancer only in very vague terms. They show little pictures of the particulate matter that coats the lungs. They don’t talk so much about the reality of drowning in your own putrefying lungs.

Oddly enough, they also don’t talk about the 20% of women with lung cancer who never smoked at all. The politics of the anti-tobacco movement is another story for another day.

Wow. I remember in 1979 saying I’d quit when cigarettes reached 75¢ a pack.

Let’s see…
$3.50/pack × 2 packs/day × 365days/year?
Thats over $2500 a year!

So your first year’s savings are the down payment on a new subcompact car. Each monthly savings after that is the car payment.

Not sure how much daycare costs. Save your savings in a college fund for Marco. In 15 years at 9% interest, the long-term average growth for the stock market, you’d have $65,536.67. (Don’t worry, he’ll get loans and grants for the rest of the cost.)

Or how about taking a week-long yoga retreat at the Omega Institute? Mmmmmmm… 🙂

A trip to Paris even with the abysmal exchange rate!

20 steak dinners. Real, digestible steak, not the USDA Choice shoeleather they sell at the supermarket. If you don’t eat meat, give the steak to the dog and enjoy a decadent dessert, a mango souffle perhaps. Heck, fly me up there and I’ll eat your steak. I’m not proud.

See, this is what the cigarette habit is denying you.

I’m having a brain bubble over where you live. I’ll do the tax numbers based on my locale. Federal tax on cigarettes is 39¢ a pack so I’d pay around $280 a year. I wonder whether I can deduct that on my income tax? If Congress manages to raise the tax to $1 a pack (to fund children’s health insurance, they claim) then I’d be paying $730 a year. Hey, it’s “for the chillrun.” My state cigarette tax is $1.35 per pack, for a whopping $980 or so per year. My state income tax is less than that!

Does it seem to you that if the government actually banned cigarettes they’d be losing a big source of income? Hmmmm… almosts makes you want to think. 😉

Ok, now for the real problem with quitting smoking. Nicotine is a powerful anxiolytic and antidepressant. When you quit, you’re not only back to your pre-smoking anxiety levels, but you also have a rebound effect. The HedWeb Good Drug Guide has a lot of excellent information on brain chemical tweaks in general, and nicotine in particular. Here’s a good place to start: Antidepressants : Nicotine

Both major depression and depressive symptoms are associated with a high rate of nicotine dependence, and a history of major depression has an adverse impact on smoking cessation.

In other words, when you quit smoking it will feel as if you’ve quit psych meds cold turkey. Have you ever made that mistake?

So please don’t beat yourself up if it takes several tries for you to quit. It’s not a moral failing, it is brain chemicals. I’d wait until after the stressful holidays to quit.

I could go into the nuts-and-bolts of how I finally quit in 1986 or so – lots of crying, mostly – but there is plenty of good information available on the web. Email me if you want to hear about it. 🙂

Lemming Telefonseelsorge

September 30, 2007

Lemming Telefonseelsorge
Lemming Suicide Hotline

A little dark humor from Tom’s Jokes Collection.


Who is what and why

September 24, 2007

Someone asked what is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist. There are other helping professionals too. They have different levels of education and licensing, and in bipolar disorder it’s important to make sure you get the right one.

Psychiatrists are real medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental disorders. After getting a real medical degree they went back and took more courses, then did their internship in psychiatry – well, some are only “board certified,” meaning that they took the exams after the fact. Look at the diplomas. Psychiatrists are the only mental health care professionals who can prescribe drugs *in most states.* They are – and there’s no question here – the only people who are qualified to distinguish between organic disease and mental disorders.

A psychologist has a PhD, also called a doctorate, in the study of psychology. It is very important to remember that even though you call the psychologist “Doctor” he or she is NOT a medical doctor. He probably did an internship in which he did quick evaluations as to mental status. And he’s not qualified to dispense medications because he doesn’t have to have even basic medical training. He isn’t even qualified to put a bandaid on a boo-boo. He certainly isn’t qualified to diagnose physical illnesses – bipolar disorder is associated with brain chemicals, and that’s a medical issue. He is required to send you to a psychiatrist for that. NOT to a nurse practitioner or even a GP. A psychologist is versed in sociology and culture, and their job is to help you gain insight into the experiences that made you whow you are. This is called psychoanalysis or depth therapy. And of course to *adjust* to your circumstances in life.

A psychotherapist is a person who tries to do the same things that the psychologists do. Obviously psychologists and psychiatrists do short-term psychotherapy. Some psychotherapists, however, hold a Master’s Degree in something else. Social workers – MSWs – are trained to hook people up with the right resources, but they often get involved in helping people identify and solve their problems. EdD’s – doctors of Education – again, not medical doctors or even psychologists – often perform psychotherapy. Caveat Emptor: if someone is going to do psychotherapy on you, make sure they’ve gone through it themselves. And make sure they’ve gone through it successfully. Oh, and try to get one from your culture so that they don’t try to cure you of your race or religion. If a psychotherapist other than your own psychiatrist starts giving you a hard time about your meds, think about switching one or the other. Psychotherapists, I like to say, are the gatekeepers of Consensus Reality.

A therapist is a person who helps you make changes in your life – but you have to want to change. 🙂 They aren’t qualified to do depth psychotherapy and may rely on doubtful modalities – you know, pop psychology out of the latest book by the latest guru.

A counselor helps clients solve problems in specific areas – marriage, career, that sort of thing. Most of the time they have Master’s degrees, in some states they don’t have to.

I hope this motivates you to check the credentials of your mental health professionals. It is absolutely essential to do so if you want to heal rather than spend the rest of your life helpless and hopeless.


Bad Alice

September 23, 2007

Any day that starts with an email from someone named “Bad Alice” simply has to be a great day!

Bad Alice is the acoustic duo formed by Suzy Johnston (author of The Naked Bird Watcher – the positive account of developing and learning to manage a serious psychiatric disorder that included depression, psychosis and self-harm)

Leslie interjects: The other half of the duo is Lindsay Robertson. So far as I can tell, she is horribly normal except when she gets a hold of a box of crayons.

The CD by Bad Alice is now available.

Titled ‘Walk in my Shoes’ it is a further positive and reflective message on mental illness, self-harm and the issues that face the young of today.

The CD is available on the Bad Alice website where individual tracks can also be downloaded.

The hope is that the music will help people to feel less isolated and offer reassurance that they can get through this. It is also meant to raise further awareness, understanding and – hey – people might even like the songs!


Bad Alice

Excellent CD. It’s only number two in my 6-disc changer, but Bad Alice would have to play tuned chain saws to get ahead of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters – classic Jazz Fusion c. 1972.

I hope to get to Scotland on my next trip to Liverpool. If luck is with me, Bad Alice will have a gig when I’m there.

Suzy’s mum Jean is a great mum, I’m told, and a very cool lady. She even wrote her own book, To Walk on Eggshells, about her experiences helping her daughter navigate the dire straits of the mental health system in the UK. Family involvement is a big positive in handling bipolar disorder effectively.

The CD costs £6.50 postpaid in the UK. Not sure about the rest of the world, but it’s also available as mp3s. Buy it with PayPal and download it on the spot.