Archive for the 'bipolar disorder' Category

Writer For Rookie Paints Too Pretty a Picture of Her Treatment For Bipolar Disorder

Friday, September 28th, 2012

It was generous of Sady Doyle, a New York writer in her thirties, to use her real name when writing about her bipolar disorder for Rookie, the website for teenage girls. (“Because of this article, you’ll always be able to Google me and find out that I have this sickness.”) It is what I expect from Rookie to post this sort of thing — I was a big fan of Sassy, an earlier magazine for teenage girls that tried hard to be truthful. But I was surprised to see this:

Here’s the part of the story that matters: once I got the diagnosis, got the pills, and got in touch with a therapist I really liked, I woke up in the morning. And I was happy, genuinely happy, for the first time in a very long time. That’s what matters about my nervous breakdown—or yours, or anyone’s. When I got the help I needed, I was able to recover.

Okay, that’s what happened, as Brave New Worldish as it may sound. But is it true “that’s what matters” — meaning that’s all that matters? No, I don’t think so. I think it also matters (a lot) that Doyle has been told she must take pills (such as lithium) for the rest of her life and those pills usually have bad side effects (lithium causes weight gain, for example). It is seriously misleading for Doyle to fail to make these points. Doyle vaguely implies she has been told she will need to take pills for “a long time”, which is an understatement, and says nothing about side effects. Maybe she omitted this stuff because she didn’t want her readers “to be afraid to seek treatment” (as she might put it). That is the opposite of truth telling.

Here’s something about current treatments for bipolar disorder (a comment left on an article about drug company deception) that is as true now as when I quoted it three days ago:

Thirty years of bipolar disorder taking virtually every possible anti-depressant over time, and at times when hospitalized, forced to take them under the duress of threatened sectioning under the Mental Health Act. Throughout those years I told the psychiatrists that the drugs didn’t work beyond an initial “placebo effect” lasting about 2 weeks, and that the side effects were often awful.

I am not saying bipolar disorder drugs are worthless. I am saying they have bad side effects so often that any description of what it’s like to have bipolar disorder that makes claims of universality (“That’s what matters about my nervous breakdown—or yours, or anyone’s”) should point this out.

Morning Faces Therapy for Bipolar Disorder: What One User Has Learned

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

A friend of mine has been using morning faces therapy to improve his mood — he suffers from bipolar disorder — for 15 years. He is the first person I told about it. I recently asked him how his use of it has changed over the years. He replied:

I began the morning faces therapy in April, 1997. I can think of only two significant changes over the years in my use of the therapy: 1) I use a mirror instead of videotapes, and 2) I accept that once or twice a week I’m too tired to start as early as I’d like (so I get more sleep instead). To elaborate:

1) When I restarted the treatment in 2006 after having been hospitalized, I was too depressed to deal with videotaping. In fact, I was too depressed to get out of bed so early. The mirror solved both problems, because I could easily prop it on my mattress top. After a few days I was able to get up, allowing me to listen to music, use bright lights, etc., during the treatment.

2) Whether for lack of discipline or the proper genes, I simply can’t go to sleep early enough so that I can get up early every morning. (Granted, I haven’t tried everything, but for the sake of the argument, let it stand.) This shortcoming used to bother me a great deal. Then on October 6th, 2011, I read in this blog about someone else who didn’t always start the treatment early, because he was “too tired to get up early”. Well! It didn’t seem so bad if someone else had the same problem. Over the years I’ve found that starting 30-60 minutes late once or twice a week doesn’t seem to perturb my mood enough to cause great concern.

I asked how the therapy has helped him. He replied:

The benefits of the morning faces therapy have been both 1) quantitative and 2) qualitative.

1) I have had bipolar disorder for 27 years. With the therapy, I’ve been medication-free for 6 years, and I was on much reduced doses of medication for about 7 years. So it’s fair to say the therapy has reduced the severity of the illness by around one half. Also, the lithium that I took in part caused kidney disease, whereas, obviously, there are no side effects from looking at faces in the morning.

2) The qualitative difference seems far more important to me. I am basically content with life; I am comfortable in my own skin. I’ve never felt like this before, and life without this is empty.

Note to skeptics: you might think, well, bipolar disorder is known to go in remission, and maturity often brings contentment. But this fails to explain why stopping the treatment brings back both the illness and the essential sadness.

Morning Faces Therapy Improvements

Friday, April 13th, 2012

A friend with bipolar disorder writes:

I began the morning faces therapy in April, 1997. I can think of only two significant changes over the years in my use of the therapy: 1) I use a mirror instead of videotapes, and 2) I accept that once or twice a week I’m too tired to start as early as I’d like (so I get more sleep instead). To elaborate:

1) When I restarted the treatment in 2006 after having been hospitalized, I was too depressed to deal with videotaping. In fact, I was too depressed to get out of bed so early. The mirror solved both problems, because I could easily prop it on my mattress top. After a few days I was able to get up, allowing me to listen to music, use bright lights, etc., during the treatment.

2) Whether for lack of discipline or the proper genes, I simply can’t go to sleep early enough so that I can get up early every morning. (Granted, I haven’t tried everything, but for the sake of the argument, let it stand.) This shortcoming used to bother me a great deal. Then on October 6th, 2011, I read in this blog about someone else who didn’t always start the treatment early, because he was “too tired to get up early”. Well! It didn’t seem so bad if someone else had the same problem. Over the years I’ve found that starting 30-60 minutes late once or twice a week doesn’t seem to perturb my mood enough to cause great concern.

Sleep, Mood, Restless Legs and ADHD Improved By Internet Research

Monday, December 19th, 2011

At the SLD forums, Anima describes using several  safe cheap treatments to improve his mood and sleep. First, he tried wearing blue blocker (amber) glasses in the evening. They made him fall asleep more easily and reduced or eliminated hypomania. However, he was still depressed. Second, he tried getting twenty minutes of sunlight early in the morning. His mood improved. But he still had trouble synchronizing his sleep/wake cycle with the sun — that is, being awake during the day and asleep at night. He would stay up an hour later every night and wake up an hour later every day, meaning that half the time he was asleep during the day and awake at night. Finally, he tried adjusting when he ate:

I recently found the missing key to this: meal timing.  I saw a talk that Seth gave where he talked about curing his problem with waking too early by skipping breakfast.  My problem was difficulty waking.  I read an article that suggested that our circadian rhythms are not just tied to light, but to food times as well.  I used to eat late at night and never eat breakfast.  I started eating breakfast immediately upon waking (ick) and stopping all food at least 12 hours before I wanted to wake.  Basically, I did what Seth did only opposite.  It worked. . . . I was even able to adjust my cat’s circadian rhythm — he used to wake me up too early for his breakfast — by gradually moving his supper time.

In another post he describes using B vitamins to treat his restless legs syndrome and ADHD:

I have been taking a supplement with all the B vitamins in amounts much higher than typically recommended. I have also been taking Epsom salt baths for magnesium. I have not experienced restless legs AT ALL since starting. This is quite remarkable to me, because it was such a problem. My ADHD is also much improved.

The idea of treating restless legs syndrome with niacin (a B vitamin) came from Dennis Mangan. Anima had noticed that ADHD and restless legs syndrome often occur together.

He makes some reasonable comments about psychiatrists:

Why are psychiatrists still acting like neurological problems exist in isolation, when clearly they are all related? [In the sense that you can use what is known about how to cure Problem X to help you cure Problem Y, if X and Y often occur together.] I used to take Lamictal, Depakote, Adderall and Ambien every day. That doesn’t include all the meds I tried that didn’t work. I’m currently wearing amber glasses at night and taking a B complex, flax oil (SLD-style) and bathing in epsom salts three times a week. My mood is more stable than it was on medication, and my ADHD is controlled about the same. My sleep is much better. My psychiatrist told me that I would be on medication for the rest of my life. When I told him that I was using dark therapy and light therapy and had stopped taking my medication, he told me that I was “playing with fire,” and that I would end up in a mental institution or commit suicide if I didn’t resume my medication, despite the fact that I had stopped taking it for longer than it would be effective. I asked him if he had read the research on dark therapy. He hadn’t, but he assured me that it is pseudoscience. I guess the definition of “pseudoscience” is any treatment that doesn’t make him money. I puckishly asked him if I seemed manic or depressed, and he was forced to admit that I did not.

The ability of this psychiatrist to ignore contradictory evidence in front of him resembles what happened to Reid Kimball. He told a UCSF gastroenterologist that he was successfully managing his Crohn’s with diet. In my experience, Crohn’s can’t be managed with diet, the doctor said at the end of the appointment.

Bipolar Disorder: Good Results With Blue-Blocker Glasses

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

At the Shangri-La Diet forums, Anima writes:

I have been diagnosed with ADHD and Bipolar II disorder.  I am also a Non-24, a chronic circadian rhythm disorder where one’s body thinks a day is longer than 24 hours. . . .I’ve been using amber safety glasses (around $3 in the hunting section of the sporting goods store) for dark therapy.  I put them on 3 hours before I want to go to sleep.  They block blue light, allowing dark therapy without the dark.  I also wear an eye mask while I sleep.  The glasses make me look like a big weirdo, but they really work.  It’s easier to get to sleep, and they prevent hypomania (the milder form of mania that people with Bipolar II experience) better than any medication I have tried.  It makes sense that almost anyone could benefit from them, because our ancestors were not exposed to blue light after dark. (more…)