walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_A Lifelong Journey_, Sarah Russell (kindle)

Subtitled: Staying well with Manic Depression/Bipolar Disorder

This is a collection of responses to a questionnaire by people diagnosed with manic depression/bipolar disorder. The group is from Australia, so the details about the health care system (and the spelling of some words) will be unfamiliar to a United States audience. Because it takes a "wellness" perspective, the responses are about how do people with this diagnosis live their lives and avoid further episodes of their illness (either by reducing the frequency, intensity or both). Almost, but not all, of the respondents are on medication (mostly some form of lithium, altho there is a range of prescriptions used to manage this illness, including some people who only take lithium or anti-psychotics part of the time, or take anti-depressants part of the time because that works best for them, and other strategies as well). All of the respondents are accepting of their diagnosis, altho some of them downplay the seriousness of it.

Many of the people in the book had one or more hospitalizations before they received the correct diagnosis that led to an appropriate treatment strategy that then helped them avoid further hospitalizations. The most common misdiagnoses were for schizophrenia, altho there were some for unipolar depression and other things. The people who had wrong diagnoses were very relieved to finally receive a diagnosis that led to successful treatment.

Some of the people in the book changed careers. Some retired and receive a disability pension. Some were diagnosed quite young and have held a few jobs but not established a career. Some had partners and/or children. Others did not.

It is striking how many of the people describe the great care they take to maintain daily routines and a rhythm to their lives: consistent times getting up and going to bed, activities like exercise, meditation, yoga, etc. to help them maintain perspective and stable mood, relationships they maintain with people who can tell them when they start to "speed up". Overwhelmingly, they have reduced or eliminated their consumption of alcohol and other recreational drugs, and many of them carefully limit caffeine as well. They are cautious about travel across time zones, and they very carefully manage their response to springtime.

This is a wonderful book in that it goes beyond the take-your-medication-or-else approach, while strongly supporting effective medication strategies. It's a rare and useful combination. While some reviewers on Amazon seem to think this book only includes people whose lives were not that disrupted by this illness, a careful reader can clearly see otherwise. Any reader -- whether they have bipolar, know someone who has bipolar, or has an interest in better understanding neurodiversity -- can learn a lot about the importance of self-insight, and developing compensating habits in life to become aware of and effectively deal with stresses before they overwhelm one.
Tags: book review, psychologist
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