April 19th, 2014

_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.

Daily Activities Include: open gym, McDonald's, scootering, Julie's Place

Today, we scootered and rode bikes around the block. T. wanted me to bring Princess Rainbow Sparkles on the Townie's tray. We looked pretty funny riding around, but had a good time.

R. took A. and T. to open gym. They all went in the van and said they didn't need me, so I stayed home and took care of some things that needed to get done. After the open gym, they drove to McDonald's, where they had chicken nuggets, fries, and white milk. T. also had a chocolate shake.

A. has been watching a lot of Phineas & Ferb on iTunes, and they are both still playing Where's My Water, Where's My Perry, etc.

Later, T. went to Julie's Place, where he only ate a little.

_Reunited_, Pamela Slaton

Subtitled: An Investigative Genealogist Unlocks Some of Life's Greatest Family Mysteries

She apparently has/had a series over on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Even more exciting, apparently the guy she sort-of identified as maybe being her bio-dad (it is a little vague in the book and he isn't identified with a last name, at least not in the version I read) sued her for doing so on a documentary.


I have not been able to figure out how that all turned out; maybe it is still winding its way through court.

I ran across this when I was looking for genealogy memoirs. I think a lot about writing about my genealogical research (because unusual religions! For the win! Also, maternal grandmother child of first cousin marriage. And tons of divorces. Husband of cousin I didn't know I even had getting in touch with me through a mediator. Visiting overseas relatives. Mental illness. There's some great stuff to work with here. Also, a whole lot of people who could hate me forever, if they don't already. So, some risk.) and read other genealogy memoirs to get a better sense of how people approach touchy subjects and what kinds of stories work well even if you aren't personally connected and similar.

Slaton's angle is adoption: she is an adoptee with a complicated family: dead adoptive parents, dead adoptive brother, living full sibling, two living half siblings, living highly-problematic mother, living maybe-dad (description of inconclusive DNA results in the book), etc. After the harrowing adventure of her own family, she adopted (har de har har) adoption reunion/searches as a hobby and then career. It's great stuff and she's clearly developed mad skills, especially when it involves births in New York.

She's a good story teller. She is upbeat, altho she is quite religious and that pervades the book. She has chosen her stories carefully to illustrate more general points/problems associated with the adoption triad (birth family, adoptive family, the adoptee): finding mother, finding father, finding siblings and other family, trying to understand the decisions that were made, managing one's own feelings, the feelings of others in the triad, respecting the wishes of those who don't want to have an ongoing relationship. She also talks about activists pushing for open adoptions and open records, mostly sympathetically altho it is clear that she takes a great deal of pride and finds a lot of satisfaction in working around the barriers associated with closed records.

I'm not directly associated with any adoptions, altho they are certainly present in my extended family (and then there was that mystery cousin thing). But some of what she has to say is generically useful to genealogists, and there's a lot of value in better understanding the world we live in. I do believe what she has to say about the gaps experienced by people who were adopted and who are missing all that information about their biological heritage, even when those same people are adamant about not wanting to pursue that information, often out of love of their real parents.

It is not technical; I wouldn't advocate reading this in search of How Tos, but if you are contemplating researching your own adoption or trying to provide support to someone who is, there is a lot of thoughtful advice about the emotional ramifications.