Bipolar In Order by Tom Wootton – A Book Review

Bipolar In Order – 223 pages – Tom Wootton 2010 – 5 Star Amazon Review

Bipolar In Order is based on a very simple premise: we can learn and grow to the point that we see bipolar as an advantage in our lives. (Most of the following appears on the amazon UK site where I added my review)

bipolar-in-order

Wootton takes on the treatment, basic misunderstandings, and assumptions that are in the way of achieving Bipolar In Order. Living with bipolar and depressive conditions is never underestimated in Tom Wootton’s books. By examining all states of depression, mixed states, and mania unflinchingly and deeply he arrives at conclusions that challenge the current paradigm.

The author insists on a higher level of Insight, Freedom, Stability, Self-mastery, and Equanimity as end goals that are achievable. Asked time and again why someone would resist treatment, Wootton states that the most important thing to offer is a life worth living! Expecting someone to park their brain in the garage like an unused Ferrari is not an appealing treatment model.

Rather than receiving the training, therapy, mind skills and behavioural control that is the foundation of real stability, current models of “avoidance therapy” try to mask and remove symptoms that will never go away. Living in fear of the wide ranging states of consciousness and mood that those with mental conditions experience is not a life worth living. Confronting these conditions head on, identifying one’s strengths and learning self-mastery is a more viable solution proposed by Bipolar In Order.

Book Review:

Bipolar in Order is Wootton’s best book yet. It is a distillation of his unorthodox views of what it means to be bipolar. Bipolarity brings with it a wide range of moods and emotions, from suicidal depression to ecstatic mania and everything in between. Conventional wisdom advises bipolars to maintain their moods somewhere in the middle, flattening out their emotions so that they are neither too high nor too low. Wootton shifts the paradigm: it is not the feelings, but our response to them that is the problem. The feelings actually enrich our lives and deepen our humanity. Using introspection and the other tools outlined in Bipolar in Order, Wootton believes that bipolars can learn to control their outward behavior, allowing them to enjoy the entire spectrum of their emotions.

First UK review:

Essential reading for anyone working in the mental health field

“I very much enjoyed reading ‘Bipolar In Order’ and this is one of the books I now show to people when I am training ‘Understanding Mood and the Bipolar Diagnosis’.

My own journey has a lot in common with Wootton’s approach of building a team and moving on with life without waiting for all troublesome feelings, thoughts etc to go away.

This book is a must for anyone working in the mental health field to understand just how differently it is possible to view mood disorder and how successfully difficulties can be overcome by someone with hope, determination and realism.”

Being Bipolar – 3 of 3 – Contrasting psychiatric views #Moncrieff

Being Bipolar (Channel 4 shown on 6th March 2015):

Sian, who has been diagnosed as bipolar II and psychotherapist, Philippa Perry, meet with an NHS psychiatrist, who waffles at some length about chemical imbalances, without being able to suggest which chemicals could be out of balance or why such an imbalance might exist.

After this, Philippa meets with psychiatrist, Dr Joanna Moncrieff, who shares her knowledge as an expert in psychiatric drug research. Joanna makes it clear that the psychiatric drugs are mainly sedating people and not treating any specific chemical imbalance.

I believe all three of the subjects of this documentary would be living better lives if they were getting help based on their real challenges rather than from a psychiatric system that talks of treating chemical imbalances and genetic disorders from birth. All three had things happen to them that influenced the way they feel and expressed their moods. All three need help with understanding and overcoming their troubles.

At the end Philippa shares, “I don’t know how useful the bipolar diagnosis is, because they are all so different. I feel it might be more helpful to approach everyone as individuals with unique issues, because although being labelled bipolar may help some people make sense of their moods it too often marks the end of self-exploration when really, in fact, it should be the beginning.”

It really is time to stop just Being Bipolar and for more of us to be Rethinking Bipolar and so reaching our fullest potential.

Being Bipolar – 2 of 3 – But not really manic depressives

Being Bipolar (Channel 4 Documentary shown on 6th March 2015):

Three people diagnosed as bipolar were filmed and their troubles considered by psychotherapist Philippa Perry.

Paul, who is a self-made millionaire, was filmed while high, Sian was mainly low and Ashley was rapidly going from high to low. Paul seemed happy enough in his manic state, while Sian and Ashley brought out their boxes of prescribed drugs and revealed how desperate they felt with no real prospects of recovery.

What struck me, was how without any special psychotherapy, it became clear that all was not as it first seemed.

Near the end, Paul has come down from his high and tells Philippa how his high was fueled by smoking ‘legal highs’ that he explains certainly were not just ordinary cigarettes! These were the drugs on which he got high. This was not a manic episode caused solely by his perfectionism or a random mood swing.

Sian’s greatest fear turns out to be from the misconception that bipolar can be passed on genetically to her children. When Philippa takes Sian to meet genetics researcher, Prof Ian Jones, it is explained, “It is not a genetic disorder in that there is a gene for bipolar” and that “Nine out of ten children of a bipolar parent are not being diagnosed as bipolar”. This is new knowledge for Sian, who is now able to consider bipolar in a very different way. From having said earlier that she could not think of any causes other than genetics, she now feels able to talk with to Philippa about wanting to investigate what it was in her life/her environment that had led to mood problems and diagnosis. Towards the end of the programme Sian talks about wanting “to be open to change” and goes to see a psychotherapist based on her discovery that bipolar is not all genetic and pre-determined. She comes to believe that, “It is the start of the end of it.” And when asked “Do you think this is going to be transformative?” She answers, “Yes”.

Ashley suffered from something like autism from an early age and was bullied badly at school. Being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs since he was 8 years old, it comes as no surprise to find him struggling so much. These drugs are known to alter the brain’s development. Philippa says, “It is difficult to find a therapist who is on the same wavelength as someone who is on the autistic spectrum.” Interestingly, after Philippa’s visit, Ashley forms a band with two local musicians who are able to cope with his struggles to stay focused. This seems to give hope that he will be able to fit in better than he was ever able to at school, perhaps simply by being with people who share similar interests.

Overall, the programme did well in showing how diverse bipolar can be. For me, though the most important outcome was how none of three people filmed would, years ago, have been regarded as manic depressives, while each could be so much healthier if they could get access to help beyond their prescribed or acquired drugs.