Profiting from explaining #moods and #bipolar

If you have alwaysFor most of my life I tried. By this I mean that I mostly believed I improved things for myself and others by working hard. I believed that putting in a lot of effort would lead to good things.

In my 2004 book, ‘Stop Paddling / Start Sailing’ I describe this way of living as paddling. The stop paddling idea does not mean to stop making an effort. It is more about seeing the alternatives and then starting again with a better understanding of why sometimes trying hard works well and sometimes it does not work as expected.

By 2005 I was keen to start my training business, with an associate suggesting, ‘Stop Paddling’ as a unique business name. I wanted to help people understand that there are many alternative mind-sets and to help course participants to have more choice whether to spend their time paddling, drifting or sailing and of course to avoid sinking!

The Stop Paddling business did not go as planned and from 2006 to early 2012 I was mainly training people to understand, live with and recover from being diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. This led to publishing the handbook on Bipolar Disorder for Nurses and Carers in January 2012.

To publish a 350 page book on bipolar disorder and to continue to teach health professionals, the public and of course those who need to recover from the bipolar diagnosis I needed to do a lot of research. I had lots of meetings with experts, read a lot of books, did lots of on-line research and worked for 4 years on mood and recovery research projects.

The authors who I met during this time who most influenced my thinking were Dr Liz Miller and Robert Whitaker (Recommended reading: ‘Mood Mapping’ and ‘An Anatomy of an Epidemic’). If you have time to read both with an open mind you will surely reach the same conclusion I, and I believe everyone else who has read these books comes to: bipolar disorder and other mental health diagnosis are only labels and not medical diagnoses. Bipolar is a label used for people who suffer from stress and anxiety who have periods of higher or lower energy levels.

For earlier generations (prior to bipolar becoming a diagnosable disorder in 1980) most people feeling anxious and stressed with variable energy levels would have been considered to simply be under pressure, in pain, needing change… Now you only need to sit in front of a psychiatrist and say you are feeling troubled for a bipolar disorder diagnosis to be a likely outcome.

This has left me in an odd situation. I continue to research and teach about what is described as a diagnosis that is really no more than a label.

In creating the social enterprise, Rethinking Health (UK) Ltd, my new colleagues helped me find a way to continue with this teaching and research through helping students see both sides of ‘the bipolar coin©’. Part of our courses are delivered using a large coin with each face used for comparison of the main alternative views.

For most who are being labelled as bipolar their biggest challenge becomes the label itself which implies little or no recovery, little hope and on-going stigma that maintains a bleak looking future which in turn maintains the disorder. As well as their original troubles they now have to cope with the stigma that stacks so much against them when wanting to get their lives back on track.

I am reminded of the statement at the top of the page and this quote…

Madness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome.” Albert Einstein

Tackling causes:

Whatever it is that is driving people to turn up at doctor’s offices to accept the bipolar diagnosis it will continue to make these people unwell unless something changes. Knowing what to change depends on looking at the causes of our emotional turmoil.

On our recovery courses people have found it easy to identify many possible causes. These are all things that happened in the past that set us up for difficulties with managing our emotions or things in the present that can tip us over the edge.

The likely causes are well-known. It is more challenging, yet essential, to help people to find their personal causes and triggers. Knowing what causes and triggers our troubles allows us to not just to change what we do, but also to have a good chance of making the right changes that will allow us to live a healthier life.

A fresh start:

2012 was a big year for us in figuring out what is going on and how we can help improve the prospects for the next generation.

It was also a time of realisation that we as trainers with experience of mood disorder had become part of the bipolar industry. We were being paid to effectively promote the idea of bipolar as a diagnosis and however much we were explaining that bipolar is just a theory, just using the word was helping the industry around bipolar to keep on growing and drugs to continue to be prescribed.

Although we cannot challenge bipolar without using the word ‘bipolar’, it now seems more ethical not to take a wage from this but rather keep the money we are paid in the social enterprise. This is  allowing our work to expand and so more people can have more hope after bipolar diagnosis.

This is a different kind of profit – if we can do this we can start to feel great about our work again.

Bipolar Recovery Bite-size – Mood Mapping #moodmapping

Two years ago I was writing ‘Bipolar Recovery Bite-size’.  This was to explain how I and others had come to understand what had happened to us and so recovered from the diagnosis. The reason for ‘bite-size’ was that emotional disturbances can make it difficult to read long articles – The challenge became one of sharing this important information in small chunks/bites.

I have started updating all the bipolar recovery bites and over the next few weeks hope to share the new versions here at Rethinking Bipolar

1.What are emotions made of?

Fourteen years ago as a patient on an acute psychiatric ward I was told I had an emotional disorder that would need to be treated with medication for the rest of my life. I was given a label, “Manic depressive”. There was no explanation of emotions, what was causing the disorder or what I could do other than take tablets.

I wonder how different the next few years of my life would have been if the psychiatrist had been able to explain to me something about emotions.

Perhaps he thought I was too ill to understand or perhaps he did not know how to explain?

We all have an idea what emotions are and yet we all seem to explain emotions in different ways. Emotions mean different things to different people.

 Before reading bite 2 , “Emotions Are Made Of…”, how would you describe emotion? 

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