“Break the Bipolar Cycle”

October 14, 2009

Break the Bipolar Cycle - link to Amazon.com

This book doesn’t spend much time on positive reinforcement (People with bipolar are great artists! Your symptoms are OK! You are not alone!), and I am more than fine with that. Instead, it focuses on practical approaches to getting through the day, meeting goals, and overcoming hurdles — even “small” hurdles.

Until I read this book, I felt alone in:

  • Dreading phonecalls
  • Being a medication guinea pig
  • Feeling “up” and yet so negative ( “mixed state”)
  • Every small task being so utterly difficult
  • Being such a finicky sleeper

The books introduces the reader to various symptoms along the Bipolar spectrum (Bipolar type I, type II, cyclothymia, Bipolar NOS, etc) by way of brief descriptions and then several stories of real people’s experiences.  These are helpful not only by way of illustration, but also as a means of practicing empathy: it can be easier to feel kindly towards others who have a diagnosis than towards yourself, and kindliness towards oneself is a precursor towards any positive action at all!

In addition to these descriptions and stories, the book contains a whole lot of worksheets.  There’s a certain amount of inertia you must overcome to make full use of the book, but if you can, the worksheets are very useful.  Some features include:

  • A worksheet to prioritize phonecalls, one at a time
  • Various mood-tracking worksheets — down the road, when you’re miserable/jittery/angry, they’ll remind you that you haven’t always been that way
  • Symptom worksheets
  • A worksheet for identifying stressors
  • Drug efficacy & side-effect worksheets
  • …And a whole bunch of others that I certainly haven’t tackled yet

For best results, have partners/friends/family members help with these worksheets; they can be overwhelming for someone who’s coping with a new diagnosis. The worksheets make a huge difference in the ability of your psychiatrist to treat you, since they offer a broad view of symptoms over time, and they provide you with that same broad perspective — it reminds you that you’re not always ___________ (fill in the blank of your current mood).

This book alone won’t “break the bipolar cycle”, but it is one of many useful tools (along with chocolate and drugs) that can make bipolar more manageable.  It’s the best book I’ve found, of maybe 5 at my local library.

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