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Depressed, bipolar

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I am bipolar with a marked tendency to get depressed. This has helped my poetry, I think. And it has or is proving useful in the novel.

I also run a bipolar and depression support group in Portland, Oregon. We have about 12-15 people at our meetings. Last night I asked the group how many wrote– and all but two of the people raised their hands. Another was a painter, and one was a musician.

I think there is a link between depression and bipolar disorders and creativity.

Some of the people that created masterpieces include Churchill, Lincoln, Tchaikovsky, Hemingway and Virginia Wolfe. The list actually is a very long one.

But remember too– depression can kill. Two best-selling novels in the 1940’s were Raintree Country and Mr. Roberts. Both books sold very well, and were hits on Broadway. Both were filmed. Both authors killed themselves not long after their greatest professional achievements and they were young. They have lots of company: Hart Crane, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, John Berryman were some of my favorite poets and all committed suicide. Back then, treatments were rare. But now, there is no excuse for not treating a serious depression or mania.

Most of the treatments are chemical. However, I don’t take a traditional anti-depressant. They work for a short while, then stop. So I started looking for alternatives in the natural medicine movement. I found out that I am deficient in two neurotransmitters– dopamine and acetylcholine. So I take tyrosine, which raises dopamine levels. I also take another fistful of amino acids because my mind is sharper if I do. I learned all of this through the book, The Edge Effect.

Also I use micro-current electrical therapy, which I discovered when both my rheumatologist and naturopathic physician suggested as a treatment for pain. It was effective, but I noticed it also sharply reduced my anxiety and depression. I called the company– and it turns out the therapy is also used for depression, anxiety and insomnia (and migraine). I had three out of four. The therapy– using the Alpha-Stim product at Allevia.com has been really helpful for me and another member of the group.

Full-disclosure– I love the product and I asked the people at Allevia if I could promote it. We are talking about it now but I may have a financial interest in promoting the product, but if it wasn’t magically effective and if I didn’t love it, I would not have approached them. For those of us that aren’t helped by anti-depressants– and there are a lot of us that have gone through dozens of medications which work for a little while, and then stop…micro-current therapy works for many of us… that’s good enough for me.

One other thing that helps the members of my DBSA group (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) is exercise, especially yoga. I joke that if you are going to kill yourself, do it by running yourself to death. Nearly everyone now exercises and the effect is marked on the group. No one has tried suicide in the group– now it is years– and no one has been hospitalized in the recent year. So I recommend a support group and finding what treatment will work if you happen to not respond to medication. Medication is a godsend when it does work. So start there with a good psychiatrist.

I also find prayer and meditation work for me. Some studies suggest mindfulness/meditation is markedly helpful for depression. There are other–older–studies that suggest meditation has no impact on depression at all. I suggest you try mindfulness or another meditation practice on your own.

The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn seems like a good place to start. A lot of people find it very helpful.

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