My Bipolar credentials

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I know more about bipolar disorder than is healthy for any human being. Let’s just say that I have earned my Bp.D. (Doctorate in Bipolar disorder). I’ve also earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, which I will describe later, but it is the doctorate in bipolar disorder which is pertinent and most helpful for this website.

 
I have been diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder (manic depression) for over 40 years.
According to my most recent psychiatrist I am in fact a “classic manic depressive.

Over the years I have met many people struggling with bipolar disorder. There are quite a few who beat me in the severity of their depressions. But I have never met or heard of any who has had worse manias. Not a competition that you care to win. Based upon everything that I know and have read, it creates brain damage.

A diagnosis of bipolar I is only made if someone has experienced mania. In order to be labelled “mania” symptoms must be severe. To be precise, when someone is exhibiting manic symptoms, they must have met at least 1 of 3 criteria. I meet all 3 and then some. Here are the criteria:

  • Must have shown manic symptoms severe enough that psychiatrists stamp them with the label of bipolar I disorder. +∞
    • I intensely distrust psychiatrists and their capacity to diagnose, and if you have been diagnosed bipolar 1 because of this symptom it is time to get a second opinion.
    • No need to go into this lukewarm, very subjective symptom in my case.
  • Psychosis     √√√√√√√√√√√√√
    • “Bipolar I disorder” — in its manic phase — is the current mental illness diagnosis which most closely corresponds to what used to be called “madness,” i.e. agitated psychosis.
    • I am woefully familiar with true madness. I call this state “loony tunes.” For those uncertain how that applies to mania, I offer a (14 second) illustration.
    • In one stellar mania I thought that I was God, a less common delusion. It was surprisingly not a pleasant delusion. In that state I kept my ex-husband awake for several nights telling him stories, Scheherazade style, until he caved in and carted me into the emergency room.
    • In the past few manic episodes I have little recollection of what I did or experienced. After my last manic episode I don’t remember anything of the first 2 weeks in the hospital, and remember only hazy facts about the last week.
  • Required hospitalization to treat their manic symptoms √√√√√√√√√√
    • I have been hospitalized 10 times, all involuntarily, for psychotic mania. That is not strictly accurate. The one time that I did come in voluntarily they released me after a week and then I returned 2 days later, worse than ever, committed involuntarily.
    • To be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder you do not need to have ever been diagnosed with clinical depression.
  • Note: You are not required to have experienced a clinical depression in order to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
    • If you haven’t, just wait. Sorry to tell you this, but what goes up must come down.
    • Best guess from research is that there is no such thing as “unipolar mania.” Unfortunately, for some of us there is something as “unipolar disorder.” How fair is that?
    • I had no depressive episodes for ages 15-36. For that blissful 20 years I was in a state of almost constant hypomania.
    • After a nasty divorce at age 36, I fell into a debilitating clinical depression which waxed and waned but lasted almost 10 years. I keep falling back into it.

Like too many others, I have experienced the exquisite suffering that families feel in dealing with family members who are diagnosed with severe mental illness.

  • My youngest brother has been disabled by a severe case of Bipolar I disorder.
    • He has also experienced an extreme case of the disorder, ranging from impressively psychotic mania to disabling depression. His last, truly horrible mania involved being hospitalized three times in three different states over the course of two months. Our family managed to find him each time, but he bought a fast car, is very persuasive, and good at escaping.
    • Watching him experience the same unique flavor of suffering has been one of the more difficult parts of this experience. My own suffering should’ve been sacrifice enough to appease the gods of mania and depression.
  • One cousin has a pretty bad case of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
    • It seems that many people now recognize that they have some degree of SAD, particularly here in the Pacific Northwest.
    • My cousin’s case is severe enough to cause suicidal feelings and he needs medication in order to get through the late fall each year.
    • I too have SAD but to a lesser degree. It doesn’t even seem worth mentioning in the context of everything else.
  • My other family members who have admitted to anything incriminating reluctantly disclose that they see a psychiatrist and/or therapist and have been prescribed antidepressants.
    • There have been numerous family members who has gone to psychiatrists and who have been described antidepressants.
    • Important note: They of course do not have any psychiatric disorder 🙂 only situationally specific depression.
    • None of them actually want a diagnosis, particularly after the extended family trauma that occurred when I was first diagnosed.

For over 13 years I facilitated a DBSA support group (Depressive and Bipolar Support Alliance). 

  • This gave me the privilege of meeting a wide variety of people diagnosed with mood disorders and the occasional opportunity to help them.

Summersday has earned a B.A., M.A., and PhD. Yes, I am a clinical psychologist.  I received my PhD in clinical psychology from one of the top 10 clinical psych schools in the U.S.

  • It took me 13 years to accomplish that. This is a reasonably interesting story.
    • You are expected to finish your PhD in 5 years (mine was a full Masters+PhD program).
    • During the first three years I was in sync with my classmates, and successfully defended my masters thesis within the required time.
    • At the end of the first three years, before you write and defend your dissertation, you are required to pass your doctoral examinations. My psychiatrist at that time continues to be amazed by this story.
      • In response to this stress I had a florid, technicolor, doozy of a manic episode, 110% psychotic, involuntarily committed into the hospital.
      • Faced with my doctoral examinations, my kindly shrink strongly (!!!) advised me not to take my exams because I was still psychotic.
      • I dismissed his advice (manic episode) and took the examinations anyway.
      • In fact I not only passed the bloody exams, totally aced them (without being required, like my fellow classmates, to revise essay answers until they “passed”).
      • Besides feeling a dim pride about this, it reminds me of the fact that our minds are truly amazing and that the “pass doctoral comprehensive exams” portion of the brain is not apparently connected to the “make coherence out of reality” section. This gives me pause.
      • It was after year 3 that husband 2 decided that he had had enough of bipolar disorder and left. That spun me out into a severe, prolonged depression.
      • My gratitude remains intact for several heads of our department and their tolerance for someone who was walking to the pace of a different drummer.
  • My training as a clinical psychologist was profoundly interesting, practical, and the most rewarding experience of my life.
    • Summersday, pretty good scientist
      • During my graduate school experience I was afforded the best training currently available in the “Scientist-practitioner” tradition.
      • Most people don’t realize that clinical psychologists are trained scientists. From an intellectual standpoint I find psychology fascinating, much more complex variables than my prior career as an engineer. Programs work or they don’t, people are not that simple.
    • Summersday, achieves her Bp.D. while getting her Ph.D.
      • It goes without saying that this training was very practical from a self-help viewpoint.
    • Summersday surprises everyone by turning out to be an excellent clinician.
      • To my gratification, to the surprise of my department, and to the benefit of my clients, this former engineer turned out to be an excellent therapist. In an unusual choice, of the 6 chosen to enter the Ph.D. program that year, 2 of us were female engineers. I did well, she did a belly flop and returned to engineering. You just don’t know sometimes.
      • I consciously took some time before going into the gauntlet of a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology to make certain that I was not going into it in order to heal myself. Please do not do that, it is not a good idea and results in a half-baked psychotherapist.
      • The clinical training required to becoming a psychotherapist and then the opportunity to practice was the most personally satisfying contributions that I have made to others in this lifetime, although closely followed by teaching at university.
      • My favorite part of this training was being afforded the opportunity to have psychodynamic clinical supervisors (i.e. Freudian or Jungian).
        • You can’t get training like that anymore from the top clinical psychology departments. Psychodynamic therapy has been “discredited,” because it is not scientific or “evidence-based.”
        • Someday in the not near future, when clinical psychology is not trying to be so damn on the surface evidence based rational, I believe it’s going to revisit psychodynamic theory and harvest some true wisdom there.
      • The bulk of my clinical training was cognitive behavioral and my classes leaned toward clinical neuroscience. I was taught how to think and write about abnormal  behavior in rigorous scientific terms. I find it pedantic but see its utility.
  • A highly opinionated detour about psychiatrists based on a lifetime of experience.
    • I have over 40 years of a variety of experiences with “pdocs.” My opinions and expectations of psychiatrists are very low, my opinions even lower.
    • Psychiatrist are trained as doctors, to dispense drugs. They get to cut up cadavers, learn organic biochemistry and such, so that they get to hang that M.D. after their name.
    • They are give very very little training in psychotherapy.
    • Exceptional drug dispensing psychiatrists are rare enough in their own right.
    • A psychiatrist who is also a good therapist is born every other blue moon. If psychiatrists are good at psychotherapy it is nature, not nurture. If they are good clinicians it is in spite of their training, not because of it.
    • According to my ex-father in law, a world famous pathologist, psychiatric interns are the dregs of medical schools. Kind of like undergraduate psychology majors — if you can’t cut it in some majors or can’t figure out what you want to be when you grow up, you can always declare psychology as your major.
    • Clinical psychologists are trained as scientists and clinicians (psychotherapists).
      • The training in psychotherapy is much better and more extensive for clinical psychologists than psychiatrists receive, I am very sorry to say.
    • I believe that this was enough to alienate any psychiatrist passersby so that I can continue uninhibited.

 

Blah, blah, blah. published without editing. Good riddance.

 

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