Most people don’t know I’m bipolar. After years of loving kindness shown to me by my wife, therapy with a caring and skilling therapist, and medications to help keep me in balance, my illness is in remission. Even if you had known me when I was the most out-of-control and crazy you probably wouldn’t have been aware that anything was wrong. No one likes to be seen as “mentally ill.” Even with our more enlightened understanding of mental illness, there is still significant stigma attached to mental illness as opposed to physical illness. We talk more easily about heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It isn’t so easy to talk about depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.
Let me take you back to March, 1998, the year I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. If you had seen me in my community in Willits, you would have observed a 55-year-old man who seemed to be living the perfect life. Carlin and I had been happily married for 18 years. Our children were grown and we were living in our dream home in the country. I had a successful psychotherapy practice and my fourth book, Male Menopause, was well on its way to becoming an international best-seller. I was involved in a men’s group and was active in our community. I was joyful and exuberant most of the time and got more work done than most people. I could talk up a storm and if there was any complaint about me, it was that at times I was a bit over the top emotionally, with new ideas for striking it rich and changing the world coming one on top of the other.
But Carlin lived with a more painful reality. In a letter she wrote to my doctor she said, “Jed has rapid mood changes. He’s angry, accusing, argumentative and blaming one moment. The next he’s buying me flowers, cards, and love notes. He’s smiling and enthusiastic. He’s inconsistent in many areas of his life. He’s very picky about some things and sloppy about others. He will spend time arranging scotch tape, scissors, etc. on the top of a shelf, marking each one’s place carefully with a piece of tape so he can return it to it’s designated place. At the same time he can have papers around him ankle deep on the floor or piled on top of counters. It has become tiring arguing with him. Nothing seems to get resolved. He seems to thrive on the intensity of the argument.” [Read more…]