One Exciting Thing and One Ironic Thing About Prozac Monologues and Psychology Today

Last week Psychology Today posted Bipolar Disorder: How to Get Correctly Diagnosed, my interview with Monica Starkman, M.D. about Prozac Monologues: A Voice from the Edge. Its tag says, The average of seven years to receive accurate diagnosis is unacceptably high.

Damn straight it is! The article is about how to improve that rate, or at least to improve the odds for the people who follow its suggestions.

This popular journal chose to place the article in its Essential Reads section on its bipolar resource page. The article's key points include:

  • Bipolar disorder, particularly Type II, is often misdiagnosed.
  • People tend to spend much more time in a depressive state and often do not recognize mild or hypomanic symptoms.
  • The chance of getting properly diagnosed is increased by using online screening tools and bringing family/friends to doctor visits.

I spent a mere (!) five years misdiagnosed with major depression, two of them taking the antidepressants that threw me into mixed episodes and made me suicidal. A random conversation on an airplane led me to the Mood Disorder Questionnaire referenced in the Psychology Today article. Taking the MDQ was the first step to discovering my bipolar and, more importantly, getting on the road to recovery.

So the exciting thing is that this information will be accessible to a larger audience than those of us who go poking around medical journals. That is my mission. Contact me on my website if I can speak to your book club, church group, or fraternal organization about mental illness and recovery.

The ironic thing? -- The photo the magazine chose to accompany the article.

This photo ticked all the boxes in the memo I sent to the cover design people for Prozac Monologues, saying,
Don't even.

In fact, this photo showed up in my Facebook feed twice last week, once illustrating my own article, the other to go with a HealthiNation post, Four Myths about Bipolar Disorder. The photo suggests the following myths:

MYTH: Bipolar disorder means having mood swings.

MYTH: The mood shifts are rapid and constant.

MYTH: The highs are extremely high, and the lows are extremely low.

MYTH: Mania is a euphoric mood.


I mean, doesn't she look like she's on a wild whipsaw of emotion? Check out the article to learn more about why these myths distort the reality of bipolar disorder.

In a nutshell, bipolar exists across a range, and shows up in many cognitive and energetic systems, not just mood. It's not just up and down. I took too much trouble to demonstrate that in Prozac Monologues to have the cover undo my labors.

I also told the cover design people that I didn't want a white woman on the cover. I didn't want anything that suggested to people of other races that this book was not about them. Because mental illness does not discriminate by race or gender. Neither should information, treatment, nor recovery.

On a personal note, the Independent Book Publishers Association recently awarded Prozac Monologues a Benjamin Franklin Award in the highly competitive category of autobiography and memoir. Of the f
ront cover design, one judge wrote: Outstanding. So creative and effective. One of the best this judge has seen among this year’s contest entries. The cover design is powerful and impactful. It will make a reader/browser/ shopper want to learn more about the book’s content. Fantastic.

I concur, and want to give credit to Leah Lococo of She Writes Press for her work. Not only did her design dodge the pitfalls of bipolar myths, but she managed to capture the story itself, the hypomanic episode that kicked off by writing the first seven monologues in eight days on a yellow notepad, filling every line, every margin, and every space between with energy and urgency.

(The judge liked the back cover even more.)

So. Yay! A good month with an expanded reach for information that is vital to people whose depression is not getting better:

It might be depression plus something more.
And you might be able to get better after all.

Plus a little bit of weirdness about misunderstandings of bipolar disorder. But that part isn't really news, is it.

On the Road Again for NAMI: No Cougars Encountered

NAMI and I go way back. I don't even know when or how I heard of this organization, the nation's largest grass roots organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. But it has walked beside me for thirteen years now, as I have tried to build my own better life.

NAMI began in 1979, when some Wisconsin parents of people with schizophrenia pushed back against the prevailing theory of the day, that they had caused this terrible disease in their children. They aligned their new organization with the view that schizophrenia is an illness of the brain, and a commitment to support research into medical approaches to alleviate this and other mental illnesses.

NAMI provides advocacy, education, support and public awareness. My own life has been touched by NAMI through their Peer to Peer classes and support groups. My wife attended Family to Family classes. In the last ten years, these core programs have expanded to address other needs.

So most years, I have participated in their annual fund raiser, the NAMIWalk. For the first few years, I walked with NAMI Johnson County in Iowa City, with Team Prozac Monologues. It was a party affair, kicked off with balloons and Middle Eastern dancers and roller derby demonstrations. And t-shirts, always t-shirts.

This year we did it DIY. COVID cancelled the big events. We all walked our own routes.

My route was the Peterson Ridge Trail in Deschutes National Forest, south of Sisters, Oregon.

Some different scenery this year:



And some novel challenges:


But this was not the first DIY NAMIWalk for me. In 2012 we were in Costa Rica when the date came. Not to be deterred, heck - why don't we make a movie!


Seriously, in the days before IPhones, we carried a laptop to the beach!

Anyway, if you are inclined to support my fund-raising efforts this year, the pledge page is still active. Here it is. Many thanks to those who have already contributed, this year and in years past.

In 2009, the local NAMI chair asked me to participate in Mental Illness Awareness Week, a vigil remembering people who had died from their mental illness. On October 4th, I stood in front of a hundred people or so. I was struggling myself to survive when I said for the time, Hello, my name is Willa Goodfellow, and I have a mental illness.

That seems an age ago. An admission that seemed so daring then has become my brand. NAMI has been part of my getting to a much healthier place about acknowledging my reality.

I stated an intention that night. I am proud to say that I am fulfilling it. So I close this post the way I closed those remarks twelve years ago:

...To that end, I am going to live with this disease the way Don lived with his. Openly -- I have a mental illness. Actively -- I will answer ignorance with education. Politically-- I will meet discrimination with change. And in community -- I will support and be supported by others who share this illness with me, so that we can survive it together.

Does Music Therapy Help People with Bipolar Disorder? Maybe Not

Non-pharmaceutical approaches to mental illnesses are great. I mean, who wouldn't like to pop a pill without the side effects?

I eagerly clicked on the link: Music therapy for bipolar disorder: Can it help? from the newsletter, Medical News Today, hoping to find the playlist that would soothe the savage beast. The article reported on two studies, both pretty small, N<30. I guess music therapy doesn't attract the big bucks in research land. Spoiler alert: I did not find the magic playlist.

The first study compared people with bipolar in a euthymic state (stable, not depressed, not manic) with healthy controls. They listened to music that typically produces wonder and joy. The healthy controls felt wonder and joy. The bipolar participants felt... tense. The researchers surmised that the negative emotions in bipolar participants has to do with difficulties in emotional regulation, part of the executive dysfunction.

The music disrupted an equilibrium, perhaps, which healthy controls found exhilarating, but bipolar people found simply disruptive? -- That's my conjecture.

How Far Have You Come? A Review of Trauma and Recovery

Judith Herman wrote the definitive work on Trauma and Recovery in her book by that title, with the subtitle: The Aftermath of Violence--From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. You haven't heard from me in a month while I have been living with this book, preparing a presentation on the trauma of suicidal ideation.

It was a trip, that presentation, taking me through the dark corners of my life in the last fifteen years. With Herman as my guide, I also traveled through the progress I have made, considerable progress.

[It's still possible to register for The Healing Conference, now with two for one pricing. Recordings of the presentations will be available through 2021.]


The first half of the book begins the history of the concept, beginning with what was called shell shock in World War I through to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD in Viet Nam, along the way picking up other traumas, sexual violence and captivity.

Want a Sneak Peak to the Healing Trauma Conference?

The third annual Healing Trauma Conference: Come to the Table: Nourish your Body, Mind, and Spirit, Because No One Heals Alone takes place April 30-May 2, sponsored by Haelan House of Bend, OR -- Healing the Root Causes and Effects of Trauma.


My bit is Sunday morning's keynote address:

Suicidal Thoughts as Trauma:

Taking Charge of My Own Recovery.

Description: Trauma can be both the cause and the consequence of suicidal thoughts. Suicidal ideation is considered a symptom of a mental illness. The mental illness model (what's wrong with you? instead of what happened to you?) suggests that if the illness is treated, then the symptoms resolve. But often, while the thoughts themselves go away, the trauma can go unrecognized, untreated, and underground.

What is God Doing on World Bipolar Day?

It was not that this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. John 9:3, Revised Standard Version.

Or as The Message puts it: You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no cause and effect here. Look instead for what God can do.

There's the text for World Bipolar Day.


In the Gospel, Jesus heals a man born blind. Presumably what God can do is made manifest by that healing. So, okay, Jesus, what about me?

What about me? How many people, with how many disabilities, wonder what God is doing, especially those of us surrounded by others who wonder, Who sinned, this one or the parents?

Five Good Books I Recommend for World Bipolar Day



Knowledge is the key to taming this beast we call bipolar disorder. The more you know about what is happening inside that beautiful brain of yours, the better you can avoid letting it bite you in the butt.

Alas, many people with bipolar think their doctors will tell them what they need to know. Most of the psychiatrists I have seen gave me an abbreviated (and sometimes disingenuous) description for potential side effects of the pills they prescribed. And that's it.

How do I actually live with this beast? Take my meds. What will it mean for my life? Not so much as a pamphlet.

Psychoeducation for bipolar disorder has been shown to reduce recurrence of depressive, manic, and mixed episodes, all three, and to reduce hospitalization, as well. It includes information about the biological roots of the disorder, the rationale for medication, other treatment options, early warning signs of episodes, and common triggers. It aims to improve adherence to treatment plans. It usually is offered in a group setting.

It isn't offered often.

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