Bipolar Therapy 88

Apologies, having a bit of bipolar down side trouble, but I think I am coming out of it.

Except in the direst extremity, I have stayed away from the drugs they use since the horrible, deadening experience of lithium for a brief while in my student days. It remains my opinion that the sharpness and creativity is worth the days of lack of will to…anything. I have, however, a rather strange therapy I devised myself. I always have a very strong emotional reaction to music, and there is a danger of it reinforcing mood swings – listening to the Symphony Pathetique when down or Don’t Stop Me Now when up.

I loaded all my 1400 CDs on to a laptop, and I play the tracks completely at random, or ordered by some emotionally irrelevant criterion like track length. I listen constantly. I find it helps – and with this kind of thing, if you think it helps, it helps. It doesn’t need an objective basis.

88 thoughts on “Bipolar Therapy

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  • Tris

    Speedy recovery. You’re quite right; as long as you think something is helping, it will do just that. If you think it’s no earthly use, it will be.

    That’s why finding your own way out of it is the best.

  • mary

    Sorry to hear that the ‘black dog’ has made a reappearance Craig. Maybe there was a let down after the buzz in Edinburgh. Also there is an effect on our psyches caused by the seasonal drop in light levels. I know that I feel tired and a bit low after a dull day and very heavy rain today. Hope you are back to your optimistic and cheery self soon. In the meantine rest and relaxation to your music seems a good idea.

  • Jon

    Pleased you’ve found something to assist Craig – get well. I struggle with low periods also, though perhaps not so pronounced; I tend to find doing something creative helps, if only for the distraction.
    Your post reminds me of a beautiful song written by one of the finest finger-pickin’ guitarists I’ve been to see, Danny Schmidt. His lyrics are quite wonderful, but in general are more dark than light – so wait until you feel better before clicking the link!
    The story goes
    Or the way that I was told
    There was a king that always felt too high
    And then he fell too low
    And so he called
    All the wise men to the hall
    And begged them for a gift
    To end the rises and the falls
    And here’s the thing
    They came back with a ring
    It was simple and was plainly
    Unbefitting of a king
    Engraved in black
    Well, it had no front or back
    But there were words around the band that said
    Just know: This Too Shall Pass

  • Rod

    I am at the other end of the bipolar bungee right now, frazzled post elation, and playing a different CD constantly each day, like a musical anchor.

  • Canspeccy

    The amount of lithium typically prescribed for bipolar disorder are stunningly high, up to 300 milligrams (equivalent to 1.5 grams of lithium carbonate) per day, which is close to toxic and requires constant patient monitoring for signs of liver damage.
    But, largely ignored by the medical profession, trace amounts of lithium, in the order of 50 to 100 micrograms per day have quite significant psychotropic effects, as documented by a number of papers in the literature on trace elements. In fact, lithium is almost certainly an essential element in mammalian nutrition and may well be deficient in the diet of many people, including particularly, those dependent on municipal water systems that generally utilize mineral deficient surface water (i.e., river or lake water). Some have suggested that the epidemic of mental illness in N. America and other developed countries is at least in part due to the transition from rural water supplies, which are often well mineralized, e.g. well water, to municipal surface water supplies.
    Effects of trace lithium include a reduction in impulsive behavior as measured by a reduction in suicide and violent crime (observed in epidemiological studies where drinking water lithium content in the range of zero to 160 micrograms per liter is the independent variable), a significant anti-depressant effect in one double blind trial, and improved mood in withdrawn alcoholics, etc. Much of the work can be found with a Google search for items including the name Gerhard N. Schrauzer +lithium.
    To be effective, though, use of trace lithium must be on a regular basis, at least once and preferably twice a day, since its half-life in the body is only around 24 hours: that is why lithium in drinking water is probably the best source — if available, because the intake is more or less constant. Taking the stuff haphazardly is probably worse than useless, as there is a negative rebound.
    To experiment with the stuff, you can drink San Pellegrino Water. Although it doesn’t say so on the label, SP water contains 200 micrograms of lithium per liter. Various types of Vichy water contain a lot more, e.g., Catalan Vichy contains 1.3 mg per liter. I have written something briefly about the psychotropic effects of lithium here.
    Whether trace lithium helps in the case of bipolar disorder, I don’t know, although there are several reports of more or less definite inverse relationship between mental hospital admissions and drinking water lithium content (in both N. Carolina and Texas). Also, it is interesting that the Textbook of Integrative Mental Healthcare reports that low lithium due to low nutritional intake is common in acute mania, and that supplementation with trace lithium may reduce the risk of mania in predisposed individuals.
    Having experimented with trace lithium, I can confirm that it does have real psychotropic effect. One objective measure being that my impulsive tendency to cuss any bloody fool who cuts me off in traffic or otherwise drives like a moron is completely suppressed. This seems pretty conclusive evidence of effectiveness.
    In general, I am quite happy to cuss stupid drivers, but I cannot say that taking 50 or 100 micrograms of lithium per day produced unpleasant or numbing effects. However, I can imagine a full “therapeutic anti-mania dose” would indeed be mind numbing.

  • Vindice

    I seem to go missing for days when having a bipolar moment. The days I am at sea, so to speak, are the most grim; not just for me, but for those around me. But then the breeze of change takes me back toward land and I am able to cope, to pick up the pieces and catch my bearings. Sometimes I think my mind requires ‘the chaotic’ as a form of catharsis, in order to ‘let go’ of the myriad frustrations that clutter its internal gaze. The dawn will soon approach, Craig, and you will feel better. Have no doubt.

  • Tom Welsh

    It’s not an irrational response; on the contrary, it is the natural response of an intelligent, sensitive person to the world we live in. For a while, by selective attention, one can persuade oneself all is well. Then the dark side of reality grabs some mindshare, and we react appropriately. My remedy is Mozart and reading about good people.

  • Anon

    From the 2nd cable linked above

    ¶6. (C) The RRG activists observed that they have had difficulty arranging a similar meeting with the British Ambassador in Tashkent and asked the Ambassador to intervene on their behalf with the British Embassy, which he did later that day. The activists noted that in general, the British Embassy in Tashkent appears to have disengaged somewhat on human rights. The Ambassador noted that the current British Ambassador, a talented and experienced diplomat who most recently served as the British Ambassador to Belarus, is intensely interested in human rights but has adopted a more cautious profile in Tashkent, following the Craig Murray debacle, in which a previous British Ambassador’s confrontational stance on human rights issues all but severed UK relations with Uzbekistan.

  • glenn

    [Apologies if this appears twice – first time didn’t seem to take, even allowing an hour]


    Maybe I’ve been taking a form of self-medication all these years, because there are three things which have always helped me get out of these dark patches:

    – Exercise to near exhaustion, usually through cycling or running.

    – Meditating: Sit still with eyes closed having guarded against interruption, and contemplate the void just behind the eyeballs for 30 minutes, for up to an hour or so if necessary. It’ll seem like a fraction of that time, and is so refreshing, it’s far better than sleep.

    – Ride a powerful motorcycle for even a short while. It is guaranteed to entirely clear your mind of all other thoughts for the duration, in just the time it takes to reach third gear (out of the six typically available). We’re talking about a 3-second cure – nothing else works this fast apart from dangerously addictive drugs. Here’s an very quick illustration:

    (The above is the exact edition of one of my own bikes, but very similar benefits may be achieved from numerous other models. Even a 50cc scooter is better than sitting around feeling miserable – I speak from personal experience.)

  • JonL

    You’re right.
    I have 15000 tracks on the computer and when required, random continual playing got me through. It’s amazing how much sense, sometimes, totally random tracks can meld into something meaningful…..

  • Brendan

    In an effort to cheer up a total stranger, I’d just like to say that I am currently reading Mr Murray’s book, The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. Fellow posters, it is very good. No, I’m not a sockpuppet, nor a chum of Mr Murray’s, it actually is very good.

  • CheebaCow

    Woah, 1400 CDs, I’m impressed =)
    Jon, thanks for the link to Danny Schmidt, amazing, I don’t know he flew under my radar.
    I recommend people check out one of Australia’s best groups, the Dirty Three. Its a violin, guitar and drums 3 piece (no vocals, none required).
    People should also check out the Thai band Maleehuanna. It’s a bit power ballady (what Thai music aint?), but the guitar has great tone and I like the singers voice.

  • escalantekid

    There is, as it happens, a silver lining to this particular cloud . . .

    Cognitive psychotherapists see themselves as training people to get rid of unrealistically negative thoughts and to reason realistically. There is a large body of evidence, however, suggesting that mildly depressed people may see themselves and the world more accurately than ‘normal’ people (‘depressive realism’). Non-depressed people tend to be unrealistically optimistic, rating themselves as e.g. better drivers than average, above average on a wide range of favourable personality characteristics, lower than average on unfavourable characteristics. Apparently 94% of university academics think they are better than average lecturers.
    Similarly, ‘normal’ people rate themselves as having more control over their lives than they actually have; and are also unrealistically optimistic about the future – e.g., believing that they will have unusually successful careers, unusually successful marriages, unusually good health, etc.
    This suggests that mild depression may often reflect a realistic appraisal of one’s situation. So perhaps we should be treating the normals to make them more realistic (and more depressed!).

    Unrealism, especially as translated into policy (e.g. ignoring global warming, peak oil, etc.) may be dangerous. These illusions may make people feel better in the short term; but the long-term effects certainly won’t . . . As one review summarises the evidence, the
    findings of depressive realism and nondepressive optimistic distortions suggest that the primary active ingredient in cognitive therapy may not be the enhancement of realistic self-appraisal … but rather the training of depressed clients to engage in the sort of optimistic biases and illusions that nondepressives typically construct for themselves. So although I wouldn’t want to diminish the difficulties associated with mood swings,it doesn’t hurt to recognise that they may allow one a more rounded view of the world . . .

  • mary

    As it is morning now, you won’t have any nightmares about this. The daughters are Chloe aged 10 and Grace aged 8. Whichever one is the godchild, the unfortunate child is cursed. Bliar is a psychopath.

    Tony Blair Is Godfather To Rupert Murdoch’s Daughter
    Adam Taylor Sep. 4, 2011, 5:46 PM|887|9

    We’re pretty sure you couldn’t find a better indicator of the sordid relationship between press and politics in the UK than this.

    Tony Blair, who became British Prime Minister in 1997 after unprecedented support from Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid newspapers, is godfather to one of Murdoch’s daughters.
    The bombshell comes from Vogue’s October issue interview with Murdoch’s wife, Wendi Deng, according to The Telegraph. Blair has refused to comment but News Corp has confirmed the details.
    The news is likely to embarrass the Labour party, who might have hoped to keep the moral high ground after Gordon Brown’s relatively cold relationship with Murdoch.
    Many had wondered why Blair had been so quiet during this summer’s phone hacking scandal. It had been reported in July that Blair was trying to put pressure on renegade MP Tom Watson for his investigation into the Murdoch empire’s phone hacking, reports The Telegraph.
    Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman are also godparents to Deng’s children, Deng confirms.

  • ingo

    I would like to apologise if I have in any way disturbed your music therapy last year with our complaints of your musical scores. For us it was akin to the torture Noriega experienced holed up in his mansion, although we could have left the house, because some of the songs repeated themselves and opera was followed by rock’n roll, followed by something completely different. We knew you liked the tracks, but for us it was incessant and we sometimes stopped it to enjoy some silence.

    Some of us actually inserted earplugs.:)

    Little did we know it was part of a special therapy, you could have let on about it, still I’m contrite and apologise for our bickering.

    I can second Glenns method, the intense focus of a motorcycle ride would knock you square in seconds, but speed it is also seductive and can delude one into omnipotent thinking.

  • Jon

    @CheebaCow, no worries. Having remembered him from the depths of my MP3 collection, I put him on again yesterday, and plan to do so again today. I have “Make Right The Time” and “Parables & Primes”, both excellent. The song-writing is of a very story-telling approach, which might be usual for American folk, but I’ve not been exposed to much of it.
    He is available at CDBaby if you’re interested in getting any of his stuff.

  • conjunction

    Glad you’re feeling better.

    As a mental health professional for many years, I think in general anti-psychotic medication does more harm than good, though to some it can be helpful.

    Agree with Escalantekid, or at least think his/her point a very interesting one. Even people who are floridly psychotic, or seen as such, are often very good company, and in my experience there is usually, if not always method in their madness. A little empathic enquiry often gets a clear explanation of what at first seems random. And of course regarding the sanity of depression we are all encouraged to think everything’s groovy by lying power-brokers.

    Off-topic – or is it? – I don’t like conspiracy theories, but regarding the DSK episode and the idea he was removed, interesting to see his successor giving everyone the heebyjeebies today – see Guardian – and saying the banks need more money!

    Keep the faith.

  • Neil

    Bipolar is a tough illness. I’m glad you are getting better. I’m not surprised to hear you suffer from it. I’ve got a few friends in the same boat. One friend is a doctor and manages very well on his drugs regime. I’d try a trip to your GP and see what’s new on the medication front. Its got to be better than when you were a student.

    when anyone writes “But, largely ignored by the medical profession, trace amounts of lithium,” you can assume they are not talking about evidence-based medicine.

  • John Goss

    I think you’re doing the right thing, Craig – uplifting music, positive reading. Medea is a dark tale and perhaps that has taken its toll. When I was 39 I went through the blackest period of my life, made worse by reading superbly-written but troublesome books like Sylvia Plath’s “The Belljar”.
    I found Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi and especially short pieces like Carolan’s “Si Bheag, Si Mhor”
    for music helped as did Laurie Lee and Flora Thompson for prose.

  • Aaron Anonymous

    Well my instincts are fine
    I had to learn to use them in order to survive
    And time after time confirmed an old suspicion
    It’s good to be alive
    And when I’m deep down and out and lose communication
    With nothing left to say
    It’s then I realize it’s only a condition
    Of seeing things that way

    John Lennon said that.

  • Francis L. Holland

    My issue with music is that when I’m thinking of suicide, I play music by people who have committed suicide. When I feel good, I play, “Hot Town, Summer in the City” which was recorded by the Lovin’ Spoonfuls, and maybe some others. So my music listening habits probably reinforce and prolong whatever it is that I am feeling.

    When I moved from France to Brazil, I played that song, “The Way,” by Fastball.

    They made up their minds and they started packing. They left before the sun came up that day. They just took off and left it all behind them. But, where were they going without ever knowing the way?

    The song captured something negative and ironic and self-critical that I was feeling at the moment, but I have found a way in Brazil that I never could have foretold when I was singing that song about people who unrealistically headed of down the road without even knowing where they were going, and “The children woke up, and they couldn’t find them. They’d left before the sun came up that day . . .”

    Now, that’s plain rude to put children to bed and then pack and go away with no forwarding address. So, the negativity of the song was really very little like what I was doing, which involved buying plane tickets to Brazil, meeting people who would be on the plane with me, making reservations for a place to stay in Salvador . . .

    There’s this written song by Roger Penzabene with the Temptations about Penzabene’s wife leaving him. Days after he wrote the song, he committed suicide, so it’s fair to expect (and discover) that the song includes a lot of pain. The song became a hit single, with the lyrics:

    “Sunshine, blue skies, please go away. My girl’s found another and gone away. With her went my future. My life is filled with gloom. So, day after day, I stay locked up in my room . . . Day in day out my tears they fall, pressed against me with the pain. My eyes search the sky, desperately for rain ’cause raindrops can hide my teardrops and no one will ever know that I’m crying, crying. This hurt I feel inside, words can never explain. I just wish it would rain . . .”

    That’s probably not the sort of song I should listen to when I’m already depressed, but it fits the moment.

    Anyway, pardon me. I don’t go to blogs to see what everyone else is saying and then say something that fits in. That’s part of why I get kicked out of so many blogs. Another reason is that I do extensive research and linking to sources and many people don’t like to see their pet ideas disproved.

    But someone said something in the comments that I, too, have read. Depressed people believe that what they can’t do is far more important than what they can do. “Normal” people believe that their weak areas are relatively unimportant. And as noted above, normal people are inclined to believe all of their strengths are stronger than they objectively may be.

    I personally believe that the tendency to see our strong points as worthless and our weak spots as global failures is a symptom of depression. But, thinking that way also initiates and perpetuates depression. Which is why the cognitive behavioral therapist is necessary, to hold up the red flag and reality check the things we think are worthless or useless about ourselves.

    I’ve been diagnosed as manic depressive based on my spending habits, sex and relationship behaviors; recklessly fast driving under challenging road conditions; job history, etc. As someone said above, rapidly accelerating on a motorcycle (or in a car, I might add) does distract me from my pain. And driving 90 miles per hour in the break down lane also distracted me. But it’s a very expensive fix for emotional pain and intrusive thoughts, because I end up getting all these speeding tickets and paying 3,600 USD per year for auto insurance. (I haven’t owned a motor vehicle since 2003 and it’s just as well!)

    My brother was manic depressive. I saw “was” because no one has heard a word from him since 1989. Because of his manic behavior, it’s not difficult for me to imagine that he got killed. On the day we got a diagnosis for my brother, we were walking him as fast as possible to the hospital when my brother Dan grabbed a stranger’s breast on the street and said oodly-oodly-oo with a smile on his face during a manic high/psychotic episode (and that’s just one of many dangerous, offensive and illegal behaviors he engaged in while on a manic/psychotic high. He also stole a car, drove up beside a police car, and said to the police that he was driving a stolen car.

    He didn’t see the harm he was doing and the attraction of the high was more important to him than the terror and trauma others experienced when he was in that condition.

    He didn’t even acknowledge the sexual abuse that he heaped upon even family members when he was in that manic high or had gone over the top into psychosis. So, it’s not just how WE as manic depressives feel that we need to be concerned about as we decide whether to take medicines or not. We also need to assess how much our manic states cost others. If we’re not willing to add others’ pain into the equation, then we should probably let our families and doctors decide what we should take.

    I ultimately had to cut my brother loose because I was scared of him and what he might do next. Carrying that fear around was not good for my own shaky mental health.

    Maybe I’ll get my lithium level checked just to satisfy my psychologist, even though it didn’t help going that route ten years ago when I tried it.

  • Jon

    > people don’t like to see their pet ideas disproved
    We actually rather like that here. So, welcome!
    I don’t know much about it, but I’ve mixed views about CBT, incidentally. Several psychologists I am aware of have said that it boils down to positive thinking therapy, which is only good in the short to medium term. Depression, anxiety and other issues tend to be fixed only for a couple of years before they start to recur. Longer-term approaches, which require digging into childhood memories etc, is not on the radar – which (it is said) is why the UK health service has become keen on CBT. Book the patient in for twelve sessions, and then kick ’em out as healed. It’s barely enough to develop any sort of trust, let alone do any serious therapeutic work, IMO.

  • Azra

    I am going to say something which is probably very controversial! I had a friend who suffered for years from anxiety, depression, panic attack, it would come and go, she was on medication for a while as well. At the end what helped her (or she believes) was healing! she found a healer who also did energy therapy and she has been her best since then. she still occasionally goes to see her, but she is off drugs and does not have the down mood often. For her healing helped, another friend swears by hypnotherapy, for my daughter is drawing and painting (she suffers from bipolar disorder too), for someone else it may be hypnotherapy, or CBT, or medicine! Find something which works best for you!

  • Vronsky

    “Ride a powerful motorcycle for even a short while”

    Yes, I can imagine that a calculated amount of danger might do the trick (don’t overdo it, though – I speak as someone still recovering from a motorcycle accident). I used to do a bit of rock climbing and noted that clinging to a ledge above a void very effectively dismissed all other cares. Whatever you do, feel better soon. Try the Boyce symphonies – light, Handelian, very therapeutic.

  • OldMark

    ‘Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman are also godparents to Deng’s children, Deng confirms.’

    I think I will have to suppress kmowledge of this fact in the future when watching, and attempting to enjoy, repeats of the ‘X-Men’ films, and, especially, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’.

  • Clark

    Craig, I’d like to wish you well, and add my agreement to those suggesting that you have the “after-show blues” – my own experience is that being involved with a theatrical production powerfully affects my emotional state, and it takes quite a while – days or weeks – to get back to normal after a production. For me, the emotional effect of being involved in a production is orders of magnitude greater and longer-lasting than being a member of the audience.
    Escalantekid and Conjunction’s comments echo some thoughts I’ve had myself. Our society is based upon a Big Lie, which is that materialism and unbounded “economic growth” (ie money cancer) are good things, nay, the best things, the things that all people and organisations should strive for, and that our society is wholesome and good, and that any dissenters are suffering from a personal defect or sickness called “depression”.
    This is a movement of the goal-posts. The society tells us what is good and what we should be happy with, and if we disagree and are not happy, we are labeled as “ill” and in need of “treatment”. Is it merely coincidence that the prescribed treatment makes a lot of profit for various parties who just happen to fund most of the research into “treatments” for “depression”? Dissenters are encouraged to keep their “depression” to themselves, or only to express them to approved professionals; heaven forbid that we should express our dissatisfaction to any of the “Shiny Happy People Holding Hands” around us.
    To those who argue for “evidence based” treatment, I would like to remind them that evidence is generated by those who fund research, and that many corporations are now imposing “non-disclosure agreements” upon the research teams that they hire, such that “positive” results get published, and “negative” result can be suppressed by contract law. Such practices entirely negate the scientific method. Further, large corporate concerns have much influence over the magazines and journals that publish the results of drugs trials. Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Science” blog documents many such distortions of research and publication.
    Best wishes to you Craig, and I hope you’re feeling happier again soon.

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