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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST first book
I am a licensed psychologist, best selling author, and I have trained over 35,000 mental health professionals in bipolar disorder over the last nine years. this book can save lives. It does not burden someone (who may be symptomatic) of a lot of big words, yet tells the story simp[y and concisely. Sorry Jane. Did you even read it?
Published 9 months ago by James Carter

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars burdened with important omissions and pseudoscience
The short and to-the-point review is: this book is terrible. It is full of pseudoscience presented as fact. The author appears to come from a biased place of privilege that is out of touch with the realities of people on the lower rung of society, and fails to offer anything new in understanding bipolar disorder. I can not recommend this book.

You can stop here...
Published on December 19, 2012 by Jane

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST first book, April 6, 2014
This review is from: Bipolar Bootcamp (Paperback)
I am a licensed psychologist, best selling author, and I have trained over 35,000 mental health professionals in bipolar disorder over the last nine years. this book can save lives. It does not burden someone (who may be symptomatic) of a lot of big words, yet tells the story simp[y and concisely. Sorry Jane. Did you even read it?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Start for a Much Needed Mystery Illness, December 26, 2012
This review is from: Bipolar Bootcamp (Paperback)
This is the cutest book written for adults with bipolar disorder, a mystery illness that needs examples of positive influences. And this book creates hope! I encourage the writer to continue elaborating on the content and perhaps add stories in between recommendations. To me, a MUST HAVE to help individuals and their families understand the dynamics of the illness.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars burdened with important omissions and pseudoscience, December 19, 2012
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This review is from: Bipolar Bootcamp (Paperback)
The short and to-the-point review is: this book is terrible. It is full of pseudoscience presented as fact. The author appears to come from a biased place of privilege that is out of touch with the realities of people on the lower rung of society, and fails to offer anything new in understanding bipolar disorder. I can not recommend this book.

You can stop here and go check out something else, and thanks for reading.

For a long, detailed, and analytical review explaining why this book is so bad, sit back, and continue.

"Bipolar Bootcamp" is a very short book (less than sixty pages) that the author, "HOPE7951" claims can give the reader a "virtual bootcamp", designed to "change your life for a lifetime by putting you on the path to lasting stability".

"HOPE7951's" (a pseudonym she uses to conceal her real identity in online discourse) claim to authority on the disease of bipolar disorder, stems from her thirty-one years as a sufferer, and former member of NAMI* board of directors (*More on NAMI, later).

The author and I both were diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the 80s, when mental health pros still called it manic depression. I was interested in learning what insights she may have gleaned about treatment and recovery, considering she has been living with a mood disorder throughout the past three decades, thus my personal interest in her work.

The book is amusingly presented with military-esque motivational artwork and commentary (hence the Army Green cover, camouflage titles and bootcamp motif), but unfortunately, that is where the humor ends. Soon after you open the cover, you are confronted with dubious statistics, all of them uncited, a trend which persists through to the end, as well as a veritable mountain of pseudoscientific claims about the neurology of bipolar disorder.

For such a small book, it is exceedingly dense with the bad (read: Pharma-funded) science that currently pervades the practice of psychiatry. Bear with me, as I systematically unpack and debunk the authors claims and assertions about the treatments for, and prognosis of, those living with bipolar disorder.

The first bolded statement by the author "only a trained psychiatrist can diagnose bipolar disorder", is false. Psychologists also can diagnose from the DSM. That is a fairly small error, but because it is factually inaccurate (or incomplete), I started to pay closer attention.

Step 1 (of 24) : Mandatory Physical.

The author claims "bipolar is an incurable disease...". This claim is false by omission. The statement does not include alternate outcomes. According to German researcher Emile Kraeplin, the disease burns out after a few years, in a certain percentage of people. So, such a person could experience manic depression for awhile, and then have the condition abate, never to return.

Kraeplin also acknowledges that the severity of the illness decreases over time, and in some cases, fades away, in a certain percentage of older, long-term sufferers. This means that you might have a more severe experience of bipolar symptoms during your young adult years, but towards middle-age or old-age, the disease-intensity eases off gradually, into a stable but permanent remission.

In addition to omitting these important facts, the author also fails to include or address narratives of people who have either experienced total remission, or even cured themselves of the condition. The only reason for this that I can guess at, is simply ignorance, on the author's part. Or perhaps a lack of desire to investigate anything other than disease-for-life-needs-life-long meds thinking, that psychiatry pushes.

In order to be accepted into her virtual bootcamp, she asserts that you have to eliminate the possibility that your mood and energy issues are the result of other medical pathologies. To that end, the author lists a truly bewildering array of illnesses that she recommends you get tested for, before settling on bipolar disorder for a diagnosis. Allow me to share..

Major Illness - Thyroid Disorders, Diabetes, Hormonal Imbalances, Syphilis, MS, CFS, Fibromyalgia, Heart Disease, Respiratory Insufficiency (COPD), Parkinson's, PMDD, Adrenal Disorder, Addison's, Pancreatic Cancer, Menopause, Stroke, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, MTBI, Typhus, CNS tumors, Sleep Apnea, Somatoform Disorders, Lupus, Dementia, Lyme Disease, Cushing's Syndrome, Thyroiditis, Hypochondriasis, Hypoglycemia, Grave's, and Anemia.

Nutritional Deficiencies - Vitamin B-spectrum (B12, Thiamine, Folate, Niacin) Vitamin's D and C.

After you go get blood or physical tests for all of that, then she recommends you get screened for just about every major thought, mood, or behavioral disorder in the DSM! (Schizophrenia, BPD, OCD, ODD, GAD, and many many more).

Her assumption is that you have a Primary Care Provider, and I guess, some amazing health insurance plan. I can not imagine trying to get all that testing done, as a young adult, working several part-time jobs (retail, fast-food), with no health benefits. It would take you a year, (years?) just to save up for all those tests, living on minimum wage, surviving paycheck to paycheck, as I was, when I turned eighteen!

So the first thing I learned, is that you have to be incredibly privileged, with copious amounts of time and money available, to splash on exhaustive medical testing, to get to Bipolar Bootcamp.

Further, she steps up on her soapbox to condemn self-medicating with an assortment of substances, including medical marijuana. Her blanket condemnation of self-medication came across as condescending and uninformed, and was an immediate turn-off to me.

Step 2, is about "packing your bags" for Bipolar Bootcamp. She recommends filling your bags with self-esteem, hope, faith, and the love of those who believe in you. She offers no suggestions for those people who don't have any of those things, which was my situation, when I was struggling, living on my own, as a young, teenaged adult.

In Step 4, the author makes several bizarre claims about the thinking processes of people who suffer from bipolar, starting with: "Inside the bipolar mind, perceptions translate to logical actions. To those who love those bipolar, that logic cannot be logically linked. The reason is that bipolar heightens perceptions and sensitivity. Recent studies have shown that people predisposed to bipolar, are born with 30% more neurotransmitters for signaling."

My immediate reaction to reading that was "What!?" She offers no citations for this at all! What study proved this, and when? I believe, that this is simply the opinion of the author, and is not substantiated whatsoever by the current literature on manic depression. As a side note, one of the hallmarks of grandiosity, is a sense that you and your experiences are in someway special, elevated, or superior. That is exactly the sense I get, from reading her discuss the benefits of possessing a "bipolar brain".

The author claims, "A bipolar person senses and perceives more than other people".

"Huh?" thought I, when I read that. Since when? Nobody told me this when I was in the hospital! In truth, this is the subjective opinion of a person who I think, deeply wants to believe that their affliction makes them special, above-ordinary, better, than those poor normal mentally-well people who don't have such a genetically advanced brain. I perceive her claim as an egotistic attempt to turn a negative (genetic physical disorder) into a positive (beneficial advantage or mutation). Imaginative thinking, not substantiated by any scientific literature.

The next red-flag assertion she makes is, "Harnessing and leveling bipolar energy is the goal of Bipolar Bootcamp. As this energy imbalance begins with an imbalance of brain chemistry, correcting that chemistry is the first step to blending into an ordinary world, while preserving your extraordinary sensibilities."

Her assertion includes another reference to how special you are, because you were so lucky to come down with bipolar... Yeah. Right.

Also, the imbalanced brain chemistry model of disease pathology has been completely debunked.

Note to the author: To understand why the "chemical imbalance" theory is pseudoscience, you have to read the history of psychiatry. I highly recommend Valenstein, Moncrieff, and Whitaker (and while you are at it, read Breggin, Healy, Kirsch, Welch&Woloshin&Schwartzl, Brawley&Goldberg, Bass, Mosher, etc).

Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health
The Myth of the Chemical Cure: A Critique of Psychiatric Drug Treatment
The Emperor's New Drugs
Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill

Step 5, is about the drugs that are, as she put it, "required" to treat bipolar. Ugh. None of the drugs she lists, make any sense whatsoever. Lithium? Bipolar is not a lithium-deficiency problem. Epilepsy meds? Since when was bipolar disorder a seizure disorder? Antipsychotics? Neuroleptics are one of the worst so-called "medicines", ever created! They cause Tardive Dyskenisa, which is CNS damage.

Step 6, "Armed and prescribed the proper dosage of your Mood Stabilizer is just one part of stabilizing your brain chemistry".

The assertion that psych meds have anything to do with "stabilizing" any particular imbalance or pathology related to your "chemistry" is just pharmaceutical propaganda, pure and simple. If you don't believe me, read Whitaker, Moncrieff and Valenstein, and it will become crystal clear. The author's parroting of their marketing lingo, is (scientific) ignorance.

Step 7, is about "getting through your adjustment period". The author asserts, "Most doctors will not tell you, but you should expect to feel worse, not better, for 3-4 weeks. A complete rework of the neuro-connections in your body doesn't happen overnight. Old cells have to die to be replaced with new working ones."

Wait a minute, what? The author is saying essentially, that the reason you won't feel better right away, is that the drugs (e.g. lithium or neuroleptics) are busy slowly reworking your neuro-anatomy. As the English would say, what a load of bollocks. This is an egregious example of scientific illiteracy. The author clearly does not understand, or have insight into, the disease pathology of bipolar, nor the mechanism of action of the effects of the psych drugs that she recommends.

In my experience, no such "reworking" ever happened to my body. Well, that's not entirely accurate. The drugs did some destructive things to me. Things like severe weight gain, eternal dry mouth, constant shakes, perpetual fatigue, mental fog, even semi-nude sleep-walking in the middle of the night, while living at a state-run group home. Three, four, five weeks later, and none of my "neuro-connections" got reworked for the better. In fact, even after giving meds a go for six months, I never got better, never felt well, never experienced any of this healing neuro-adjustment that the author claims occurs when you take the "required" meds. I just declined and diminished, a little more, every day.

The author is not merely scientifically illiterate here, she is flat-out wrong. She has false conceptions of what the drugs are actually doing to you, and she is propagating that fallacious thinking, in her book.

Step 10 covers "Cognitive Distortions". This section (along with some common sense suggestions about diet, exercise and getting enough sleep), is possibly the only good and valuable information in this book. This one chapter alone (two pages!), cannot redeem the junk science and pharmaganda, that drags down the rest of her work.

In step 12, she discusses red flags related to coming down with symptoms.

Most of that is fine, but I have to laugh when I read,

If going manic:
*Hand over your credit cards, cash and car keys,
*Stay home and off the phone or internet
*Call your Pdoc
*ask for a meds-tweak

If going depressive:
*Pamper yourself with a massage or manicure

I am trying to apply her ideas, as if I were still eighteen years old. A time when I was single, alone, with no family support, just released from institutionalized living, and dirt poor. None of her suggestions are practical. I had no credit cards (and no credit!). I had no psychiatrist. The meds had proven not to work.

If I were following her Bipolar Bootcamp plan, I would be still saving up cash-money for her exhaustive battery of medical tests, to ensure I don't have syphilis, Alzheimer's or Vascular Dementia, so how the heck can I pamper myself with a massage or a manicure? I can barely afford to keep my junker car running, and rent for my crappy apartment located in the 'hood, and now my boss at Papa Gino's is calling up, telling me I can come in for an extra shift, and do deliveries for another driver, who has called in sick. Oops, sorry boss, I can feel mania coming on, I got to give someone my car keys...

Step 14 is more detailed, and discusses coping skills.

Problem 6 - Support Groups. The author states, "At some point you will find yourself with the urge to be part of a support group." My immediate reaction was, "I beg pardon?" The last place I wanted to be, when I was suffering, is around other people also suffering.

Problem 9 got my attention because she discussed emotional triggers from childhood abuse, and their relationship to bipolar episodes. This is something that I had a lot of experience with, and so I paid attention. Disappointingly, the author's only advice for handling your post traumatic stress reflexes is, "Instead of regressing, respond to things in your life with the information, strength and confidence of the strong adult you've now become." As someone who dealt with nightmares, paranoia, hypervigilance, preparedness, the behaviors that attend full-blown PTSD, all I can say is, one does not simply erase neurological conditioning with unrealistic affirmations.

The author is clearly coming from a bias born of immense privilege. Her running assumption under all this, seems to be that you, also, are as privileged as she is. Basically, to succeed at "Bipolar Bootcamp", you need to be financially well-off, to be able to afford the standard of medical care, that the author recommends. The author of this book, could not be more out-of-touch with the realities of struggling with mental illness, when you are diagnosed young, and live in poverty.

Her advice and recommendations are not at all realistic or attainable. Well, unless you are lucky enough to come down with bipolar disorder, after you have an established career, and tons of money in the bank, health insurance, paid time off, not to mention mental health sick days, baked into your benefits plan at your place of employment. Even if you did have her level of privilege to throw at your own medical and mental health care, her advice is based off an incorrect and inaccurate understanding of what actually causes bipolar disorder.

I've been studying psychology, both in and (mostly) out of college, for over twenty years. Being diagnosed with a supposed genetic biological illness which I was told that without "treatment" would likely prove to be terminal for me, when I was a teenager, lent an earnest seriousness to my personal quest to understand my own suffering. From this body of experience, I can tell you that her theories about the "mind of a bipolar" and "bipolar brains", as well as her claims as to what psychotropic drugs actually do to your body to "heal" it, are not grounded in any kind of science that I have ever heard of.

Where the author completely fails, is in answering the question: what happens if none of her advice works for you?

What if, you have a traumatic experience using inpatient services, and the patient-psychiatrist trust she discusses as essential, just does not exist? What if, you are too poor to afford her standard of care (the battery of tests, the medication roulette with a psychiatrist, the never-ending lithium blood draws, etc)?

What if, you try psych meds, and they simply do not work, and or, you refuse to accept the debilitating side effects, and so you don't or won't take them? What do you do? How do you heal? How do you achieve balance or productivity? On these issues, the author is silent.

Going back to Step 6, "finding the right med combo", the author explains exactly how to go in for treatment, and come out with five, six, seven or more different prescriptions. Your pdoc starts you on a neuroleptic, then a mood stabilizer, than an antidepressant. You are up from zero to three drugs now, like Zyprexa, Wellbutrin, and Depakote. But you are going to have side effects from that, guaranteed! So you go back to the pdoc, for more drugs.

You are going to need something for the dry mouth. That drug will probably leave you constipated, so you will need a drug to deal with that as well. Then you have sexual side effects to deal with, and, if you are a guy, there is a pill for that, but if you are a woman, too bad. The other drugs give you the shakes or akathasia, so you get an anti-anxiety pill to help calm that down (yeah Xanax addiction!) and don't forget your sleep meds too (yeah Ambien dependance!). By the time you get through a few months treatment, you went from zero to seven or eight prescriptions, or maybe even more! Do you know why? Because Selling Sickness is how pharma companies do business.

*Regarding NAMI. The author used to be a board member of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Important to note, is that NAMI receives most of it's funding, from Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical mega-corp. Eli Lilly promotes a very unscientific, nay, pseudoscientific view of the cause of mental illness (the chemical imbalance nonsense that has never been proven correct), for which it sells "treatment" that supposedly "corrects" the alleged imbalanced brain chemistry.

The author HOPE7951, just regurgitates Lilly's marketing slogans as facts. The truth is, Eli Lilly is in the business of selling treatments for medical issues. The company has a horrific track record of consumer deception. From the inception of Prozac in the 80s, and the company's unethical suppression of suicide incidents while the SSRI was in testing, to the infamous Zyprexa Papers, this company does not have scientific transparency, and your health, as it's bottom line.

Finally, one very important thing that HOPE7591 failed to mention in her book is that, thirty years of psych med compliance, of taking lithium and antidepressants, decade after decade, has left her with iatrogenesis: irreversible medication-induced nervous system damage. By her own admission, she apparently has tremors so bad, she can't work as a graphic artist anymore, and she has function difficulties, just trying to get basic things done.

This book is terribly flawed because it is based on bad science and bad treatments. The author could not be bothered to do her homework, while passing along easily debunked Eli Lilly programming as scientific gospel. If I had taken this woman's "Bipolar Bootcamp" advice, back when I first got my diagnosis as a teenager, I very well could be on the fast track to the same fate as her. No thanks!

Jane Alexander, author
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Bipolar Bootcamp
Bipolar Bootcamp by HOPE7951 (Paperback - 2013)
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