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Detour: My Bipolar Road Trip in 4-D Paperback – Bargain Price, June 17, 2003
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The Village Voice [U]tterly unselfconscious, funny, [and] harrowing.
Peter D. Kramer author of Listening to Prozac Detour does for bipolar disorder what Prozac Nation did for depression -- scopes it out from the viewpoint of someone who is young, hip, and vulnerable. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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I think that memoirs of this type can be misleading. I've read Jamison's book and Patty Duke's book to name a few and I have the same problem with these books as well. Anybody reading these books might think that the answer to bipolar disorder is simple enough, you need to take Lithium. Don't get me wrong, Lithium is an amazing medication; it brought me out of a manic high in about a week. And I took it for about two years and then it lost its effectiveness. Lithium can save lives but it isn't always the answer and it definitely isn't a perfect solution.
I finished the book feeling that medications are the answer to bipolar. But what about people like me who don't respond to Lithium or who can't tolerate the horrendous side-effects of the other mood stabilizers and antidepressants? There is no answer to this question in her book. And that's fine, I suppose, that isn't what she wanted her book to be about but she doesn't need to put down people who go the alternative route. In one section she is at a support group looking for "successful" bipolars and they are going around the circle describing their personal situations. Simon writes: "Next is this crackpot bipolar nutritionist lady who says that at the Parsons Institute they taught her how to change her diet and do eight million behavioral adjustments so she doesn't need so much medicine. She is fifty-nine, not young enough for my purposes." After I read that I wasn't at all convinced that it was the woman's age that deterred Simon from interviewing her but rather it was her "crackpot" nutrition.
In the same section she describes a woman whose son has bipolar schizoaffective disorder; the woman is there trying to gather information about treatment. Simons writes: "She has no clinical diagnosis herself, but I identify her immediately as a real nut.'. The woman says that her son gets put on all types of different medications and he isn't getting any better, he just sits in his room and does nothing. Simon doesn't verbalize her opinion in the group but thinks to herself: "Maybe he just hates you".
Simon seems quite conflicted. On the one hand she does a good job at expressing her disgust with the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder. On the other hand she is quick to use derogatory language. It's as if by using such language she is contributing to the very stigma that she is trying to fight. I found this particular aspect of the book unsettling.
Anyway, despite my criticisms of the book I would still recommend that you give it a try, it's interesting enough. But here's my warning: please don't feel bad if you find that you don't fit into Simon's definition of a "successful bipolar", she's a hard marker.
I agree with Lizzie about learning all you can about what it means to be bipolar. This book should be a definately recommend for all mental health professional's reading lists. I got more out of this book as compared to Kay Redfield Jamison's "An Unquiet Mind". I found that book slow and it skirted around emotional issues more than Lizzie Simon's book. I have been looking for a book like this for some time now. Like a bipolar person, it still feels like there are things or issues not said. Leaves you wanting more in a good way!
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She didn't sweeten anything up. She tells it LIKE IT IS...Read more