Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The "Trendy" Diagnosis

I'm sure that my fellow bipolar sufferers will be overjoyed to learn that our diagnosis is trendy according to the pillar of culture known as Cosmopolitan magazine. Apparently, being depressed is on its way out.

I'm not some kind of cultural stickler, but I have to confess that I'm a bit peeved at Cosmo because a reader who has just been diagnosed bipolar will have to wonder: "is my doc just calling me bipolar because that's the latest medical trend?" Thankfully, I don't have to ask that question because I was diagnosed bipolar quite awhile ago, but I sympathize with other patients who might question their doc's judgement because of some stupid editor at a silly magazine.

Editors probably don't think about the crucial role that trust plays in the relationship between a psychiatrist and their patient. I need to be able to know for certain that my doctor is qualified, that he's doing his absolute best to ensure that my medications are correct because I know that if the doc f*cks up, I'm the one who's going to suffer. A good doctor asks all the embarassing questions. He want to know how you behaved as a child, how crazy the rest of you family is and how your medication is affecting your sex life. Undermining that trust is serious business, business that's led me to consciously switch shrinks three times.

When a doc decides to take you off a medication thereby pitching you into months of withdrawal and the accompanying misery that entails, somehow the notion that your suffering is trendy loses its appeal. When your in credit card debt up to your ears and going through your fourth divorce because you're a bit impulsive in your manic phase, your fabulous pants and trendy diagnosis doesn't soothe as well as it might.

Personally, I hypothesize that the reason bipolar diagnoses are on the rise has to do more with the fact that doctors are looking for the symptoms more often. It also seems feasible that people who are situationally depressed, or suffer from a touch of depression might receive too much medication. After all, if you take a normal brain and add some uppers, it's not impossible for the most mentally sound person to tip into mania. Those folk would probably benefit from more exercise, which is as effective as medication in mildly depressed patients.

Some people are looking for easy solutions to their problems. To me, there's a huge difference between being lazy and being genuinely ill; I think that reality is being ignored by people desperate for a quick fix. Let me tell you, if hopping on an exercise machine for 30 minutes a day would cure me, I'd be on that damn machine every day.

It's like the difference between my mom and me. We workout together twice a week and we each work out separately when we aren't together. We were both a little down before we started exercising together and at my father's prodding, we hauled our butts to the gym. After a smattering of weeks, she's feeling happier and more energetic. I'm feeling the same way I felt before we started going, except I have headaches more frequently now so I have a bit less patience for life's little irritations.

So the moral of the story? Cosmo is dumb and if you feel a bit blue, go to the gym before you start popping pills. Believe me, the withdrawal just ain't worth it.