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Someone once told me that he tho ...

Posted Sep 22 2009 10:52am

Someone once told me that he thought his therapist was naive.  I asked him what he meant.  He said, “He knows about mental illness.  He can tell me all about bipolar.  He has no clue what it means to live with bipolar….”  He then said something that really stuck with me…”it’s like telling someone to change the oil who had just been in a wreck…”

What he said was one of the most common complaints I have heard people share with me.  Sometimes when folks are too tightly wed to the medical model they think that treating the “illness” is all there is and forget  that the “illness” has impacts that may, for that client be as pressing or more pressing than the “illness.”  Questions like medication, self-management, warning signs, balancing life style etc. may be important and essential, but they are not sufficient.

Telling someone how to change their life is unlikely to help a lot if they cant get from the beginnng of the day to the end without catastrophe.  My friend continued his story, “Meds really did seem to help, but there was so much more.  My marriage was on the rocks.  My son hated me.  My boss found out about the bipolar.  My wife was terrified her mother would find out.  Work is getting really hard.  Some days I feel so damned trapped.  I asked the therapist about me applying for disability and he said he couldnt even talk about that.  What happens if I get fired and have no insurance what do I do then?  We are behind on the rent and what happens if we get evicted?….. Mood management isnt doing me a lot of good.  I am slowly dying….”

His case is maybe extreme…maybe not.  But the point is important.  Bipolar is not just something that happens to you. It is something that happens with you.  And if the stress of daily living overwhelms then if you are not careful treatment just becomes an addition to the daily stress. 

My friend finished.  He said,”Dont get me wrong.  My therapist is a smart guy.  And I really think he wants to help.  But he really doesnt understand what my life is like.  How can he.  No one has ever told him he is “crazy.”  He gives me cookie cutter ideas.  A lot of the time what he tells me makes it sense.  It is accurate…. but it is not always true.  It is not always relevant to what is going on.  It’s like he is trying to tell me how to swim, but never seems to realize I got a hundred pound weight on.”

Maybe some times people get so wrapped up in helping with the disease that they forget it is the person they are supposed to be helping.

Someone once told me that he thought his therapist was naive.  I asked him what he meant.  He said, “He knows about mental illness.  He can tell me all about bipolar.  He has no clue what it means to live with bipolar….”  He then said something that really stuck with me…”it’s like telling someone to change the oil who had just been in a wreck…”

What he said was one of the most common complaints I have heard people share with me.  Sometimes when folks are too tightly wed to the medical model they think that treating the “illness” is all there is and forget  that the “illness” has impacts that may, for that client be as pressing or more pressing than the “illness.”  Questions like medication, self-management, warning signs, balancing life style etc. may be important and essential, but they are not sufficient.

Telling someone how to change their life is unlikely to help a lot if they cant get from the beginnng of the day to the end without catastrophe.  My friend continued his story, “Meds really did seem to help, but there was so much more.  My marriage was on the rocks.  My son hated me.  My boss found out about the bipolar.  My wife was terrified her mother would find out.  Work is getting really hard.  Some days I feel so damned trapped.  I asked the therapist about me applying for disability and he said he couldnt even talk about that.  What happens if I get fired and have no insurance what do I do then?  We are behind on the rent and what happens if we get evicted?….. Mood management isnt doing me a lot of good.  I am slowly dying….”

His case is maybe extreme…maybe not.  But the point is important.  Bipolar is not just something that happens to you. It is something that happens with you.  And if the stress of daily living overwhelms then if you are not careful treatment just becomes an addition to the daily stress. 

My friend finished.  He said,”Dont get me wrong.  My therapist is a smart guy.  And I really think he wants to help.  But he really doesnt understand what my life is like.  How can he.  No one has ever told him he is “crazy.”  He gives me cookie cutter ideas.  A lot of the time what he tells me makes it sense.  It is accurate…. but it is not always true.  It is not always relevant to what is going on.  It’s like he is trying to tell me how to swim, but never seems to realize I got a hundred pound weight on.”

Maybe some times people get so wrapped up in helping with the disease that they forget it is the person they are supposed to be helping.

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