Professionals in the mental health field usually don’t select their specialization simply because there’s a clinical need that could use additonal expertise. Often, we find there’s something within our own development and identity that’s central to the professional interests we’re drawn to in our adulthood.
Since childhood I’ve experienced aspects of physical disability from polio, having contracted the illness prior to the development of the polio vaccine. During my adult years, I’ve been faced with increasing physical limitation as a result of the late-effects of post-polio. Not so coincidentally, I’ve also discovered that in my work with university students I’ve been easily attuned to the struggles of young adults with bipolar disorder. Essentially, as a function of my own experience with physical disability, I’m no stranger to the issues of facing an altered life. Clearly the impact of polio is substantially different from the reality of bipolar instability. But the experience of facing disability, accepting limitation and developing appropriate adaptation is very consistent with the challenges faced by those with bipolar disorder.
During my 20+ years as both an administrator and clinical psychologist in two large university mental health settings I’ve come to see firsthand what works and what doesn’t in the treatment of the bipolar disorder. The many remarkable bipolar students who have let me into their worlds have also provided me with a deep appreciation of the resilience necessary to successfully live with the disorder.
My knowledge base has also grown considerably through the works of Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, who also happens to bring new meaning to the notion of personal resilience. Her 2007 text co-authored with Dr. F. K. Goodwin, Manic Depressive Illness: Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression, 2nd Edition, has been an invaluable resource presenting much of the important contemporary research on the disorder.
Additionally, while at the University of Virginia, my collaborative work with Dr. J. Anderson Thomson as well as my other UVa psychiatric colleagues had shown me what can be achieved when psychologists and psychiatrists work together in a tightly integrated team approach.
All of this comes together in our work, Facing Bipolar: The Young Adult’s Guide to Dealing with Bipolar Disorder. I hope the book is truly a helpful resource for you, the reader. And as for my experience as an author… writing is learning, and the process of distilling many years experience into the essentials of what needs to be conveyed to the bipolar reader has been an important aspect of my own personal and professional growth.