“Two Bipolar Chicks” Pen Humorous, Helpful Guide to Living With Mental Illness
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“Two Bipolar Chicks” Pen Humorous, Helpful Guide to Living With Mental Illness

Wendy Williamson and Honora Rose have a unique understanding of how humor can help when it comes to raising awareness about mental illness. In their new book,Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival: Tips for Living With Bipolar Disorder, also described as a “low-key, how-to manual,” the authors offer sage advice based on their own experiences with bipolar disorder.

Published by Post Press, the book offers background and advice on everything from a non-sympathetic workplace and the importance of taking your medications to racier topics like manic sex. The authors’ no-holds-barred approach may raise some eyebrows, but it’s refreshingly honest.

In an interview with Foundations Recovery Network, Williamson said she wrote the book because she saw a need for people to access information in a safe place. “I have always believed people will buy a book before they’ll seek help. Often, their parents or loved one will buy a book first then pass it down.”

She said her first piece of advice to anyone who thinks they might be bipolar is “Read up and see if you can relate, especially memoirs.”

Williamson and Rose’s book has received a great response from the mental health community.

“In the late 1980s, Dr. Ronald R. Fieve gave us Moodswing. His work is still considered seminal in pioneering the utilization of lithium to treat manic depression,” Laura Madlyn Harrison writes in the forward of Williamson and Rose’s book.

“Now we have Two Bipolar Chicks, a thorough, well-researched systematic and enjoyable resource for individuals and family members and friends trying to understand, live with, cope with, recover from, heal and thrive with the disease of bipolar illness,” Harrison continues. “Professionals of all disciplines will be thrilled to have their work as a resource.”

But even though the book indeed is useful for clinicians who are not primarily mental health professionals, its fun, breezy style makes it the perfect bipolar handbook for any patient. For each tip – there are 66 in all – one or both authors offer individual takes on a particular topic, lending the book a very personal feel.

Dating and Romantic Relationships

The authors also offer dating advice in their book. Williamson told Foundations Recovery Network that a common mistake bipolar people make when dating is the urge to tell a prospective mate all about their mental illness — on their first date.

“I erroneously thought I had to put on the table all my ugly faults, liabilities, shall we say,” she recalled. “Finally, I listened to people around me, including my mother, who suggested I wait until the third or fourth date to drop the bomb.”

“Occasionally, I would drop a hint on the second date if I really liked someone and mention ‘depression’ to see how they fielded the ball. A date or two later I would drop the ‘B’ bomb and see if they ran. I had to learn when to drop it,” Williamson said.

Not even sex is off limits in Two Bipolar Chicks. Often, those with bipolar disorder have heightened sexual appetites during manic episodes, causing them to do things they may not normally do otherwise.

“If we rounded up a bunch of bipolar people, sat around a campfire, Lord knows the stories we would hear! It would certainly be an entertaining evening, wouldn’t it?” the Bipolar Chicks write in “Tip 17: Watch the Manic Sex.”

But on a serious note, they caution people not to turn to the internet during these episodes.

“Meeting a stranger is not safe,” they caution. “In the least, you could catch an STD; worse, you could get pregnant or get killed. It is playing on the tracks, though. At the time, who is thinking of the consequences?”

Williamson adds, “When I was manic and hypersexual, I chose to have sex with people I wouldn’t have otherwise looked at.” Afterward, she says she always ended up feeling horrible about herself.

When Mama Manic Robs Your Pocketbook

Another demon bipolar people know all too well is financial insecurity.

That is the topic of Two Bipolar Chicks‘ tip number 20. “While we are manic, money is no object,” the authors write. “Our stories range from buying luxury cars to losing it all in Vegas to shopping sprees; we have heard it all and everything in between.”The problem is the manic bipolar has no awareness of the bottom line.”

“Notably, I have learned to relinquish my bank cards to Honora when I am manic,” adds Williamson.

“I bought a computer, a cell phone, a GPS for my car and applied for credit cards, all of which I had already owned. At the end of my spree I could not even pay my rent,” Rose said.

Finding the Right Doctor

When it comes to treatment, there are lots of options, as Williamson and Rose point out, but not all treatment is created equal.

“We recommend private psychiatry, but it’s expensive,” the authors write in tip number 21: “Finding ‘The One,'” meaning the right psychiatrist.

But, the authors point out that most psychiatrists don’t accept insurance because they don’t have to. You may be able to pay the doctor yourself, however, and then file an out-of-network claim with your insurance company.

“Losing a little bit of money to see a doctor out-of-network is a small price to pay for having the most knowledgeable doctor you can,” the authors say.

Williamson shared with Foundations Recovery Network that she chooses private-pay psychiatrists because they have “earned their stripes,” which is why, by her reasoning, they have a private practice. “I am in no way against clinics; they have saved my life. My current doc (and my psychologist too) has saved my life many more times,” she said.

Williamson said she knows it’s expensive, but many people find it actually ends up being only $50 or so more per visit to see a private-pay doctor than one who accepts public or even private insurance.

“Both Nora and I went to a clinic linked to a (community) hospital and were zombied out,” she said.

Throughout the book, Williamson and Rose discuss the many treatments available for bipolar disorder and its subtypes, even the unconventional ones like shock therapy. Williamson explains she saw four psychiatrists before she found one she likes. This is not at all unusual. She also warns that the illness can be expensive, but that people who live with it must make their health a priority.

Staying Positive

Other important tips from the authors include have fun, find work you enjoy instead of doing a job for the money, be honest with your doctors, and make to-do lists to stay on track.

Above all, maintain a good attitude.

Williamson personally has three pieces of advice for people who suspect they are bipolar, she told Foundations Recovery Network. First, get a proper diagnosis. Second, don’t stop taking your medications. Third, “Have faith in something. God, the Universe, or some higher power of your understanding. Try attending a mental health group like NAMI or BBSA, or a 12-Step group if needed for support. We need each other.”

Also, always get plenty of sleep. “The other half of your medication is to get six to nine hours of sleep,” Williamson told Foundations Recovery Network. “If you are having trouble, tell your psychiatrist, as many of us need medication to sleep … it’s okay!”

The authors say the first step to living a happy and healthy life with bipolar disorder is to take a cue from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling: “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”

And a positive attitude is reinforced with gratitude. While it may sound cliché, it really works.

“I have a lot to be grateful for today and making a list puts it all into perspective,” Rose writes. “I am amazed when I look at it on paper.”


Sources

1. Williamson, W. and Rose, H. 2014. “Two Bipolar Chicks.” Post Hill Press: Brentwood, Tenn.

Written by David Heitz