“Is bipolar disorder contagious?”

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I’m driving home from the store with my 82 year old mother and we start talking about my book, “Bipolar Disorder, My Biggest Competitor,”  In many ways the book has unleashed good ole’ Esther.  Since I wrote about some of her struggles with bipolar disorder, she has talked more about it in two weeks, than I believe I have heard in more than 30 years.

Tonight she says, “People need to understand when you’re psychotic you don’t know what you’re doing.  But people don’t understand.  They think there’s something wrong with you and that they’ll get it too if they hang around you.”  “Mmm…is bipolar disorder contagious?” I asked jokingly.  “Some people think it is.  Like you have some horrible disease and if they come around they’ll get it.”  I laughed and we continued our drive home.

Then it hit me, after 30 years my mother finally articulated how bad she felt when her relatives stopped coming around.  They literally stopped inviting her to their houses.  She became an outcast.  The “crazy” sister.  Shame on them.  It’s not like all their lives were perfect either.

So, as a family member of a loved one with mental illness, I’m quick to defend my mother and sister.  But when it comes to me living with a mental illness and becoming an outcast myself, I sort of just give everyone a pass.  I suppose it’s because for so long I felt like I caused my own suffering.  It was my fault I had those episodes.

I ask my mother, “Who was there when you went through your first tough time?”  “You were,” she answered.  “Your dad didn’t know what to think.  But he would come in the house and ask me if I was doing alright.  He didn’t understand it, but he tried.  I’ll give him that”  I smiled and said, “There were a few people who I could have thrown under the bus in my book.  They did some not so nice things.  But I wanted to take the high road.  And truthfully, I didn’t want to spend time having a pity party for myself.  My life is far too blessed to feel sorry for myself.  I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”

However, as we drove further down the road I realized Esther really did have a point.  Some people treat bipolar disorder like it’s contagious.  As if a brain disease can magically rub off.  Perhaps that’s why they stop answering calls, not returning text messages or give you all your pictures and press clippings back, as one uncle did with me.  He had become ashamed of who I was, and when I needed him most he turned his back on me.

At the end of the day I just move on and say, “I’m not crazy, just contagiously bipolar.”  Whatever that means.

 

 

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A Clinical Psychologist Reviews “Bipolar Disorder, My Biggest Competitor”

Many of you in the land of mental health advocacy have heard of David Susman, PhD.  He write stellar blog, is very active on social media and very supportive of people who live with mental illness.  He’s also a professor at the University of Kentucky.  I ask him to review my book and much to my surprise he agreed.  Here’s what Dr. Susman had to say:

“A First Hand Perspective on Living with Bipolar Disorder”

Amy Gamble’s account of her challenges with bipolar disorder is real, compelling, and moving. Just as the illness itself is characterized by the extreme euphoria of mania and the severe depths of depression, her narrative depicts her personal highs and lows as she struggles to understand and learn to manage this life-altering condition. From her competitive days as a collegiate and Olympic athlete, to her hospitalizations and even incarceration while in the throes of her illness, the reader gets a true sense of the battle she has fought and the slow process of ultimately reclaiming her life. As a clinical psychologist who has worked extensively with many people with serious mental illness, I was particularly impressed by her focus not only on her challenges, but also her description of her journey of recovery and the strategies that have helped her regain stability and a new-found purpose as a mental health advocate. Amy makes a powerful statement when she says “Lives can be saved with a simple message that says help is available and treatment works, and there is no shame in having a mental illness.” I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is personally affected by mental illness and for those who wish to gain a greater understanding of the effects of mental illness and the process of recovery.

“Bipolar Disorder, My Biggest Competitor” available NOW on Amazon.

Click here to order on Amazon

We all recover from something 


When you struggle with something (physical or mental illness), a relationship break-up, death of a family member or loved one, loss of job, and any number of other life’s challenges, they are often all consuming.  They take away from every other aspect in life.

As I have learned from my many struggles, there came a point in time when I just simply got tired of the struggle.  I wanted to focus my energy on the bouncing back part.   I wanted to lift my head up and shout, “I won’t be a victim any longer!”

But…all that is easier said than done.  For every book or article I have read, there is nothing that replaces the “doing” part.  There is a shift in the mind that has to take place, almost like manually shifting the gears in a car.  It takes a conscious effort.  A fierce determination to overcome the challenges and not stay in a self-pity mode, even when it may be justifiable.

I believe everyone is recovering from something.  And no matter what are circumstances may be, we all have things we struggle with and need to overcome.  Every battle is important if it’s your battle to fight.

There are several things I have found necessary in overcoming my many challenges.  I want to share those things with you in a series of blogs.

The most important aspect of my recovery journey has been the willingness to pick my head up and look around.  What the heck does that mean?  Searching for perspective.  Not so I could compare my journey to others, more so because I wanted to allow myself to be inspired.

Inspiration is a heart matter.  Have you ever noticed that when you’re hurt the emotions either keep spilling out or you turn them all off?  I always have a tendency to turn them off.  To numb myself of pain.  But allowing myself to seek inspiration opened my heart to feelings.  And those feelings, those wounds-could now be healed because I allowed myself to take off the bandage and look at it.

It turns out that seeking perspective takes a great deal of courage.  When all I wanted to do was focus on all the ways I was cheated by bipolar disorder, I had forgotten all the ways my talents and gifts had given me a world of opportunity.  I spent way to much time focusing on what I had lost and not enough time on what I had gained.  It all was a matter of perspective.

So, if your challenges seem too great to bear, your losses are mounding up, don’t be afraid to pick up your head, look around and find one thing that inspires you.  And then, watch what happens when you focus on it.  

But it’s not going to be a one time deal.  At least it wasn’t for me.  I would lift my head up, be inspired and then retreat back to the safety of my misery.  Because my misery had become comfortable.  Being inspired was outside of my comfort zone.  My heart didn’t want to participate any longer.

This is when determination comes into play.  Of course I wanted a quick fix for healing my mind, body and spirit.  But that didn’t exists.  Little wins added up to big victories and soon I was well on my way to gaining perspective and living an inspired life.

Whatever your challenge.  Keep fighting.  Don’t give up.  Pick your head up and find perspective.  Inspiration is within your grasp.  Perspective starts by lifting your head up.

Thoughts

I was like a kid at Christmas time when I finally got to release my book.  It was beyond exciting.  We (my editor and team) had been working hard for weeks.  Finally, the project was complete.  And now I get to hear the feedback.

True to form, I’m contemplating my next book project.  I think about what it takes to get past extreme disappointment.  I ponder on how someone without mental illness goes through life, and then I quickly realize I have no perspective on that–and if not mental illness than something else.  Right?

I wanted to take a thirty day blog challenge, where I actually wrote for 30 days straight.  The biggest problem is not the writing, it’s coming up with innovative topics that readers might find interesting.  And to be honest, not everyone wants to read about mental illness.  But that’s my expertise.

I found writing the book, “Bipolar Disorder, My Biggest Competitor,” one of the great challenges in my life.  Most of which had to with healing past challenges.  Deciding within myself what I wanted to reveal and what I would hold sacred.  But I like sharing and so therefore I didn’t hold much back.  I hope my readers appreciate it and can see I truly care about people.

I may be going to Texas for a talk.  I had hoped to become a National Speaker, so this fits nicely in my realm of dreams.

If you have read the book, please leave a review on Amazon.  It will help others find the book.  It might help someone else to overcome their challenges.

Have a great week everyone!  Until tomorrow!

 

 

Editorial Review

Dear Readers,

I wanted to take a moment and share with you my first editorial review for my book, “Bipolar Disorder, My Biggest Competitor:  An Olympian’s Journey with Mental Illness.”

Betsy Bethel, Life Editor from the Wheeling Newsregister and Intelligencer says, “Amy Gamble is a champion for mental health, advocating for awareness, improved care and the removal of stigma. In her book, she painstakingly describes the details of her own battle with bipolar disorder that led her from the U.S. Olympic team to a prosperous career for a top Fortune 500 company to a small jail cell in Montana and — eventually — to recovery. Amy’s firsthand experiences with the obstacles of our own health care and justice systems are chilling. And just when you think her nightmare has to be over, it starts all over again. You come to understand that mental illness truly levels the field: No amount of money, prestige or physical strength can protect you from it. But her survival instinct, her faith in God, and the work ethic she developed growing up on a West Virginia farm and honed as an Olympic athlete kept her trudging onward through her darkest days. The book is in part a cautionary tale — a “what not to do” — for the health care industry, as well as for families of those who are mentally ill and sick individuals themselves. Above all, it is a story of Amy’s redemption, a reclaiming of the life she thought she lost and the emerging of a true champion who dares to dream again. Mental illness won far too many battles in Amy’s life, but through her own education, proper care and sheer determination, she won the war. By sharing her story, she has ensured that her struggles were not in vain and many people will benefit from her victory.”

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I AM Depression…

I’m the fog clouding the pathway of your life journey. Sometimes I come even when the sun shines. I’m eerie and heavy. I make it hard for you to see. I cause deep emotional pain. But I’m invisible to others. Only you know I’m here.

My presence is haunting. I get inside your mind and shout ugly things. I scream, “You’re not worth anything. You’re a failure! You’re lazy.” Then, I sliver up to you when you least expect it and tell you the world would be better off without you. I tell you I’ll make the voices stop, if you’ll just make a deal with me.

Then, you cry. I like it when you cry. I like to see what effect I’m having on you. When you wipe your tears I’m still here. You can’t cry me away. I don’t like other people around you, because they tell you to fight me. I convince you—you’re better off alone.

Alone. I’m the only one who controls you. I love polluting your thoughts. It gives me pleasure to watch you fall deeper into my grasp. My ultimate goal is to fill you up with nothingness. You’ll only be a shell of yourself. People will leave you alone. You won’t be fun anymore. But I will be with you. I won’t let go. Please don’t try to fight me.

You start to whisper a prayer. I hate prayers. Prayers are hopeful. Prayers destroy my power.

You take yourself to the doctor and ask for help. I hate the doctor. The doctor will help you.

You get a pill box and start taking medication. I hate medication. It causes my power to fade.

You make yourself fight me, but I’m a tough opponent. I’m not going away easily.

You start reaching out and talking to others. They know my secrets.

You win the battle. But there will be more. I’m always lurking. Waiting to reappear.

I AM depression.