Gillem’s short handbook describes how best to manage bipolar illness and prevent dangerous episodes.
Those with bipolar disorder (what used to be called manic-depression) have the highest suicide rate of any psychiatric illness, as well as great risk of violence, financial disaster and damage to personal relationships. It’s also insidious, especially in the manic phase, when those affected feel euphoric. Gillem, himself bipolar but not a mental health professional, writes in his debut book that the “best solution” for managing this difficult illness “is to follow a lifelong battle plan.” This plan has nine weapons: make a contingency plan; optimize medication; choose the right psychiatrist; stalk the enemy (that is, understand the disease and its triggers); train your body; train your mind; use teamwork; use psychiatric hospitals when appropriate; and know your legal rights. Gillem offers much useful, practical advice, beginning with the contingency plan, which suggests that the reader gather names and contact details for support people and create lists of current medications, relapse triggers and early warning signs. Gillem notes that his own plan “has saved me twice in the past three years.” Other useful information includes what to expect when hospitalized, questions to ask a psychiatrist and much more. Some information is questionable and often unsourced: “Fish oil is proven to have positive effects on depression,” writes Gillem. And some recommendations aren’t well-thought-out: “Erasing personal history frees us from the encumbering thoughts of other people. We are not defined by our past—the future is what matters!...Explanations are a sign of weakness.” This could be a way to avoid facing the consequences of a mania-affected life. Gillem also does not address the financial problems of bipolar people, whether manic spending, job loss or paying for prescriptions.
Offers valuable help in managing bipolar illness, but needs to be more careful and reliable.