I wrote this for HealthCentral's BipolarConnect. Following is a brief extract:
790,000 BC, give or take a few years - Discovery of fire. Anyone crazy enough to take a burning tree into their cave and find a practical application had to have been dealing with bipolar. So, you nonbipolars out there, listen up: We give you the gift of civilization, and how do you thank us? That’s right. You marginalize us. (By the way, sorry we couldn’t get fire to you sooner.)
2000 BC - Ancient Egyptians view mental illness symptoms as physical, caused by disorders of the heart.
400 BC - Hippocrates and fellow ancient Greeks explain physical and mental illness in terms of “the four humors.” Melancholia literally means “black bile,” a condition Aristotle assigns to Socrates. Later, Galen refines the humors into “temperaments.” Bottom line: Mental illness is considered biological.
Second century AD - Aretaeus of Cappadocia links mania to melancholia, thus effectively identifying bipolar.
410 AD - Alaric and his Visigoths sack Rome. Dark Ages officially begin. Christian belief interprets mental illness as a sign of divine punishment or Satanic possession. This “fault principle” permeates treatment of the mentally ill to this very day.
Middle Ages - One of the treatments for mental illness includes drilling holes in the skull to allow evil spirits to escape.
1242 - The Order of Mary of Bethlehem establishes a shelter for the insane in London, referred to as “Bedlam.”
1492 - Christopher Columbus has a crazy idea and sails to the New World. To nonbipolars: We introduce to you to the concept of America, and how do you thank us? Yeh, right. (Sorry we couldn’t find it for you sooner.)
Read the rest of the piece here ...