Monday, June 28, 2010

Where I Get My Information

Last week, I had breakfast in town with a friend, “Abigail,” from the midwest and her husband. She is one of my mental health heroes. We met at a conference several years back and have kept in touch ever since.

What sources do you go to for your information? she wanted to know.

Interesting question. Here’s the context:

Eleven years ago this month, I started a free email newsletter dedicated to depression and bipolar disorder. I was six months into my diagnosis. “I would write as I learned,” I explained in a piece dating from the time. “It would all be tied into my recovery.” Literally, “I was reclaiming my life, one article at a time.”

As I explained to Abigail, each week I religiously plowed through the medical and psychiatric literature and mainstream media for developments that I would summarize. Serendipitously, this served the needs of my readers at the time, plus my own. We were all learning as we went along.

Later, as I started connecting some of the dots, I was able to offer explanations as well as summaries. As the scope of my inquiry broadened, I found myself contending with a flood of information. I grew selective. I concentrated on certain issues. Of all things, depression and bipolar grew increasingly less relevant.

Diagnostic categories were useful to a point, but the brain science findings were pointing to new explanations into how we think and feel and behave, as was - ironically - a lot of the ancient psychiatry this present generation dismisses as unscientific. At the same time, our recovery began to focus on looking beyond the diagnosis. Predictably, I took to linking brain science to recovery.

A couple of years ago, I took a Sabbatical from my newsletter. Not having to wade through tons of information did wonders for my overtaxed psyche, and freed my mind for other projects.

So, how do I get my information these days?

Simple, I told Abigail. I’m doing it right now by having breakfast with you.

More to come ...        


Tony said...

Hey John,

Here I am going through some of your older blog posts and I see mention of your "newsletter". You may be surprised to hear that I am glad you're no longer publishing it, in sabbatical, whatever you want to call it.

Why am I glad?

It shows me that you're entering a new place in your recovery. A place of profound discovery and how all the mumbo-jumbo, label making world of modern psychiatry means less and less to you. That's a good thing.

I've been a subscriber for a few years and often wondered what happened to it. I've got your book, and indeed it was a good one, but I could almost sense your frustration with all the science stuff and I could tell you've been a skeptic of lot's of what you've written about.

I was diagnosed as Bipolar in 1987, had a couple of brain shattering episodes and came to the conclusion that psychiatry was full of crap and ditched it all and returned to my job in the US Navy.

19 years later, amidst of bunch of major life changes, I again found myself hospitalized for a short time and put back on medications.

It was during this time, that I discovered you, your site, your newsletter and your book.

After I read the book, I had wondered when you were going to go further in your exploration, and as I read your site and some of your blog posts, it was clear you were in fact doing it... digging deeper and finding out all kinds of fascinating things about yourself, your label and all that good mind-bending stuff :-)

Welcome to the club John!


John McManamy said...

Many thanks, Tony. It's always good to hear from a reader from way back when. You pretty much nailed it. When I talk to my old readers, I always find that we are in a way different place. Either we've grown together or (in your case) I'm catching up. Very much appreciate your perspective and insight and let's keep in touch.