My Tireless Pursuit for a “Cure” to Bipolar Disorder

I recently applied for a “founder gym” program. A “founder gym” is of the same vein as startup incubators and accelerators with a twist that conjures images of the endless training associated with improving and strengthening one’s body except in this case it is the mental muscles associated with launching a startup which is being enhanced.

I thought I should have something more fitting than my post about maniacally applying for a job as a placeholder for this domain in the event that someone from the program takes a look at this site (which I imagine they will!)

My Initial Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the summer of 1999. The full retelling of the series of events which took place in both the collective reality and my own is beyond the scope of this article. What I will say is that it all began with an experiment in seeing how long I could go without drinking water, eating food or sleeping. It is not an experiment I recommend doing without the help of trained professionals…

That’s how it began, it ended with a shirtless me being wrestled down by cops after going on a (nonviolent to people) rampage through a grocery store, blacking out and waking up in the ER thinking I was dead.

After some weeks to a month in a mental hospital, I was released pumped with drugs and deflated of mental cognition and spirit. Thus began a battle with medications, therapies, theories, and societal and personal beliefs about bipolar, mental health and how it should be treated which persists today. Fortunately, I’ve successfully negotiated a peace treaty with the more feral aspects of my spirit that are extremely displeased with submitting to modern medicine.

Getting Comfortable with Talking About it Publicly

Almost 10 years ago I published my first video talking about being bipolar. I don’t know when the last time I watched it was (I actually wasn’t able to make it through the mania powered cringey initial 2 minutes… lol) but I was surprised to hear that I’m still chipping away at my original theory (starts at 8:10).

“The solution, I think, is to devise a system or structure a life to fit how I am. […] The solution isn’t [just] taking medication so you can shove a round peg into a square hole, it’s carving your own hole and sliding in there nicely.”

I talk about doing a regular series of videos about being bipolar but that is just one of the endless projects from that time that never fully got off the ground. That said, it appears that, 10 years later, I’m beginning to make some headway! 😀

There are a lot of other bipolar themed videos that I uploaded after that. Two noteworthy ones are full on manic episodes (one EXTREMELY severe) which I was able to capture and upload. I don’t feel like linking to them here, but they aren’t hard to find. Something I found interesting is that on 3 occasions back in 2009 I had university professors ask for permission to show the footage to their class.

The Bipolar Management System

The service I’m creating is a service I’ve hacked together for myself over a period of… well… decades. It’s just in the last year that I’ve decided to take it seriously to the point of trying to build a business around it.

My personal system has consisted of email chains during episodes to keep my (at the time undefined) support team in the loop, small private Facebook groups designed for support, habit building and tracking apps, accountability partners, mood tracking apps, protocols which outlined how people in my support network should interact with me if they think (or know) I’m having a manic episode (the person I am day-to-day isn’t the same person who is communing with the spirits about how to approach the geopolitical situation with China and Taiwan in the next 30 years and has things that need to be done NOW), etc.

My most recent epiphanies are all built upon an epiphany from about 3 years ago.

Lifestyle is the best only medicine.

Medicine (pills) isn’t actually the medicine. It’s merely a single ingredient in a much more complex recipe. That’s one of the major flaws with how mental illnesses are treated. People think medicine is the medicine. I loathe thinking about how often I’ve been asked: “Have you taken your medicine?” That was, at one point, a part of my protocol (Never ask me if I’ve taken my medicine).

Now that I understand that LIFESTYLE is the medicine, the better question is “Am I taking all of the ingredients to cook up the best version of myself right now?” (Also, please don’t ask me that. You can contact my mental health concierge with any concerns or questions… lol)

Hmmm… Let me try that again…

The Bipolar Management System Part Deux

The system is pretty basic, but it requires a coordinated effort on the parts of a lot of different people.

Ideally…

  • self-reported data is being collected somehow (whether through natural language chat submissions, filling out a questionnaire, interpreting social media data, etc.)
  • support network data is being collected somehow (through natural language chat submissions to my concierge, filling out a questionnaire, etc.)
  • the data is being analyzed and presented to me in a way that I can take concrete steps to either avoid danger, take advantage of increased energy or make adjustments for decreased energy

Over time patterns should emerge based on season, location, activities (or lack thereof) etc.

This is the part of the system I’m building, and using, now. As it gets more robust, inputs and outputs of data can come from and go to more sources in a more sophisticated fashion. Think…

  • police understanding the “version” of the person they’re going to be dealing with upon arrival or, better yet…
  • someone from within the support network (friend, family, professional or peer) de-escalating (mental health first aid / emotional CPR) a situation such that cops never need to get called.
  • employers being able to play a role in data submission or interpretation
  • spouses being able to play a defined role in management which makes both parties feel empowered

I can safely say that I’ve lost out on hundreds of thousands of potential earnings from having never “found my footing” in traditional working environments and have cost the various systems of support (the US government, friends and family, the Taiwanese government, etc.) hundreds of thousands of dollars in resources that, if I was better management, could have been used elsewhere.

In my experience, we don’t need any new technological breakthroughs or advanced app development to more humanely and efficiently manage, or reorder, bipolar (and other) disorders. Simple systems of checks and balances collectively managed with the help of a support professional (concierge) are all that is needed to help a person build an ever-evolving bespoke management plan and system which will allow them to thrive instead, as most people like me do at some point in their life, contemplate death.

Management Versions Since Deciding to Create a Startup

I, during a manic episode back in December of last year, decided to apply to a startup accelerator (I didn’t know I needed to have something to accelerate first… lol) Since then I’ve been prototyping the service on myself.

v1

Track and post robust health and wellness data.

This worked until I stopped posting. Was too much data and too hard to compile.

v2

Check in with a virtual assistant (concierge) and have him monitor self-reported data.

Doing this helped me predict a manic episode early enough to take the necessary steps to totally neutralize it. What ended up being the most useful data was the fact that I stopped checking in with him. The major flaw in the system was that updates weren’t propagated to my support network in a timely fashion. They didn’t know that I knew there was a problem so they started to, especially from my manic point of view, overreact in a way I didn’t like.

v3

I was so pleased with how well simply checking in with someone worked out for me that I decided to start publicly posting status updates again with slightly different, and simpler to produce, data points. Ideally, this would all happen behind the scenes in an app but it, in the meantime, gives me very useful data to use to plan my day with and, at the same time, keeps my support network fully informed.

I’m in the process of working on some systems to make it easier for people in my support network to submit data. I think a private Facebook group will be sufficient at this point in the testing. My concierge still checks in with me which is important because he is potentially one of the first lines of defense if something goes awry.

What’s the Cure?

The “cure” is, for the most part, understanding that often times there is no disease. Instead, there is a complex biological machine which, through natural or supernatural means, has evolved, gained sentience and created a conceptual world that hasn’t yet adapted to fit the needs of the wide variety of models which inhabit it.

The model I gained sentience in would vastly prefer hunting and killing wild animals over typing a blog post about how to manage a model which would prefer hunting and killing wild animals.

Hunting and killing wild animals just wasn’t ever an elective class for me growing up in the inner-city of Milwaukee. As I type this I’ve drifted off into the Serengeti on a lion hunt as a rite of passage…

It’s always been hard for me to imagine how a person can function in society while cognizant of all of the social ills and not be in a constant state of shock, anger, and sadness. Somewhat paradoxically, it’s always been hard for me to imagine how a person can go through the day without their minds being blown, at least once or twice, at the fact that they can (theoretically) instantly communicate with almost 3 billion people. Or, paraparadoxically, how a person isn’t constantly equally overwhelmed with joy at how far we’ve come in so little time… like… numbers don’t lie.

Now I’m just rambling before bedtime… lol All that rambling has led me to leave this quote as a “cure” to most things that vex the populace.

 

Thanks for the image Joseph!

 

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