I was recently given the book Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder (second edition) written by Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston, PsyD to read by publisher Harbinger Publication. After reading the book (which is incredibly helpful for PARTNERS of those with bipolar disorder) I discovered that one of the authors of that book was part of the Ask A Bipolar community!!!!! AAANNNNDDD What a coincidence that Ask A Bipolar LOVES to interview authors!!!! So, I had the privilege of interviewing Julie Fast. Julie not only began writing in 2002, but was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. Now, if that doesn’t give you inspiration that those of us with bipolar disorder can make a difference and be successful, then here is some more info. When I did a little more research, I found out that she has written a LOT more things than this book and has done a LOT more work with respect to bipolar disorder. You know that show Homeland?? The one that won all the Emmy’s this year?? And Claire Danes plays a woman with bipolar disorder??? Well guess who Claire’s consultant was? JULIE FAST.
So of course I couldn’t help but interview Julie about not only her book Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder, but also interview her about all of her other amazing accomplishments in the bipolar field as well. How awesome is it to have someone so AMAZEBALLS part of our community???? *throws glitter* Ok, I’ll stop babbling and get to the interview!
Me: This book is based on a “holistic treatment plan.” Can you explain what a holistic treatment plan is compared to other treatment plans? Why is a holistic treatment plan better than other treatment plans?
Julie: A holistic plan is the same thing as a comprehensive treatment plan. When I wrote Loving, there were very few management books on the market. I know this is hard to believe these days, but back then, bipolar disorder was mainly treated with medications. A comprehensive treatment plan means medications plus all that we do to keep stable from trigger management, relationship changes, sleep monitoring, etc.
Me: In order to write this book, I’m sure a lot of research had to be done as it pertains to couples and how effective the strategies are. How did you do this research? Did you try out these techniques with your own relationship? Did you use other couples? How were those couples chosen?
Julie: I didn’t have to do any research. All of my books are based off of personal experience. My former partner Ivan was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1994. I went through a harrowing time when he was first diagnosed. He was in the hospital for three months in a manic/psychotic mood swing. He then became very suicidal and was back in the hospital. I was diagnosed with bipolar in 1995. We then spent seven years working out how to manage the illness. Our needs were so different- and then each of us had needs as partners! I wrote down everything that happened from the day he was diagnosed up until now. There was no way to research much back then- even though it wasn’t long ago. There was no real internet and partners went to NAMI groups for example, but I didn’t find much help when I needed it. Self help books aren’t always researched outside of personal experience with clients, people asking for help, audiences etc. – if the author has a common experience with the reader, the book reaches across all ….. Loving has sold over 100,000 copies. I get emails and comments daily of how the book helps the partner so I got it right! Now, as a coach of partners, I use the ideas for each client. And they work.
Me: Have there been any success stories that you are aware of from using the methods and strategies you give in your book?
Julie: I have hundreds and hundreds from emails and especially from my coaching clients. I can provide you with any you need!
Me: ***Oh I believe it Julie! This book is amazing and comprehensive!***
Me: From reading this book, it seems to be mostly directed toward the partner. Is this a book that you recommend the person affected with bipolar disorder read also or did you write this specifically directed toward the partner?
Julie: This book is 1000% for the partner. Only. Partners have very different needs and it can be beyond hard for someone with bipolar to read the book. Loving comes from my experience as a partner. What we go through is extremely unique. I was scared the entire time he was in the hospital- there was no help for me as a partner. This was 1995 – not exactly the dark ages!
Me: This book speaks mostly to partners, but is this something that family members and other loved ones could benefit from in their relationships with their family member or loved one affected by bipolar disorder? Or do you recommend that this be used as a guide exclusively for partners?
Julie: I recommend my book Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder for families. Loving is about romantic relationships and has different tips than a book for family members. Parents don’t need information on bipolar disorder and sexual relationships for example, but partners do!
Me: The book mentioned that it could be used together as a couple or that the partner could begin using the book alone if the person affected with bipolar disorder is unable to work together with them. How would the partner best determine if they should begin using the book alone, or if they should incorporate their bipolar affected partner in the process?
Julie: Great question. First of all, the plan in the book can be used together. The book doesn’t have to be read by the person with the illness. Anyone with a partner with bipolar in any stage of the illness can read the book. I know that many partners read it because they suspect that their partner has the illness. They definitely know the answer once they read the book.
Here is a short answer: The book is for partners. They then share the info in the book. It’s not for people with bipolar disorder to read.
Me: Which part of this whole treatment plan do you feel is the hardest part to implement? What is the hardest part to maintain?
Julie: Another great question. The hardest part at the beginning is for the partner to remember the Bipolar Conversation strategy. People in a mood swing have their own language- for example, can you reason with someone who is manic? No! But you can use language that gets through to a person who is manic. There are many examples of this in the book- but here is a basic one. When a person is depressed the language they use is universal. ‘Nothing will ever go right for me. I’m a failure and no one loves me. I will never be happy. I’m a terrible partner. Leave me alone, I want to sleep! Leave me alone you’re upsetting me! Get off my back! I want to die!” This is a broad range example of the language. The natural response to this is a reasonable answer, “What are you talking about? I love you. Your life isn’t bad. You told me a few months ago that you liked your job. Why are you so irritated? It’s not like you. Why would you want to die? So many people love you!” This doesn’t work. The depressed person can’t hear you. But they can hear this, “I can see you are depressed. Depression always makes you talk and feel this way and we both know it’s not real. We’re going to get you help. Now.”
Me: Do you think that the partner not affected with bipolar disorder would benefit more from this book with prior knowledge or education on bipolar disorder? Would it make effecting the treatment plan easier?
Julie: The book has a detailed explanation of the illness before I get into the strategies. Also, the one comment I constantly hear is that the book ‘describes my situation exactly.’ Bipolar disorder is not a difficult illness to understand intellectually- the symptoms are the same for everyone. The challenge is working with a partner to manage the symptoms!
Me: This book is a second edition, what additions (or edits) have been made in the second edition that were not previously included in the first edition?
Julie: My coauthor Dr. John Preston is a medication specialist. He gives me all of the medication information for the books. He suggested that we add a chapter on medications and an appendix. I wrote a new chapter on how couples can work together to deal with medications and their side effects. It also covers why people go off and or refuse medications. John wrote the amazingly comprehensive appendix that I hope all people affected by this illness can read.
Me: Once implementing this plan, how long does it take usually (on average) to see any results?
Julie: A year. Oh! I know that sounds tough. This is a full time illness until it’s managed. People who read Loving have partners who need help. Many are younger and just diagnosed while others have known about their bipolar for a long time but haven’t managed it successfully. There are strategies in the book such as the Bipolar Conversation and how to recognize the different mood swings that can be used immediately- in fact, everything in the book can be used immediately by the partner. The challenge is to work together to implement the changes. It’s possible. I always say that the year is going to pass no matter what you do- so make it matter!
Now, what did I think of the book after I read it??? Even though this book was written for partners and not so much appropriate for the individual with the illness, I read this book cover to cover and learned a lot of things I can do differently in my own relationships. Loving is such a comprehensive book for partners and written in a language that you don’t need a medical degree to read. Anyone could read it. (How many books on bipolar have you bought and a few pages in, the author starts using technical and medical verbiage where you need a medical dictionary just to read it!) Not with this book. To keep the reader engaged with the book and the advice given, exercises are incorporated to try in working with your partner. Loving also does a great job explaining the details all the different types of bipolar disorder and the different phases we go through (depression, hypomania, etc.) to give the partner reading a different, but simple explanation. Sometimes (in my opinion) partners get overwhelmed when we try to tell them about it because we just lay it all out there and don’t give them time to process the information. Julie’s book provides explanations that allow the partner to read it and digest it in their own time frame and maybe a different way than you had been.
As I mentioned earlier, Loving provides sections of the book that have example situations and give you tips on how to respond if you are in that situation, as well as exercises you can do with your partner to create your own tailored plan. Medications are always a big part of the life of someone with bipolar disorder so of course a section about medication is included. This chapter can be immensely helpful because sometimes the partner can look at all those medication bottles and be a bit overwhelmed as to what each one is and why the person with bipolar is taking them. Triggers are another important topic when you are dealing with this illness, and of course there is a section about that which includes exercises on how you can determine the specific triggers you will be working with in your life with your partner.
Partners also need their own support and care and that is addressed in Loving as well. I think a lot of partners get burnt out so this chapter can help in so many ways. In my opinion, so many partners could benefit from reading this book. It breaks the illness down and play by play discusses how to handle each spectrum. I would definitely recommend this to all partners as an ABSOLUTE MUST READ!!
Want to know more about Julie Fast??? Well, tomorrow we will have Part II of my interview with Julie!!!!!
Click here to find out more about her and her other books on her website www.juliefast.com.
Julie A. Fast is a world leading mental health expert on the topics of bipolar disorder, depression, seasonal affective disorder and mood management. She is the bestselling author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get it Done When You’re Depressed and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. Julie is a critically acclaimed national speaker, family and partner coach and sought after media source on the topic of mental health management. Her books have sold over 150,000 copies and her popular websites have received over one million visitors.