Saturday, July 13, 2013

Dr Jerrold Bonn: The Challenge of Bipolar Emotions - SRO crowd - both patients and family members

Here's Dr Bonn in his office in the

Directions to Dr. Jerrold Bonn's Office Elkins Park Building, which is where I used to see my first great psychiatrist Alex Glijansky.

Dr Bonn was casually dressed and brought his own pre-loaded easel with the main points of his talk.

I had never seen most of the people in the audience! The woman sitting next to me has a 65-yo brother who drowns his sorrows in alcohol.

There's a reason for that cliche - drown your sorrows. Read on.

The bipolar person must find WORDS to express him or herself.

Bonn referenced Moses, whose tablets gave rules for a good life.

Instead of breaking your ass 24 hrs a day, take a rest, as the Bible advises, said Dr Bonn.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. - Exodus
And it is by resting, relaxing, we can get inside ourselves where all the emotions are. And find words to express our feelings.

Everyone has feelings. Bipolar emotions are MAGNIFIED.

It's a big problem, he said.

Emotions which are exaggerated get in the way of dealing with people and dealing with situations in our lives.
They put people off.

They scare people.

We're genetically wired to feel emotion. One baby is born screaming while another is relaxed.

Bipolar d/o runs in families. Just as there are all different sizes of clothes, there are different amounts and types of bipolar in families. Mild to extreme.

"Bipolar Disorder One" is a TSUNAMI of emotions. Great description. Ever seen someone imploded by mania, whether euphoric or in a rage?

(Three of us who met downstairs for coffee after the program had been 302'd (involuntarily committed) to Bldg 50 on the grounds of Norristown State Hospital.

"Make your first visit your last" was my motto.
Norristown State Hospital and Ruth Deming on the cover of The Compass, 2004. I spent the 3 worst days of my life there in 1984.

Dr Bonn said we have three basic emotions:


Emotions are a body-mind-spiritual response to life.

Anger is the foundation of many successful protest movements, such as when the Jesuits of South America helped peasants to reclaim land.

Anxiety and fear arise from a threat to ourselves. "Being scared is not an emotion," said Dr Bonn. "It arises from our alarm system." Fight or flight. A sense of threat.

Dr Bonn has a video explaining a panic attack, which is arguably the worst feeling a person can have.

The bipolar person is often in so much PAIN he or she is only focused on himself. Terrible for relationships. And, the individual lacks awareness of this.

Therapy helps an individual learn about the effect they have on others, as well as of who they are and why they're suffering.

Before TV, said Bonn, life was a lot different. People weren't so much in the competitive game-playing mindset prevalent today.

Commercials drive us to get a big house, shiny car, fashionable clothes.
This is my daughter Sarah who bought this gorgeous dress at an upscale thrift shop in Brooklyn. When she appeared in it after a brief visit with her hubby last week, I said, "You look like a ripe red strawberry."

How do we find out who we are?


Write, said Dr Bonn. "When we write, it's like we're talking to somebody."

I love that!

From the chaos inside our brains, we write which becomes an extension of our brain.


Bipolar people need a regular sleep schedule. Meds may help. Medication is not a dirty word, he said. We need a regular sleep/awake schedule.

Wake up in the morning. Have a plan for the day. Write it down the nite before. Has he seen the list on my kitchen table? I gotta get the stuff out of my head and onto a piece of paper, the extension of my brain.


People don't feel good about themselves when they get caught up in what society wants for them. Instead, said Dr Bonn, nurture your own talents. And bipolar people are very talented in music, art and words. Here's ole home-from- the- hospital  Robt Lowell.

Bipolar people in relationships are occasionally resentful  or feel sorry for themselves. They don't think about the pain of their partner or their impact upon them.

This reminds me of so many people who are living with their parents and driving each other crazy.
These bipolar people can see a "flea on the other person's neck but not the elephant on their own neck."

Family members must learn to be NONJUDGMENTAL and to relate to their loved one's pain. Any hint of criticism will drive them away.

Find the words. This is a lifelong project.

Reflect: prayer, writing, talking.

All emotions have meaning.

Bipolar emotions are extra high voltage.

A woman in the audience said her meds render her subdued. She finds herself bored with life.

There's an art, said Dr Bonn, to prescribing. Her rheostat needs to be turned up.

BIPOLAR people see things with their heart. They don't need to hire an interior decorator.

They see things other people don't. They can READ people. Make great car salesmen.

And of course b/c the bipolar person is mad at themselves they turn to the lure of drugs or alcohol. A perfect example of avoidance and escape.

We gave Dr Bonn a tuberous begonia from Kremp's. His wife Nancy was there too - beautiful woman in a lovely blue dress - didn't get a chance to take her photo.

A friend named Baruch (Spinoza?) was taping the event. It will appear on Dr Bonn's website. 

We will also make a donation in his name to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

Okay, time to go downstairs to the Coffeeshop and celebrate the great talk - one of the best we've heard - and schmooze.

Hi Saul. Always a pleasure. He came with his lovely wife Ellen, who I'd never met. Photo-shy.

Ellen was wearing lovely pink nail polish. At Tracey's wedding, she had on blue. Tracey's well-blogged wedding.

I must share with you that I always blog to music. Jerry Blavat is featuring the awesome Sam Cooke, gospel singer, pop singer, dead at 33 of a gunshot wound. Shall we invite him to our blog?

Listen on You Tube.

Oh, if you insist. Hey, I'm still nursing my Giant Decaf coffee.

Janis is drinking a GLASS OF MILK! Lactose-free.

We had a dozen people at our table including THE FABULOUS.....

Betsey Kirk. One of my fave people. Oh, if only she lived closer than Doylestown. I've got her phone no. and we're gonna go paddle-boating at Lake Galena.

How did my grandson Max Atticus Deming get on here?

The little guy just gets cuter and cuter. Three months old. He and his parents were shopping at - where else? - the Giant.


  1. Good sounding program,as always. I don't have BPD but I know more than I want to about panic attacks stemming from PTSD and these tips are great for many in different situations.

    Your Strawberry Sarah looks lovely and Max is cute as a button--no cuter...buttons aren't usually so cute.

  2. thanks for stopping by, iris. if only we could bring back your bipolar friends. i hear you had a wonderful b'day.