Women and Power

 I do not have bipolar disorder, type II.

Students are being taught that bipolar disorder, type II, is a genetic, congenital condition consisting of episodes of depression alternating with periods of hypomania.  I have never had hypomania; I have had frequent and prolonged bouts of depression alternating with periods of normalcy.

I was raised not to proactively address problems, and I have executive dysfunction learning disability.  At age fourteen, when confronted by serious academic challenges in junior high school that I could not overcome, I reacted with depression.  The lifestyle I had been taught was to internalize my frustration and anger.

In 1975, when I was depressed while going through a normal grieving period following the death of my fiancé, I was put on antidepressants.  The manufacturers of antidepressants state that they are only intended to be used for six months.  Following doctors’ orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years.

During the time that I took antidepressants, my episodes of depression became increasingly more frequent and longer until I was depressed all the time.  I was hospitalized about fifty times for a total of about three years.  I attempted suicide about a dozen times, including one attempt in 1999 that left me on life-support for a month.

Also in 1999, an attending psychiatrist who had never met me told my therapist that I had bipolar disorder, type II.

In 2001, I stopped taking antidepressants and began to recover.  I learned that the trigger for depression is the perception of powerlessness.  I taught myself how to act powerfully and became an effective activist on behalf of people who are old, poor and/or sick, in regard to transportation, housing and medical care.

My last psychiatric hospitalization was around 2004.  I no longer see a therapist or a psychiatrist.  Around 2008, I underwent psychological testing which showed no depression.  The only atypical result was that I have a masculine level of assertiveness, which is a cultural defect in the test, not in me.  Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher were not Americans, and Hillary Clinton was appointed, not elected.  Americans are not yet comfortable with powerful women.

I do not now nor have I ever had bipolar disorder, type II.  Bipolar disorder, type II, is neither genetic nor congenital.  It is a mythical construct used to explain away bad therapy that does not present to women the possibility that they can act with power and thereby end their depression.


About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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