A long time ago, Willa Goodfellow reached out to me via Twitter to share her story of misdiagnosis, medication side effects, and hope. Her book, Prozac Monologues: A Voice from the Edge, is described as “a book within a book” – the story of Willa’s experience with the mental health system trying to treat her…for the wrong diagnosis.
I want to thank Willa for being patient with me and for nudging me. When she first shared her book with me, I was attempting to recover from a round of burnout. I told myself I would check out her book as soon as my brain fog cleared. And then it was a year later! I wish I had read it sooner, but I am so glad I was able to read it.
With her hilarious, insightful, and honest style, Willa presents her experience of writing a book while experiencing manic symptoms as well as her mental health journey, learning her correct diagnosis (Bipolar II Disorder), and going through the literal ups and downs of living with bipolar. She shares her own experience as well as research-backed information written for a broad audience so that anyone can learn about bipolar-type disorders and their treatment.
I have written before about how some people have been misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder when they actually have ADHD (though people with ADHD can also have bipolar disorder, as the diagnoses are not mutually exclusive). However, I hadn’t spent as much time considering those who have bipolar disorder and were misdiagnosed. As Willa experienced, many with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed as having major depressive disorder (MDD; sometimes referred to as “unipolar depression,” as people with this diagnosis experience depressive symptoms and episodes but not manic or hypomanic episodes seen in bipolar disorder).
Treatment protocols for MDD can trigger manic or hypomanic symptoms for people with bipolar disorder, which sometimes has the antithetical impact of preventing a bipolar diagnosis if a provider assumes that the symptoms are “medication-induced.”
Because the diagnostic protocols for mental health often have less-than-perfect reliability, unfortunately many people are misdiagnosed before they learn what is really going on for them. Willa’s experience and knowledge helps the general public better understand bipolar disorder and its symptoms while also providing diagnosticians with tips for doing our jobs more accurately.
It can be challenging to balance the risks and rewards of psychiatric medication. As a psychologist, I really appreciated Willa’s nuanced and honest approach to discussing medication intervention. She shares her own negative experiences with antidepressant medications and explores the risks and side effects of these pills while also acknowledging how they can help when prescribed correctly. She discusses how medication can help without presenting this as the only option or an essential component of recovery.
Prozac Monologues includes a resource database for learning about mental health. While I of course cannot personally speak to every resource on the list, it is a fantastic starting point for those who want to learn and understand the field.
While Willa doesn’t pull any punches (she vulnerably shares about suicidal ideation and other hard topics), Prozac Monologues is also filled with hope: the hope that you can find the right diagnosis, the right treatment plan, that you can feel better.
Prozac Monologues is available in paperback and as an audiobook. You can order a signed copy from Willa’s website.