Love. Family. Education. A career. A purpose.
Can a bipolar person have everything they want in life? Bipolar disorder is a mental condition that involves alternating episodes of mania and depression. It carries high risks for suicide, self-harm and behavioral problems. Yet, bipolar leaders often do well in a crisis. Is it possible for a bipolar person to find both personal AND professional success?
Despite his lifelong struggles with mental health issues and even shooting himself with a handgun multiple times, Paul Golden, MD says a heartfelt yes! A physician who treated kidney disease for 39 years, a husband, a father to two children and an advocate for people with mental illness, Golden himself has led a fulfilling personal and professional life
Bipolar MD: My Life As a Physician with Bipolar Disorder is the story of his struggles and successes. Golden shares his OCD, his manic episodes, his depression, losing his first wife and having his medical license taken away upon retirement, but also the story of the many lives he touched and the patients he saved.
Golden is an example of a bipolar person who didn’t let his illness hold him back. He met his challenges head on and didn’t let them stop him from he wanted in life, even as he was confused by them in his youth.
Family History As a Blessing and a Curse. Like a classic tale of American immigration with a Russian-Jewish family seeking a better life, Golden’s grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe, came through Ellis Island and established themselves in New York. His maternal grandmother later died from an illegal abortion, but his parents were first-generation Americans. His father earned a law degree and prospered working for the Pentagon and the private sector, but his mother suffered from depression and some of her other family members developed bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Was Golden’s own illness due to environmental factors or was it written in his genes? Either way, Golden followed his brothers to medical school.
The Fruits of Education. How does your education shape the person you become? Golden studied biology at Yale University, went to medical school in St. Louis, volunteered as a doctor in the Israeli army and then completed an internal medicine residency in San Francisco where he decided on nephrology – treating kidney disease – one of medicine’s most challenging specialties. This would become his life’s work.
A Satisfying Career. Why does a physician do what he does every day? “The most interesting and gratifying part,” says Golden, “is diagnosing the problem and then tailoring a treatment to prevent a person’s kidney disease from leading to kidney failure.” In Bipolar MD, he lovingly recounts some of the many patients he treated and the cases he handled, revealing the science of what worked as well as the more human side to his healing arts. But what else is out there?
The Sweet Days of Love, Marriage and Fatherhood. How much love does each person get in this life? Golden was fortunate, finding love with his first wife, Priscilla, and then adopting two children together, Tina and Thomas. But Priscilla’s transplanted heart valves did not withstand the test of time. After Priscilla died, Golden found love with Sue, their love blossoming from a longtime friendship, and built to last through the years. His children now grown, Golden is a proud father. But is love enough to get someone through the dark times?
The Challenges of Bipolar Disorder. How deeply do bipolar people suffer? How does the illness affect their everyday lives? In Golden’s case, he shot himself with a gun more than once: first in his left leg, and then in his right leg and his abdomen, but he wasn’t trying to commit suicide. His bipolar disorder was a constant struggle. He regularly suffered from obsessions and morning terrors, and sometimes from mania and depression. The treatments also became a steady companion. First Golden underwent rounds of electric shock therapy and then every day he took cocktails of drugs to manage what was first diagnosed as depression and then later as bipolar disorder. He sometimes took breaks from work to recover from major episodes, but bipolar disorder was something Golden could not hide from. He had no choice but to deal with his illness, but it also informed his outlook on the world.
A Doctor’s Views. What is it like to practice medicine when the world changes around you? “Toward the end [of my career],” says Golden, “I didn’t love having to be a businessman more than a doctor to make ends meet. The new rules and regulations of medicine changed the medical environment I worked in for decades.” In Bipolar MD, Golden shares his views on abortion, physician-assisted dying and medical practices today, shaped by his family history, personal experiences and professional practice.
Above all, Paul Golden’s Bipolar MD is an honest, “warts and all” look at what life can be with bipolar disorder. He shows that there is some suffering in store, yes, but it’s still very possible to live a full life of satisfaction and joy.