Morning Faces Therapy for Bipolar Disorder: What One User Has Learned

A friend of mine has been using morning faces therapy to improve his mood — he suffers from bipolar disorder — for 15 years. He is the first person I told about it. I recently asked him how his use of it has changed over the years. He replied:

I began the morning faces therapy in April, 1997. I can think of only two significant changes over the years in my use of the therapy: 1) I use a mirror instead of videotapes, and 2) I accept that once or twice a week I’m too tired to start as early as I’d like (so I get more sleep instead). To elaborate:

1) When I restarted the treatment in 2006 after having been hospitalized, I was too depressed to deal with videotaping. In fact, I was too depressed to get out of bed so early. The mirror solved both problems, because I could easily prop it on my mattress top. After a few days I was able to get up, allowing me to listen to music, use bright lights, etc., during the treatment.

2) Whether for lack of discipline or the proper genes, I simply can’t go to sleep early enough so that I can get up early every morning. (Granted, I haven’t tried everything, but for the sake of the argument, let it stand.) This shortcoming used to bother me a great deal. Then on October 6th, 2011, I read in this blog about someone else who didn’t always start the treatment early, because he was “too tired to get up early”. Well! It didn’t seem so bad if someone else had the same problem. Over the years I’ve found that starting 30-60 minutes late once or twice a week doesn’t seem to perturb my mood enough to cause great concern.

I asked how the therapy has helped him. He replied:

The benefits of the morning faces therapy have been both 1) quantitative and 2) qualitative.

1) I have had bipolar disorder for 27 years. With the therapy, I’ve been medication-free for 6 years, and I was on much reduced doses of medication for about 7 years. So it’s fair to say the therapy has reduced the severity of the illness by around one half. Also, the lithium that I took in part caused kidney disease, whereas, obviously, there are no side effects from looking at faces in the morning.

2) The qualitative difference seems far more important to me. I am basically content with life; I am comfortable in my own skin. I’ve never felt like this before, and life without this is empty.

Note to skeptics: you might think, well, bipolar disorder is known to go in remission, and maturity often brings contentment. But this fails to explain why stopping the treatment brings back both the illness and the essential sadness.