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NMSU physician paints a picture of trials and triumphs in his book

Date: 04/12/2011

The medical director of New Mexico State University clinics provides an inside look into what he terms a strange and colorful journey - living with bipolar disease - in his book, "Closing the Chasm: Letters From a Bipolar Physician to His Son."

Benjamin Diven, director of NMSU clinics, wrote "Closing the Chasm: Letters from a Bipolar Physician to His Son," which chronicles his life and career with bipolar disease. (Submitted Photo)

Benjamin Diven describes bipolar disease in the introduction of his book as "a mental illness that includes euphoric highs and boundless energy and confidence - an illness that allows you to live on little or no sleep while you concoct and carry out grandiose and elaborate schemes."

Diven said at first glance bipolar disease does not sound so bad, but it commonly turns into depression, often causing relationships and other ventures to suffer. The book chronicles Diven's life and career with bipolar disease from his high school years to the present.

Diven said he had always enjoyed writing poetry and drawing cartoons, and he eventually got the idea to put his life story into a book. The book is written in the form of letters to his oldest son Matthew.

"I owe my oldest son, Matt, a huge apology. He was the kid that suffered the most as a result of my disorder," he said. "I thought he, of all people, deserved to be told the story outright."

Diven graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1981, where he studied family medicine and emergency medicine. He then moved to Las Cruces to practice emergency medicine at Memorial Medical Center. Diven started a private practice, which was the first occupational medical clinic in Las Cruces. He has practiced medicine at NMSU since 1991.

Diven said he and his wife were worried at first about how the book would be received and what kind of impact it might have on his career. However, the book sold well during the first year, and everyone seemed to be very receptive and positive about it, he said. His website, http://closingthechasm.com, has attracted international attention.

The book is also featured on the Bipolar Disorder Significant Others website at http://bpso.org, and the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance at http://dbsalliance.org. Texas Tech University also has adopted the book for training purposes.

"The feedback and reaction to the book was a lot more positive than I expected," Diven said. "It actually opened up doors, because the counseling center started sending me patients with similar disorders."

The book is an enjoyable read with a happy ending, he said. It has something for everyone, not just people who are acquainted with the disorder.

Diven said one of the most important things he has had throughout his journey with bipolar disease is a support team.

"At every major turn there was always someone who lent me support; my wife, a friend, a counselor or teacher," he said. "That has made all the difference in the world. Money can't buy that."

"Closing the Chasm: Letters from a Bipolar Physician to His Son," is available at http://amazon.com, http://barnesandnoble.com, http://iuniverse.com and other online booksellers. It also is available at the Barnes & Noble at NMSU bookstore, under the Local Authors section.

For more information, visit http://closingthechasm.com.

Written by Kristina M. Medley.

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