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So, you don’t want to get on medication.

Your disease is making you feel stuck, but still, you resist.

You’ve fought so hard for so long. You’re exhausted. Yet you dig in your heels.

Your days are a roller coaster of emotion or a veritable bottomless well of sorrow. You don’t know if you can make it one more day. Still, when someone you love brings up medication, you balk.

Why?

Because you’ve believed the falsehood propagated by society and more than a few artists.

The great Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke famously said, “Don’t take my devils away, because my angels may flee too.” This is a mentality our culture is thoroughly steeped in.

We think “crazy” is synonymous with “genius.” We think depression is equal to greatness. We think mania is the same as productivity. We think mood swings make us interesting.

We have bought the idea that medication will dull our sparkle, will erase our edge — that it will “flatten” us, level us out to the point of having no shine at all to our spirits, and we will live out our days in anonymity and uselessness. We think medication will cause our muses to flee.

This is a lie.

Before I found the right medication for my bipolar diagnosis, I was scattered. I had written half of a novel and a few poems but nothing more. I was busy just trying to survive. In the year after I got on the proper medication, I finished three novels and self-published three volumes of poetry.

Finding the right medication will not dull you. It may focus your energies, making you more productive than relentless mania and depression ever could. It may spur you on to greater heights of creativity and progress.

It may take time. It won’t be an easy process. But it’s worth it.

Your muse is just waiting for you to focus, to feel good enough to really concentrate. Give her the chance she — and you — deserve.

Editor’s note: Please see a medical professional before starting or stopping medication.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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I have learned over the years how to deal with my bipolar disorder and how to keep myself as stable as I can.

1. I have a sleep routine to remain stable.

I aim to go to bed before midnight and to get up at 10 a.m. at the latest, in order to keep a routine and to get at least eight hours of sleep. If I don’t, then I know I am higher risk for an episode.

2. I make sure I take my medication daily.

I take it at the same time every day! This is vital for me to stay on track, and probably is the most important aspect of keeping myself stable.

3. I remain self-aware.

This means I monitor my moods and keep an eye out of for changes so I can get an early warning for signs of my mood slipping up or down. I am also aware of my triggers and what can possibly cause my mood to change. This helps me to try to stop an episode and to ask for help as early as possible to keep myself safe.

4. I make sure I keep busy during the day.

I set goals for myself. This gives me purpose and gives me a routine, as I don’t go out of the house to work.

5. I make sure I get out of the house regularly.

Whether this be with my husband, to walk the dog or to see friends. This prevents me from becoming isolated and helps to keep my mood steady.

6. I ensure I talk about any problems or worries I have.

I talk about them with a member of my support system: My husband, my parents or my friends. This stops things from escalating and makes it easier for me to regulate my emotions.

Of course, these things are not a guarantee I will remain stable and don’t prevent me from ever having a bad episode, but they do help me to remain as stable as I can. They help me to be prepared for the bad times when they do come.


It is 5:30 in the morning, and after another sleepless night due to nightmares, I am sitting on the couch watching my girls sleep peacefully. This is when I most see the innocence in my little girls, and I can’t help but wonder how I’m affected them.

After all, when your mother has more than one mental illness, bipolar disorder being the main, you run a higher risk of having that disorder yourself. However, I am trying to turn a new leaf. In keeping with that spirit, I have compiled a list of five things I’ve learned since becoming a mother, battling mental illness. I have learned…

1. How to speak openly with my children about mental illness. 

I want my girls to grow up knowing as much as possible about all mental illnesses, with an emphasis on bipolar disorder as it can be genetic. But of course, we’re still learning about it. We need more resources and more studies done. How can we expect to get that from future generations if we don’t raise our children to grow up with compassion and empathy for those who battle mental illness?

2. How to speak openly with my children about my mental illness.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after first being treated for postpartum depression. For the first several years of my daughters’ lives, I was afraid to let them see any part of my illness. I wanted to protect them from it for as long as possible, but after hearing my own daughter make stigmatizing remarks, I knew I had to find a way to talk to them about my personal mental health, not just mental health in general.

3. It is OK to admit when I need help.

The Lord blessed me greatly with two little girls, who love to help Momma clean up around the house (as long as it isn’t their rooms.) I have no problem putting them to work. However, when it came to needing help with my illnesses I was too ashamed to ask. I have been learning that it’s OK to let my girls know I need a time out. If I am having a rough day with my illnesses, I am no longer ashamed to ask my girls for help, whether it be having them lie in bed with me for a while or telling them to watch television while I take a five minute time out in the bathroom. It is the easiest, yet hardest way, for me to teach them about compassion and empathy.

4. I am stronger than I think I am.

Every single day I wake up and get out of bed. Some days, it is all I am capable of, and again I’m learning that’s OK. However, I am also learning just getting out of bed isn’t always enough. For me, I know the medications I am on will only help so much, and the rest is up to me. Each day I push myself to do just one more thing, I thought I couldn’t do while depressed, I am proving to myself how strong I actually am. Considering I’ve spent most of my life focusing on my own weaknesses, it’s a pretty big accomplishment.

5. It is not my fault.

For years, I was riddled with guilt, thinking I had doomed my daughters’ to the same fate as me, thinking because of me they would develop some sort of mental illness. You know what? It isn’t my fault. I didn’t ask for mental illness. I didn’t do anything wrong by having children. Just because I have mental health problems doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to live a normal, happy life with a husband and children. If one or both of my girls end up with a mental illness, then I will teach them the things they have taught me, only with a clear conscious because it is not my fault.

There’s no doubt I’ve learned more than this in the last seven years, but these five things have helped me through tough times. What would you add to the list? How about instead of  only seeing our weaknesses we start seeing our strengths instead? How would that improve your mood today?

This post originally appeared on modernbipolarmomma.


Some days there is a knot in my head and I wonder where it comes from. I awake early with the pain of memories lingering in my mind. What do you do when a memory is stuck? It plays like a tape on repeat, reminding you again and again it is there. You were there.

As long as the memory repeats itself, it will always be in you. When it stops, becomes a fragmented memory, then transforms into a whisper and perhaps fades away, it will still be in you. It can never truly be freed. It will never go. I learned when the mind becomes stuck and repeats itself, it is often known as racing thoughts. This was one of the first warning signs to me that perhaps my mind was not well.

Whenever I think about my bipolar disorder diagnosis, my mind plays stories over and over to itself. There never seems to be a place where I can pinpoint any particular moment of pain or suffering. It is just like this memory that is stuck. The stories repeat themselves and become torrents, whirlwinds, spiraling uncontrollably around my mind. This continues to the point wherein the trauma of experience seems mundane. The agony of my mental prison seems simple and not noteworthy.

Then, my body shudders and aches with anxiety. Once again, I am reminded these memories and experiences mean something to me. They are noteworthy because they have replayed themselves to me countless times. I have awoken with a familiar anxiety on more days than I can count. They are all there, these experiences, buried somewhere within me from all the times I have pushed them down and said to myself, “Don’t listen. They are insignificant. They will go.” Time has taught me they are not insignificant and they will not go.

At age 11, I believed magic existed. I have grown, turned, twisted, warped, unraveled and returned since then. At age 23, in the throes of a psychotic episode, I still believed in magic. At age 10, I believed in God. At age 11, my mother had a nervous breakdown and was committed to a psychiatric hospital. I remember the smell walking down the corridor of the hospital to see her.

The corridor was long and the smell kept changing. First, it was a hospital smell of chemicals and medicine. Then, a musty smell, as if that particular part of the corridor wasn’t dusted very often or walked by too frequently. Then, the smell changed to the smell of fear. I cannot describe that smell in words.

I saw a woman standing with hair awry. She was talking. I could not really hear her words, but I did understand the crease and cry of a fearful, desperate voice. Her eyes were wide. She looked like my mother but she didn’t seem to be my mother at all. She wasn’t touching me, but I felt as if she was pulling me, grabbing me toward her. My heart was pounding. I could not look at her. I did not want to be there.

I don’t believe there are many 11 year olds in the world who understand what it means to have a mental breakdown. I most certainly was not one of the ones who did. At age 11, I believed in the devil. My mother had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. In my mom’s case, I could not really associate bipolar with a list of symptoms. To me, the diagnosis meant watching this person I knew and loved, most importantly who I knew to have a calm disposition, to be positive and always coyly smiling at her own little jokes, switch suddenly into a wrathful rage, eyes full of anger and hurt, a stormy, violent being. Her voice would change from a sweet ring, as if she was smiling inside as she spoke, into a screeching, angry, cry.

To anyone who has really looked at another person, and I mean really seen them, people carry emotions in their eyes. When a person smiles, it is really the eyes that wrinkle, glow and get wet with happiness or sadness. I believe children sense this better than anyone.

At the tender age of 11, when I believed the woman standing in front of me wasn’t my mother, it was because in her eyes she was not there. I have seen it many times through her many relapses. It was the first thing I was told when I was on the recovery end of one of my own manic episodes. When the psychosis had begun to subside, people would tell me they could see me again. I didn’t understand what they meant until I looked in the mirror. For months on end, my mind seemed to have retreated into itself and when I looked in the mirror, I could not recognize the person in front of me. It was like looking at a ghost. It was terrifying.

The first and most significant sign of recovery was to look in the mirror and see myself looking back at me. I would often tell my doctors I could not identify with the symptoms of bipolar disorder, (perhaps because a symptom of the disease itself can be a lack of insight) but also because I wasn’t doing a lot of the things typically associated with mania, such as going on extravagant spending sprees and behaving recklessly. While the depressive states were easy to identify, the mania would come on suddenly and throw me into a state of psychosis before myself or those around me could see anything wrong. In the morning I would be laughing joyously and within hours shouting at others in a state of paranoid confusion.

In the beginning this inability to recognize anything wrong in myself gave me a false sense of security. I wasn’t ill, I would tell myself. What I’ve learned about this illness is that it can be very subtle. I would often complain of physical symptoms associated with anxiety but it was very difficult for me to associate the physical and mental pain I was feeling to the term anxiety. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is while it is helpful to learn from others’ experiences of illness and recovery, one of the best ways to survive and defeat this demon is to learn who you are, to know yourself and to know your own mind.

I took in every opportunity for learning more about myself I could, including counseling, yoga, meditation and mindfulness. What I discovered is the line between wellness and illness can be incredibly fine. What seems like productive day-dreaming can quickly transform into racing thoughts, the hallmark of a manic mind.

Oftentimes, I have felt my experiences, even with the illness itself, are not important enough. In the throes of depression, it would take me months to admit to anyone I was suffering. I believe this may be why many people refuse help. I feared to admit I was suffering firstly because I feared being perceived as crazy or not right. Also, I felt like I was admitting defeat to myself.

We are often told we must be calm or we ought to be happy. In the long-run, however, my experience has been to deny myself the right to grieve over my own pain or to laugh at my own mirth has been more self-defeating. Initially, I thought I would find peace in the tenets of the things I was learning such as yoga, which teaches both mental and physical calm. However, what these tenets really did was to teach me how to tune into my own emotions, be they welcome or perhaps unwelcome. In time, by allowing myself to process both pain and happiness, I have found balance. I believe the best way to find balance is to allow oneself to feel both the joy and pain of life. I hope others find balance on their journeys as well.


Sometimes, I have brilliant moments of clarity – times when I can really see bipolar disorder for what it is, and what it is not.

Today, I see a track of unevenly-spaced hurdles. There is always an up and always a down in front of me. Since I was diagnosed, and maybe even before that, I had always felt like I was racing to the finish against everyone I knew who was my age. They were all getting college degrees and fancy jobs. They pushed their limits and successfully ran their races, while I fell farther behind as I struggled to get over my hurdles.

Today, I realized something…

It isn’t a race.

There will always be times where I jump too high, and there will always be times when I crash over the other side. But, I have to keep moving.

It isn’t a race.

The people I know aren’t fighting the same battle I am. And everyone has different struggles. Bipolar disorder is mine. Ultimately, the only thing that could qualify as a true finish line for any illness is death. And, who wants to race towards that? I came to the realization this morning that I can slow down as I approach my hurdles.

This is especially important because sometimes I feel like I’m running with my eyes closed.

I need so much help to get over these mental obstacles on my track that I often have felt weak. I need help coping, picking up the pieces and trying to remain stable. But, as the years have passed and I’ve watched my fiercely independent friends run into their own life problems, I have noticed the ones who don’t accept help are the ones with failing relationships, broken idolizations and empty forms of happiness.

As I have become more interdependent with my husband, my family and my doctors, I can feel my stability become a stronghold. The once fragile fibers of my life are reinforced by the love and support around me, and this makes me stronger.

It’s a process – a process that will only be complete in death. But, death is no longer the thing I look forward to on days like today.

Today, I look forward to the days that fall in between the “madness.” I desire the nights of calm and quiet. I am blessed that, amidst the chaos, I will find peace. Sometimes I need reminding that each mental hurdle doesn’t last for forever and sometimes I need help with the jumps. But, I always pick myself up and continue, one way or another. In the end, there will always be another hurdle.

But, after each hurdle, there will always be grace.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


It’s tempting, isn’t it? Automatic almost. The go-to word you want (and will) use for someone who is pleasant one day and terrible the next. Who seems to have dual personalities. A mood-shifter in a matter of minutes. I know it’s tempting. For the first time in my entire life, I used the word myself, and I felt like the hugest hypocrite in all the land. I dare not use it again if it the glove doesn’t fit the hand that lost it.

Do you know which word I speak of? And don’t worry. I won’t chide you, scorn you or turn sour towards you for using it. How could I? I used it myself less than 48 hours ago.

The word itself defines an illness — one that can be earth-shaking, mind-twisting, trouble-making and at times uncontrollable or inconsolable. Does the glove fit?

Yes, the illness itself can be an detrimental all on its own. It can mangle relationships. Convince you out of a happy and healthy life.

Like any other mental illness, “bipolar” disorder is attached to a stigma. The negativity surrounding bipolar disorder is so severe it is a risky move to so innocently use “bipolar” to describe an individual who is moody, when we know the illness does not fit the person. Let me rephrase that. Many people don’t know if the illness fits the person. And when they use it, they aren’t even referring to the person’s real mental state. Many don’t know what the word even means. Who the heck was the first to read an article on manic depression or bipolar disorder, and entirely miss the point?

What’s ironic is this. When I became ill for the first time (I was heading towards my breakdown), I remember seeing the words “bipolar” strewn across a magazine cover. And it had an illustration of a head. The head was divided down the middle. One side was white. The other black. I forget the exact title. It was something like, “Is Your Teen Bipolar?” Little did I know, I was holding the secrets to my own mentality in my hand. I never bothered to read that article, and who knows where that magazine is now.

Being bipolar can make a person seem to have split personalities or to be mood-shifters. If their cycle is so erratic that their horizontal axis sky rockets to manic highs and plummets down to depressive lows every several weeks or so, then, yes, I can see the comparison. But whenever I have heard “bipolar” used out of context, it is not labeling an actual person with the condition. It is labeling someone who is a terror one day, and then a saint the next.

The concern is not that calling a person “bipolar” is an insult to people who are bipolar. It is that people who inaccurately use the term are transforming the term “bipolar” into an insult. It is always used negatively. It can be used in derision or comically. “She’s always in a bad, pissy mood. Oh, she must be bipolar or something.” (A sentence often followed by laughter.) “He’s bipolar. He’s happy one day, then, angry the next.” (Something close to what I myself said less than 48 hours ago — so, see, even I am guilty of using it.)

When has “bipolar” ever been used in a positive context or used to characterize someone showcasing good or favorable behavior?

Let’s say, you call your stepmother a witch. Now, we all know when we call a woman a witch, we don’t mean the good kind. Automatically, you are associating your stepmother with everything negative that a bad witch embodies. And yet, your mother is not a witch (unless, she does in fact practice witchcraft, which is something else entirely, and I’ll stay away from that for the time being). However, because society deems the term “witch” when used to describe a woman as something bad or even malignant, we are automatically drawing the conclusion that your stepmother is bad or malignant. And even though, the friend to whom you are complaining about your evil witch of a stepmother knows you are not seriously accusing your stepmother of witchcraft, your friend is now thinking, “Man. What a *itch.” Right? You are furthering the bad witch stereotype and hurting your stepmother’s name in the process. Which perhaps was your aim anyways. It is an insult that isn’t meant to be definitive but illustrative. But it is an insult nonetheless.

Anyone can get carried away with the use of popular phrases or terms. People with bipolar disorder can get carried away with anything their compacted minds decide to hone in on. If you were to accidentally call a person who actually has bipolar disorder “bipolar,” you might not realize you hit it on the nose. If he or she actually did struggle with bipolar disorder and you joke, “Are you like bipolar or something?” expect either crickets chirping, a punch in the face or a back turned to you followed by the sound of their footsteps fading away.

Most won’t. I really think the worst you can expect is a seething glare that burns holes into the back of your brain. Because, yes, many of us are touchy. Not all of us are all cool and calm as me (kidding). And no, we are not all volatile. If anything, I imagine we are quiet and subdued, struggling in silence, perhaps, taking your blows.

I am not writing this to antagonize or verbally assault you. I am writing in hopes you’ll refrain from using a term that can prove dangerous if said to or around the wrong person. A term that can hurt or harm. A term that gets under my skin sometimes and makes me shake my head and makes me hope they are teaching kids about mental illness in schools these days.

We all know we never learned about it growing up. But now that we have the knowledge, we have the power. And now that you know, I hope you reconsider your tendency to throw the term around.

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