A watercolor portrait of a woman with long hair

I roll over lazily and look at the time on the alarm clock: 1:30 a.m.

“Ugh.”

I had only been asleep for an hour, yet surprisingly, feel I am ready to get up and start my day. I fight this energetic high and snuggle back into my sheets. My mind races with everything under the sun from my recent breakup with a boyfriend, to what I would want to name a fish if I got one, to how terrible of a person I am.

Gently, after about an hour of this, my eyes flutter closed and drift me back to a land where my thoughts can’t reach me. When I awake I think I surely slept through the rest of the night. Roll over. Clock. 3:30 a.m.

“Great.”

“What is wrong with you?” hisses the dark, black voice in the depths of my being. “You’re pathetic.”

This time I give in and get up to do my morning routine. Makeup complete with sparkles and blue lipstick to match my mood, shine on my face. Satisfied with the spunky look, I glance towards the clock again: 4:30 a.m.

There is nothing open or fun to do at this time in the morning so I float towards the kitchen to do some cleaning. I find that almost everything is spotless from the energy I had the night before. Time: 5:15 a.m. Ah! Finally! My favorite coffee shop down the road is opening in 15 minutes! Tiredness from the lack of sleep the night before never fills my chest. I am wide awake.

Dr. B., as I fondly referrer to him, looks at me over his clipboard that holds all of my medical records.

“How are you?” he begins.

“Oh! Good! I feel really good,” I assure him.

“Liz, I notice you haven’t been reporting much sleep. Tell me about that.”

“Well, I just don’t feel tired,” I shrug.

He nods then scribbles a few more things on the board.

“Liz, I’m going to diagnosis you,” he states matter-of-factly.

“Oh. Uh. Well, I feel fine, Dr. B.”

“I know, and that’s what I am concerned about. It seems you have been especially hyper and this is curious to me. I have seen no other emotion from you except cheerfulness. You seem to get along with everyone very well, and when you talk to me you are almost tripping over your words you talk so fast. Would you agree with me?” he asks.

“Well, yes,” I start, “But I don’t really feel like that’s a problem. I like feeling this way.”

“Liz, I know that you are bipolar,” he says boldly. “Have you ever heard of that? I very much believe you are hypomanic right now and that explains all the symptoms I just stated,” he continues.

“Bipolar? Manic? Those are crazy words! You are crazy,” yells the voice in my head.

I don’t want to admit that it very much describes me. Can I really be these things he is diagnosing me with? Only out of control people have bipolar disorder, I think. Only “crazy” people are manic. What is hypomania anyway? This is a big scary word. Surely it doesn’t portray who I am. …Right?

World Bipolar Day has inched its way into my heart and created a passion that I must share with the world. I bought into the stereotypes surrounding bipolar disorder when I was first diagnosed, but have come to realize how liberating the diagnosis is. No longer do I have wild highs or deep lows, but rather have a name for my mood swings. And because of this I have been given the right medication and treatment. Bipolar disorder doesn’t have to be a life sentence: there is help and relief. Today especially I am grateful for those who have supported me along my journey and for the professionals who have worked diligently to help me get better.

Today is a wonderful day to fight stigmas and the marginalization of fellow people. We are not crazy or to be feared: we are loving human beings learning to navigate the world through a lens of mental illness. I will keep fighting and hope you will, too.

Happy World Bipolar Day, friends.

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Thinkstock photo via kotoffei

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I have bipolar disorder. As part of this disorder, occasionally I have psychotic episodes with hallucinations or delusions. Sometimes the hallucinations are terrifying, and sometimes they are so bizarre I find myself laughing instead of crying. I don’t realize until after the episode is over how “bizarre” I was acting.

College was such a rough time for me. College can be a stressful time for anyone; being in college while having a mental illness can be especially hard. No one seemed to understand me. So much was going on. I felt so different and alone; having psychotic episodes certainly didn’t help.

I was in an art class one time. I had been manic for a few weeks and had been creating all this art super fast, completing my paintings three times as fast as my classmates. I was happily painting one day and started having a bizarre episode where I thought the walls were caving in and the floor was melting. For some reason, I thought this was hilarious. I started laughing and telling my classmates that the wall looked like it was caving in and the floor was sinking in the middle. I kept laughing, but no one else was laughing and I didn’t understand why. A few classmates were whispering to each other and left, and I started to become a little worried I was going to slide through the floor as it melted. I had been standing at my easel and walking around the room. Now I sat down on a chair and watched the floor with concern.

My classmates came back with the head of the counseling center. I was still staring at the floor, and then suddenly there was this head right near mine. This serious, older man was crouched by me asking me questions. I was startled, then I snapped out of the hallucination and came back to reality. I felt my face flushing as I quickly told him I was fine so he would leave. I was completely mortified. He finally left, and I went back to painting, very quietly.

A week later, I was on Facebook and I noticed a few classmates making jokes about me on their Facebook walls. I was so embarrassed and furious at the same time. I messaged both of them, telling them I have a mental illness and it is nothing to make fun of. One classmate didn’t respond. However, the other sent me a very angry email about how I should be ashamed of faking a mental illness. He said I was making a joke of mental illness by the way I acted in class. He said he knew about mental illness. He said he could tell I was faking to get attention, and that doing so is offensive and wrong. I continued to email him explaining my illness, and his emails just got meaner and meaner. It is hard enough having an illness with psychotic episodes, but being told I was faking it and I should be ashamed was more than I could handle. It didn’t help that I had had a crush on him. I had thought he was amazing, and then suddenly he was a bully who was calling me names and didn’t understand me.

Finally, I stopped emailing him, and his words left a wound that took a while to heal. I forced myself to delete the emails so I would stop obsessing over his words. Maybe he will never understand. I know some people will never understand my mental illness. I am OK with that right now, but I want to keep telling my story so more people will understand.  As a friend said to me once, “Psychotic episodes are no joke.” Psychotic episodes are serious. My psychotic episodes can seem scary or hilarious in the moment, but the experience is real to me.

I’m not faking. I am dealing with my illness the best I can. Be patient with me and try to understand.

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Thinkstock photo via alien185


Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

They say what goes up must come down, which is certainly true in the bipolar disorder realm. What really sucks is when you open your eyes one morning and you realize it’s “down” time.

You may push through. You may get up and pretend like you’re fine, get a cup of coffee and carry on like nothing is happening. But you feel all wrong inside. It’s like looking out the window at the clouds and rain and saying “It’s sunny out today!” Pretending only takes you so far when reality is staring you in the face.

You may get the kids to school and realize once you’re at work you’re petrified to be there. You may look at the floor and pray no one needs to talk to you. For no reason whatsoever, you may feel like you cannot take one more step in this “sham” of a life you are living.

So you may gather your things and decide to work from home — you’ve got a lot of admin work, thank God, that will keep your mind busy while you hide from the world.

You get home, change into pajamas and get out your assignments for the day. You make more coffee. You may tell yourself you can get through this, while at the same time you may wonder how you will possibly live the rest of your life like this. Every task is like climbing a mountain, every movement around the house is like dragging yourself across the desert on your belly.

Why is it like this? It makes no sense. Brain chemistry can screw with you like nothing else in this world. Recently, the University of Texas released a study in which they identified the place in the hippocampus where bipolar originates. There are abnormalities in bipolar patients. For me, it makes you want to rip out your hippocampus and stomp on it and scream at it. Maybe research will bring better treatment in the future, but for right now it is what it is.

So after the day is done, you may go lie down to ponder whether or not you can live this life, but something hits you.

You’ve got no choice, dear.

In my opinion, you can’t give up. You may need to cry on the bathroom floor at length. You may need some work at home days here and there to hide away.

You get up and make the bed. And start the laundry. And write about it. Because it’s all you can do to fight.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via flisak


When we talk about what it means to live with bipolar, to be a person with bipolar, it’s too easy to find one-demential, bleak views that focus on the negative — rather than talking about what it means to be bipolar as a whole.

When Paul Dalio, director of “Touched With Fire,” told his story to the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), he said the narrative he was told about bipolar when he was first diagnosed made him feel as though he would just be able to get by. “But the human spirit needs more than pity,” he said at the IBPF Luncheon.

To help change the narrative about what it means to have bipolar, and in honor of World Bipolar Day on March 30, IBPF is asking people to share what bipolar fuels their passion for. You can join in the conversation by submitting your answer here and by using the hashtag #bipolarfuelsmypassion4.

Here are some of the answers they’ve gotten so far:

1. “It fuels my passion to make the world a better place. Your tomorrows are finite. Be the change today.” — N.M.W.

2. “Helping people bipolar/ADD.” — Janice G.

3. “To create new things, to explore the world and to get to know others better.” — André W.

4. “Well, I guess I’m myself because of bipolar — bipolar only fuels my passion for myself to be the best me I can be.” — Sarah R.

5. “Bipolar has fueled my passion to paint abstracts in encaustic wax and acrylic. It has made me more understanding and kind to other people. I have learned about myself too.” — Rita H.

6. “Creating my ‘Bipolar Me’ blog and writing in it every week.” — Janet C.

7. “Helping other people with bipolar! Get rid of the stigma!” — Brenda C.

8. “Writing!” — Kathryn D.

9.

10. “I’m a composer, artist, and musician, and the bipolar side of my schizoaffective disorder definitely assists in the creative process. The lows of depression usually create an idea or feeling from which I can draw creative perspective, and the highs of mania help me to see the idea through. Sure, bipolar disorder is tough, but I may as well make something out of it!” — Charlie S.

11. “Bipolar fuels my passion to understand my illness and my parents illnesses better so I can do whatever I can to help them. It also gives me the motivation to create my art which hopefully one day I can support myself on after college.” — Angie B.

12. “My bipolar fuels my passion for motorcycling.” — Angela R.

13. “It fuels my creativity.” — Christan A.

14. “It fuels my passion for music. Nothing tastes as good as music makes me feel.” — Becca G.

15. “Mental health care! I never knew how important it was before it was crucial for me.” — Katy I.

What would you add?

Thinkstock photo via jakkapan21


I’ve been hospitalized 12 times, mostly for depression or mania. Not only do I happen to have autism spectrum disorder, but I also have a mental illnessbipolar disorder.

I believe that some of my hospitalizations were not directly related to depression alone. But I think they were times in my life when the outside world was just too chaotic and I needed structure I was, at the time, unable to provide for myself.

Psychiatric wards can be disturbing in many ways, but I always found the routine and structure of daily life to outweigh the negative. I found the empathy of certain nurses to be comforting.

Structure and routine are very important to me, as is the case with many on the spectrum. I recently had a change in schedule and depression and confusion followed. I haven’t sought solace in the hospital this time around, but I have signed up to do some volunteer work with animals. Hopefully my new schedule will provide me with as much pleasure and sense of accomplishment as my old one.

Have you ever found comfort during a hospitalization? I wonder if I’m the only one.

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Why am I so afraid to talk to you about mania? It’s gotten pretty easy to be open about my constant bouts with depression. I mean who can’t relate at some point in their life? But mania? That’s when things get weird. That’s when things get “shameful.”

A month ago I had a manic episode. And not really the fun kind. I’m talking about the kind where you lose friends because of petty bullshit. The kind where you fear for your life driving because you might take some risk on the road killing everyone. I’m talking the kind where you actually understand the appeal of Trump because hey, he can do and say whatever he wants and people love him for it.

Yes, the euphoria was a relief from my seemingly endless depression but that quickly spun out of control. What started out as something I needed ended up as something I hated myself for giving in to.

And then I woke up the next morning. It was gone. It disappeared like it had grown tired of abusing me. I have zero clue how it happened. And that’s scary, not going to lie.

I often say that mania for me is believing I can overcome the disease known as society. That I’m the one whom the shackles cannot contain. And when it becomes all too apparent that I’m just some guy and I’m not immune to the disease… well, that’s when the bottom falls out and I crash right through it. And so on and so forth.

Everyone I know who identifies as bipolar wishes they could somehow manage one pole to the point where they can benefit from all its positive traits and avoid the ugliness of the opposite pole. If I ever write a memoir (don’t hold your breath) I’m going to call it “Working the Poles.”

Maybe by then I won’t be so afraid to be completely honest with you.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure

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