Justine Steckling

@jasteckling | contributor
30ish woman, she/her pronouns. Bipolar Type I, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder. PTSD. Chronic Pain. Mental health writer, author, poet, lyricist.
Justine Steckling

I Don't Know If I'll Be Manic, Depressed or Stable Today With Bipolar

I have bipolar I, and I have since I was very young. As I have gotten older and lived with the illness longer, I have started noticing things for the first time. The biggest thing I have noticed is when I am looking back at my life, it seems like my life has been lived by three different people instead of just one — and they’re all different versions of me. Bipolar is characterized by extreme lows (depressive episodes), extreme highs (manic episodes) and periods of stable moods between. Each of these different mood episodes seem to create a distinct personality in me that does not translate well into the other mood episodes. My depressed self is extremely unwell. I have cognitive distortions in my thoughts, I’m prone to crying spells, I have little to no energy, I have limited ability to sleep, I have no way of cleaning up after myself and the depression permeates every interaction I have. I focus a lot on the concept of suicide, I struggle to prevent relapsing with my self-harm addiction, and as a result, I can be extremely self-centered. I am too focused on survival to be able to regularly help others the way I usually do. I must focus too hard on keeping myself alive and safe to maintain healthy connections with those around me. It is not a conscious decision, but I am always forced to prioritize myself. My manic self is extremely impulsive, erratic, unpredictable, energized to the point of ceaselessly searching for and working on projects and neglecting to sleep or eat for days at a time. My manic self lacks any kind of stability and cannot be trusted around other people. The lack of impulse control means interacting with other people can put me at increased risk for harming myself or others. I tend to stay to myself and work on whichever projects are appealing until the manic episode passes. When I am level is the only time I feel I deserve the people in my life. I can help those around me. I am a great friend and partner. I love going out. I can have fun staying in. I can adapt to any budget. Work is not a struggle and I tend to make a good living. I am excited about the future — and the present, for that matter. I am happy more often than not. I only cry with good reason. I do not have a problem being open and honest or expressing my affection physically with my partner. I do not struggle to let people know I love them and appreciate them on a regular basis. I am more creative, more communicative, more loving, more approachable, better at speaking the love languages of the people around me, considerate, empathetic, compassionate, caring and doting. All the things I cannot be in the other two states. This shift between my three faces does not bother me just because it is inconvenient for me. It bothers me because the people in my life must adapt to three different versions of me if they plan on remaining in my life, and not everybody can. Maintaining healthy relationships of any kind is a serious challenge. For those who do come into my life and choose to stay, it can be extremely difficult at times. It is extremely isolating for me because so few people are willing and able to endure the changing moods and my changing faces. I have had conversations with people where they have brought up things I said while I was wearing a different face, and I can recall saying those things, but I disagree with what I said. It is not just a matter of time and distance giving me a different perspective — it is that I am in a totally different mindset with a totally different way of thinking at the time I am reminded of the past conversation, and I can’t even see the issue being discussed in the same way I did at the time. It makes me feel like I have been dishonest with the other person at some point because I no longer agree with what was said, but ultimately, I meant it at the time, and I have to accept that is the best I can do. I understand how frustrating it is for the people around me. It is frustrating for me, too. It is frustrating never knowing which version of me I will be when I wake up. It is frustrating not knowing when my next depressive episode will impact every area of my life, or for how long, or what the severity will be. It is frustrating wondering if I am becoming manic every single time I have a good day with a good amount of energy. It is frustrating looking back and seeing how I acted when I was in an altered mood, knowing it is not a good reflection of who I am when I am level and at my best. I want my loved ones to know the one thing that never changes is that I do love them, and I do appreciate their existence in my life. I may not be able to verbalize it at times. I may verbalize it too much at other times. I may need to prioritize myself over them at times, too. But, I never stop being grateful for their presence, and for sticking with me through all the highs and lows. Stephen Fry said, “It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” I would like to expand this to incorporate all mental illness, including bipolar disorder (which Fry himself struggles with). It is truly never easy to love someone whose own brain is their greatest enemy most days, but I think it is a unique kind of strength that allows you to give those of us who are struggling with various mental health challenges a very precious gift — the gift of unconditional love and friendship. So, thank you to all those who enrich my life with this gift. I know it isn’t always easy, and I do not know how I would get through this life without you.

Justine Steckling

I Don't Know If I'll Be Manic, Depressed or Stable Today With Bipolar

I have bipolar I, and I have since I was very young. As I have gotten older and lived with the illness longer, I have started noticing things for the first time. The biggest thing I have noticed is when I am looking back at my life, it seems like my life has been lived by three different people instead of just one — and they’re all different versions of me. Bipolar is characterized by extreme lows (depressive episodes), extreme highs (manic episodes) and periods of stable moods between. Each of these different mood episodes seem to create a distinct personality in me that does not translate well into the other mood episodes. My depressed self is extremely unwell. I have cognitive distortions in my thoughts, I’m prone to crying spells, I have little to no energy, I have limited ability to sleep, I have no way of cleaning up after myself and the depression permeates every interaction I have. I focus a lot on the concept of suicide, I struggle to prevent relapsing with my self-harm addiction, and as a result, I can be extremely self-centered. I am too focused on survival to be able to regularly help others the way I usually do. I must focus too hard on keeping myself alive and safe to maintain healthy connections with those around me. It is not a conscious decision, but I am always forced to prioritize myself. My manic self is extremely impulsive, erratic, unpredictable, energized to the point of ceaselessly searching for and working on projects and neglecting to sleep or eat for days at a time. My manic self lacks any kind of stability and cannot be trusted around other people. The lack of impulse control means interacting with other people can put me at increased risk for harming myself or others. I tend to stay to myself and work on whichever projects are appealing until the manic episode passes. When I am level is the only time I feel I deserve the people in my life. I can help those around me. I am a great friend and partner. I love going out. I can have fun staying in. I can adapt to any budget. Work is not a struggle and I tend to make a good living. I am excited about the future — and the present, for that matter. I am happy more often than not. I only cry with good reason. I do not have a problem being open and honest or expressing my affection physically with my partner. I do not struggle to let people know I love them and appreciate them on a regular basis. I am more creative, more communicative, more loving, more approachable, better at speaking the love languages of the people around me, considerate, empathetic, compassionate, caring and doting. All the things I cannot be in the other two states. This shift between my three faces does not bother me just because it is inconvenient for me. It bothers me because the people in my life must adapt to three different versions of me if they plan on remaining in my life, and not everybody can. Maintaining healthy relationships of any kind is a serious challenge. For those who do come into my life and choose to stay, it can be extremely difficult at times. It is extremely isolating for me because so few people are willing and able to endure the changing moods and my changing faces. I have had conversations with people where they have brought up things I said while I was wearing a different face, and I can recall saying those things, but I disagree with what I said. It is not just a matter of time and distance giving me a different perspective — it is that I am in a totally different mindset with a totally different way of thinking at the time I am reminded of the past conversation, and I can’t even see the issue being discussed in the same way I did at the time. It makes me feel like I have been dishonest with the other person at some point because I no longer agree with what was said, but ultimately, I meant it at the time, and I have to accept that is the best I can do. I understand how frustrating it is for the people around me. It is frustrating for me, too. It is frustrating never knowing which version of me I will be when I wake up. It is frustrating not knowing when my next depressive episode will impact every area of my life, or for how long, or what the severity will be. It is frustrating wondering if I am becoming manic every single time I have a good day with a good amount of energy. It is frustrating looking back and seeing how I acted when I was in an altered mood, knowing it is not a good reflection of who I am when I am level and at my best. I want my loved ones to know the one thing that never changes is that I do love them, and I do appreciate their existence in my life. I may not be able to verbalize it at times. I may verbalize it too much at other times. I may need to prioritize myself over them at times, too. But, I never stop being grateful for their presence, and for sticking with me through all the highs and lows. Stephen Fry said, “It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” I would like to expand this to incorporate all mental illness, including bipolar disorder (which Fry himself struggles with). It is truly never easy to love someone whose own brain is their greatest enemy most days, but I think it is a unique kind of strength that allows you to give those of us who are struggling with various mental health challenges a very precious gift — the gift of unconditional love and friendship. So, thank you to all those who enrich my life with this gift. I know it isn’t always easy, and I do not know how I would get through this life without you.

Justine Steckling

I Don't Know If I'll Be Manic, Depressed or Stable Today With Bipolar

I have bipolar I, and I have since I was very young. As I have gotten older and lived with the illness longer, I have started noticing things for the first time. The biggest thing I have noticed is when I am looking back at my life, it seems like my life has been lived by three different people instead of just one — and they’re all different versions of me. Bipolar is characterized by extreme lows (depressive episodes), extreme highs (manic episodes) and periods of stable moods between. Each of these different mood episodes seem to create a distinct personality in me that does not translate well into the other mood episodes. My depressed self is extremely unwell. I have cognitive distortions in my thoughts, I’m prone to crying spells, I have little to no energy, I have limited ability to sleep, I have no way of cleaning up after myself and the depression permeates every interaction I have. I focus a lot on the concept of suicide, I struggle to prevent relapsing with my self-harm addiction, and as a result, I can be extremely self-centered. I am too focused on survival to be able to regularly help others the way I usually do. I must focus too hard on keeping myself alive and safe to maintain healthy connections with those around me. It is not a conscious decision, but I am always forced to prioritize myself. My manic self is extremely impulsive, erratic, unpredictable, energized to the point of ceaselessly searching for and working on projects and neglecting to sleep or eat for days at a time. My manic self lacks any kind of stability and cannot be trusted around other people. The lack of impulse control means interacting with other people can put me at increased risk for harming myself or others. I tend to stay to myself and work on whichever projects are appealing until the manic episode passes. When I am level is the only time I feel I deserve the people in my life. I can help those around me. I am a great friend and partner. I love going out. I can have fun staying in. I can adapt to any budget. Work is not a struggle and I tend to make a good living. I am excited about the future — and the present, for that matter. I am happy more often than not. I only cry with good reason. I do not have a problem being open and honest or expressing my affection physically with my partner. I do not struggle to let people know I love them and appreciate them on a regular basis. I am more creative, more communicative, more loving, more approachable, better at speaking the love languages of the people around me, considerate, empathetic, compassionate, caring and doting. All the things I cannot be in the other two states. This shift between my three faces does not bother me just because it is inconvenient for me. It bothers me because the people in my life must adapt to three different versions of me if they plan on remaining in my life, and not everybody can. Maintaining healthy relationships of any kind is a serious challenge. For those who do come into my life and choose to stay, it can be extremely difficult at times. It is extremely isolating for me because so few people are willing and able to endure the changing moods and my changing faces. I have had conversations with people where they have brought up things I said while I was wearing a different face, and I can recall saying those things, but I disagree with what I said. It is not just a matter of time and distance giving me a different perspective — it is that I am in a totally different mindset with a totally different way of thinking at the time I am reminded of the past conversation, and I can’t even see the issue being discussed in the same way I did at the time. It makes me feel like I have been dishonest with the other person at some point because I no longer agree with what was said, but ultimately, I meant it at the time, and I have to accept that is the best I can do. I understand how frustrating it is for the people around me. It is frustrating for me, too. It is frustrating never knowing which version of me I will be when I wake up. It is frustrating not knowing when my next depressive episode will impact every area of my life, or for how long, or what the severity will be. It is frustrating wondering if I am becoming manic every single time I have a good day with a good amount of energy. It is frustrating looking back and seeing how I acted when I was in an altered mood, knowing it is not a good reflection of who I am when I am level and at my best. I want my loved ones to know the one thing that never changes is that I do love them, and I do appreciate their existence in my life. I may not be able to verbalize it at times. I may verbalize it too much at other times. I may need to prioritize myself over them at times, too. But, I never stop being grateful for their presence, and for sticking with me through all the highs and lows. Stephen Fry said, “It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” I would like to expand this to incorporate all mental illness, including bipolar disorder (which Fry himself struggles with). It is truly never easy to love someone whose own brain is their greatest enemy most days, but I think it is a unique kind of strength that allows you to give those of us who are struggling with various mental health challenges a very precious gift — the gift of unconditional love and friendship. So, thank you to all those who enrich my life with this gift. I know it isn’t always easy, and I do not know how I would get through this life without you.

Justine Steckling

I Don't Know If I'll Be Manic, Depressed or Stable Today With Bipolar

I have bipolar I, and I have since I was very young. As I have gotten older and lived with the illness longer, I have started noticing things for the first time. The biggest thing I have noticed is when I am looking back at my life, it seems like my life has been lived by three different people instead of just one — and they’re all different versions of me. Bipolar is characterized by extreme lows (depressive episodes), extreme highs (manic episodes) and periods of stable moods between. Each of these different mood episodes seem to create a distinct personality in me that does not translate well into the other mood episodes. My depressed self is extremely unwell. I have cognitive distortions in my thoughts, I’m prone to crying spells, I have little to no energy, I have limited ability to sleep, I have no way of cleaning up after myself and the depression permeates every interaction I have. I focus a lot on the concept of suicide, I struggle to prevent relapsing with my self-harm addiction, and as a result, I can be extremely self-centered. I am too focused on survival to be able to regularly help others the way I usually do. I must focus too hard on keeping myself alive and safe to maintain healthy connections with those around me. It is not a conscious decision, but I am always forced to prioritize myself. My manic self is extremely impulsive, erratic, unpredictable, energized to the point of ceaselessly searching for and working on projects and neglecting to sleep or eat for days at a time. My manic self lacks any kind of stability and cannot be trusted around other people. The lack of impulse control means interacting with other people can put me at increased risk for harming myself or others. I tend to stay to myself and work on whichever projects are appealing until the manic episode passes. When I am level is the only time I feel I deserve the people in my life. I can help those around me. I am a great friend and partner. I love going out. I can have fun staying in. I can adapt to any budget. Work is not a struggle and I tend to make a good living. I am excited about the future — and the present, for that matter. I am happy more often than not. I only cry with good reason. I do not have a problem being open and honest or expressing my affection physically with my partner. I do not struggle to let people know I love them and appreciate them on a regular basis. I am more creative, more communicative, more loving, more approachable, better at speaking the love languages of the people around me, considerate, empathetic, compassionate, caring and doting. All the things I cannot be in the other two states. This shift between my three faces does not bother me just because it is inconvenient for me. It bothers me because the people in my life must adapt to three different versions of me if they plan on remaining in my life, and not everybody can. Maintaining healthy relationships of any kind is a serious challenge. For those who do come into my life and choose to stay, it can be extremely difficult at times. It is extremely isolating for me because so few people are willing and able to endure the changing moods and my changing faces. I have had conversations with people where they have brought up things I said while I was wearing a different face, and I can recall saying those things, but I disagree with what I said. It is not just a matter of time and distance giving me a different perspective — it is that I am in a totally different mindset with a totally different way of thinking at the time I am reminded of the past conversation, and I can’t even see the issue being discussed in the same way I did at the time. It makes me feel like I have been dishonest with the other person at some point because I no longer agree with what was said, but ultimately, I meant it at the time, and I have to accept that is the best I can do. I understand how frustrating it is for the people around me. It is frustrating for me, too. It is frustrating never knowing which version of me I will be when I wake up. It is frustrating not knowing when my next depressive episode will impact every area of my life, or for how long, or what the severity will be. It is frustrating wondering if I am becoming manic every single time I have a good day with a good amount of energy. It is frustrating looking back and seeing how I acted when I was in an altered mood, knowing it is not a good reflection of who I am when I am level and at my best. I want my loved ones to know the one thing that never changes is that I do love them, and I do appreciate their existence in my life. I may not be able to verbalize it at times. I may verbalize it too much at other times. I may need to prioritize myself over them at times, too. But, I never stop being grateful for their presence, and for sticking with me through all the highs and lows. Stephen Fry said, “It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” I would like to expand this to incorporate all mental illness, including bipolar disorder (which Fry himself struggles with). It is truly never easy to love someone whose own brain is their greatest enemy most days, but I think it is a unique kind of strength that allows you to give those of us who are struggling with various mental health challenges a very precious gift — the gift of unconditional love and friendship. So, thank you to all those who enrich my life with this gift. I know it isn’t always easy, and I do not know how I would get through this life without you.

Justine Steckling

I Don't Know If I'll Be Manic, Depressed or Stable Today With Bipolar

I have bipolar I, and I have since I was very young. As I have gotten older and lived with the illness longer, I have started noticing things for the first time. The biggest thing I have noticed is when I am looking back at my life, it seems like my life has been lived by three different people instead of just one — and they’re all different versions of me. Bipolar is characterized by extreme lows (depressive episodes), extreme highs (manic episodes) and periods of stable moods between. Each of these different mood episodes seem to create a distinct personality in me that does not translate well into the other mood episodes. My depressed self is extremely unwell. I have cognitive distortions in my thoughts, I’m prone to crying spells, I have little to no energy, I have limited ability to sleep, I have no way of cleaning up after myself and the depression permeates every interaction I have. I focus a lot on the concept of suicide, I struggle to prevent relapsing with my self-harm addiction, and as a result, I can be extremely self-centered. I am too focused on survival to be able to regularly help others the way I usually do. I must focus too hard on keeping myself alive and safe to maintain healthy connections with those around me. It is not a conscious decision, but I am always forced to prioritize myself. My manic self is extremely impulsive, erratic, unpredictable, energized to the point of ceaselessly searching for and working on projects and neglecting to sleep or eat for days at a time. My manic self lacks any kind of stability and cannot be trusted around other people. The lack of impulse control means interacting with other people can put me at increased risk for harming myself or others. I tend to stay to myself and work on whichever projects are appealing until the manic episode passes. When I am level is the only time I feel I deserve the people in my life. I can help those around me. I am a great friend and partner. I love going out. I can have fun staying in. I can adapt to any budget. Work is not a struggle and I tend to make a good living. I am excited about the future — and the present, for that matter. I am happy more often than not. I only cry with good reason. I do not have a problem being open and honest or expressing my affection physically with my partner. I do not struggle to let people know I love them and appreciate them on a regular basis. I am more creative, more communicative, more loving, more approachable, better at speaking the love languages of the people around me, considerate, empathetic, compassionate, caring and doting. All the things I cannot be in the other two states. This shift between my three faces does not bother me just because it is inconvenient for me. It bothers me because the people in my life must adapt to three different versions of me if they plan on remaining in my life, and not everybody can. Maintaining healthy relationships of any kind is a serious challenge. For those who do come into my life and choose to stay, it can be extremely difficult at times. It is extremely isolating for me because so few people are willing and able to endure the changing moods and my changing faces. I have had conversations with people where they have brought up things I said while I was wearing a different face, and I can recall saying those things, but I disagree with what I said. It is not just a matter of time and distance giving me a different perspective — it is that I am in a totally different mindset with a totally different way of thinking at the time I am reminded of the past conversation, and I can’t even see the issue being discussed in the same way I did at the time. It makes me feel like I have been dishonest with the other person at some point because I no longer agree with what was said, but ultimately, I meant it at the time, and I have to accept that is the best I can do. I understand how frustrating it is for the people around me. It is frustrating for me, too. It is frustrating never knowing which version of me I will be when I wake up. It is frustrating not knowing when my next depressive episode will impact every area of my life, or for how long, or what the severity will be. It is frustrating wondering if I am becoming manic every single time I have a good day with a good amount of energy. It is frustrating looking back and seeing how I acted when I was in an altered mood, knowing it is not a good reflection of who I am when I am level and at my best. I want my loved ones to know the one thing that never changes is that I do love them, and I do appreciate their existence in my life. I may not be able to verbalize it at times. I may verbalize it too much at other times. I may need to prioritize myself over them at times, too. But, I never stop being grateful for their presence, and for sticking with me through all the highs and lows. Stephen Fry said, “It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” I would like to expand this to incorporate all mental illness, including bipolar disorder (which Fry himself struggles with). It is truly never easy to love someone whose own brain is their greatest enemy most days, but I think it is a unique kind of strength that allows you to give those of us who are struggling with various mental health challenges a very precious gift — the gift of unconditional love and friendship. So, thank you to all those who enrich my life with this gift. I know it isn’t always easy, and I do not know how I would get through this life without you.

Justine Steckling

I Don't Know If I'll Be Manic, Depressed or Stable Today With Bipolar

I have bipolar I, and I have since I was very young. As I have gotten older and lived with the illness longer, I have started noticing things for the first time. The biggest thing I have noticed is when I am looking back at my life, it seems like my life has been lived by three different people instead of just one — and they’re all different versions of me. Bipolar is characterized by extreme lows (depressive episodes), extreme highs (manic episodes) and periods of stable moods between. Each of these different mood episodes seem to create a distinct personality in me that does not translate well into the other mood episodes. My depressed self is extremely unwell. I have cognitive distortions in my thoughts, I’m prone to crying spells, I have little to no energy, I have limited ability to sleep, I have no way of cleaning up after myself and the depression permeates every interaction I have. I focus a lot on the concept of suicide, I struggle to prevent relapsing with my self-harm addiction, and as a result, I can be extremely self-centered. I am too focused on survival to be able to regularly help others the way I usually do. I must focus too hard on keeping myself alive and safe to maintain healthy connections with those around me. It is not a conscious decision, but I am always forced to prioritize myself. My manic self is extremely impulsive, erratic, unpredictable, energized to the point of ceaselessly searching for and working on projects and neglecting to sleep or eat for days at a time. My manic self lacks any kind of stability and cannot be trusted around other people. The lack of impulse control means interacting with other people can put me at increased risk for harming myself or others. I tend to stay to myself and work on whichever projects are appealing until the manic episode passes. When I am level is the only time I feel I deserve the people in my life. I can help those around me. I am a great friend and partner. I love going out. I can have fun staying in. I can adapt to any budget. Work is not a struggle and I tend to make a good living. I am excited about the future — and the present, for that matter. I am happy more often than not. I only cry with good reason. I do not have a problem being open and honest or expressing my affection physically with my partner. I do not struggle to let people know I love them and appreciate them on a regular basis. I am more creative, more communicative, more loving, more approachable, better at speaking the love languages of the people around me, considerate, empathetic, compassionate, caring and doting. All the things I cannot be in the other two states. This shift between my three faces does not bother me just because it is inconvenient for me. It bothers me because the people in my life must adapt to three different versions of me if they plan on remaining in my life, and not everybody can. Maintaining healthy relationships of any kind is a serious challenge. For those who do come into my life and choose to stay, it can be extremely difficult at times. It is extremely isolating for me because so few people are willing and able to endure the changing moods and my changing faces. I have had conversations with people where they have brought up things I said while I was wearing a different face, and I can recall saying those things, but I disagree with what I said. It is not just a matter of time and distance giving me a different perspective — it is that I am in a totally different mindset with a totally different way of thinking at the time I am reminded of the past conversation, and I can’t even see the issue being discussed in the same way I did at the time. It makes me feel like I have been dishonest with the other person at some point because I no longer agree with what was said, but ultimately, I meant it at the time, and I have to accept that is the best I can do. I understand how frustrating it is for the people around me. It is frustrating for me, too. It is frustrating never knowing which version of me I will be when I wake up. It is frustrating not knowing when my next depressive episode will impact every area of my life, or for how long, or what the severity will be. It is frustrating wondering if I am becoming manic every single time I have a good day with a good amount of energy. It is frustrating looking back and seeing how I acted when I was in an altered mood, knowing it is not a good reflection of who I am when I am level and at my best. I want my loved ones to know the one thing that never changes is that I do love them, and I do appreciate their existence in my life. I may not be able to verbalize it at times. I may verbalize it too much at other times. I may need to prioritize myself over them at times, too. But, I never stop being grateful for their presence, and for sticking with me through all the highs and lows. Stephen Fry said, “It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” I would like to expand this to incorporate all mental illness, including bipolar disorder (which Fry himself struggles with). It is truly never easy to love someone whose own brain is their greatest enemy most days, but I think it is a unique kind of strength that allows you to give those of us who are struggling with various mental health challenges a very precious gift — the gift of unconditional love and friendship. So, thank you to all those who enrich my life with this gift. I know it isn’t always easy, and I do not know how I would get through this life without you.

Justine Steckling

I Don't Know If I'll Be Manic, Depressed or Stable Today With Bipolar

I have bipolar I, and I have since I was very young. As I have gotten older and lived with the illness longer, I have started noticing things for the first time. The biggest thing I have noticed is when I am looking back at my life, it seems like my life has been lived by three different people instead of just one — and they’re all different versions of me. Bipolar is characterized by extreme lows (depressive episodes), extreme highs (manic episodes) and periods of stable moods between. Each of these different mood episodes seem to create a distinct personality in me that does not translate well into the other mood episodes. My depressed self is extremely unwell. I have cognitive distortions in my thoughts, I’m prone to crying spells, I have little to no energy, I have limited ability to sleep, I have no way of cleaning up after myself and the depression permeates every interaction I have. I focus a lot on the concept of suicide, I struggle to prevent relapsing with my self-harm addiction, and as a result, I can be extremely self-centered. I am too focused on survival to be able to regularly help others the way I usually do. I must focus too hard on keeping myself alive and safe to maintain healthy connections with those around me. It is not a conscious decision, but I am always forced to prioritize myself. My manic self is extremely impulsive, erratic, unpredictable, energized to the point of ceaselessly searching for and working on projects and neglecting to sleep or eat for days at a time. My manic self lacks any kind of stability and cannot be trusted around other people. The lack of impulse control means interacting with other people can put me at increased risk for harming myself or others. I tend to stay to myself and work on whichever projects are appealing until the manic episode passes. When I am level is the only time I feel I deserve the people in my life. I can help those around me. I am a great friend and partner. I love going out. I can have fun staying in. I can adapt to any budget. Work is not a struggle and I tend to make a good living. I am excited about the future — and the present, for that matter. I am happy more often than not. I only cry with good reason. I do not have a problem being open and honest or expressing my affection physically with my partner. I do not struggle to let people know I love them and appreciate them on a regular basis. I am more creative, more communicative, more loving, more approachable, better at speaking the love languages of the people around me, considerate, empathetic, compassionate, caring and doting. All the things I cannot be in the other two states. This shift between my three faces does not bother me just because it is inconvenient for me. It bothers me because the people in my life must adapt to three different versions of me if they plan on remaining in my life, and not everybody can. Maintaining healthy relationships of any kind is a serious challenge. For those who do come into my life and choose to stay, it can be extremely difficult at times. It is extremely isolating for me because so few people are willing and able to endure the changing moods and my changing faces. I have had conversations with people where they have brought up things I said while I was wearing a different face, and I can recall saying those things, but I disagree with what I said. It is not just a matter of time and distance giving me a different perspective — it is that I am in a totally different mindset with a totally different way of thinking at the time I am reminded of the past conversation, and I can’t even see the issue being discussed in the same way I did at the time. It makes me feel like I have been dishonest with the other person at some point because I no longer agree with what was said, but ultimately, I meant it at the time, and I have to accept that is the best I can do. I understand how frustrating it is for the people around me. It is frustrating for me, too. It is frustrating never knowing which version of me I will be when I wake up. It is frustrating not knowing when my next depressive episode will impact every area of my life, or for how long, or what the severity will be. It is frustrating wondering if I am becoming manic every single time I have a good day with a good amount of energy. It is frustrating looking back and seeing how I acted when I was in an altered mood, knowing it is not a good reflection of who I am when I am level and at my best. I want my loved ones to know the one thing that never changes is that I do love them, and I do appreciate their existence in my life. I may not be able to verbalize it at times. I may verbalize it too much at other times. I may need to prioritize myself over them at times, too. But, I never stop being grateful for their presence, and for sticking with me through all the highs and lows. Stephen Fry said, “It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” I would like to expand this to incorporate all mental illness, including bipolar disorder (which Fry himself struggles with). It is truly never easy to love someone whose own brain is their greatest enemy most days, but I think it is a unique kind of strength that allows you to give those of us who are struggling with various mental health challenges a very precious gift — the gift of unconditional love and friendship. So, thank you to all those who enrich my life with this gift. I know it isn’t always easy, and I do not know how I would get through this life without you.

Justine Steckling

Read This If You Feel Like a Zombie

About a year ago, I started experiencing horrible chronic fatigue. I tried to examine every possible cause. Was I getting enough sleep? Giving myself enough downtime during the day? Taking breaks between work and school projects? Did I need more coffee? Was I eating a healthy enough diet? Did I need more exercise? I went down the checklist of possibilities — from too much inactivity to upping my morning caffeine intake, to trying to get more sleep every night. Still, the fatigue persisted. By mid-afternoon I could barely keep my eyes open, no matter how much caffeine I drank upon waking. Every day around 4 p.m. I found myself in bed, unable to sleep, but too fatigued to function. My little respites in bed did little to help the fatigue. I would inevitably have to get up and continue doing grown-up things like cooking dinner, working and studying. I felt like a zombie from The Walking Dead, endlessly roaming the house in a stupor; attracted to food and loud things that might help keep me awake. I had not had any recent changes to my medications. I didn’t have any changes in my routine at all. I was just plain exhausted for no reason. I was considering talking to my primary care doctor about chronic fatigue syndrome, because I could not come up with any reasonable explanation for this sudden onset of severe fatigue. I was venting to my friend one day, and she asked, “So you have anxiety that keeps your mind racing nearly all day?” I nodded. “And you have depression that makes it difficult for you to get any pleasure out of anything that you do?” I nodded. “And sometimes hallucinations hit you at night?” I nodded. “Your brain is probably just so overwhelmed fighting itself that it doesn’t have any energy left for anything else. Your anxiety has your brain balancing on the edge of panic and general overwhelm, and your depression is making it difficult to think the way you normally do. And your hallucinations contribute to your anxiety, plus you’re a student and you are trying to start your own business. How exactly did you not realize that your brain is just overloaded and that’s why you’re so exhausted?” I could not believe that someone figured out the source of my fatigue before I did, and I was shocked by how much sense it made. I had been looking at every cause except my brain. I was used to symptoms of mental illness being fairly obvious — changes in mood, suicidal ideation, panic attacks or insomnia. I never considered that my brain being tired of dealing with its own problems would leave me with an utter lack of energy to handle the things I needed to handle. I talked to my psychiatrist. I got on medication to control my anxiety. My fatigue improved once the meds had time to work. Suddenly I could do more than I had been able to do for months. I held off on an anti-depressant, as being bipolar, my depressions were not long-lasting. However, my fatigue returned after a couple of months with improved productivity, and I decided to start a medication to help control the depression. The fatigue has not left yet. I have learned, however, that some things – like exercise and meditation – can help me get my brain back on track so I can continue doing all the things that I need to do. If it was not for my friend, I doubt I ever would have realized that my fatigue was a symptom of my mental illnesses, and yet it makes so much sense. If your brain is spending all day fighting itself, what time does it have to accomplish the goals you have in place? If you’re struggling with intense fatigue, consider your brain health and see if you can’t find a solution that works for you, be that medication or therapy or yoga. Once I prevented my mental illnesses from running the show, my fatigue seriously improved and I was like a whole new person…no more wandering the house in search of brains. No one treatment works for everyone, but if you find yourself in bed half the day or more, I recommend taking action. You never know what you might accomplish if you do.

Justine Steckling

Read This If You Feel Like a Zombie

About a year ago, I started experiencing horrible chronic fatigue. I tried to examine every possible cause. Was I getting enough sleep? Giving myself enough downtime during the day? Taking breaks between work and school projects? Did I need more coffee? Was I eating a healthy enough diet? Did I need more exercise? I went down the checklist of possibilities — from too much inactivity to upping my morning caffeine intake, to trying to get more sleep every night. Still, the fatigue persisted. By mid-afternoon I could barely keep my eyes open, no matter how much caffeine I drank upon waking. Every day around 4 p.m. I found myself in bed, unable to sleep, but too fatigued to function. My little respites in bed did little to help the fatigue. I would inevitably have to get up and continue doing grown-up things like cooking dinner, working and studying. I felt like a zombie from The Walking Dead, endlessly roaming the house in a stupor; attracted to food and loud things that might help keep me awake. I had not had any recent changes to my medications. I didn’t have any changes in my routine at all. I was just plain exhausted for no reason. I was considering talking to my primary care doctor about chronic fatigue syndrome, because I could not come up with any reasonable explanation for this sudden onset of severe fatigue. I was venting to my friend one day, and she asked, “So you have anxiety that keeps your mind racing nearly all day?” I nodded. “And you have depression that makes it difficult for you to get any pleasure out of anything that you do?” I nodded. “And sometimes hallucinations hit you at night?” I nodded. “Your brain is probably just so overwhelmed fighting itself that it doesn’t have any energy left for anything else. Your anxiety has your brain balancing on the edge of panic and general overwhelm, and your depression is making it difficult to think the way you normally do. And your hallucinations contribute to your anxiety, plus you’re a student and you are trying to start your own business. How exactly did you not realize that your brain is just overloaded and that’s why you’re so exhausted?” I could not believe that someone figured out the source of my fatigue before I did, and I was shocked by how much sense it made. I had been looking at every cause except my brain. I was used to symptoms of mental illness being fairly obvious — changes in mood, suicidal ideation, panic attacks or insomnia. I never considered that my brain being tired of dealing with its own problems would leave me with an utter lack of energy to handle the things I needed to handle. I talked to my psychiatrist. I got on medication to control my anxiety. My fatigue improved once the meds had time to work. Suddenly I could do more than I had been able to do for months. I held off on an anti-depressant, as being bipolar, my depressions were not long-lasting. However, my fatigue returned after a couple of months with improved productivity, and I decided to start a medication to help control the depression. The fatigue has not left yet. I have learned, however, that some things – like exercise and meditation – can help me get my brain back on track so I can continue doing all the things that I need to do. If it was not for my friend, I doubt I ever would have realized that my fatigue was a symptom of my mental illnesses, and yet it makes so much sense. If your brain is spending all day fighting itself, what time does it have to accomplish the goals you have in place? If you’re struggling with intense fatigue, consider your brain health and see if you can’t find a solution that works for you, be that medication or therapy or yoga. Once I prevented my mental illnesses from running the show, my fatigue seriously improved and I was like a whole new person…no more wandering the house in search of brains. No one treatment works for everyone, but if you find yourself in bed half the day or more, I recommend taking action. You never know what you might accomplish if you do.

Justine Steckling

Read This If You Feel Like a Zombie

About a year ago, I started experiencing horrible chronic fatigue. I tried to examine every possible cause. Was I getting enough sleep? Giving myself enough downtime during the day? Taking breaks between work and school projects? Did I need more coffee? Was I eating a healthy enough diet? Did I need more exercise? I went down the checklist of possibilities — from too much inactivity to upping my morning caffeine intake, to trying to get more sleep every night. Still, the fatigue persisted. By mid-afternoon I could barely keep my eyes open, no matter how much caffeine I drank upon waking. Every day around 4 p.m. I found myself in bed, unable to sleep, but too fatigued to function. My little respites in bed did little to help the fatigue. I would inevitably have to get up and continue doing grown-up things like cooking dinner, working and studying. I felt like a zombie from The Walking Dead, endlessly roaming the house in a stupor; attracted to food and loud things that might help keep me awake. I had not had any recent changes to my medications. I didn’t have any changes in my routine at all. I was just plain exhausted for no reason. I was considering talking to my primary care doctor about chronic fatigue syndrome, because I could not come up with any reasonable explanation for this sudden onset of severe fatigue. I was venting to my friend one day, and she asked, “So you have anxiety that keeps your mind racing nearly all day?” I nodded. “And you have depression that makes it difficult for you to get any pleasure out of anything that you do?” I nodded. “And sometimes hallucinations hit you at night?” I nodded. “Your brain is probably just so overwhelmed fighting itself that it doesn’t have any energy left for anything else. Your anxiety has your brain balancing on the edge of panic and general overwhelm, and your depression is making it difficult to think the way you normally do. And your hallucinations contribute to your anxiety, plus you’re a student and you are trying to start your own business. How exactly did you not realize that your brain is just overloaded and that’s why you’re so exhausted?” I could not believe that someone figured out the source of my fatigue before I did, and I was shocked by how much sense it made. I had been looking at every cause except my brain. I was used to symptoms of mental illness being fairly obvious — changes in mood, suicidal ideation, panic attacks or insomnia. I never considered that my brain being tired of dealing with its own problems would leave me with an utter lack of energy to handle the things I needed to handle. I talked to my psychiatrist. I got on medication to control my anxiety. My fatigue improved once the meds had time to work. Suddenly I could do more than I had been able to do for months. I held off on an anti-depressant, as being bipolar, my depressions were not long-lasting. However, my fatigue returned after a couple of months with improved productivity, and I decided to start a medication to help control the depression. The fatigue has not left yet. I have learned, however, that some things – like exercise and meditation – can help me get my brain back on track so I can continue doing all the things that I need to do. If it was not for my friend, I doubt I ever would have realized that my fatigue was a symptom of my mental illnesses, and yet it makes so much sense. If your brain is spending all day fighting itself, what time does it have to accomplish the goals you have in place? If you’re struggling with intense fatigue, consider your brain health and see if you can’t find a solution that works for you, be that medication or therapy or yoga. Once I prevented my mental illnesses from running the show, my fatigue seriously improved and I was like a whole new person…no more wandering the house in search of brains. No one treatment works for everyone, but if you find yourself in bed half the day or more, I recommend taking action. You never know what you might accomplish if you do.