Lynn Ulrich

@lynn-ulrich | contributor
My name is Lynn Ulrich. I have a bachelor’s degree in Education and am currently an elementary school teacher. I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar I disorder with psychotic features in 2008. In my free time I love to go to the gym, play with my son, and spend time with my significant other.
Lynn Ulrich

5 Ways Bipolar Disorder Changes Your Life

There are things you have no clue about until it happens to you. You go through life and can’t understand what others are dealing with until you walk their same path. I remember the days before bipolar struck, and remember how hard it was to adjust my life to this disorder. These are some not-so-obvious ways living with bipolar disorder has affected my life. 1. I have to have a routine. Before bipolar, I didn’t have to stick to a schedule. Now, it’s so important for me to have a routine. I have to go to bed at a certain time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. If I stray from this, I have a tough day filled with depression and irritability. Sometimes if I don’t stick to this routine, I end up so depressed that I get nothing done all day. I can’t go to work, and I stare at my phone wishing for the motivation to do something, anything, but I just can’t. This is why it’s imperative I stick to my schedule. 2. I depend on medication. Before bipolar, I didn’t have to take medication in order to function. Now, I can’t survive without medication. The times when I went without medication, or my medication didn’t work, were some of the most disastrous times in my life. During these times, my mind didn’t shut down; the thoughts constantly raced with no reprieve. My moods fluctuated like a roller coaster with no end in sight. The pain of this relentless torture often led to repeated thoughts of suicide. This is why I take my medication every night and never miss a dose. 3. I have to watch what I eat. Before bipolar, I could eat junk food and drink as much caffeine as I wanted to. Now, I have to watch what I put into my body. Too much caffeine can affect my moods and ruin my whole day. It’s not fun to have to try and reign in the irritability caused from the caffeine. Too much junk food can make me spiral into a depression. I also engage in moderate exercise a couple of times a week to keep my moods in check. This is why I drink very little caffeine, eat a balanced diet without too many processed foods and exercise regularly. 4. It makes me feel guilty. Before bipolar, I didn’t have to see a counselor regularly. Now, I have to see a counselor. I deal with the heavy weight of guilt following me around everywhere. I feel guilty for getting sick. I feel guilty for the things I did while I was sick. I feel guilty for not getting more done. I feel guilty for not being normal like everyone else. This is why I talk it out with someone more knowledgeable than me. 5. I struggle with negative thoughts. Before bipolar, I didn’t have many negative thoughts. Now, I frequently have to deal with negative thoughts. These negative thoughts are mostly self-deprecation and anxiety. I have learned how to redirect these thoughts. I have to endlessly talk myself out of my vivid, imaginative fears about something bad happening to me or a loved one. I have to battle self-deprecating thoughts with positive thoughts about myself. This is why I have become good at redirecting my thoughts. What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

Lynn Ulrich

What Electroconvulsive Therapy Was Really Like

Since electroconvulsion therapy (ECT) has been controversial in the past, I thought I would write about it as a possible solution to severe bipolar symptoms. I want people to know that it’s not as barbaric as you may have heard. In 2008, I was diagnosed with bipolar I with psychotic features. It was a huge struggle to manage this disorder and I wasn’t able to get my life back together until 2012 when I finally found a medication and health plan that worked. I was stable on the same medication for six years with few episodes. I was able to work a full-time job and live a fairly “normal” life. Unfortunately, I recently had to change my medication for health reasons and everything began to snowball. I relapsed, which led to mania with psychosis. I thought I was possessed. I didn’t fully understand what was going on besides the fact that this wasn’t me and that I had tried everything to get back to me: medication, sleep, writing, going back on the medication that once worked and anxiety medication. Nothing helped and I had to take time off of work because my symptoms were so severe. I felt like ECT was an option I had to pursue to get my life back. The first step was to meet with a psychiatrist to make sure this was the right option for me. I talked to him and he agreed that this would be the best course of action. The next step was to get an electrocardiogram and bloodwork to make sure I was healthy enough to undergo ECT. All those tests came back normal and I was finally able to set up an appointment for ECT. On the day of the appointment, I wasn’t allowed to use lotion, eat or drink anything, or chew gum. They treat ECT much like going in for surgery because they put you under. My mom drove me to the hospital because you’re not allowed to drive for 24 hours after the treatment. We got to the hospital and checked into the outpatient surgery center. They called me back right away and checked my weight, height and vitals. They confirmed my medical history and medications, then they put in an IV. The doctor performing the ECT came in not too long after and explained the whole process. All of the hospital staff was very friendly and made sure I knew everything that was going on. They took me back and put me to sleep. I woke up a half an hour later in the recovery room. I had a headache, nausea and my legs hurt. They made sure I was awake, then my mom took me home. I couldn’t eat anything right away because of the nausea but my fear, paranoia and anxiety had lessened significantly. I already felt better than I had in months. The headache and nausea lasted until the next day and then it went away. I continued to go in for ECT until I felt functional again. That took about four more treatments. After that, I felt good enough to go back to work. Between then and now (which has been approximately three months), I’ve had three more treatments just to maintain my functionality. I’m now just taking one bipolar medication and an occasional anxiety pill as my anxiety has greatly minimized. The time between ECT treatments has become longer and one day, I won’t have to have them at all. Some people talk about memory loss but I didn’t really notice too much of that. I still have a good memory and remember my childhood as well as important events. ECT was a lifesaver for me. ECT was definitely a tough decision to make, but I’m glad I did. ECT isn’t for everyone, so please make sure you make an informed decision. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via Rawpixel LTD

Lynn Ulrich

What Electroconvulsive Therapy Was Really Like

Since electroconvulsion therapy (ECT) has been controversial in the past, I thought I would write about it as a possible solution to severe bipolar symptoms. I want people to know that it’s not as barbaric as you may have heard. In 2008, I was diagnosed with bipolar I with psychotic features. It was a huge struggle to manage this disorder and I wasn’t able to get my life back together until 2012 when I finally found a medication and health plan that worked. I was stable on the same medication for six years with few episodes. I was able to work a full-time job and live a fairly “normal” life. Unfortunately, I recently had to change my medication for health reasons and everything began to snowball. I relapsed, which led to mania with psychosis. I thought I was possessed. I didn’t fully understand what was going on besides the fact that this wasn’t me and that I had tried everything to get back to me: medication, sleep, writing, going back on the medication that once worked and anxiety medication. Nothing helped and I had to take time off of work because my symptoms were so severe. I felt like ECT was an option I had to pursue to get my life back. The first step was to meet with a psychiatrist to make sure this was the right option for me. I talked to him and he agreed that this would be the best course of action. The next step was to get an electrocardiogram and bloodwork to make sure I was healthy enough to undergo ECT. All those tests came back normal and I was finally able to set up an appointment for ECT. On the day of the appointment, I wasn’t allowed to use lotion, eat or drink anything, or chew gum. They treat ECT much like going in for surgery because they put you under. My mom drove me to the hospital because you’re not allowed to drive for 24 hours after the treatment. We got to the hospital and checked into the outpatient surgery center. They called me back right away and checked my weight, height and vitals. They confirmed my medical history and medications, then they put in an IV. The doctor performing the ECT came in not too long after and explained the whole process. All of the hospital staff was very friendly and made sure I knew everything that was going on. They took me back and put me to sleep. I woke up a half an hour later in the recovery room. I had a headache, nausea and my legs hurt. They made sure I was awake, then my mom took me home. I couldn’t eat anything right away because of the nausea but my fear, paranoia and anxiety had lessened significantly. I already felt better than I had in months. The headache and nausea lasted until the next day and then it went away. I continued to go in for ECT until I felt functional again. That took about four more treatments. After that, I felt good enough to go back to work. Between then and now (which has been approximately three months), I’ve had three more treatments just to maintain my functionality. I’m now just taking one bipolar medication and an occasional anxiety pill as my anxiety has greatly minimized. The time between ECT treatments has become longer and one day, I won’t have to have them at all. Some people talk about memory loss but I didn’t really notice too much of that. I still have a good memory and remember my childhood as well as important events. ECT was a lifesaver for me. ECT was definitely a tough decision to make, but I’m glad I did. ECT isn’t for everyone, so please make sure you make an informed decision. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via Rawpixel LTD

Lynn Ulrich

5 Ways Bipolar Disorder Changes Your Life

There are things you have no clue about until it happens to you. You go through life and can’t understand what others are dealing with until you walk their same path. I remember the days before bipolar struck, and remember how hard it was to adjust my life to this disorder. These are some not-so-obvious ways living with bipolar disorder has affected my life. 1. I have to have a routine. Before bipolar, I didn’t have to stick to a schedule. Now, it’s so important for me to have a routine. I have to go to bed at a certain time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. If I stray from this, I have a tough day filled with depression and irritability. Sometimes if I don’t stick to this routine, I end up so depressed that I get nothing done all day. I can’t go to work, and I stare at my phone wishing for the motivation to do something, anything, but I just can’t. This is why it’s imperative I stick to my schedule. 2. I depend on medication. Before bipolar, I didn’t have to take medication in order to function. Now, I can’t survive without medication. The times when I went without medication, or my medication didn’t work, were some of the most disastrous times in my life. During these times, my mind didn’t shut down; the thoughts constantly raced with no reprieve. My moods fluctuated like a roller coaster with no end in sight. The pain of this relentless torture often led to repeated thoughts of suicide. This is why I take my medication every night and never miss a dose. 3. I have to watch what I eat. Before bipolar, I could eat junk food and drink as much caffeine as I wanted to. Now, I have to watch what I put into my body. Too much caffeine can affect my moods and ruin my whole day. It’s not fun to have to try and reign in the irritability caused from the caffeine. Too much junk food can make me spiral into a depression. I also engage in moderate exercise a couple of times a week to keep my moods in check. This is why I drink very little caffeine, eat a balanced diet without too many processed foods and exercise regularly. 4. It makes me feel guilty. Before bipolar, I didn’t have to see a counselor regularly. Now, I have to see a counselor. I deal with the heavy weight of guilt following me around everywhere. I feel guilty for getting sick. I feel guilty for the things I did while I was sick. I feel guilty for not getting more done. I feel guilty for not being normal like everyone else. This is why I talk it out with someone more knowledgeable than me. 5. I struggle with negative thoughts. Before bipolar, I didn’t have many negative thoughts. Now, I frequently have to deal with negative thoughts. These negative thoughts are mostly self-deprecation and anxiety. I have learned how to redirect these thoughts. I have to endlessly talk myself out of my vivid, imaginative fears about something bad happening to me or a loved one. I have to battle self-deprecating thoughts with positive thoughts about myself. This is why I have become good at redirecting my thoughts. What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

Lynn Ulrich

What Electroconvulsive Therapy Was Really Like

Since electroconvulsion therapy (ECT) has been controversial in the past, I thought I would write about it as a possible solution to severe bipolar symptoms. I want people to know that it’s not as barbaric as you may have heard. In 2008, I was diagnosed with bipolar I with psychotic features. It was a huge struggle to manage this disorder and I wasn’t able to get my life back together until 2012 when I finally found a medication and health plan that worked. I was stable on the same medication for six years with few episodes. I was able to work a full-time job and live a fairly “normal” life. Unfortunately, I recently had to change my medication for health reasons and everything began to snowball. I relapsed, which led to mania with psychosis. I thought I was possessed. I didn’t fully understand what was going on besides the fact that this wasn’t me and that I had tried everything to get back to me: medication, sleep, writing, going back on the medication that once worked and anxiety medication. Nothing helped and I had to take time off of work because my symptoms were so severe. I felt like ECT was an option I had to pursue to get my life back. The first step was to meet with a psychiatrist to make sure this was the right option for me. I talked to him and he agreed that this would be the best course of action. The next step was to get an electrocardiogram and bloodwork to make sure I was healthy enough to undergo ECT. All those tests came back normal and I was finally able to set up an appointment for ECT. On the day of the appointment, I wasn’t allowed to use lotion, eat or drink anything, or chew gum. They treat ECT much like going in for surgery because they put you under. My mom drove me to the hospital because you’re not allowed to drive for 24 hours after the treatment. We got to the hospital and checked into the outpatient surgery center. They called me back right away and checked my weight, height and vitals. They confirmed my medical history and medications, then they put in an IV. The doctor performing the ECT came in not too long after and explained the whole process. All of the hospital staff was very friendly and made sure I knew everything that was going on. They took me back and put me to sleep. I woke up a half an hour later in the recovery room. I had a headache, nausea and my legs hurt. They made sure I was awake, then my mom took me home. I couldn’t eat anything right away because of the nausea but my fear, paranoia and anxiety had lessened significantly. I already felt better than I had in months. The headache and nausea lasted until the next day and then it went away. I continued to go in for ECT until I felt functional again. That took about four more treatments. After that, I felt good enough to go back to work. Between then and now (which has been approximately three months), I’ve had three more treatments just to maintain my functionality. I’m now just taking one bipolar medication and an occasional anxiety pill as my anxiety has greatly minimized. The time between ECT treatments has become longer and one day, I won’t have to have them at all. Some people talk about memory loss but I didn’t really notice too much of that. I still have a good memory and remember my childhood as well as important events. ECT was a lifesaver for me. ECT was definitely a tough decision to make, but I’m glad I did. ECT isn’t for everyone, so please make sure you make an informed decision. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via Rawpixel LTD

Iris Jolie

When You're Sitting in the Aftermath of a Bipolar Episode

I didn’t know I was going through it until I was out of it. I didn’t see the signs. I didn’t listen to anyone (which in and of itself can be a sign). I thought I was doing really well. I thought I was successful and happy. Until it all crashed down. That’s the thing about mental illness. It often creeps. Sometimes you can feel the storm rolling in, reaching for you in dark wisps. Before you know it, you can’t see anything. You can’t think. You can’t breathe. Even then sometimes you don’t see the darkness, the slow suffocation of your flame until there is nothing but darkness. It’s only now that I can see the terrible decisions, the impulsivity, the damaged relationships. That’s the worst part for me — looking back after an episode and realizing all of the things I’ve done wrong and more importantly the people I’ve hurt. When I come out of my bipolar episodes, I’m left with shame and guilt. I feel like a failure. I feel like I’ve let every single person in my life down. I feel like I’m nothing; I’m no one, or at least not someone who deserves what I’m so blessed to have. Mental illness can destroy lives. Not just the person with the diagnosis, but every single person in their life. The families, the partners, the friends — everyone and everything is affected. Jobs are lost, bills pile up, relationships are destroyed. For me, it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to the point that I shy away from people; I hide in my shame and guilt in the dark. I don’t want to feel like I’ve failed at yet another thing. I don’t want to come out and admit that my mental illness took me hostage this year. It’s been a whole year of ups and downs. January to December — 2017 was not my year. I don’t like to think I have a problem. I don’t want to admit that the mental illness is winning, that the storm has me in its clutches. It’s humiliating. And I can try and explain, but people usually don’t understand unless they have been through it. Despite all of the progress being made in discussing mental illness, it’s still hard to come out and own what’s going on. I own the last year of my life. I made terrible, life changing decisions. I hurt so many people and damaged a lot of relationships, perhaps forever. It’s not enough to own it though. It doesn’t change what happened. When I’m in an episode, it’s like my brain and my mouth are not communicating. I hear myself saying the terrible things that spew out of my mouth like verbal diarrhea, but I can’t stop them. The slightest provocation sets me off and before I know it, there goes another relationship. Impulsivity rules my life. I think and feel, and then I act. There’s no thought for what the ramifications of my decision will be. I just do it, and I can’t stop it. I like to think I’m smart. I like to think I’m a good person. Mental illness steals that for me. Mental illness steals me from me. I’m someone I don’t know. I’m someone I hate, someone that I don’t blame other people for hating. Mental illness is a liar. Mental illness poisons my brain, my feelings, my thoughts. It makes me believe things, terrible things. It makes me hurt people I care about. It can destroy lives. It does these things without me even knowing. All of a sudden it is a year later and I’m looking back to see a trail of destruction in my wake. I find solace in the fact that I come out of my depressive and manic episodes eventually. I know that one day I’ll wake up and the storm will be cleared, the sun will be shining. All of a sudden I will be able to breathe. It happens like that. It comes in waves. Like the pull of the moon on the ocean, so our lives will roll in and out on the sand. Right now I’m walking on the beach at sunrise, finally out of the storm that has been my life this year. Inevitably a storm will come again. It always does. I could worry about the next storm, but then I would miss the sunrise. It’s not easy. It’s not pretty. I have survived my life up to this point, but I haven’t enjoyed it. I’m finally in a place where I want to enjoy life and not just scrape by. As they say, life isn’t just surviving the storm, it’s learning to dance in the rain. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via lzf

Lynn Ulrich

I Have a Dream for People With Mental Illness

It’s unfortunate that after all these years, it seems we are back tracking and doomed to repeat history. I don’t know about you, but the current events around the world have been bringing me down. Stories of bias and prejudice, judgement based on the color of our skin, our religion, our nationality, our sex, our sexuality, our jobs and now our illnesses; specifically mental illnesses. These injustices continue to pervade out society and have created fear. This is the time of war; a war on preconceived notions and ignorance. Let us continue to take a page from Martin Luther King Jr.’s book and push for a peaceful revolution not just to get rid of racial, ethnic and religious bias, but also the stigma of mental illness. Remembering the courageous words of Martin Luther King Jr from his “I Have a Dream” speech, I have come up with my own dreams for those living with mental illness: I have a dream that one day I will not be discriminated against because of my mental illness. I have a dream that one day I can be open about my illness to everyone including my employer. I have a dream that one day hospitals and doctors will take me and my symptoms seriously. I have a dream that doctors won’t push certain medications for their own monetary gain. I have a dream that one day the media will not equate mental illness with violence. I have a dream that one day all of Hollywood will portray mental illness accurately. I have a dream that one day all people will see those living with a mental illness as an equal. I have a dream that one day my mental illness will be seen as a sign of strength and not a weakness. I have a dream that one day my normal emotions as a human being are not taken as symptoms. I have a dream that one day that there will be plenty of beds in the hospitals for those who need them. I have a dream that one day I won’t have five different case managers in less than a year. I have a dream that one day mental illness medication won’t cause horrific side effects. I have a dream that one day filing for disability will be an easier and faster process than it is now. I have a dream that those with disabilities get paid the same as those without disabilities. I have a dream that my children will be able to share their illnesses and not be condemned for them. I have a dream that one day my children will be able to get help right away if they have a mental illness. I have a dream that one day they will find a cure for mental illness so no one else has to suffer. I have a dream that all people, regardless of their differences, will be accepted. It is our differences that make us strong. So continue to fight peacefully for change in our society. For change in views on mental illness. This can be done in small ways, like writing for organizations like The Mighty, The International Bipolar Foundation, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and others. Every little bit we write can change how society views people who are different. Little by little, we can change the world. Like Martin Luther King Jr said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via lolostock

Lynn Ulrich

Supporting Friend With Mental Illness Means Being With Them in Dark

I am one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet. That comes with constantly battling negative thoughts caused by my bipolar disorder. Somehow in this battle, I’ve become a pretty positive person. However there are times when rough things happen and it makes it really hard for me to be positive. For example, some tough things happened in December and January. I shared with my friends how horrible I felt because of these things and some well-meaning friends said I should be positive. In that moment, I needed empathy, not positivity. My initial response was anger, but I cooled off after a few days because I knew those friends had my best interest at heart. I know I shouldn’t have been angry because I wrote a blog almost a year ago about being positive. Well, you live and learn. So here’s my revision. In hard times, when you have a mental illness, you don’t need people to point out “thinking positive” will fix everything. That’s probably the worst thing you could say. Thinking positive won’t necessarily fix your problems. In those times, we need our support systems to meet us where we are in the deep, dark pit of despair. We need our support system to listen and offer encouragement. When dealt a blow to our routine, it’s hard for us to adjust, so please save the advice for later. We need those friends to meet us during our pain, validate our emotions and stay with us during our darkest moments. This kind of support system is truly valuable. Life can be messy, especially when someone is navigating life while battling bipolar or any other mental illness for that matter. Those who listen will be of more help than those who tell you to fix your thinking. When you are in a gloomy hole, you feel like you are never going to get out of there. You feel utterly, perpetually and completely alone. The ones who help us the most find their way down into the depths and sit with us until we are ready to crawl out. Those friends bring their light and give us strength to emerge from the darkness. I am lucky to have friends who know me well enough to know I need to process, grieve and vent in order to move up and out of the pit and become my positive self again. So for those of you who are struggling with a tough life situation right now, find the people who are willing to sit with you in the dark for awhile until you get the strength to crawl back out. And if you can’t find someone, know I would sit with you in the dark. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Image via Thinkstock

Lynn Ulrich

Mental Health Recovery: 5 Tips to Get Back on Track After a Crisis

It’s inevitable at times for something to happen that can shatter the beautiful recovery we’ve worked so hard to maintain. This is life. Reclaiming that recovery after a crisis can happen, but it may take some time. I recently had to deal with a few crises that happened all at once, which almost broke me. Here is a list of some tips that helped me and may help you get back on the road to recovery. 1. Focus on getting sleep. There is so much to say about sleep therapy, especially with an illness like bipolar disorder. Make sure both during and after the crisis you get enough sleep. I know that depending on the severity of the crisis, you may not be able to sleep. However, bipolar disorder is one of those illnesses that can require you to maintain a routine. If you are able to, make sure you at least go to bed at the same time every night, even if it is just to close your eyes and rest your body. One of the events that happened to me recently was that my son had unexpected surgery, and I stayed with him in the hospital every night. I made sure to go to sleep on my regular schedule, which helped me get through this tough situation more smoothly. If you are unable to maintain your normal sleep routine during a given crisis, when the crisis is resolved, try to get back into your sleep routine as soon as possible. Here is an article that may be beneficial for you in your quest to get back into a sleep routine. 2. Make sure to take your medication. Another thing that helped me through these crises was being sure to take my medication regularly. Taking my medication helped prevent an even bigger crisis from unfolding: a relapse. So even though I was going through tough situations and dealing with a tsunami of emotions, I knew I would be in a better state after it was all over than I would have been if I stopped taking my medication. 3. Lean on others when you need help. I tend to try to tackle everything on my own. I hold back from asking others for help because I am extremely independent and feel like asking for help shows weakness. However, when the load is just too much to bear, it’s OK for you to ask for help. Your loved ones would probably rather you ask for help than see you overwhelmed or get hurt. At one point during these crises, I reached my breaking point. I called family members who would make my work load more bearable, and it was the best decision I ever made. You never have to struggle or face things alone. 4. Prioritize. Trying to get back to the way life was before a crisis can be a difficult journey. My life was flipped upside-down, so the best thing for me was to prioritize my life. Basically, I tackled situations and tasks that needed my immediate attention while less important tasks that were not as relevant were put on hold for the time being. This helped me feel less overwhelmed and not like I was drowning in all of my responsibilities. 5. Be kind and patient with yourself. It can take time for you to get back to the way you were before your life took this twist. Be patient with yourself. Don’t expect to be back to normal overnight. There will likely be meltdowns, crying spells, and thoughts of giving up. During these times, be kind to yourself and do something for you. Self-care is one of the most important parts of recovery with any mental illness. Do something fun: go for a walk, eat your favorite food, meet up with a good friend, watch a movie, drink some coffee, or get a pedicure. You only live once, so take care of yourself and know that in time, recovery will happen. These twists and turns in life can be challenging for a person living with bipolar disorder, but the tips I just listed and discussed can help you through a crisis and help you get back on your feet afterwards. Life is not easy, nor is it linear — so we just have to make sure we have the tools we need to recover from whatever life presents us with. If I can do it, I know you can, too. Image via Thinkstock. A version of this post originally appeared on the International Bipolar Foundation. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Lynn Ulrich

How to Parent With Bipolar Disorder

Being a parent and having a bipolar disorder diagnosis is hard. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, my world revolved around parenting. As a stay-at-home mom, that was my job. I would have to say I was a really good parent at that time. My son was my pride and joy. He always came first, and I enjoyed spending as much time with him as possible. But after some traumatic events in 2007, I was reduced to fighting an illness I didn’t know much about. The year and a half during which I was clueless about what was going on in my brain was the time I can say I wasn’t that great of a parent. I remember a time back in 2007 when I was in a mixed state (although I didn’t know what it was at the time), and the nervous energy and depression were waging a war in my mind and body. I couldn’t stop those forces. It felt like I was a bomb about to go off, but I was hanging at that heightened millisecond right before an explosion and never exploding. I had my son with me, and I didn’t know what to do. I called his dad to come pick him up, because I knew he needed to be away from me. At that time, I felt it was crucial to do something to end that constant tension of the mixed state. I put my son in his room and put one of his favorite videos on. I went in the other room, locked the door, and proceeded to bash my head into a wall. That helped relieve some of the tension. As soon as his dad picked him up, I went to the hospital for what seemed like the 100th time to see if they could help me figure out what was wrong. Later on, case workers came by to visit to find out what happened. They told me I was a good mom to still think of my son despite what I was going through. I felt like a horrible mom, because I felt I couldn’t take care of him like a mom should. Once I was finally diagnosed and on medication, I found it much easier to be a mom. I felt like I had a second chance, and the bond between my son and I grew into what it was before my illness kicked in. The year after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I graduated from college with my bachelor’s degree in education. Juggling parenting and work was difficult, but we somehow managed. Things started to go south again in 2011, as the medication I was taking for my illness was beginning to destroy my body. I was starting to have horrible health issues: excessive weight gain, thyroid problems, constant colds and flus, easily broken bones. After trying many different medications that didn’t seem to work very well (either caused too much mania or too much depression), I turned to naturopathic medication. Unfortunately, the naturopathic medication did not work for me. I relapsed, and it was awful. I spent about two months away from my son trying to recover from my relapse; I knew I couldn’t even take care of myself, so I certainly wouldn’t be able to take care of him. His dad was understanding and took care of him on the days that were normally mine. During those two months, I still visited him at his dad’s house and watched him play sports, but I knew I couldn’t take care of him like he deserved until I was stable. Once I was stable, I was able to take him home with me. That was one of the best days of my life. Since 2012, I have had no issues with my disorder interfering with my ability to be a great parent. I believe the key to being a great parent is to make sure you’re healthy first. Make sure you take your medication regularly and as prescribed, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy and try to exercise. When you’re healthy, your relationships can be healthy. My son and I have a great relationship. We talk, listen, laugh, cry and spend so much time together. Making many memories together is one of the most important parts of parenting for me, because life can change so quickly. As for the stigma around bipolar disorder and parenting, I feel it is unnecessary. Mothers and fathers diagnosed with bipolar disorder can still be great parents. What some people don’t understand is that bipolar disorder is a medical illness like any other, and it requires medication to treat the symptoms of the illness. If treated, we can be wonderful parents. I am living proof of that. Editor’s note: Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional. Image via Contributor. A version of this post originally appeared on the International Bipolar Foundation. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .