Podcast Interview: The Wellness Project with Des

I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Desiree Argentina on her podcast The Wellness Project with Des and it was a wonderful interview. She asked me:

  • To share my story
  • How old were you when you were diagnosed with depressive disorder and anxiety? And when did you get an accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder? (8:33)
  • How did you know something was wrong and what were your earliest memories of something being off or different? (9:04)
  • At what point did your family realize that there was something off and you needed help? (14:40)
  • Did your family know about bipolar disorder? Or did they just recognize that something was off a bit? (16:10)
  • Can you talk a little bit about how your family approached you? Can you explain that? Some family members and loved ones don’t know how to approach it, don’t know what to say, don’t want to offend the person. How can someone go to someone in an empathetic supportive way? (16:55)
  • Can you speak about how bipolar disorder affected your relationships with your family, romantic relationships, relationships with your children? (19:40)
  • Would you mind sharing what techniques helped your relationship with your husband from going to therapy together? (24:30)
  • Can you share what steps you took to heal yourself to get better and could you share your self-care regimen? (27:54)

I was so grateful to have the opportunity to speak with Desiree. She asked fantastic questions and we had a very productive conversation about how to successfully navigate diagnosis, relationships and treatment with bipolar disorder. 

Desiree is a mental health therapist. Her goal with her podcast and social media is to help others transform their lives by providing actionable and practical steps to live a fulfilled life. 

I am excited to share this interview with you!

Podcast Interview: Master Your Mental with Paris Prynkiewicz

I had the opportunity recently to be interviewed by Paris Prynkiewicz on her podcast Master Your Mental. In the interview Paris asked me about:

  • my experience with bipolar disorder (my history and how things turned around for me),
  • what coping with mood cycles used to look like (unhealthy) versus what managing mood cycles proactively looks like now,
  • how and why I started helping moms with bipolar disorder and what my favorite experience so far has been with that, and
  • what is my number one most powerful tool that I use in my self-care.

I loved speaking with Paris about how I have learned to live well with bipolar. It was a really amazing conversation. Paris’s mission with her podcast, social media and book are to offer encouragement and hope to others with bipolar disorder and it was an honor to be on her show. Enjoy!

Introducing Scott Ninneman from Speaking Bipolar

Several months ago Scott’s Speaking Bipolar popped up in my Instagram feed. He was followed by some of the people I follow, and I love the content he puts out. So often content you find on social media regarding bipolar disorder is heavy and even negative. Scott provides positive, encouraging content about bipolar that I love. I started following Speaking Bipolar and regularly share his posts to my Instagram stories.

I was so excited and honored when Scott reached out to me to exchange blog posts. I love Scott’s post Turning Your Lemons Into Lemonade: How to Make the Most of Difficult Situations because it is characteristic of his compelling and positive writing style and highlights the hopeful and encouraging messages he offers to his readers.

The following is my interview with Scott.

Q: Tell us a little about your mental health history.

After spiraling downward for months, a friend broke down the door to my rented mobile home and physically pulled me away from a table covered with colorful pills. He and his wife drove me to a psychiatric hospital and saved my life. It was while I was there that a doctor first told me I had bipolar disorder. It was spring 1995, and I’d love to say I made a quick turnaround, but it was over 30 medications and three and a half years before I finally felt I was in a good place. Treatment has come a long way since then, and I don’t believe it would take near that long if I was starting my bipolar journey today.

Q: Why did you start the Speaking Bipolar blog?

I started my blog in the middle of the night during a manic episode. A few months prior, I lost a good friend to mental illness. I was stuck in the moment and couldn’t get him out of my head. Logically, I knew I couldn’t change anything, but I had an overpowering need to do something. So, I pulled out my credit card and started a blog. I couldn’t help my friend, but I could be a voice of validation for others who were suffering alone.

“I couldn’t help my friend, but I could be a voice of validation for others who were suffering alone.”

Scott Ninneman

Q: Do you feel like creating a blog is your purpose? 

I didn’t at first. I just wanted to be a light in the dark for someone. As I’ve grown, online writing has become my passion. It motivates me to get up every day. If my readers learn only one thing from me, I want them to know a mental illness diagnosis is not the end of their life. Dreams don’t have to die, and the rest of your existence won’t be one full of suffering. You can find stability and lead a full life even with a condition like bipolar. I’m no one special, and if I can find stability, I believe anyone can. I want to help people get there.

Q: What are your favorite three posts, and why do you love them?

Speaking Bipolar — A Mental Illness Translator

It’s not the best example of my writing skill, but it means so much to me because it was the first time I peeled back the bipolar veil and dumped everything on the page. In Speaking Bipolar — A Mental Illness Translator, I dropped my guard and invited people in. It was the start of connecting with my readers on a deeper level. In the years since I wrote it, it’s the number two most-read piece. Nearly 20% of my traffic every month starts on that story.

The Worst Part of Having Bipolar Disorder

I wrote The Worst Part of Having Bipolar Disorder during a string of dark days. It was after I made the shift to writing primarily positivity posts, but something I had to get out of my head to move forward. About a dozen readers reached out to me the week I published the piece. They wanted to know that I still have bad days. Each thanked me for sharing my struggles. The story reminded me how important it is to show all sides of bipolar.

Beast Within—A Poem About Mental Illness

For a long time, I published a new poem almost every week. After a reader poll revealed nearly half of my readers don’t like poetry, I stopped posting as much, but this poem has special meaning to me. I love writing poetry because reducing your feelings to a limited number of words makes you go deeper. Beast Within reflects how I feel every day.

‘ After my bipolar diagnosis, it was all some people could see. I was the “bipolar guy,” and it devastated me.'

Scott ninneman

Q: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about mental illness?

No one is just one thing. It’s easy to put people in categories. Like sorting mail, we stick new acquaintances in boxes based on what we know about them. After my bipolar diagnosis, it was all some people could see. I was the “bipolar guy,” and it devastated me. I fought hard to make people see I was still the friend, brother, and writer I always had been. The better I learned to battle my foe, the more I learned it was only part of me, and not the most important piece. I realized that if I was so faceted, so was everyone else. Now, I strive to get to know people. You can find common ground with almost everyone, so I look for a place where we can connect.

“If none of my other words ever make an impact, I know I am successful. I reached someone who needed it, and there’s no greater feeling than that.”

scott ninneman

Q: What is the best experience you’ve had since starting your blog?

One reader reached out to tell me reading my content saved their life. For the first time, they felt understood and knew they weren’t alone. I keep every email I receive from readers, but that one has a special place. I started my blog hoping to help at least one person. If none of my other words ever make an impact, I know I am successful. I reached someone who needed it, and there’s no greater feeling than that.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

Wow, there are so many. Being bipolar, I have 500 projects in mind and struggle with carrying any of them to completion. My big focus right now is my Positivity Club. Writing five posts for it each week keeps me busy, but I plan to turn those posts into books and publish one or two a year. I’m also working on a course about how to understand and thrive with bipolar disorder. I hope to finish that in the next few months.

Scott is such an amazing advocate for the upside of having bipolar disorder. Follow him on his blog and on Instagram and Facebook. I also HIGHLY recommend his FREE 30 Days of Positivity–a daily email that counts down his top 30 reasons to remain positive. He really has turned his Lemons into Lemonade, and his insights and experience can help you do the same.

Below are additional links to his social media and products.

Social Links

Blog

Instagram

Medium

Facebook Page

YouTube

Product Links

FREE 30 Days of Positivity Product Page

Bipolar Disorder Symptom Checklist Page

Speaking Bipolar Positivity Club

Guest Post: Turning Your Lemons Into Lemonade: How to Make the Most of Difficult Situations by Scott Ninneman

SCOTT IS A GUEST BLOGGER FROM SPEAKING BIPOLAR WRITING ABOUT FINDING COURAGE AND CONFIDENCE FACING YOUR BIPOLAR DIAGNOSIS.

Growing up, I made every effort to be home by dark. Two reasons kept me conscious of the time and how much daylight remained. One, there was a bright floodlight at the peak of our roof that came on at dusk. With our yellow farmhouse on a hill, it was easy to see it from most of the neighborhood. The family rule was that everyone had to be home when the light came on.

I was a good rule follower, but my second reason was the better motivator. I was terrified of being alone in the dark. The fear was unfounded, but my young mind ran wild when the world around me disappeared into darkness.

One afternoon, I rode my bike to see a friend who lived about a half mile away. His house was the coolest. He had every Star Wars toy, and as a little boy with nothing more than one Luke Skywalker figurine, I was in awe. From an X-Wing Fighter to Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter with wings that popped off when attacked, his room was an imagination paradise. It was one of my favorite places to escape to.

Submersed in an epic battle of good and evil, I lost track of time. When my friend’s mom came to check on us and ask if it was okay that I was still there, I glanced out the window. It was dark.

Panic flooded through me like the force through a Jedi. I don’t remember saying goodbye or anything. Like Roadrunner taking off, I sped out the door and hopped on my bike.

We lived in farm country in rural Wisconsin. Our dirt road was covered by leafy branches from trees growing on each side. As I looked up at the menacing boughs, they seemed to twist and grow. I imagined dozens of sets of glowing green eyes watching me.

Moving Forward

I swallowed hard and looked back at my friend’s house. Surely, his mom would take me home. It was my only safe option. But I was the kid afraid to ask for help.

“Never ask for anything,” my mom had drilled into our heads. Of course, she meant not asking for food at a friend’s house, but in my young mind, the rule applied to everything.

For a moment, I thought about calling my mom. Then I heard her tough-love voice. “You got yourself into this mess. Now, get yourself out.”

Okay, ma. I get it.

Foot met pedal, and I was on my way.

Halfway home, coasting down a steep hill into the valley between our two houses, I heard it. A branch broke with the sickening sound that can only occur by a large animal crushing it. I looked ahead to my left, and there I saw it. About a hundred yards ahead, a bear was clawing away bark from a tree. I jerked my feet back and skidded sideways to a stop. The bear was close to the road. Would he allow me to pass? Or would he jump out into the road and gobble me whole?

The blood whooshed through my ears with deafening thuds. Going back to my friend’s house would mean going back up the hill I was almost down. Going home meant confronting a bear. As I stood debating my options, the sky grew even darker. Not only was I about to be eaten, but it was so dark that no one would see it.

Meeting My Bear

I looked up at the hill I lived on. The floodlight on the end of the house shone as my lighthouse. I just had to get to it. I wrapped my hands in a death grip around the handlebars and got back on my bike.

The bear may eat me, I thought, but he’ll have to eat the bike, too. I’m not letting go.

The best option seemed to be moving forward with as little noise as possible. Maybe I could be quiet enough to sneak past unnoticed.

With each spin of the bicycle chain around the sprocket, I grew closer to the bear. I tried to focus on my house but then didn’t want to be caught by surprise. If the bear was going to eat me, I wanted to see it coming. Oh, how little boys think.

As I coasted the last 20 yards into the bear’s territory, I heard a new sound. This one was unmistakable: the clink of metal hitting metal. Trembling inside, I turned my attention to the bear, just as he swung the hammer another time.

My vicious monster turned out to be an old farmer pounding a new tap into a maple tree. Overwhelmed with relief, I waved to my neighbor and sped home.

Bipolar and Other Scary Monsters

When you receive a bipolar diagnosis, it feels a lot like confronting a bear in a dark woodland. Everything feels terrifying and overwhelming, but mental illness doesn’t have to be as scary as you think.

The experiences of that night taught me two life lessons. For one, I learned things are rarely as bad as we imagine them to be. I was so intent on the woods being full of danger that any sound had to be a ferocious animal. In reality, there was nothing to fear on my ride home.

Two, I learned how to summon courage when needed. My fear of the dark didn’t go away, but I discovered I could push forward no matter the obstacle. I had it in me to rise up and save myself.

Many times in life, what you imagine is so much worse than reality. The bears and man-eating trees are no more dangerous than an old farmer preparing for maple syrup season.

No one likes to experience scary events, and receiving a bipolar diagnosis is terrifying. This is especially true in the early days when you’re finding your way, but just like my bear, you can conquer bipolar.

It’s important to remember challenges are a natural part of life. They can be helpful if you know how to use them effectively. After any event, think about what it taught you. Life is full of lessons if you’re paying attention. Most of the lessons will strengthen you.

It’s also important to remember that not all lessons will be immediately apparent. Sometimes it takes time to reflect on an experience before you can see the positive lesson within it. If you’re patient and open-minded, you’ll eventually find the silver lining in every cloud.

Keep Fighting

It took me a while to recognize the full impact of my bear experience. In the following years, I focused on the courage I summoned that night. The strength I gained helped me face the increasingly dangerous monsters the world brought my way—bipolar being one of them.

You can do the same. Face your monsters head-on and learn from every experience. As you slay your beasts, you’ll gain the confidence you need to keep fighting. Instead of dwelling on the negative, try to find the positive lesson hidden within it. By doing this, you’ll be able to turn every negative experience into an opportunity for growth. Turn your lemons into lemonade.

Until next time, keep fighting.

Read my interview with Scott.

Bipolar Disorder: Lessons from the Pandemic

I remember when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in the beginning of 2020 and the shutdown started I was relieved at first. I was struggling at the time with managing what felt like overwhelming commitments, so having everything canceled all at once was a huge relief. 

That reprieve was short lived, however, as the previous, predictable stressors were replaced by new, unpredictable ones. I was obsessively watching the news and the case count. I was overwhelmed by the requirements of online schooling and trying to keep my children on task all day long. 

I was dealing with my own fears about what was happening and also carrying the burden of my children’s fear, disappointments and pain as their world was turned upside-down.  To top it off, every time I left the house it felt like traversing a minefield, wondering if today was the day I would contract Covid.

I was also deprived of many of my self-care tools–going to the gym, hanging out with friends and family and going to therapy in person. It didn’t take long to settle back into old, unhealthy coping mechanisms that wore on my mental health and caused me to get severely depressed.

Increasing Mental Illness

The experience I had during the pandemic was not uncommon. There was a surge in the number of people struggling with mental health challenges because of the increase in stressors and decrease in the normal healthy outlets for the stress. 

The pandemic made clear the damaging effect of a serious, prolonged crisis on individual mental health. Numerous studies have been conducted on the impact of the pandemic on mental health with estimates of the increase in rates of depression and anxiety ranging from a 25% increase cited by the World Health Organization1 to a massive six times increase found in a study conducted by Boston College2.

Having bipolar disorder can make you especially sensitive to major stressors. Disruptions to routine and increases in mental or emotional strain can trigger mood cycles that then add to the distress. This means it is essential to learn to be proactive with your bipolar and prepare to handle stressors more effectively. 

Becoming Proactive

Since there is no cure for bipolar disorder, mood cycles will be a reality of life going forward. If you fight your bipolar or ignore it, you will lose. The alternative is to accept that you have bipolar and learn the tools to live well with it. 

You can learn to manage your disorder so that you stay in maintenance mode for longer periods of time and the severity of the mood cycles can lessen. But you will still have cycles and it is essential to learn how to deal with them more effectively. 

Mental Health Emergency Response Plan

Accept the reality of your mood cycles by developing a Mental Health Emergency Response Plan (ERP). An ERP helps you proactively manage your mood cycles in order to lessen the impact of the mood cycle on you and those you love and shorten the duration of the cycle.

In this plan you:

  • Identify your Emergency Response Team – who are the people who are willing and able to offer support and what are the boundaries you set for that assistance?
  • Develop an Early Warning System – What are your triggers and what are the symptoms that indicate you are experiencing a mood cycle?
  • Determine your Auxiliary Power – When you have limited emotional and mental resources during a cycle, what are your priorities?
  • Learn how to Reboot Your System – How do you get yourself back to maintenance mode?

The more you utilize your ERP the more effective a tool it becomes in helping you proactively manage your mood cycles. Each time you use your ERP you can evaluate it to see what worked and what you can improve. To get a free guide to create a Mental Health Emergency Response Plan click here.

Back-up Supply of Medications or Supplements

The second priority is to prepare a back-up supply of medication or supplements–ideally a month. The pandemic presented some unexpected challenges like supply chain shortages, shipping issues and the shutdown caused many doctor’s offices to cancel or postpone appointments. Running out of medication or supplements that you need to keep your brain and emotions balanced can be dangerous. Discuss with your doctor what you can do to be prepared for a situation like this.

Counseling or Therapy

Third, counseling or therapy. Learn to use therapy proactively rather than waiting until you are in crisis. Therapy is a crucial tool for managing bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is truly “all in your head” and it can affect the way you see the world. Therapy can help you identify, process and heal trauma, unhealthy thought and behavior patterns and unhealthy boundaries. Using therapy proactively will eliminate some triggers and help you manage others more effectively.

Self-care

The next step is developing a healthy and sustainable self-care routine. This includes tools like mindfulness meditation, simple, accessible exercise and yoga. Going through the pandemic revealed some issues with my self-care routine. 

Prior to the pandemic shutdowns I was going to the local recreation center for exercise each day, and my youngest was going to the child watch. When the shutdown occurred I no longer had access to the gym or childcare. I struggled for months because I wasn’t exercising. I finally realized how important it was to have a way to exercise that isn't dependent on anyone or anything else. That was when I started running again and doing simple HIIT and yoga workouts in my living room.

The benefits to the change in my routine have been that I:

  • Save money on gym membership and childcare,
  • Save time traveling to and from the recreation center,
  • Have a simplified self-care routine that is easier to sustain, and
  • Have improved mental health because I am more consistent with my self-care.

Support System

Finally, it’s important to cultivate a support system. One of the big challenges during the pandemic was the feeling of isolation. That coupled with the increase in the use of social media caused many people to become more depressed and anxious. 

It is critical to develop a support network that you can stay connected with, even if it is only virtually. This connection helps you have the mental and emotional support you need to navigate highly stressful situations and experiences. 

Some people to remember in your support system are:

  • professional support (psychiatrist/therapist), 
  • family and friends, and 
  • group therapy or online support groups

During the pandemic I was grateful for my support system. I was able to meet virtually with my therapist. My siblings and I started using Marco Polo and Zoom to chat online with each other. I joined some Facebook groups to find support from the bipolar community, although I discovered that some of the groups were not very helpful. 

I was looking for a community of individuals with bipolar that were trying to live well with it. The negative experiences I had led me to create Bipolar Moms Learning to Live Well. It’s important that the groups you join support your goals to live well. This Facebook group is designed to offer support from others who understand what you’re going through and proactive solutions to help you learn to live well with bipolar.

The pandemic was a stressful experience, one that I am not in a hurry to repeat. However, it has helped me to identify ways that I can be more proactive and better manage my bipolar disorder and for that I am grateful. It is possible to live a healthy, balanced, productive life with bipolar disorder. There is hope and there is help!

Bipolar Disorder: How My Daughter Saved My Life

TW: This blog post mentions suicide. If you are having thoughts of self-harm please contact 911 (or your local emergency services) or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 (in the USA).

My Story

I didn’t start off having suicidal thoughts. It started with nightmares. Vivid, intense nightmares about dying and I would wake up feeling horrible inside. This went on for years until it progressed to daydreams about dying. I would have random images or scenarios pop into my head of things that could cause my death. 

I knew intuitively that my mind was suffering with my bipolar disorder and it was trying to find a way out, but I didn’t realize the full implications of what I was experiencing. I didn't recognize the danger these thoughts posed to my safety.

When this first started I recoiled from the thoughts and images. I felt anxiety and fear when I would have them. But as the years went on and my disorder grew worse I started having thoughts like, “your husband would be so much happier if you were dead and he could find a better wife,” or “your children would be so much better off if they had a better mom who wasn’t sick.” 

I didn’t tell anyone about the thoughts I was having because I was so embarrassed and ashamed of them. It made me feel crazy and I didn’t want anyone to know how broken I really was. So, I hid them and suffered alone. 

Then in 2008 I had a breakdown. I was hospitalized three times in three different hospitals in two states. During that time I finally gave in to the thoughts that had been plaguing me and made two attempts on my life. I don’t remember much of what happened because during one of my hospitalizations the doctors performed a full course of twelve electroconvulsive therapy treatments and I lost most of my memory from those months. 

It took years for my husband to talk to me about what happened because it had been so traumatic for him–he was the one to stop me both times. 

When I was finally released from my third hospitalization I had an experience that changed everything. One sunny morning a few weeks later I was watching my children play. My daughter was 4 and my son was 2. I was looking at my daughter and had a very clear thought come into my mind, “if you ever succeed in ending your life it will ruin hers. Your daughter will believe it was her fault and she will spend the rest of her life blaming herself.” I was shocked! I had come to thoroughly believe the lies my mind had told me, that my children would be better off if I was gone. 

As soon as I had the thought, I knew it was true, she would believe it was her fault and it would ruin her life. That day I made the commitment that I would survive for my children. 

If that was the best I could do, I would do it.

I loved them more than my own life and I would do anything for them. 

The Decision

From that point on I decided that I would not let the thoughts of death or suicide stay in my mind unchallenged. I would ask for help if I was having those thoughts and not let myself feel shame or embarrassment anymore. 

This was the first time in over a decade after my diagnosis that I truly, proactively, took responsibility for my mind. I thought I had before. I had diligently gone to psychiatric appointments and tried to take my medication, but I didn’t feel like I had any control over my mind. I felt for years like my bipolar disorder was in the driver’s seat and I was just along for the ride. But I now realized that I couldn’t let my bipolar be in charge anymore: it was trying to kill me and I wasn’t going to let it.

When you have bipolar disorder, it feels like there are so many things working against you.  You have a disorder that really is all in your head. When you have those horrible, intrusive thoughts while you are floundering in the dark heaviness of depression, it is so easy to believe they are true because they correlate with what you are feeling. 

I didn’t understand that I shouldn’t believe every thought that came into my mind. I didn’t know that it was possible to separate myself from my thoughts and challenge them. 

With bipolar disorder it is embarrassing, discouraging, and yes, unfair, to keep making mistakes or poor decisions because of the mood cycles, especially mania, and then have to deal with the consequences for your decisions. Each time you give into impulses that are bad or make decisions based on irrational thoughts it’s humiliating to have to deal with the aftermath. This naturally results in feeling insecure and makes it easy to believe that everyone would be better off without you.

It can also feel like your life is not worth living because you spend so mucheffort just trying to manage your disorder and don’t feel like you have anything to offer beyond that. 

The Plan

The wonderful thing is that:

  • you can learn to separate yourself from your thoughts, decide which ones to believe and dismiss the bad ones, 
  • you can learn to manage your disorder so that you don’t keep making the same mistakes and poor decisions, and;
  • you absolutely have so much to offer because you have infinite value and purpose well beyond your disorder. 

It is possible to learn to manage your bipolar well and live a healthy, balanced, productive life. 

The first step is to create a Mental Health Emergency Response Plan (ERP). An ERP will help you to take responsibility for your mood cycles so that you lessen the impact on you and your family and shorten the duration of the cycle. One very important piece of your plan will be your Emergency Response Team

If you are having thoughts of self-harm or death decide who you will talk to or what you will do when you have those thoughts. This was a really important piece for me. It was important to have someone to talk to when I was having intrusive, negative thoughts because there were times when it was too much for me to manage on my own. 

Think of those thoughts like having an intruder in your home that wants to harm you. If that happened you would call for help, you wouldn’t allow that threat to remain unchallenged. Do not allow those thoughts to stay in your mind. Identify them and challenge them. This is something that is especially important to discuss with your therapist. Create a plan ahead of time so that you will know what to do when it happens.

Second, you need to develop a self-care plan that helps you begin to effectively treat your bipolar disorder. There are several important tools that will help. 

  1. Finding effective medication/supplements
  2. Proactively seeking treatment with a good therapist
  3. Learning to practice mindfulness meditation–this is an especially important tool for identifying and challenging intrusive thoughts
  4. Additional self-care tools like yoga, exercise and simplifying your life.
  • If you would like additional guidance on how to effectively manage your bipolar disorder you can join the monthly membership program that guides you through the steps & tools necessary to manage your bipolar disorder well. For more information click here.

Finally, seek support from others who understand what you’re going through. Having bipolar disorder can be very lonely and isolating. It is hard to not feel broken and flawed. Seeking positive, encouraging support from others who are struggling with the same disorder will lighten your load and lift you up. You’ll gain strength to live well while managing your disorder.  For moms with bipolar disorder you can join my free Facebook group Bipolar Moms Learning to Live Well.

If you have thoughts of harming yourself or thoughts of dying, please reach out for help. Life with bipolar disorder can feel hard and overwhelming. Your mind might tell you that everyone would be better off if you weren’t here, BUT THAT IS A LIE! Challenge those thoughts. DO NOT BELIEVE THEM!

You are irreplaceable. You can manage your bipolar disorder well and live a healthy, balanced, productive life. 

There is hope and there is help!

If you are having thoughts of self-harm please contact 911 (or your local emergency services) or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 (in the USA).

Bipolar Disorder: The Journey to Wellness

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day. She asked me what I would say to someone about how to live well with bipolar disorder? As I began to answer I realized that my answer would be slightly different depending on where they were on the journey to wellness with bipolar. 

In the first decade after my diagnosis with bipolar disorder I developed the false belief that the ultimate goal with bipolar disorder was to learn how to suffer well with it. I diligently took all the medications that were prescribed to me and went to counseling, but nothing was working. I felt alone and isolated because no one understood what was going on with me, least of all me. I didn’t understand what was happening in my mind and I began to feel hopeless.

I thought I was doing my best, and in some ways I was, but I was suffering, and so were my husband and children. I usually felt out of control with mania or hopelessly depressed. I would go through periods of angry belligerence when I felt it was unfair that I had to suffer this way, so everyone else would have to just learn to deal with it, too.

It can be really difficult to learn how to take responsibility for yourself with bipolar disorder when you don’t understand what that looks like, or how to do it. Having a disorder that is “all in your head” can be challenging to treat because the symptoms of your disorder feel normal to you, even though they are unhealthy and often self-destructive. 

Accepting Your Diagnosis

Accepting responsibility for yourself and being proactive in learning to live well with bipolar disorder require you to first accept that you have bipolar disorder and that there currently is no cure for it. This is not something to become discouraged about. There is no cure for type 1 diabetes and yet people live well with it all the time. They learn the tools necessary to manage their disorder. It is the same for living with bipolar disorder. 

You can learn how to manage your bipolar effectively so that you are able to live a healthy, balanced, productive life. But you have to be willing to:

  1. accept that you have the disorder, and 
  2. accept that you are responsible for learning and applying the tools to manage it.

Mindset Shift

Accepting that you have bipolar disorder and that you have a responsibility for managing it effectively requires a mindset shift.

Process Your Grief

First, you need to allow yourself to grieve. “When you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder you suffer a loss. You lose who you thought you were. You might feel angry, discouraged, alone, hopeless, lost, and all of these feelings are part of the grieving process. It is important to recognize this process and acknowledge the feelings that you are having as valid.”

“It is also equally important to work through this process, ideally with a mental health counselor, so that you don’t get bogged down and lost in it. It is normal to mourn the loss of who you were, or who you thought you were, but you need to look forward and embrace who you are and who you can become.” (Bipolar Disorder: The Stages of Grief)

Stop Comparing 

Second, you need to not compare yourself and your life to others who don’t have bipolar disorder. “You cannot stop having bipolar disorder, [and]  comparing yourself to who you were in the past, or who you think you should be will prevent you from progressing to wellness and becoming the best version of yourself.” 

“It is especially damaging, when you have bipolar disorder, to compare yourself to others because it creates a stumbling block to becoming well. Your mind is already prone to negative self-talk. Comparing yourself to others who don’t have bipolar disorder is like pouring gasoline on the fire.” 

“When you are focused on the gap between where you are and who you think others are, it causes discouragement, depression and despair. You begin to define yourself by what you lack and by your bipolar disorder, instead of your unique qualities and gifts that make you special.” (Bipolar Disorder: You are not broken!)

The Path to Wellness is Not Linear

Third, it is critical to understand what learning to live well with bipolar disorder looks like. I used to think that it was like trying to climb a mountain and when I got to the top I would be better.  

“That analogy is counterproductive at best, and damaging at worst. The idea of climbing a mountain is a linear path, which means that if you get manic or depressed while you are working to learn to live well, you get knocked back down to the bottom. It reminds me of the game Chutes and Ladders where if you are unlucky enough to land on the wrong square you slide backwards on the board, sometimes to the very beginning.” (Bipolar Disorder: The Recovery Cycle)

Learning to live well with bipolar disorder follows the same pattern as the addiction recovery cycle. “Understanding the stages of the recovery cycle will help you better understand your disorder and have a healthier outlook on your personal responsibility for self-care. Learning how to apply the recovery cycle to yourself will help you to stop feeling like you have failed when you have manic or depressive episodes and choose to accept more responsibility for yourself and your disorder.” (Bipolar Disorder: The Recovery Cycle)

Taking Responsibility

Once you accept your diagnosis and your responsibility to learn to manage it you have taken your first step on the path to wellness. The next step is to develop a Mental Health Emergency Response Plan for yourself. This plan helps you accept responsibility for your mood cycles and create a plan to manage them more effectively to minimize the impact on you and your loved ones and shorten the duration of the cycle. To get your free guide to create your Response Plan click here.

You then need to work to learn and apply the tools necessary to live a healthy, balanced, productive life. 

Support on Your Journey

Learning and applying the tools necessary to live well with bipolar is a process that requires patient, persistent effort. Make sure you surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you in this journey. 

“While you are working through this process it is so important to have encouraging support. You need professional support–psychiatrist and/or a good therapist. If you are married or in a serious relationship you need the support and encouragement of your partner. And you need support from others who know what you are going through.”

“I started a Facebook Group to provide positive, encouraging support for moms trying to learn to live well with bipolar disorder. Bipolar Moms Learning to Live Well is a group of women who are ready to take responsibility for themselves and who are willing to do the work to learn how to live a healthy, balanced, productive life with bipolar disorder. If you are ready and willing, join us!” (Bipolar Disorder: The Rollercoaster)

Where are you on the journey?

Determine where you are on the journey to living well with bipolar disorder. Do you still need to work on your mindset? If so, start with the posts on mindset.

  1. Bipolar Disorder: You are not broken!
  2. Bipolar Disorder: The Stages of Grief
  3. Bipolar Disorder: The Recovery Cycle

Have you accepted your diagnosis and you are ready to take responsibility and learn to proactively manage your bipolar? Then get your free guide to create your Mental Health Emergency Response Plan

It is possible to live a healthy, balanced, productive life with bipolar disorder. There is hope and there is help!

Bipolar Disorder: Monitoring Your Mood

When you have bipolar disorder it can feel like your disorder is in the driver’s seat of your mind and you are just along for the ride. It can create a helpless, hopeless feeling when you feel like your mood cycles are happening unpredictably and you don’t have any control over them. That helpless feeling can make you feel like your life is not really yours. You are being “lived” by your disorder. 

Like Diabetes?

Years ago I had a doctor try to help me with accepting and understanding my bipolar disorder by comparing it to type 1 diabetes. It was a helpful analogy because diabetes is a straightforward, clear cut disorder with an easy to understand issue–your body is unable to regulate its blood sugar naturally and so you have to help your body. 

As I have learned more about diabetes from friends who have it I have been amazed at how similar the experience of learning to manage diabetes is to learning to manage bipolar disorder.

Monitoring Blood Sugar

When someone is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes she is informed by her doctor that she has a disorder in her body that makes it impossible for it to naturally regulate its blood sugar. She is instructed that she will need to give her body assistance by monitoring her blood sugar multiple times a day, every day, for the rest of her life. The information she gains from monitoring her blood sugar level will help her know if her body needs insulin or additional sugar to keep her blood sugar within a safe range.

She also learns that she has to be careful about food choices to make sure her body doesn’t get overloaded by too much sugar and cause a serious overcorrection that can be dangerous. She might have a small piece of cake, but remove the frosting, or if she’s at a restaurant and orders lasagna she might take half of the piece of lasagna home to avoid eating too many carbohydrates at once. The doctor can teach her some of the basics of how to make safe food choices, but most of it is learned by experience.

She will learn that there are other factors that can impact her blood sugar level. Stressors can have an impact, in either direction up or down. Sleep, the amount and quality, can impact her blood sugar. A friend of mine once told me that there are over 45 different factors that can affect your blood sugar level. 

Each person is different and it is important for them to learn to proactively identify which factors impact their blood sugar and manage those factors by making choices or setting boundaries that help them proactively care for their disorder more effectively.

It’s Not Fair!

Someone with diabetes might feel like it is unfair that they have to be so vigilant in  monitoring and managing their blood sugar all the time. I would agree with them, it isn’t fair. But fair has nothing to do with the reality of their situation. 

A friend of mine who has diabetes also has a son with diabetes. She told me that he hated having diabetes as a boy. He just wanted to be “normal” so once when he went to a scout camp for a week he didn’t monitor his blood sugar and didn’t use insulin. As a result he ended up in the hospital in critical condition.

Fair or not, someone with diabetes has a choice. She can choose to monitor her blood sugar proactively, actively working to keep it balanced so she can live a healthy life. She can also choose to deal reactively with her diabetes, neglecting to monitor and manage her blood sugar and end up being forced to face the consequences of getting sick and ending up in the hospital. She has a choice to make every day.

How to Monitor Your Mood Balance

This comparison helped me understand my disorder better because they are so similar. With bipolar disorder my brain is unable to regulate my moods and emotions in a healthy way and I need to give it help with medication/supplementation, counseling, self-care and managing stressors. 

One challenge I had, however, was how to “monitor” my mood, or check my “chemical balance.” I remember telling my uncle one day back when I was in college that I wish there was a way to analyze my brain chemicals to identify what was out of balance. Unfortunately that technology doesn’t exist yet. 

Over the years I have discovered a way to monitor your mood simply and effectively using a mood tracking app. 

I use the Bearable app. This is not a sponsored post, and I don’t receive any benefit–financial or otherwise–for recommending the app. I recommend it because it is the best mood tracking app I have used. 

Using a mood tracking app helps you to begin to identify your mood cycles, symptoms and triggers so you can “monitor” your mood balance and learn how to treat it effectively. Similar to diabetes, you should track your mood balance multiple times a day, regardless of how you are feeling, so that you are able to create a more accurate picture for yourself, your doctor and your therapist.

With Bearable you are able to track:

  • Mood
  • Symptoms
  • Factors that can impact your mood (i.e., places, social interactions, activity level, menstrual cycle, personal care, productivity, appointments, social media, weather, etc.)
  • Sleep 
  • Energy level
  • Medication and/or supplements
  • Nutrition 
  • Health
  • and more…

You can customize almost anything within each category. That list may look like a lot and seem overwhelming, but it is very easy and quick to input the information by simply tapping the relevant items. It only takes me a few minutes each time I “check my mood.” You can also set up reminders for yourself throughout the day. 

There are a number of benefits to using a mood tracking app consistently to monitor your mood cycles. 

  • Bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses are diagnosed based on symptoms and the more information you can provide to your doctor the more accurately he or she can be in your diagnosis and treatment. 
  • You are able to learn to identify what the symptoms are that indicate you are either entering or in a manic or depressive state. 
  • You can identify triggers that may cause mood cycles. 
  • You can see more clearly how effective your medications are and track any side-effects you might be having–both the frequency and severity. 
  • You can also identify how things like sleep, nutrition and menstrual cycle affect your mood cycles.

Using a mood tracking app you are able to understand your bipolar disorder better–learning to recognize what your manic and depressive episodes are saying. You are also able to provide a gold mine of information to your doctor and therapist so you can proactively seek more effective treatment.

What Do You Choose?

With bipolar disorder you have a choice. You can choose to be reactive and allow yourself to be “lived” by your disorder and face the consequences of becoming more unbalanced, or you can choose to be proactive and use tools like a mood tracking app to “monitor” your mood balance, helping you live a healthier, more balanced, more productive life with your bipolar.

It is possible to live well with bipolar disorder. There is hope and there is help!

If you are a mom with bipolar disorder and you want to learn to live well with it, join our free Facebook group Bipolar Moms Learning to Live Well.

Check out my Better with Bearable Mood Tracking Challenge starting April 12th! Click HERE to register.

Bipolar Disorder: The Pandemic of Negative Media

Over the past few years it seems that media has been getting more and more intense, more stressful and more controversial. With increased access to social media and platforms like YouTube it is easy to become overwhelmed by the steady stream of negative content. This is detrimental for most people’s mental health, but it is especially destructive for someone who has a mental health disorder like bipolar.

Media these days has become similar to the Coronavirus pandemic, infecting those who consume it with fear, anxiety and worry over increasingly intense conflicts–domestic and foreign. This “infection” has a serious impact on their mental health. 

During the worst parts of the pandemic anyone who was physically “immune compromised” needed to take extra precautions to protect their physical health from infection by a disease that could have serious, potentially fatal consequences. If you have a “preexisting condition” mentally you need to take extra precautions to prevent exposure to the “pandemic of negative media” that could have serious consequences to your mental health.

Stress Sensitivity

When you have bipolar disorder you will tend to be “stress sensitive.” Stressors can trigger mood cycles, depression and anxiety.

Mania and the Emotional Rollercoaster

Stress sensitivity can look different for each person. Some people respond to stress by becoming manic, triggering a mood cycle. Seeing intense situations that seem immoral or unjust can cause some with bipolar disorder to latch on emotionally and become hyper focused on trying to solve it, even if there is no reasonable way for you to have a meaningful impact on the problem. 

Mania causes the brain to go into “overdrive” and eventually crash into depression. You can’t get on the rollercoaster and jump off in the middle, you have to ride it all the way through (see my post Bipolar Disorder: The Rollercoaster).

Depression

Some people become overwhelmed by everything that is happening and get severely depressed. This happened to me when I was trying to help a friend who was directly connected to an international crisis. She needed help and I was trying desperately to assist her, but I had no idea what to do and spent days trying to help with no success. 

I felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem and the futility of my efforts. It began to impact my ability to function in my own life. Those feelings of helplessness and futility began to color my view of my own life and I spiraled down into depression. I began struggling to maintain my self-care routine and found myself wanting to escape into sleep and television or YouTube.

Anxiety

Other people find themselves dealing with increasing anxiety. When you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious about your own life it is easy to get focused on outside problems that are beyond your control. In an effort to avoid dealing with your own challenges you are focusing on other issues that bring you additional anxiety and stress and most of those issues are things you have no real ability to influence. This results in increased anxiety, frustration, and anger and will cause you to become more emotionally and mentally unwell.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Danger! Social Media Ahead

Social media can also be a “high risk” environment for someone with bipolar disorder. First, you have little control over what you see as you scroll through YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram Reels. Even your feed on Facebook and Instagram isn’t limited to your contacts as it includes ads and suggested accounts. 

Not being able to control the images and videos that come up in your feed is similar to not being able to control the people you come into contact with outside during a pandemic. If you are “immune compromised” with a mental health disorder you need to be vigilant in limiting your exposure to potential “infection.” Scrolling through social media for hours a day can be very dangerous to your mental health.

There is the risk of being exposed to toxic content that can be emotionally upsetting. There is the risk of falling into the comparison trap, seeing influencers that seem to have it all together physically, in their homes, as mothers, as women. 

This is especially dangerous for women with bipolar disorder because we are already prone to feeling broken, damaged or flawed. To learn more about the dangers of comparison when you have bipolar see my post Bipolar Disorder: You Are Not Broken!

What Do You Do?

Does this mean you should never view the news or social media? No, of course not. But it is critical to be aware of the negative impact these things can have on your mental health and be diligent in setting healthy boundaries to protect yourself.

Circle of Influence Vs. Circle of Concern

Years ago I was reading Stephen R. Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (one of many attempts at using self-help books to “fix” myself) and I learned an important concept that has had a profound impact on my journey to learn to live well with bipolar disorder.

This concept addressed the difference between your circle of influence and your circle of concern. Your circle of influence are things you have the ability to “influence” or change by your choices and actions. Your circle of concern, on the other hand, are things that you have no real ability to impact in any meaningful way.

Over the years I realized how important it was in my journey to live well with bipolar disorder to focus on my circle of influence, beginning with myself and my mental health. In the beginning of this journey that was all I could manage at times.

As I worked to learn how to live well I was able to expand my circle to include my family and my home. Gradually over the years I have learned how to keep my priorities in the right order and focus on doing the work to learn how to live well and my circle of influence has expanded to include additional responsibilities outside myself, my family and my home.

I had been a political science major in college and I have always been fascinated by politics and world events, but I began to recognize that listening to the news and political talk shows usually had a very negative effect on my mental health. Focusing on stressful things in my circle of concern was having a very negative impact on my ability to function in a healthy way in my circle of influence.

So I have learned some very important lessons in the past ten years about how to manage my exposure to social media and the news so that I don’t damage my mental health and my ability to take care of myself, my children and my other direct responsibilities.

Identifying Your Priorities

When I was developing my Mental Health Emergency Response Plan I needed to identify what my top priorities (circle of influence) were in order of importance to determine my “Auxiliary Power” (Step 3 in the plan).

I needed to make sure I protected my limited emotional resources and focused on my responsibilities in my own life, beginning with taking responsibility for my mental health. I became very careful to identify unnecessary stressors in my life and either eliminate them or create healthy boundaries to limit their use of my emotional resources.

The Impact of Media

You need to carefully monitor and evaluate the effect of the news and social media on your mental health. What good is it for you to watch news coverage of children in dire circumstances on the other side of the world that you can do nothing to help if it damages your mental health and makes it difficult or impossible to care for your own children? Your “sacrifice” of your mental wellness is not helping the children that are suffering in another country and now your own children are suffering.

What good is it for you to view someone else’s perfectly curated life if it makes you feel horrible and inadequate about your own? You boost their following and make yourself feel worse, damaging your mental health further and preventing you from progressing in your journey to live well with bipolar disorder.

Some of the best ways to be proactive about identifying the influence of media in your life and creating healthy boundaries are:

  1. Use a mood tracking app. I use Bearable. I DO NOT receive any benefit from recommending it, I just love the app! Bearable is customizable and you can record the amount of time you are spending on social media, YouTube, news, etc. Using the app you can identify how it impacts your mood cycle.
  2. Discuss social media and news consumption with your therapist. Some people struggle with controlling these things because of unresolved issues, unhealthy boundaries, or addictions. Working with your therapist you can come up with a plan to manage your social media and news consumption in a healthy way. 
  3. Develop a Mental Health Emergency Response Plan to help identify your “circle of influence” or your highest priorities for your mental and emotional energy. Then commit to protecting your emotional resources so that you are able to care for yourself and those who matter most to you.
  4. Join our Facebook group Bipolar Moms Learning to Live Well to get encouragement and support in your journey to live well with bipolar disorder. You can ask others in the group about their experiences with media and what boundaries they have set to protect their mental health.

Our world is experiencing a “pandemic” of negative media. Everyone is impacted by negative media, but if you have bipolar disorder you are especially sensitive to it. In order to protect yourself and learn to live a healthy, balanced, productive life with bipolar disorder you need to be willing to accept responsibility for managing the stressors in your life. 

Those stressors include social media and news consumption. If you are willing to evaluate the impact of media on your mood and set healthy boundaries to protect your mental health you will be one step closer to learning how to live well with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder: What’s Your Depression Saying?

One of my favorite animated children’s films is Inside Out by Disney. It makes you laugh, cry and is a genuinely wonderful movie. But more than that, it is extremely insightful and teaches some powerful lessons, even for adults.

One of the messages of the film is that feelings aren’t good, or bad, they just are. And not only that, they have a purpose. Learning to understand the purpose of the feelings is a powerful thing. Instead of feeling bad that you are experiencing certain feelings, and shaming yourself for those feelings, you can learn to feel your feelings, understand what those feelings are telling you, and then decide what action you should take based on what you are experiencing.

In the film Inside Out, the main character Joy, gives a breakdown of what each feeling’s purpose is: Fear is “good at keeping Riley safe,” Disgust “basically keeps Riley from being poisoned, physically and socially,” Anger “cares very deeply about things being fair,” Joy’s job is to keep Riley happy, and Joy doesn’t understand what Sadness is supposed to do, and keeps trying to prevent Sadness from having any influence on Riley.

As the film goes on it becomes apparent that Sadness has a very important role to play for Riley. When Joy finally understands Sadness’s purpose, she encourages Sadness to play her part. With the help of Sadness, Riley is able to get the help she needs to adjust to the changes and challenges she is facing in her life.

When the brain is functioning in a healthy balanced way, feelings are produced by experiences. For example, in the movie fear is caused by Riley encountering dangerous situations, disgust is caused by encountering unappealing food or social situations, and anger is brought on by perceived unfairness.

What If Your Emotions Are “Misfiring”?

What do you do when your emotions are misfiring because of a chemical imbalance or unhealed trauma? If emotions are occurring because the chemicals in your brain are out of balance and not necessarily because of normal outside stimuli, are they no longer valid or useful? Should you label your emotions as bad, or not listen to them when you are experiencing a mood cycle?

Not necessarily.

One of the challenges I faced when I was first diagnosed was that I didn’t know how to trust my feelings anymore. For the years that I went undiagnosed I had listened to the feelings that I was having and tried to interpret them according to what I had been taught by others. 

When I felt the intense, euphoric exhilaration of mania I believed that all the irrational thoughts that were in my head were not only rational, but inspired. I made sweeping changes because of those thoughts and feelings and I told everyone. It all felt right and real.

When I crashed into depression I believed all of the negative, self-destructive thoughts that were in my head because they matched the negative, self-destructive feelings I was having. I hid myself from the world and tried to numb my brain by binge-watching television and movies.

I develop irrational thought and behavior patterns based on this cycle and by the time I was diagnosed those patterns seemed normal to me. This continued for years after my diagnosis because even though I was trying to find the right combination of medications to balance my brain and working with a therapist nothing seemed to help and I just felt broken and hopeless.

How do you live a healthy life if you don’t know if you can trust your own mind and feelings? It can make you feel insecure and unsure of yourself. Or you may feel belligerent and angry and decide that you should be able to just live on the rollercoaster because that is the way you were made and everyone else will have to just deal with it (see my post Bipolar Disorder: The Rollercoaster).

One important tool to develop when you are trying to learn to live well with bipolar disorder is to learn how to recognize when feelings are produced by the chemical imbalance. You need to learn to identify the signs that you are manic or depressed and then understand what those mood imbalances are trying to tell you. 

The feelings produced by a mood imbalance can serve a purpose. It is like they are speaking a different language and if you learn to interpret them correctly you can then understand how to respond in a way that is healthy, even if your brain isn’t healthy at the time.

How Do You Identify Signs of a Mood Cycle? 

In the beginning it may be difficult to distinguish between healthy emotional responses and unhealthy ones, because it all feels normal to you. For this reason it is critical to begin tracking your moods and symptoms. Tracking your mood and symptoms will begin to help you create a more accurate picture of what is happening in your mind and identify when you are experiencing a mood cycle, what the associated symptoms of your mood cycles are and even what may have triggered it.

There are a number of ways to accomplish this. You could use a journal, a spreadsheet, or an app. My favorite tool is the Bearable app. (I DO NOT receive any benefit or compensation from recommending Bearable, I recommend it because I love it!) 

Photo by Ivan Samkov from Pexels

I struggled with using a mood journal because it required me to think and often I couldn’t think clearly enough to put what I was feeling into words. I also struggled with remembering to write things down frequently enough to create an accurate picture. Another issue I struggled with is how to convey what I had written to my doctor and therapist. Weeks and pages of journal entries can be difficult to condense and quantify, and that can make it challenging to see patterns and connections.

The Bearable App is fantastic because it is very user friendly. It allows you to keep track of your mood, different factors that could trigger cycles, medications, sleep, and other helpful information. The app is very easy to use and you can set reminders for yourself to input your information each day. It is very customizable, and it gives you a way to view insights to see trends and connections.

When you discover the symptoms of your mood cycle you can learn to understand what your depression or mania is trying to tell you and you can then respond to it in a healthy way.

Learning How to Respond to a Mood Cycle

Some of the ways you might respond are:

  1. Discussing a medication or supplement change with your doctor or customer support. If the mood cycle is being caused by medication or supplements not doing their job you may need to adjust or change them. Always work with your doctor if you are on medication or customer support if you are taking supplements. DO NOT make these changes on your own as it can be dangerous.
  2. Working with a therapist. A good therapist can help you learn to identify if your emotional responses to things are healthy or unhealthy and how to handle the unhealthy responses in a healthy, balanced way. Your therapist can also help you identify if your mood cycle is triggered by unhealed trauma, unhealthy thought or behavior habits, or unhealthy boundaries. 
  3. Learning to practice mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is a very effective tool to help you learn to separate yourself from your thoughts and feelings in a way to look at them more objectively and determine if those thoughts or feelings are healthy or unhealthy. Mindfulness is an important tool to learn if you want to learn how to live well with bipolar disorder.
  4. Developing a Mental Health Emergency Response Plan. Your plan will help you learn how to take responsibility for your mood cycles and manage them more effectively–lessening the impact of the cycle on you and your family and shortening the duration of the cycle.

Just like Joy learned that Sadness served an important purpose in Riley’s mind, you can learn to understand what your mania and depression are telling you and learn to respond in a healthy way, even if your mind is unhealthy at the time. Taking responsibility for your mood cycles, instead of giving into them or fighting them will help you progress on your journey to learn how to live well with bipolar disorder.

If you are a mother with bipolar disorder and you are looking for support in your effort to live well with it please join our free Facebook group Bipolar Moms Learning to Live Well.