Bipolar disorder is not an emotional illness. Our mood swings are the result of chemicals in our brains––not because of the way we are.
When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 31, a friend of mine said, “Wow, now maybe you can deal with your problems!” I remember being very shocked by what she said. I didn’t see myself as someone with problems. Instead, I was often confused and couldn’t figure out why I was fine and felt like myself on some days and then became someone I truly didn’t know on other days. The diagnosis gave me answers to why I had been up and down since age 16, often with nothing happening in my life to justify such terrible depression, irritation, and elation.
Knowing that what I experienced was bipolar disorder helped me see that the “emotional” reactions I had in response to every day events were not from a personal shortcoming. The emotions were not a sign that I had trouble in life. They were a sign I was ill. This is why I can easily say . . .
I don’t believe that bipolar is emotional.
Our symptoms look emotional, but they are actually chemical. There is no reality to my mania. I am not a goddess. Just as there is no reality to my thoughts that I think I should be dead. In my opinion, this is an illness. It has nothing to do with the real me. It has nothing to do with how I was raised or what I have experienced in life. I was born with it just as a person is born with diabetes. Being miserable and having energy at the same time when you have bipolar is simply dysphoric mania. Yet another mood swing.
No mood swing is about
who we are.
Mood swings are
We can trigger these mood swings––that is for sure––but for the majority of us, they simply show up one day and we can’t figure out why. Our job, in my opinion, is to manage our lives so that bipolar has minimum impact.
Julie A. Fast is the author of "Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder," "Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder," "Get it Done When You’re Depressed" and "The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder." She is a columnist and blogger for BP Magazine and won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was also the recipient of the Eli Lily Reintegration award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. Julie is a bipolar disorder expert for the Dr.Oz and Oprah created site ShareCare. Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals including psychiatric residents, social workers, therapists and general practitioners on bipolar disorder management skills. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People Magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. Julie is currently writing a book for children called "Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis and Depression." You can find more about her work at JulieFast.com and BipolarHappens.com.
Bipolar disorder is part of my body, and it is also part of my life. So, like paying for an unexpectedly expensive lunch, I have to live with it. Have you ever been to a restaurant and been shocked by the bill when it arrives? Just the other day, my nephew and I went to...
Are you trying to make the decision to disclose? First assess—and address—your own opinion about bipolar disorder. Your feelings about bipolar affect how and when you tell a potential partner. Note from the Author: This blog is about sharing a bipolar diagnosis with a new love. Although I talk about my experiences telling people about...
I have changed. My management ability has changed. I am alive and often have great happiness in my life. It’s a fight for me. A fight I will win. “Well, that’s just how it is.” My mind said this to me as I sat down and worked this morning. I’ve not been able to just...
Melt downs happen to everyone––even those that are careful in managing their triggers and knowledgeable about the early signs of mood episodes. So it’s extremely important to know how to deal with them. Bipolar disorder can take you from crisis to crisis if it’s not managed regularly. My goal is to think about bipolar every...