I’m Out: See my Blog Article at PsychCentral– Mania: The Side Effect of Genius

I wrote earlier in this blog about struggling to come “out” with my bipolar on the internet. Well, I’m out. On August 10, “Mania: The Side Effect of Genius,” was published on the World of Psychology blog at PsychCentral. See the article here: https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2017/08/10/mania-the-side-effect-of-genius/

Another article is being published on OC87 Recovery Diaries in late September. I will keep you posted when that is published.


Coming Out with Your Mental Illness

I’ve recently decided that I will “come out” on the Internet about my mental illness. I am actually going to connect my name to what I write. I am going to start submitting as a guest blogger. I may– if I am actually brave enough– attach my name to this blog. I may.

My husband says that I should never be ashamed of my illness and that I should go for it. But stigma still exists and I worry about what some call your “digital footprint”– once I come out on the Internet with my name attached to bipolar disorder, I will never be able to remove it. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.

My main concern is my future employability. Do I want future employers to Google me and discover that I suffer from bipolar disorder? But then again, on the other side of the issue, why would I want to be employed by an organization that discriminates against those with mental illness? It could certainly become a case of weeding out the employers I do not want.

Or perhaps it will simply display my ability to write, and to share, and even how much effort I put into my work and my life despite my disability. My husband, always positive, always optimistic, says that I will be even more employable because I will have demonstrated my writing skills.

Coming out about such private matters is painful. And yet, I also think that people need to know that you can be bipolar and still function. Or perhaps the mentally “well” will learn more about mental illness and become more empathic and understanding. And always, maybe readers who do suffer from mental illness will find hope, or feel at least some kinship, with what I write about. I would love for someone to read this and think: “No, I am not alone in this. There are others like me. We are going through this together.”

On the other hand (and now I am reminding myself of Topol in The Fiddler on the Roof), my parents won’t even read my writing, if they can avoid it. It causes them too much worry, too much internal pain, too much parental guilt (which they have no reason to feel– but I think all parents feel guilt).

So I will be coming out. Not now. But soon. Tell me if you have considered the same thing, if you have done it and what has resulted.

I hope you have happy stories to tell.


Ridiculous thoughts

I just recorded a video of myself on my computer talking about how I feel when I am well because I am well now. This is for me to play when I am cycling. This is primarily because when I am cycling, I have obsessive, depressing thoughts that:

  • I am a terrible person
  • My husband doesn’t love or want me anymore
  • My husband is not being honest with me
  • I am ugly both inside and out
  • I am a bad stepmother
  • I am a bad wife

I recorded a video called “When I am well.” I recorded it today, when I am feeling well. I told myself that I am a wonderful person, that when I am well I know that my thoughts when I am cycling are ridiculous, that my husband does love me, that he is faithful and honest with me, that everything is OK, that I am a great stepmom and wife and basically that I am a good, lovable person.

I haven’t tried watching this yet when I am cycling but it might be a good thing to try. I am headed into spring and even though everyone tells me “don’t worry about it,” I do worry about it.

The Smartest Girl in the World

I wrote a book several years ago about living with bipolar in the extreme landscape and seasons of Alaska. I wrote it because I had to– I had so many stories to tell, and I needed to “get it out.” I also wrote it because I’d been inspired by the many books about bipolar, especially, of course, The Unquiet Mind, and I felt I could help other bipolar people living with the disease.

I’ve always been a writer, and I finally put it all down on paper– well, on 350 pages of paper. Since finishing the book, multiple times as I edited and revised, cut and culled, I have tried to find an agent or a publisher. I’ve given up several times and put it away in a drawer. The most recent time I put it away was for two or three years.

I’m not sure what to do with the book or how to keep enduring the rejection. I have had such positive feedback from some agents (the quality of the writing, the idea behind it– but it just didn’t “fit” with their agency) and from all of my readers, I am just not ready to give up yet.

Either way, I won’t give up. Bipolar needs to be written about. We need to share. It can be a devastating illness but so many of its sufferers are blessed with creativity. Share. Share. Share.

Bipolar and PMDD

I’ve been reading a lot about PMDD a lot lately. It stands for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (sorry to all the guys reading this). Every month, when I get PMS, my bipolar gets out of hand. I begin to worry, to cycle, to feel terribly insecure, to get this fluttery feeling of anxiety in stomach, but most of all, I become suspicious and even a little paranoid. I know it’s the bipolar making me feel that way, but I still can’t help it. I hate the feelings of suspicion most of all. I begin to think that my husband is tricking me. I begin to think that my colleagues hate me. I worry about everything– money, love, my marriage, my work. I often also have trouble sleeping through the night, or I have nightmares, or I wake up in the middle of a cycle.

I have trouble going to work. I hate being alone. I am constantly scared.

But then I seem to have three weeks of euthymia (at least lately). My husband, my therapist, my mom, my doctor, they all remind me that it’s temporary and will go away after a few days. But I hate it.

But, spring is coming and I need to be prepared. I start a new job next week and I really want to make a great impression. I am hoping it is less stressful and that my much-shortened commute will decrease my stress, although I am taking a major pay  cut.


Over the last year-and-a-half, I have slowly been tapering off of my medication cocktail. I had gotten up to maybe eight bipolar medications and now I’m down to about half that many. This process has worn me out, damaged my self-esteem, and almost wrecked me. I feel sorry sometimes for my husband, who comforted and loved his newlywed wife through the ups and downs and crazies of coming off the likes of Latuda and lithium.

It’s so easy to start a medication. The doctor just prescribes it, without thinking that you may have to get off it one day. As a result, I’m still on clonazepam, a benzodiapine, and, yes, I’m totally addicted.

Even though I’m getting older, I want to have a baby. It’s my only real regret in life– that I never had my own children. My young nieces have babies, and I am secretly envious– I am twice their age, and I’ve never given birth. I would be a very high-risk pregnancy, and I am worried about how my mental illness will react to not being on any medicine, but I am willing to try. The clock ticks away, but right now I am weaning off two more. I worry about weaning off of them and what it might do to me, but I am doing well so far.

My husband is wonderful. He takes care of me when I am ill. I try to make it up to him– although he says I don’t need to– by feeding him and providing for him in any way that I can. He puts up with the paranoia, my overwhelming fears, and the obsessive thoughts. He protects me when I have suicidal thoughts. He does have a limit though. He gets stressed out and short-tempered after a few weeks of cycling. I’ve learned that it takes about three weeks of withdrawal before it starts to affect him too. Even though it is sometimes hard, he loves me completely.



Circadian Rhythms, Season Change and Bipolar Disorder

In southcentral Alaska, spring begins in April. For me, April is the cruelest month, bringing with it a violation of my circadian rhythms because of the sudden and dramatic return of the sun. April is the transition between the long, dark days of winter and the brilliant, long days of summer. It’s a period of adjustment, but for me that “adjustment” is rough and tumble, as the sunlight interrupts my sleep and completely turns my world upside down.

The instability usually begins in mid- to late March and continues into the first half of May. It is early February now, and, being a naturally anxious person, I begin to be afraid of what spring will bring.

I believe I am going into this spring strong and stable. I have help from my psychiatrist, my therapist, and, most of all, my husband and family. I am starting a new job, which can be stressful, but I believe this job will be enjoyable and less stress-inducing then my previous high-paying, high-pressure previous job.

I’m not sure if you too suffer from the season change and the disruption of your circadian rhythms, but I often wish I lived at the equator, where I sometimes think that the adjustment will be easier and less dramatic.

Here are some suggestions from my doctor that may help, as well as some things I have learned over the years:

  • Wear dark sunglasses and a baseball cap when the sun is shining bright
  • Try to avoid over-stimulation (for me, even the return of the spring songbirds can be irritating)
  • Make your house dark if possible beginning at 6 p.m. and don’t engage in outdoor activities after 6 p.m.
  • Use dark, opaque curtains
  • Have PRN medication at your disposal (I often increase my Seroquel as needed during these times)
  • As usual, don’t drink alcohol and limit your coffee
  • My doctor had a new one for me– take melatonin three hours before bed
  • Keep your sleep schedule exactly the same (don’t even change your wake-up time on the weekends)
  • Use your therapist to your advantage (I also call a free, anonymous counseling hotline as needed)
  • Avoid stress and your known triggers (if possible)
  • Keep your support system close and make sure they are aware of what’s happening (for example, it’s really important for me not to have my husband leave town for work during this time because it bumps me off my routine)
  • Keep a budget and give financial control to your partner or someone who is in your support system if you feel like you are starting to act impulsively
  • Be self-aware– watch out for those racing thoughts
  • Eat healthy and avoid too much sugar (sugar makes me go up and then crash)
  • I use essential oils, like melissa (lemon balm), lavender and Roman chamomile
  • Remember and practice your spirituality, if you are so inclined
  • Remember that spring can be hard for all bipolar people and that it is not your fault

I know we can never be “perfect” but maybe we can do our best to make it easier on ourselves through self-love, self-compassion and gentle self-care (like the ideas above) during our times of struggle.



An introduction– my history

This is a chapter (actually, the prologue, from my unpublished book, The Smartest Girl in the World). There is my history, and then there is the mythology of my history. Mon histoire. My story. You can’t extract the myth from the facts. They grow together, like the weed entangled with the peony. My history is incomplete without the mythology I wound around every single day, as each day ended, and my eyes closed, and my mind created its own story of the day. My mythology is what I felt, what I saw, what I thought I saw, what I felt like doing, but perhaps never did.

You can call it memory, or you can call it mythology. It could be the simple fact that a mentally ill memory is both true and false. That is the nature of it. After I became ill, illness grew like tree roots around the base of my brain. I can’t separate them. Illness added hyperbole; I remember flying when of course I never flew; I remember crouching when I never crouched; I remember being at war when I never fought.

My sister and my parents all say that I remember things from our childhood that nobody else does, that I confused books with reality, that I made situations up in my imagination. I think more likely it was that certain moments loomed large in my imagination, and as they grew in meaning, they rolled like the proverbial snowball, until they were so big they became my formative memories. I can’t help what I remember, and I can’t help what has since gathered so much meaning that I must write it.

It—my story—begins with my father. To my hungry little brain, he was my mentor, and he trained me to be a writer, and if not a writer, then he suffered me to think. My sister might laugh at this, at my grand-standing, at my self-absorption, at my seeing intellectual romance in the most meaningless of details, in a normal childhood, in a normal home. We are given one life, and in each life, I could craft ten thousand stories, and each story would only be as true as memory can make it. They are all lies, and they are all the truth. To my sister I would say there is a story for each of our given days, for each of our scars, for each of her tattoos, and as human beings, I could tell a fairy tale for each one, and in each one there would be truth to one and lies to another. Of the ten thousand threads that weave themselves through a life, this is just one, and I chose it because it is the one that holds me tightest. It is as true as any other thread, and because this is the thread of a crazy life, it is as crazy as I remember it.

Today, I am mentally ill. I am supposedly bipolar, type 1 but my current doctor thinks I am bipolar, type II. I’m given accommodations in my job and I take these amazing little pills that keep me alive. 100 years ago, on the other side of the world, I might have died of suicide in my twenties, alone, in a prison-like institution. 1000 years ago, when the Catholic Church was catholic in the West, I could have burned through a short life, filled with visions of God walking next to me, or appearing to me while I walked alone through the forest. People might have followed me, listening to me while God spoke through me, burning my mouth as I spoke. I could have been a saint. I could have been a heretic. 5000 years ago, here on the same dirt I stand in today, I may have been a shaman, a medicine woman, a caller of visions. Or I may have been a demon, exiled from the tribe, sent to die alone on the edge of the forest.

During my freshman year of college, at Georgetown University, I learned about memory, and a smattering about mental illness. There were about sixty students in psychology 101, in an old building that reminded me of a small castle. My professor taught us that our memory of every event is touched by the emotion we felt when the memory was made. When we are sad, we remember sad events. When we are happy, we remember happy things. Of course.

When I am sick, I’ve always been sick. I was born sick, I was sick in the womb. When I am well, I can’t imagine the feeling of being triggered by the same event that once made me crumble. When it is summer in Alaska, it’s almost impossible to paint the green sides of the mountains white, or to imagine the feeling of 30 below zero when the sun is warm and the air is full of the noise of insects.



Still, 18 Years Later, Searching for a Diagnosis

I was diagnosed when I was 21 years old with bipolar, type 1. I had experienced the extremes of mania and depression and because of my short exposure to abnormal psychology in Psych 101 at Georgetown University, I already had a feeling what the doctor would say when she said, with self-assurance, “you are bipolar, type I.” In the months before my diagnosis, I had spent hundreds of dollars on gourmet cookies to distribute among my friends, another several hundred dollars on flower bouquets to give out, and hours of speeding north on the highways north of my house in Anchorage, Alaska.

The manias, or hypomanias, would crash into severe episodes of depression, when I would cut myself on my arms, or even put a gun in my mouth, crying and desperate, until I would collapse on the clothes in my closet, worn out and exhausted.

But now, I haven’t had a manic or hypomanic episode in almost three years. My current doctor now thinks I am bipolar, type 2. I have these agitated depressive episodes where I feel panicked and convinced that I am a horrible person. The “episodes” last about an hour or two and they are almost always triggered by my fear that I will harm my relationship with my husband, or that is something is wrong in that arena.

Are you diagnosed bipolar but have these strange agitated depressive episodes? It feels like my mind is racing but I do not have pressured speech or all the features of a mixed episode. My doctor seems to think I primarily have anxiety. But I know that I have been bipolar my whole life.

What does bipolar feel like for you? Mine is ultra, ultra-rapid, over the course of a few hours or day or two, but not like the “traditional” bipolar of up and down over months.