The River I Flee to When My Mind Tries to Kill Me

The River I Flee to When My Mind Tries to Kill Me

During my depressive bipolar cycles, a river is what remains in my mind. Always. The sea, now that you can forget — the way the wind ruffles the surface or falls calm like a lake — but a river is what remains after my memory of it has seemingly passed, even after my imagination stops adorning it with riffles and dark wet holes and oxbow lakes. It lingers.

I am an Alaskan woman in love with a river. I love the muskeg along the banks of that river, the crooked black spruce that struggle for the sky but always fail, their bark wet with the effort, their limbs broken from the start by their own soggy roots. In Alaska, muskeg means a river is nearby. In the case of my very own river, the Delta Clearwater, it means it is flowing, slow and cold and spring-fed, somewhere beneath the tundra at my feet, and somewhere beneath where my grandparents built my family’s rickety old cabin….

A previous blog post of mine has been published on The Mighty. You can read more of it here: https://themighty.com/2018/01/suicidal-delta-clearwater-river-helps-me/

The Bipolar Trickster: Smiling in the Face of It

The Bipolar Trickster: Smiling in the Face of It

Do you ever trick people into thinking you are OK?

Individuals with bipolar disorder quickly learn how to become tricksters—because the truth is simply not polite.

I leaned to the left in the photograph, laughing as I held a puppy on the bow of a green riverboat. I was smiling my slightly crooked smile, and in the background—in a dark sky above black spruce trees—were two bright arcs of a double rainbow. A puppy, a smile, a rainbow—all three were the unmistakable symbols of pure and perfect happiness.

Little did the photographer, or anyone else, know that it was all a trick. Despite the props in that photograph, despite being surrounded by joy and backlit by rainbows, the sky was still dark.

Read the rest of my article at https://www.bphope.com/blog/the-bipolar-trickster-smiling-in-the-face-of-it/.

Working with Bipolar Disorder: Choosing Your Profession

Working with Bipolar Disorder: Choosing Your Profession

Many years ago, I skipped the exit on the highway that led to my job and just kept going. I drove south, and while my inner monologue rose to a frenetic pitch, I decided that I would live as a jobless poet in the Alaskan countryside. After several hours of driving, and as reality set in, I turned around. The next day, when I finally showed up to work, I no longer had a job.

For me, and for anyone with bipolar disorder, simply showing up to work can be the greatest challenge. During the early days of my career, I was just too unstable to fit into the structure of an 8-to-5 job. My life was like a rollercoaster, and every day was unpredictable, so how could I fit the mold of a predictable schedule, with the predictable everyday requirements of a job?

Later, as time passed and I began to stabilize, I found that the structure of a daily, 8-to-5 job was just what I needed. I still need it. I go to bed at the same time every night and I wake up at the same time each morning. I pull myself up and out of bed at 5:00 a.m. every single day and, even if I am cycling through the mood swings of bipolar, I pull on a suit jacket and skirt out of the closet, and I go to work. 

I did not enjoy going to work every day at my previous job. Even though I made six figures a year and held a high-status position, I was bored and unchallenged. As time went on, I realized that it was not just structure that I needed. I needed something to be passionate about.

Why do I go to work every day? I go to work because I have a job that allows me to be creative. I go to work because I am passionate about what I create, and the changes that I can make in people’s lives. At work, I get to write. I get to create, and like so many individuals with bipolar disorder, being creative is a fundamental part of who I am. Even though we face great challenges in the workplace because of our passion and sensitivity, we can use those feelings to motivate us to get up every day and go to work—but only if we choose our careers carefully.

 

 

Love, Bipolar Disorder, and Being Worth It

Love, Bipolar Disorder, and Being Worth It

My husband could say I am “worth it” despite my bipolar illness, but he does not. Instead, we both say that is a question that should never be asked.

When it is below zero and I am ice fishing on a frozen Alaskan lake, I concentrate all my energy on catching fish. Each time I fish, my husband—who knows I love fishing more than almost anything—immediately goes into support mode.

Read the rest of this article about bipolar disorder and love at https://www.bphope.com/blog/love-bipolar-disorder-and-being-worth-it/.

 

Self-Tracking: Moving Forward After a Bipolar Episode

Self-Tracking: Moving Forward After a Bipolar Episode

Remorse after a bipolar episode can cause tremendous pain, but when everybody else says “don’t look back,” I say: “look.”

I once read a book about tracking animals, and when I lived for several months on the edge of the enormous Chugach State Park in Alaska, I tracked a snowshoe hare in the alder thickets along the side of a popular hiking trail.

Read more of my blog article at bphope.com https://www.bphope.com/blog/self-tracking-moving-forward-after-a-bipolar-episode/

Parental Guilt and Bipolar Disorder: Learning Acceptance

Parents cannot fix a bipolar disorder diagnosis. This leads to guilt and frustration, but once they accept it as a brain-based disorder, they can learn how to help.

“I never want to leave you,” I whispered from the air mattress on the floor of our family cabin. I tried not to look under the bed, a worried eight-year old listening to the coyotes yip in the darkness and the beaver’s tail slapping the river’s surface.

Continue reading my most recent article here: https://www.bphope.com/kids-children-teens/parental-guilt-and-bipolar-disorder-learning-acceptance/

 

Follow All of My Writings

I have started a Facebook page so that you can learn more about me, mental illness, and Alaska– as well as follow all of my writings and musings. You can also follow me on Twitter.

I’ll post my thoughts and more photos through these channels as I continue to make my transition from “anonymous” to being fully “out there”! Help me share the story of bipolar disorder and mental illness– we, together, can help spread the word so that we can disseminate hope, knowledge, and the common thread between all of us!