So You’re Bipolar: Advice for the Newly Diagnosed

Please note: This is a blog entry that talks about my personal experience, and what has worked best for me, one human being. I am not an objective authority, I am not a doctor. I am a person with bipolar disorder who is successfully managing it in the way that works best for me. What works best for you may be different. I am in no way endorsing one specific treatment plan or ideology — I am simply sharing my experiences.

When I was first diagnosed, I had an appetite for all things bipolar. I read countless books, articles, blogs, and whatever else I could get my hands on. I think this is because when I was diagnosed, I felt helpless. It was like standing at the bottom of an immense cliff, looking up and realizing that I had an entire mountain to scale. “Where do I begin?” I wondered. I was relieved to know there was a name for this struggle, but intimidated by the idea that I would have to do something about it.

Six years after my own diagnosis, I want to share some advice that I picked up along the way. Since everyone is different and our needs are different, too, I’ll link to some other resources that I found helpful along the way. In the comments, I encourage my followers to add their own pieces of advice as well, or to ask questions if I haven’t addressed something you have questions about. Let’s create an awesome dialogue together.

Here are 25 things I’d like to share with newly-diagnosed bipolar folks:

1. Bipolar is an illness that can be managed. Bipolar is NOT a death sentence.

When I was first diagnosed, it felt like the world was ending. I thought that I could never get better. I believed I would never live a functioning, “normal” life. Before we go any further, let’s pitch that whole “normal” idea right out the window. Normal is dull. An awesome life, filled with the things that make you feel fulfilled and whole and healthy, should be the goal here. And guess what? That goal is attainable. Let’s make that our goal.

I found a medication combo that worked for me, a therapist that helped me immensely, and I got my life back in order. I’m now a graduate student at my dream school, I moved across the country to the most beautiful place in the country, I’m getting married in May, and I feel the best I have ever felt. Remission is possible! Countless folks with bipolar go on to lead incredible lives and triumph in the face of this difficult illness. It isn’t always easy, but I promise, you are worth it.

2. Sometimes finding a doctor or therapist is like playing musical chairs.

My first psychiatrist was a terrible person. Truly. Anyone with a mental illness will tell you that finding the right team of competent professionals is like playing a game of musical chairs. Sometimes you’ll need to switch psychiatrists (the one who prescribes medications) or therapists (the one who does talk therapy) a few times before you find someone who is a good fit for you. Other times, you’ll find them on the first try. It’s kind of random.

And that is okay! In this profession, it’s very common to shuffle around until you find someone. Don’t be afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. This is a normal part of the process. When you find the right fit, I think you’ll know. You should feel listened to, respected, and that the care you are receiving is being adequately explained to you. Overtime, you should also feel that you are building trust.

While psychiatrist visits tend to be short, you should still feel that the time you spend in their office is productive and that your concerns are being addressed rather than disregarded.

If you don’t feel heard, respected, cared for, and educated, it’s time to switch chairs!

3. You may need a psychiatrist, not a general practitioner or family doctor.

Sometimes, our health concerns are very specific, and require a specialist who is trained to address that particular part of the body. The mind and its health is a complicated discipline. This is why folks with a mental illness should be seeking out a psychiatrist, at least for an accurate diagnosis. You may decide not to pursue medications, but if you are looking for a diagnosis, it doesn’t hurt to seek out someone who has specialized in behavioral health. If you do decide on meds, it is crucial to have a psychiatrist who is well-versed in psychotropic drugs. Your family doctor, while they might be the bee’s knees, does not specialize in this field, and may not be able to offer you what you’re looking for.

If you love your family doctor, ask them to recommend a psychiatrist that they trust. And if you don’t like that psychiatrist, keep switching until you find one that you do trust!

4. Nothing has worked better, for me, than medications and therapy together.

This isn’t the case for everyone, but it was the case for me: medications in conjunction with psychotherapy was the best combination for kicking my bipolar’s ass. There are a lot of studies that show that these two things together are more effective than each method on its own. I have found this to be the case.

A word on therapy. Therapy is awesome. I was in therapy for five years, and it was an amazing experience. I loved having a designated space every week to vent about my problems, to come up with reasonable ways to approach these problems, and to feel validated and understood in that space. If you don’t have “problems,” it’s nice to just debrief every week and process how things are going. Anyone and everyone can benefit from a safe space like that, and because these sessions are self-guided, you aren’t going to be forced to talk about something you aren’t comfortable with, so long as you vocalize your boundaries. Therapy, for me, was invaluable.

If you are concerned about the cost associated with doing both, many therapists offer their services on a sliding scale. Additionally, if you are a university student, many universities offer free counseling services. If you need some guidance on finding the right professional, check out NAMI’s guide (National Alliance on Mental Illness), or seek out your local NAMI chapter.

5. You have nothing to be ashamed of — though friends and family may tell you otherwise.

My family still believes that my bipolar should be a big secret. There is a stigma in this society that tells us that mental illness is something to be ashamed of. Not so. Personally, when someone tells me to shut up about bipolar, I play them this amazing song by Mary Lambert (who is also, coincidentally, bipolar!).

Bipolar? So what!

No one should tell you to be ashamed of bipolar. You deserve respect, support, and compassion — and you should never accept anything less, especially from those who know and love you. Millions of people worldwide grapple with bipolar, and it is a medical condition that should be treated with the same dignity and sympathy as any other condition.

Remember, stigma often comes from a lack of education. It isn’t your obligation to educate them, but you can certainly point them in the right direction. There are also support groups, like those that are hosted by NAMI, that can help families process their feelings and misunderstandings about your illness.

If someone is putting you down or making you feel worse about your illness, consider distancing yourself from this person, or bringing them into a therapy session to address their behavior.

6. You can’t do this alone. You don’t have to.

I tried to go it alone for a while. I didn’t want to be a burden on those that loved me, so I often kept what I was going through to myself. Ultimately what I achieved was silent suffering and nothing else.

Not having a support system of folks who care about you and, instead, opting to fly solo is a terrible — I will repeat this — TERRIBLE idea. You can certainly try to do this alone, but I’m going to tell you from experience… it won’t work. Every single one of us needs to lean on the folks we love now and again. And if they’re quality human beings, they will be there for you.

Attempting to isolate yourself can often be a red flag for depression as well, so be mindful that when bipolar is telling you to cut everyone off, it could be a cause for concern. Sometimes this can be an indication that you are on a downswing, and need more support, not less.

Also from experience, this is important: don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Don’t rely on one person and one person only. Remember to involve friends, family, AND partners in this journey — “and” being the operative word here. Make it a team approach. If you only invest in one stock, what happens when that stock fails? Similarly, if you rely exclusively on one person for all of your support, if they aren’t able to give that to you or if they aren’t giving you what you need, it could jeopardize your health.

Finally, if you, for some reason or another, are estranged from family or friends, or do not have a working support system right now, it’s never too late to build your support network. There are online communities, as well as support groups, that I’ll talk about later on in this entry (skip ahead to #19 if you can’t wait).

7. You have options. But once you choose an option, give it time and stick to it.

No two bipolar individuals treat their illnesses exactly the same way. For me personally, I take medications (tegretol and latuda), see a therapist, maintain a mostly vegan diet, take regular walks, work with my triggers (see #9), and I also utilize artistic expression (writing and music). I know bipolar folks who use medical marijuana and attend support groups, and that works just fine for them. Others rely on meditation, exercise, maintain a rigid sleep schedule, and take as-needed anxiety meds. None of us truly use the same, identical approach.

What we do have in common, however, is that we stuck with our method long enough to realize what worked and didn’t work.

Once you choose a method, you need to stick with it for a while. Medications, for example, can take weeks or even months before we see the full effect. Sadly, many people get discouraged and stop taking them before they’ve given them a chance. It can also take multiple medications working together to achieve the desired effect, which can take months to figure out as well. With therapy, it can take months before you start to notice the very subtle ways your thinking and habits have changed, and it can be difficult in the beginning as you start to open up. This applies to any kind of approach. Patience is absolutely key.

In regards to medication, some quick reminders: Almost all of them have side effects, most are very benign, and almost all of them will disappear after two weeks. This is part of why waiting is so, so crucial. Crazymeds is a great resource that will help you anticipate how a medication might make you feel.

Whatever method you’re trying, remember that it can take time before you begin to notice or understand how it is changing your body. Of course, if the side effects of a medication are absolutely intolerable, please consult your psychiatrist. But all in all, sometimes you have to ride some big waves before you get to the shore. Hang in there, and give each treatment a chance. Even if it doesn’t end up working, knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does. Every step is a step closer to achieving the right fit.

I know waiting is the last thing you want to do, but sometimes treating this illness is just a waiting game. The thing to remember is that it will be worth the wait.

8. Once you find something that works, be committed.

Sometimes when you start to feel better, you’ll contemplate whether or not you need to keep taking your pills, or exercising regularly, or maintaining that diet. This is one of the biggest pitfalls for folks with any mental illness. Once you find a good fit, commit to your routine. The last thing you want to do is jeopardize the progress that you’ve made.

Of course, if you want to try other options after a period of relative stability, for whatever your reasons may be, consult with your team (medical professionals, social workers, friends, AND family, wherever applicable) to plan out how to safely transition to this new routine. And be sure to examine where you are in your life, and whether or not it is a good time to try something else. For example, going off of your medications or reducing the dose during a busy school semester is not always a wise decision. I did this before because a medication that kept me stable also made me very tired, and I wound up going bonkers during exams week. That was a lot of fun, let me tell you.

9. Work on identifying your triggers. Make life choices that acknowledge these triggers.

Everyone will tell you this, but I think it’s the most important advice I can give. What is triggering for you? We all have things that stress us out, and for folks with a mental illness, it is important to keep track of these things. A journal can help with identifying triggers, but I know that therapy is what really helped me start to recognize mine.

For example, I know that taking on a huge course load at university is a big trigger for me. So I choose to work with the trigger. I selected a grad school program that allowed me to take two classes at a time, reducing my workload and helping me reduce my stress.

If you know that a full time job is an unrealistic expectation, consider pursuing part-time work if you are able, and apply for food stamps to help ease the financial burden.

If you know that certain people in your life tend to be triggering, try to keep a healthy distance between you.

If a big sink full of dishes is a trigger, try to ensure that you wash your dishes after every meal so they won’t pile up.

It seems simple, right? But it’s so important. Triggers can make a huge difference, and it’s important to work with them — not against them — to ensure that your circumstances are conducive to a healthy lifestyle.

Are there changes you can make in your life right now that would make you feel better? Try to work with a therapist or even a friend to make a plan on how you can work with your triggers. Family and friends can also help identify triggers you might not have even noticed.

10. You are the expert on your own life and your own body.

It’s important to remember that you and only you can know if a treatment plan is truly right for you. Everyone has ideas of what they think will help, and yes, you’ll be told try to yoga or acupuncture or check your thyroid a million times. But at the end of the day, this is your body. And you get to dictate what happens to it.

11. …but also listen to your friends and family, as well as medical professionals, who might notice red flags before you do.

It’s also important to remember that the people around you might notice red flags before you do. The fish in the bowl doesn’t always see the water, and this is true with bipolar as well. Yes, you are the expert on your life, but everyone has blind spots. For example, I might perceive my good mood as just that — a good mood — while the rapid talking and lofty ideas might indicate to my partner that I’m getting a bit manic. It’s important to listen to the folks in our lives whose perspective as an outsider might clue us in to an episode or issue we can’t readily see as the insider.

This also means that, sadly, in emergency situations we sometimes might have to relinquish a bit of control. We might have to trust our loved ones to make decisions for us — especially in the case of hospitalization — if we are too deep into an episode and can’t properly advocate for ourselves. This doesn’t mean you aren’t in charge. You still are. This just means that you are trusting someone to make decisions that you, in a healthier state of mind, would be choosing for yourself.

I would recommend, when you are in a healthier place (not when you’re depressed or upset, because it can be triggering to read about), educating yourself about hospitalization so you can know your rights, and know what to expect. Hospitalization can be a remarkably good thing for expedient and effective care, and having a plan doesn’t hurt.

12. You are not a victim, and you are not making excuses, when you talk about bipolar as impacting your behavior or experiences.

People like to claim that if you are talking about your illness, you’re simply using it as an excuse or a crutch. I disagree with this. As long as you claim responsibility for your actions, explaining your illness does not make you a victim nor does it excuse your actions. You are simply offering context for the other person to understand your experience better.

13. Sometimes your friends or family will need to do some self-care.

Bipolar is tough — not just on the people that grapple with it, but on the friends and family who try to look out for us. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, and our loved ones will need to step back and take care of themselves. This doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong. This doesn’t mean you are a terrible person. This just means that they are trying to offer you the best of themselves, and when they aren’t able to do that, they need to do some self-care until they can.

This also means that we need to respect the boundaries that our loved ones set, and ensure that we have other people we can turn to, instead of relying exclusively on one person to meet all of our needs. Sometimes we all need a break, and our family and friends are no exception. Don’t hold back when you are struggling, but be sure to remind your supports that they can opt out if they need to. If everyone is practicing healthy and open communication, you shouldn’t need to worry about whether or not your loved ones can handle it, because they will let you know if they can’t.

And remember, you are not a burden, even when someone opts out. People opt out for all kinds of reasons, and those reasons are irrelevant. Try not to personalize someone’s choice to take care of themselves. If you were lost, you would want the easiest and shortest route to your destination, right? When someone opts out, they’re encouraging you to take another direction that would be more helpful in reaching a healthier state of mind.

14. You are not a statistic.

When I was first diagnosed, I read countless statistics about bipolar people, and I felt dejected. Spoiler alert, reading all those statistics was a waste of time. I’m going to tell you what everyone spent years telling me: YOU ARE NOT A STATISTIC. Each individual has a very different experience of their illness, and will take a very different route when treating that illness. No two people will have the same path. Statistics are very broad generalizations, and they do not account for the very nuanced and complex journeys we take.

The fact that you’re reading this article right now, seeking out as much information as you can, puts you ahead of the curve. You are educating yourself so that you can make sound decisions about your health. I also assume you’ve been diagnosed or plan on seeking a diagnosis, and if that’s the case, you’re already light years ahead of many bipolar folks whose illnesses go undiagnosed or untreated. Sometimes it might not feel like it, but it’s true — you can change the outcome. At any moment, you can change the road you’re on. And statistics will never tell you about all the choices you have at any given moment — they’ll only tell you about outcomes that may or may not ever happen to you.

So focus on the here and now. Focus on all of your options. Gather as much knowledge as you can — not just my knowledge, which is limited, but as much information from as many sources as you can. Make no mistake about it — if you’re reading this article, you aren’t stuck. You’ve already made a choice to do something differently by virtue of educating yourself. This diagnosis is not your fate. This diagnosis is just a label to help you understand some of the influences that have impacted your past. This is about context, not about fate. These are circumstances, this is not the outcome.

Remember: YOU CANNOT SEE THE FUTURE. No matter what your past says, you cannot know what the future holds. You aren’t a psychic. I promise.

15. The little things can make a big difference. Seriously.

Yesterday I went to Home Depot and I bought this really lovely potted plant. I have a lot of little things — special soaps, beautiful journals, cozy blankets — that I rely on when I’m having a particularly rough day. I immerse myself in the little things that make me happy, and I can assure you that they make a huge, huge difference. I somewhat regularly buy myself treats and knick-knacks to brighten up my room or to enjoy during those waves we inevitably just have to ride out.

These things do not have to be expensive, and a lot of these things could spring from DIY projects with supplies that are reused. I don’t personally have a Pinterest, but I know quite a few bipolar folks that do, and I’m kind of envious of the cute coffee mugs they designed themselves. I would highly recommend finding small things that make you happy, and surrounding yourself with them. Go browse Etsy for some inspiration if you aren’t sure where to start.

A friend of mine once said, “You are what you wake up to.” I think that’s quite true in my experience. If you needed an excuse to buy a new comforter or a new plant for your bedroom, I am giving you that excuse. Unless you’re on a manic spending spree, in which case I advise some self-control, friend.

16. Having a routine can be immensely helpful.

Anyone who has successfully managed their bipolar will probably tell you this: Establish a routine. Not just a sleep schedule (which is so important, let me tell you), but a consistent schedule all around. One of my triggers is being generally disorganized and doing things at the last minute, and I find that having a schedule can reduce many of the triggers that tend to stress us out. This is also important for folks who decide to take medications, because meds are most effective when taken at the same time each day.

Yes, download a planner or buy one, and try to eat, sleep, and study around the same time every day. If you’re anything like me, you’ll notice that you’re much less stressed when you do. You’ll also be more likely to do what needs to be done (exercise, clean, work) if you’ve already set the time aside for it in advance.

17. Don’t give credit where credit isn’t due.

If you’re new here, you probably didn’t know that I have blogged about this twice — here and here. But it bears repeating. There are a lot of myths surrounding mental illness, and one of the predominant ones is that it somehow gives us super powers. It makes us more creative, or more philosophical, or more profound. Go ahead and pitch that in the trash now. Mental illness does not magically write novels for you, or paint murals, or make you think more deeply. Do not fall into the trap of crediting mental illness with all the awesome things that YOU have done.

(If you want my theory as to why creative folks often have a mental illness, I think it’s more so a result of feeling like an outsider. Either way, mental illness doesn’t GIVE you superpowers, and your ability to be creative won’t disappear if you treat the illness. I can promise you that. Read the entries if you’re interested in hearing more about this discussion.)

18. Your living situation can completely change the face of your illness.

This goes hand-in-hand with knowing your triggers. I’ve known many folks whose biggest trigger was their living situation, whether it’s the place they lived or the folks that they lived with. It’s important to be mindful of this. If you aren’t in a position where you can move across the country like I did, try to create safe spaces outside of your home (clubs that you’ve joined, support groups, therapy, cafes that you can hang out at, the library, anything really) where you can retreat if things are too chaotic at home.

In some situations, you may find yourself in an abusive relationship or household. There are many online resources that you can pursue, and there may be shelters in your area that can assist or house you as well. Organizations like RAINN are reputable and more experienced in this department (if your abuser may be checking your internet history, please don’t click the link, and instead call their 24/7 confidential hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE(4673)).

Home can be the difference between regular episodes and a well-managed illness, so be sure to investigate your options and consider moving — or at the very least, establish other safe spaces — if you believe this is having an impact on your health.

19. Don’t be afraid to seek out support from others who share your experiences.

In addition to your local NAMI chapter, as well as online communities, there exist support groups and communities of folks who share your experiences. You local NAMI chapter can direct you to support groups in your area, as well as your therapist or psychiatrist. You may find connecting with these folks to be very helpful.

There are also tons of great Youtube personalities who discuss mental health on occasion, like Zoella (who discusses anxiety), Marinashutup (who talks about depression), and Ashley Mardell (also speaking about depression), who are opening up awesome conversations about mental illness more generally. I also found a list of bipolar youtubers — though I haven’t investigated this thoroughly enough, you’re welcome to do so.

There are also amazing books, like “An Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jamison that I can personally endorse, as well as this awesome list of books which I’m sure is filled with all kinds of good reads that can give you some perspective. There are lots of self-help books as well as memoirs that can be very validating and eye-opening, both for you and your loved ones, should they choose to read them.

I will add that if you are a marginalized person (a person of color, an immigrant, or a transperson, for example), I highly recommend seeking out at least one memoir that is written by someone who will have a more similar life experience. I have found that sometimes the most popular memoirs are written by folks with a lot of privilege, and they may not resonate with you.

A word of caution here: Don’t let researching your illness become an obsession. Reading about it for days on end, or watching every possible YouTube video, could turn into an obsession that is more triggering than it is helpful. Sometimes the memoirs or videos will not be uplifting, so try to approach these resources with caution. All things in moderation, my friends.

20. You can be an advocate for yourself and others.

The state of mental health in this country is truly sad. Access to resources, medical care, support, and education is fraught with obstacles, often times to the extent that many people with mental illness go undiagnosed and untreated. You will realize, if you haven’t already, that your personal struggle with bipolar is also a political struggle, as your livelihood — getting disability services, paying for medications, finding a therapist — is often impacted by the policies handed down by legislators who are far-removed from your struggle.

You aren’t obligated to launch a big rally on behalf of mental health, but it’s good to keep in mind that you are in a unique position to advocate for policy changes and for services in your community. NAMI is, again, a great place to start if you’re interested in being an advocate. Every year, I participate in the NAMI Walk, which helps raise awareness and funds for all the important programming and resources that NAMI offers. It’s one day out of my year, and I often meet amazing people who keep me energized and hopeful.

Obviously, if you are having a difficult time with your illness, no one can reasonably expect you to save the world. But if you have the time or the interest, it’s worth looking into.

21. Easier said than done, but don’t give up.

If I had given up every time I said I was going to, I would have missed out on some of the very best moments of my life, and I wouldn’t have met some of the most incredible people that have made me who I am today. Bipolar isn’t easy, but I still wouldn’t change anything that happened. I still believe that this struggle has been worth it.

There were times when I thought I could never get through this, but guess what? I did. And I can’t guarantee that you’ll get everything you want and more, but that’s not a guarantee that ANYONE gets in this life. I can tell you, however, that countless people have gone through something so similar to what you’re going through, and they, too, have made it through and are living healthy, fulfilling lives.

So many people have hit rock bottom, and felt that same despair that you felt, but somehow they found it in themselves to keep going. I can’t tell you that it will get better, but I can assure you that it’s possible. And knowing that the possibility exists, what have you got to lose, but to pursue that possibility with as much commitment and determination as you can muster?

I had no idea I’d be living in California, engaged to the love of my life, pursuing my master’s degree. When I was seventeen, I just knew I didn’t want to be in pain anymore. I almost missed out on all of the amazing things that have happened. If I had given up, I wouldn’t have just died — I would have been giving up all the beautiful things that were waiting for me on the other side.

There’s a good chance that beautiful things are waiting for you, too. Beautiful people, beautiful moments. I don’t want you to miss those moments. And you shouldn’t want to miss them, either.

22. Everyone’s experience of bipolar is distinctly different.

It’s good to keep in mind that bipolar exists on a spectrum, and that everyone’s experience is different. What works for me may not work at all for someone else. A medication that saved my life could be utterly useless for you. Going out and partying could be energizing for me, but terrifying for someone with social anxiety. What mania feels like to me could be completely different for you. Depression could be empty and numb for you, but painful and agonizing for me. The point is, when you’re reading about or listening to the experiences of others, tune in with the understanding that being bipolar is not a universal experience.

Bearing that in mind, any of the advice I’ve given can be taken with a grain of salt. Advice regarding mental illness is a lot of picking and choosing — it’s a choose your own adventure, it’s a mix and match, it’s a buffet. You put together a plan that works for your unique experience, and through trial and error, you arrange your life in a way that works WITH your illness, rather than against it. That’s crucial.

23. Vocalize what you need.

No one can read your mind. It’s important that, if you are able to articulate it, express directly what you need. Use sentences like, “It would be helpful if…” or, “What I need is…” Being direct, and simply saying what you need rather than hoping for it, will teach others how to assist you, and will help you get exactly what you need without having to wait for it. This sounds really simple, but it took me forever to realize this.

24. Your best is good enough. No one can ask for more.

When you’re working toward a healthier state of being, it’s important to know that your best is all anyone can ask for. If today, all you can really do is take your pills and watch Netflix, that’s okay. If you managed to go to therapy and all you can do after is stare at the ceiling in your bedroom, by all means, hang out and stare at the ceiling. There will inevitably be days, as I’m sure you know, where you can’t accomplish as much as you want to, or do the things you’re normally able to do with relative ease. Meet yourself wherever you are. Be kind and be patient with yourself. If today is a “color in a coloring book and eat mozzarella sticks” kind of day, then that’s what you’ll do.

Of course, it’s good to nudge yourself toward healthy behaviors — maybe swap the mozzarella sticks out for carrot sticks, I don’t know — and sometimes doing the thing you don’t want to do (like going to therapy) is sometimes the best thing for you. But there’s a difference between pushing yourself beyond your limits, and recognizing your limits and doing some reasonable compromising. Your limits are there for a reason. Sometimes it’s a good idea to respect those limits, and remind others to respect them, too.

25. Someone out there cares about you.

If it isn’t a partner, family member, or loved one, it’s me, and the entire mental health community. Someone, somewhere, cares a lot about what’s happening to you, and is working hard to ensure that your journey is a little easier and your recovery a little faster. I hope you’ll remember that there are folks, both online and in your community, that are invested in your health and want you to feel fulfilled and whole.

I truly care — I wouldn’t have written this entire article if I didn’t. I speak about my struggles and triumphs with bipolar because I want others to know that while bipolar may not be curable, it can be managed in a way that it is no longer in the driver’s seat of your life. You can take the wheel back and be in charge of your life, a life that you direct and shape so that it becomes the ultimate reflection of who you are and what you want most. I truly believe that this is possible for each and every person, so long as there are people like you and I, working hard to make our stories heard and our lives visible.

Don’t ever forget that there are people, people you don’t even know, that would bend over backwards to help you. They do exist. I exist. I’m a real person, who has faced what you’re facing, that is committed to seeing you make it through. And I’m counting on you to do the same for me. If we work together, this illness will not win.

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23 thoughts on “So You’re Bipolar: Advice for the Newly Diagnosed

  1. Niamh says:

    Briiant Article. Think this will be a great help to people who need it. Very informative but easy reading too. Fair play and loved your Amanda Byrnes one too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tyler Bidal says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! Currently “Riding a wave” and this article is helping me stick it out! Nice to know that there really is people that care, people that you had no idea even existed!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dee says:

    A very well-written piece. I found your blog through a facebook post from a friend of mine, and it is a helpful resource both as a person struggling with anxiety/depression and as a professional who works with people dealing with mental health issues in the workplace. Thank you.

    Like

  4. Cami says:

    Hey, I’m from South America and I’ve been diagnosed for almost three years now. And despite de fact, that most of the time I am able to have a normal life, I still believe is a burden. I mean, I had top notch education, I’ve travelled a lot, I’ve even enjoyed life… But I’m not confortable with my own skin. I related a lot when you said “My family still believes that my bipolar should be a big secret” Mine does too. They believe that Uni won’t let me graduate or ever get decent job.
    In my case, medication is both my ally and enemy… I’m not too comfortable taking drugs, and feeling that my life depends on a pill… Even more so when I am backpacking… (I don’t know if that makes sense)
    I usually never write comments but I thought you should know that what you are doing, and writing about (in my opinion) is encouraging. It’s weird, because knowing that you are not alone it makes life easier…. And even though we don’t suffer quite the same, because nobody does… is refreshing to read something that is so familiar to you in so many ways… (I hope I was able to make some sense… My English is kind of rusty).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carrie says:

    such a wonderful article, so many helpful points that are applicable to anyone struggling in life, not just with bipolar. the last point genuinely brought me to tears. thank you for this piece xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Miriam says:

    This was the first time I read something about BP that I could connect to. I’m also a graduate student in a strong permanent relationship. Congratulations on the upcoming wedding! I shared your article with my husband. Everything you said was completely spot on, except I believe you understated the amount of time it can take to find a med combo that works. It can take YEARS. What I take now still isn’t perfect, but it’s the best it’s been yet. Getting to this point with my truly excellent psychiatrist took 4 years, trying a lot of different medications and combinations, making decisions about what side effects I’m willing to risk, titrating, and of course having to be on each for at least a few months to see if it’s working (and even then, it can be so hard to tell).
    Thank you so much for what you’ve written. It made me feel so much less alone, and more hopeful about living with BP.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. David says:

    Thanks for being so honest about your experience. I was diagnosed in 2006 sort of. I have struggled for yrs. Lost a lot of jobs my wife up and down mostly up manic very aggressive in your face type of guy. But not really in my heart I’m tender and caring. Tried a few different things over the yrs. Found when I was able to eat right sleep well and exercise. Things were good. Isolated myself this year doing long haul truck driving and smack right in the face with depression. Never really experienced the lows. Twice this year including now this very moment. I can’t get up for work or to go outside or eat nothing its been 5 days of darkness I don’t wanna live this way anymore. I also don’t wanna die I don’t wanna miss out life has been fun. So I went yesterday to the doctors I can’t do this alone so I am now on lithium. Kinda scared. Always worried me Nirvana had a song lithium and Kurt Cobain killed himself. I’m excited to met myself for the first time to live again not just exist to feel the sun on my face and its warmth in my blood to enjoy all the little things I once did to hold down a job maybe a relationship. Who knows possibilities seem endless. Anyway thanks for writing this I really needed it today as much as I’m alone you made me feel I’m not thanks. Going back to work tomorrow I think not sure if I even still have a job. Oh well getting good at finding new ones. This is my 3 job this year. Believe it or not I had a really successful trucking company that I owned and operated for 16 yrs. But the economy ended that. Sorry for the grammer mistakes couldn’t be bothered. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sam Dylan Finch says:

      The possibilities really are endless! And if that job isn’t there when you go back, there’s an open door waiting for you somewhere else — and if not a door, a window to climb through. You seem to have a survival instinct that has served you well for all these years. Just hang in there.

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  8. Gary says:

    Try being diagnosed manic depressive in 1977. It’s a far different world now that everyone with a mood seems to have owned the Bipolar diagnosis. I am a proud BiPolar 1, to use the new lingo — but no immediate plans to off myself.

    Like

  9. Shawna says:

    This article is well written and helps a lot of people understand bipolar and the different treatments that you can get for it. I Was diagnosed with bipolar anxiety and depression in my early 20s and I am now 44. It took me many years of trial and error of different medicines and combinations of medicines to get me to be stable. I have been through therapy for around three years and like you’ve said it all takes time. There were many times that I felt suicidal, but I always try to think of my children and my husband and the rest of my family and how they would feel because they all love me so much. Husband is very helpful and loves me unconditionally he also helps me by letting me know if I’m becoming manic or too depressed. He gives me a I love you and sometimes that alone means the world to me.I know what a lot of my triggers are when I am manic I do a lot of shopping and buy things that I don’t need. So when I go shopping I take someone with me and I make a list of the things that I need and I don’t allow myself to buy things that are not on my list. I try very hard to be positive and have a good outlook on life.One of the other things that helps me is my dog Bella she is always there for me in times when I am alone in feeling depressed or having a lot of anxiety, just petting her and seeing how much love that she has for me really helps to calm me down or give me a pick me up. Thank you for your article I hope it helps a lot of people.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Shira says:

    As someone who struggles with mental illness and is currently persuing a degree in Clinical Psychology, I found this article truly brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing! Everyone, even those who have never experienced mental illness, should read this! Your points are expertly said, and your emphasis on social support is something a lot of people tend to ignore (I also thought I could tough it out alone and was horribly wrong). I’ve been reading a lot of your articles and they are all truly inspiring! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Please keep on writing! You’ve got amazing talent and your articles always cover exactly what needs to be said!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ritlingit says:

    I didn’t read through these all thoroughly, just skimmed.I usually get seriously annoyed at advice giving. Either the advice is so general it seems useless or it assumes something incorrect and gives a warped skew on Bipolar Disorder and/or the experience. I really liked this and reblogged it. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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