Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Create Your Own Road Map

I had a doctor’s appointment this past week, and as usual, we discussed my mood. I explained that I am still not sleeping well, I am having episodes of hypomania, and I have been very anxious and feeling low. The low is a painful low. I’m having a mixed episode. I feel exhausted, fatigued, irritable, agitated, anxious, and I’m experiencing insomnia and racing thoughts. I can wake up feeling like I want to cry and fearing “the worst”, but be okay by the time I get to work. I can start off a weekend morning really angry and irritable and my emotions can shift so quickly and I will be calmer before I realize it’s happening.

I know myself well enough to know when I need help and to speak up about concerning moods or behaviours. I recently increased one of my medications in the hopes that once it fully takes effect, I will come out of this mixed episode. I know medication alone is not the answer, but I know I would not be as functional as I am without medication.

Taking medication does not make you weak and it is certainly not a quick fix, or an easy way out. Medication is a commitment. What do I mean by that? I have multiple medications. In order to make sure I take my medications daily, I have pill organizer that has enough sections for 2 weeks’ worth of pills. I have to stock up the box with the correct number of pills. I have to make sure I pack my pills and take my pill box for my purse every morning. I have to remember to take my pills. I have reminders in my phone but if I don’t look at my phone all the time, a pill could be forgotten (and taking pills too late can have negative consequences).

Living with bipolar disorder is not easy. There are good days, where I briefly forget I have this diagnosis. Most days something reminds me about it. But I also think about all the things that I have accomplished and what I am able to do, and I have to keep reminding myself that I am enough. Don’t let anyone or an illness take away your sense of self-worth and self-esteem. I know it’s easier said than done because you forget who you were “before”. Doesn’t matter – concentrate on who you are now and what you love about that person. I know that’s what I am trying to do, as hard a process as it is.

My sister was in for a visit a couple of weeks ago, and we were having dinner before her flight home to England. She had come in for a wedding and seen various friends. We were talking about where people are with their lives. At one point she asked me if it bothers me when people ask ,”When are you going to have kids?” I agreed with her that it is an annoying question when the answer isn’t simple, and she comforted me by saying there is no rush, and essentially, there is no “right time” and nothing wrong with waiting (or adoption). I was touched by her pep talk.

My dad gave both of us a sage piece of advice regarding life and self-worth. He said never compare yourself to other people and, essentially, don’t use other people’s lives as a measurement of what success should look like or as a guideline as to where your life should be.

We’re lucky to have such a wise father.

I say, create your own road map. No two people are exactly alike, so why copy someone else’s journey?

I told my mom today, “I do things at my own pace.” And I will, and it will be okay because those who matter will understand.

Create Your Own Road Map

Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Music On My Mind

When I am anxious or experiencing a panic attack, I have to distract my mind. One of the better ways to do so at work or in the car is by listening to music. Breathing exercises are important too of course, but I do find listening to music to be very effective.

A very long time ago, I made myself a “Feel Better Mix” in iTunes. I still listen to this playlist when I feel out of sorts, anxious or upset. I made this list a few years before my bipolar diagnosis, but if I were to create a “feel better” play list today,  I would probably include the same songs on it. The songs remind me of different parts of my life, good and bad. Some songs have very dark lyrics, but for whatever reason, I took comfort and continue to take comfort in these lyrics.

This is what’s on my playlist:

  • 1979 – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Mad World – Gary Jules cover
  • Heart of Gold- Neil Young
  • Simple Man- Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town- Pearl Jam
  • Behind Blue Eyes- The Who
  • The Scientist- Coldplay
  • November Rain- Guns N’ Roses
  • Wild Horses- The Rolling Stones
  • Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of – U2
  • Brick- Ben Folds Five
  • The Youth- MGMT
  • Everybody Hurts- R.E.M.
  • Hard Sun- Eddie Vedder
  • Fake Plastic Trees- Radiohead
  • How To Be Dead – Snow Patrol

One song, not on my playlist, that has always resonated with me is “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree. This song has great lyrics:

“Listen as your day unfolds
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky
Lovers, they may ’cause you tears
Go ahead release your fears
Stand up and be counted
Don’t be ashamed to cry

You gotta be
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day

Herald what your mother said
Read the books your father read
Try to solve the puzzles in your own sweet time
Some may have more cash than you
Others take a different view
My oh my, yea, eh, eh

You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day

Time ask no questions, it goes on without you
Leaving you behind if you can’t stand the pace
The world keeps on spinning
Can’t stop it, if you tried to
This best part is danger staring you in the face

Listen as your day unfolds
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky
Lovers, they may cause you tears
Go ahead release your fears
My oh my, eh, eh, eh

You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day”

I have loved this song since I was 10 or so. I hadn’t heard it in a long time, and one day I was listening to the radio at work and it came on and I just smiled, thinking of how this song made me feel. Funny how songs, like certain memories, stick with you.

BM music

Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Gameshows May Want To Rethink The Titles of Their Categories

The other day my husband and I were watching Jeopardy and a most interesting category appeared – “Depressing Quotes”. Neither the host nor the contestants seemed to think this was an unusual or inappropriate name for a category and no comments were made. The category was about quotes from poems or something like that.

As I noted in an earlier post, language matters. There are more than 250,000 distinct words in the English language and the writers at Jeopardy couldn’t come up with a better name for a category than that? Do they even know how many of their viewers suffer from a mental illness or are affected by mental illness and could or do find that so insulting and (insert possible expletive remark here). Are you telling me they couldn’t find a better word to describe those quotes?

This goes back to my feelings about how mental illnesses should not be used as adjectives. Out of curiosity (and anger) I googled “depression definition” and this came up:

Depression Screenshot

So where in the 5 possible definitions of the word depression would “depressing quotes” fit in? Were the quotes supposed to evoke feelings of depression and sadness for the contestants/viewers? I guess this is the unfortunate reality, that “depressing” is part of many people’s everyday vocabulary, and it is a convenient word used to describe quotes, the weather or situations.

I doubt that the show’s writers meant to be insulting and I’ll still watch the show. There are usually many categories I enjoy (hence why I watch the show all week). The names of the categories have to be short, fine. I am not making up excuses for them, I will just say I hope that the media learns to choose words wisely, because us mental health advocates are here to stay.

I guess I was bothered by that category because the name of the category was read out so many times, since there are 5 clues in each category and the name of the category was read out a total of 6 times if you include the time the host of the show reads it out while listing the categories. It’s just hearing something you don’t want to hear on repeat.

Another example of this issue with wording (although it was written many years ago) is from an episode of Married With Children, where Peggy sees signs of Elvis, has all these Elvis fans visit her home and once they’ve moved on from her house, she says to Al, when he asks her where everyone went, “Oh Al. I’m so depressed.” And Al, who had a great idea to sell hundreds of pairs of blue suede shoes to these fans and brought them home (to an empty house), says, “Me too Peg” or something like that. I just sighed. I mean it was a silly show and this episode was from the late 80’s or early 90’s, but still, it bothers me, and not because I am sensitive.

Maybe before I had a diagnosis and was really self-aware and accepted my diagnosis I wouldn’t have cared as much about these things. I want people to know why the words we use matter and to help educate, to help change people’s views about stigma and mental illness (even if it’s just one person at a time). I just won’t stand for people saying “it’s all in your head” or “other people have real problems” or for people calling inanimate objects bipolar, someone who has too many drinks one night an alcoholic, speculating if someone who displays erratic behaviour has a mental illness etc. It’s not their job to diagnose – leave that to the professionals, and don’t deter someone from seeking treatment if they need it or want it because they are afraid to due to stigma and judgment.

steve jobs


Bipolar Disorder, International Bipolar Foundation, My Real Opinion

30 Things Not To Say To Those With Bipolar Disorder

This post originally appeared on International Bipolar Foundation’s website:

things not to say

I always enjoy reading “listicles” about “what not to say” and “what to say” to someone with a mental illness. I read them and nod my head in agreement, as I can relate all too well. There are sayings or comments that may seem helpful, but aren’t in reality because they inadvertently minimize our thoughts and feelings or may make us feel even more anxious. I devised my own list and wanted to share it.

Here is my list, in no particular order:

  1. “Everyone has something.”
  2. “You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.”
  3. “You always look for an excuse.”
  4. “How are you managing?” (And other loaded questions).
  5. “Be nice.”
  6. “Calm down.”
  7. “I’m not very happy with you right now.”
  8. “Why can’t you just be happy?”
  9. “You have every reason to be happy.”
  10. “What happened now?”
  11. “Why?”
  12. “Why can’t you have one day where you feel good?”
  13. “You’ve been like this for so long.”
  14. “Maybe you need to change your medications.”
  15. “Maybe your medications aren’t working anymore.”
  16. “You should discuss this with your doctor.”
  17. “What does your doctor have to say about this?”
  18. “What did your doctor say?”
  19. “You should exercise.”
  20. “I’ll motivate you.”
  21. “Don’t be lazy.”
  22. “Everyone has stress.”
  23. “Stop making excuses.”
  24. “You’re making yourself anxious.”
  25. “Stop anticipating.”
  26. “You’re making yourself nervous.”
  27. “Why can’t you make a decision?”
  28. “So-and-so said it would be nice to see you.”
  29. “Don’t worry about it.”
  30. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

To add some context to some items on the list, being indecisive is as frustrating for me as it is for my family and friends. It’s hard to make a decision because I am sitting there weighing the pros and cons of each choice and get lost in the process.

I don’t want my anxiety to be seen as an excuse to get out of events. Believe me, it’s no joy ride experiencing panic attacks and being afraid to leave your house because you are anxious. If someone cannot attend an event because of how they feel, it shouldn’t matter if it is as a result of a physical illness, physical injury or due to anxiety or depression. We should put mental illness and physical illness on equal planes.

I am not making myself anxious. I can’t predict when I am going to become anxious. I likely won’t believe someone who tells me everything is going to be okay because I am a realist and I will just ask, “How do you know?”, even though I know that anxiety-free periods do exist. I just don’t like trite sayings.

I’ll end on this note: happiness, acceptance and recovery are all journeys. I can’t answer why I am not happy all the time, why I keep having panic attacks or experience depression even though it’s the summer or why all the “why’s.” What I do know is that it’s my journey and I have to own it.