A Mental Health Professional Living With Bipolar Disorder

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Yearning For Joy

Managing my bipolar disorder is difficult and it doesn’t always take away the effects of this disorder.  Everyday is different.  I take a very low dose of seroquel at night (25mg). I don’t feel the excitement that I am used to and I truly miss being excitable because I enjoy life that way.  BUT I’m not sure if it is because of the many life stressors that are going on.  It is hard to tell if my body is in depression mode from one of two things (1) life stressors which triggered a depressive episode (2) Seroquel works by blocking the receptors in the brain that dopamine works on, which gives me a sort of “dull” feeling. Since dopamine is the pleasure neurotransmitter, seroquel takes away a portion of my feelings of pleasure, enjoyment.
It really irritates me that I have to take a medication which takes away my joy and feelings of happiness.  The bad alternative to not taking this medication (i.e my joy) for me is that I cannot sleep, I become manic, irritable, and irrational, impulsive, severe racing thoughts which make me wanna scoop my brains out of my head.  So either way It sucks.  But I have to chose which one is the lesser of the two evils and sometimes I can make myself believe that my bipolar is a blessing, but right now it doesn’t feel that way.
This is definitely a difficult disorder to manage and it takes SO much to take care of it to even give myself a chance at living a happy life. I am currently taking medication, I go to therapy once per week, I work the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I actively take part in daily self care (which I have described in a previous blog).  Self care seems simple but with bipolar disorder the simple stuff can become overwhelming and arduous.  This stuff just “takes off the edge” of my bipolar disorder and I still have to struggle with the effects every day of my life.  I wake up not knowing if its going to be a “down day” or an “up day” and the past year its rarely been somewhere in the middle.  I want to take control of my symptoms of bipolar.  I want to feel joy for more than just a few minutes at a time.

Five Things To Keep Me Calm

Everyday I try to do five things that keep my racing thoughts at bay, to keep me calm.    These five things change every once in a while or sometimes frequently as I cycle through my many interests and hobbies.  The point is to make it a point to do five things that I have control of that keep me calm.  Whether I am having a depressive day or a manic day, a blah day, or a normal day at least I can depend on those five things being there that I can routinely do without them becoming boring because I get to pick what those five things are.
Sometimes racing thoughts are fun and exciting and creative but just like anyone the content of our thoughts changes, but the format of the bipolar mind when its in “thought racing mode” (mania) can quickly change to really uncomfortable, overwhelming, and down right torturous.
  1.  Throughout the day I think of many things that I want to do and things that I need to do.  If I don’t write these things down they cycle through my head over and over, and every time it comes up again in my thought process I get a ping of anxiety and sometimes I just get completely overwhelmed and don’t even know where to start in order to tackle all of my tasks.  So what I do is I write down EVERYTHING from fun things i would like to do such as build a bookshelf for my fiancé, or sew a new flannel shirt for myself to things that I have to do like pay bills, email a professor or my boss etc.  I write everything down in my macbook “to do” list and I have an app that always displays it right there on my desktop.
  2. Now that I have this list of things to do, usually first thing in the morning or whenever I remember or even when I start to feel overwhelmed I will look at the list and check off the things that are unnecessary, silly, or that I have already gotten done.  So as you can see there is a plus to writing down even the silliest of thoughts because when I am overwhelmed It is SOOO reinforcing to click on that check box and see it disappear.  It gives me a sense of control over my thoughts because they are no longer swimming aimlessly in my head, now they are disappearing to nothingness as I check them off with the click of a button.
  3. I try to do one artsy/creative thing per day.  I have a lot of hobbies such as sewing, crocheting scarves/hats/etc., wood working, raising chickens, herb garden, building a tiny house, writing music, etc.  I try to keep at least one project visible and ready to go so I can just sit with it impulsively and quickly get started with it.  This is a method of trying to entice myself with something that I like to do.  This helps with both mania and depression.  As you know a symptom of depression is a loss of interest in things you typically enjoy, so If for example I leave a partially completed flannel shirt in the sewing machine on the table ready to go and all I have to do is sit down and turn on the machine I am more likely to engage in something that will bring me some sort of focus and relief.  If I am manic and I walk by the same shirt in the sewing machine this is like a piece of candy just sitting there waiting to be eaten with all its savory goodness exploding with excitement and joy, and it also lets me focus on something for a period of time which keeps my mind from going into overload and spewing out into la la land.
  4. I like to do something for my health everyday and if I can’t make it to the gym then I like to eat particularly healthy.  This one fluctuates a lot but basically if I have a day where I can get to the gym its a really good day.  If I can’t get to the gym I concentrate on cooking and eating healthy meals and counting my calories and drink a gallon jug of water throughout the day so that I feel in control of my health.  This is fun for me and not an eating disorder thing like I have seen with many other people, so if you become obsessive with this or have had trouble in the past this one is not for you.  Having a sense of control of my health makes me feel like I am constantly thinking about bettering myself, like I have a drive towards something that I can default to at pretty much any time of day.
  5.  I like to do something nice for someone else at least on time per day.  On some days this is cooking a meal or two for my fiancé, taking an hour to clean as much of the house before she comes home, giving a couple bucks or buying food for a homeless person, going the extra mile for one of my clients, doing mechanical work for a friend, etc.
These five things can change or be added to but they are really good whether I am manic, going through a depressed day, or relatively even keeled.  Its good to have routine but for me I cannot feel stuck in a routine because then I don’t feel like my free and impulsive and creative self so I need to change things up while having a little bit of order.  I feel in control of my orderly chaos without feeling like I’m giving up who I am.


Earlier in the week I felt that I was discriminated against for employment based solely on the fact that I am diagnosed Bipolar.  I just completed my coursework for my Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and was offered a very good job at an agency.  I have been in this field for ten years and never have I been barred from employment because of my disorder until now.
Here is what happened:  I went in to a clinic that was given to me by my employer for a drug test and physical screening.  I gave blood and urine sample and filled out a document that asked about my medical history.  I marked yes on only two of the questions which asked about chronic illness and medication.  I wrote that I am diagnosed bipolar and that I take 25 mg of seroquel at night.
The doctor came into the exam room and immediately told me that he was not going to fill out the necessary paperwork for my employer based only on the fact that I am diagnosed bipolar.  He said verbatim “You could be dangerous because you’re bipolar”.
The Americans with Disabilities Act states that people with disabilities cannot be barred from employment based on a diagnosis, especially if there is not a single bit of objective evidence or history of any wrongdoing or harm done by the individual.
He will not medically clear me for employment until he receives a fax from my psychiatrist stating that I am “emotionally stable” (his words, not mine).  My psychiatrist has no problem filling out this document but this is not my issue.  I feel discriminated against for no reason other than I was born with a disease which I have made into a positive attribute in my life.
I have seen coworkers and professionals overgeneralize personalities and character flaws of clients and patients with certain mental health disorders and it is terrible to see and it breaks my heart.  I have personally had a supervisor of who told me I was the best in the field she had ever met.  When talking to each other about why we came to be therapists ourselves she expressed to me that her mother has Bipolar disorder.  I shared with her that I am Bipolar and It has brought me to the field.  She then went on to explain that she is terrified of her mother and she never treated me the same.
Something I have learned from this incident and my experience in the field is to not tell any one linked to my employment about being Bipolar unless I want one of two things (1) Reasonable accommodation and/or (2) stereotyping
I have learned throughout the years that I must be very choosy about who knows about my bipolar and who does not.  Sometimes when  I tell people I regret it, and sometimes I feel empowered by not caring about their reaction.  Its really how you look at it, and you get to decide who and what you tell people about you.  Either way, just be proud of who you are and do not be ashamed of being bipolar.

Hello World!

Hello World,
    My name Is Thomas  and I have many hobbies and talents, and I am diagnosed Bipolar.  Throughout the years of my life I have learned many skills and gone on many adventures such as going on a cross country camping trip on a motorcycle, living on a sail boat, competing in triathlon and a bodybuilding competition, building a Tiny Home, rebuilding a classic car and a motorcycle, getting my Bachelors degree and going to Graduate school just to name a few.  I did most of these things because of my personality and character but also because I have a neurological component that gives me more energy than most people, these episodes are called mania. I will talk more about mania in other blog entries, as well as depression.
Being Bipolar has its up’s and down’s and the main struggle for me is to keep the benefits more impactful than the costs of being bipolar (depression, irritability, panic attacks, restlessness, racing thoughts, suicidal thoughts, delusions, hallucinations just to name a few).  I started this blog so that people can feel that they are not alone and I felt like this is more personal than just joining a forum.  Here I can share my experience for someone to read and move on with their day and come back to this site and read about the next thing that i am going through or they can comment and I will respond to them personally.
There is NEVER a dull moment in my life and I ALWAYS try to find purpose in what life throws at me or what I throw at life.  The content of this website will be plenty full of personal experiences, daily living, but also research based writings on the complexities of being or living with someone with bipolar.  There will probably be some changes in my blog entries as I am manic or depressed or lucid, we shall see.
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