Bipolar Illness

I've been open about having bipolar II for over ten years now. Sometimes this has been good to me, it has led me to new friends and relationships. And I've gotten feedback that my story has helped others. However, sometimes this has been bad for me. I've heard through backchannels that some business partners worry about what it would be like to go into business with someone who is bipolar.

But I'm making the intentional decision to go with the positive over the negative. If this means that I lose some possible business partnerships, so be it.

I was first diagnosed with bipolar illness at age 25. Some of my symptoms seemed advantageous at the time --- I could be highly productive, go days at a time with tiny amounts of sleep, and I wrote prolifically.

However, there was a negative side that started catching up with me: I had grandiosity, I was easily irritated by people that I perceived as not being "fast" enough, I drank too much, and I was very impulsive.

During depressive episodes, I spent days on the floor, and had panic attacks, and was fearful that night would not turn into day, and that my bad days were going to be here forever.

These things were damaging to my relationships and to my health.

Over the years, I have learned to better control my illness, through therapy and medications -- but also through the assistance of my closest friends and family who look out for me. I couldn't have accomomplished all that I have without them. I am very lucky -- and grateful -- to have these people watching my back.

Meditation practice and mindfulness exercises have given me "muscle memory" to "respond not react". Things don't bother me as much now as when I was in my 20s. I am generally a happy and optimistic person. Now, when I do get angry at someone or something, it subsides very quickly. It took a lot of work to get where I am today.

I have arrived at a place now where I feel no need to hide the fact that I live with bipolar illness. The more I know and can acknowledge about myself, the more connected I feel with myself and others. That has become far more important than trying to control my image.

Secrecy and shame are the enemy of healing.

I am now working to create the Bipolar Social Club, a peer network of people with bipolar illness, so we can support each other with stories and meetings.

My hope is that people living with bipolar illness see my story -- and the stories of others who make the difficult, but ultimately rewarding decision to be open about their struggles -- no longer feeling the need to hide their diagnosis.

People managing bipolar disorder can lead successful, meaningful lives.

I'm proof of that.

By working together to combat stigma, we can work towards our world becoming a place where all people living with mood disorders have a fair shot at living their best life.

Advice to Bipolar People

Here is advice I give to people who are learning how to deal with their bipolar illness:

  1. If you are contemplating suicide, call 988 (or 911) and then call a loved one. If you are outside the US, see this list.
  2. If you are having a panic attack, take slow deep breaths, and start to name out loud five things that begin with the letter A, then B, and so on. Walk around as you do this (ideally outside), maybe one step per item named.
  3. Bipolar illness can be managed. You can learn to live with this, and to minimize its negative impacts on your life and the lives of your friends and family. Many bipolar people can use their passion and energies when "hypo-manic" to produce great work when they focus on it. I suggest that you marshall up that focus and energy to focus on fighting the negative parts of your bipolar illness.
  4. Find people to talk with -- ideally one family member, one friend, and one colleague. Only by being vulnerable and starting to talk about your condition can you begin a path towards healing.
  5. When you are in a down period, put up a note on your bathroom mirror or fridge with your ADLs - activities of daily living. Things like make your bed, brush your teeth, take a shower, put on clean clothes, go for a walk, eat three meals a day, drink water, sleep eight hours a night, etc. Even when you are in your darkest periods, try to check off each item on the list each day, even if you are just "going through the motions". A day when even one of these ADLs is checked off is a step in the right direction.
  6. Find an excellent therapist. This is work. If your first try is not a match, don't give up on therapy, just find a new therapist. Work with that therapist to find a psychiatrist as well.
  7. Work with your psychiatrist over months to tweak your meds until you find the formula that works for you. If you're been working with a psychiatrist for a while and things don't seem to be getting better, consider getting a new doctor. - articles - startups - nonprofits - press 07-Jun-2023