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Living with bipolar. Friday January 24, 2014

I'm a fifty-five year old male who lives in a small city of 50,000 in Ontario, Canada. Just over a year ago, I was desperate for answers. I had experienced mood issues in the past that affected my ability to stay employed, manage my finances and maintain healthy relationships. It had cost me the opportunity to get married and have a family. For someone with a university degree and above average intellect, you can understand how frustrating this was. At one point some years ago, I was so depressed, I considered suicide.

Sound familiar? Well, with the help of my doctor, I was able to get a consultation by video conference with a psychiatrist. (Economic conditions here in Canada had made local availability difficult.) That was in February of last year. We talked for about 90 minutes and he diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. Now, I have read how people react to this diagnosis. For me, it was a revelation; an "a-ha" moment. If I were a cartoon character there would be a light bulb shining over my head. I now could metaphorically put a face to my enemy. The next month my medical doctor prescribed lithium carbonate and I have been taking it ever since.

My head is now clear. My sleep patterns have stabilized, my appetite is intact and my initiative is still there.

I assess my mood every day using Moodscope. It gives me a good indication of where I am. I believe that my medication is helping me. I believe that my doctors have my best interests at heart. I believe my friends want to see me stay healthy and succeed. But most of all, I am proud of my ability to keep fighting. I am not scared or nervous or, most of all, ashamed.

After all, you can't win the battle until you know your enemy.

A Moodscope user.

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Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 2:48am


Christine Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 6:58am

I am so pleased for you. What a difference this has made to your life. Long may the effects last and long may you continue to feel as though you are controlling your life, rather than feeling as though your life is controlling you...

lea Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 7:41am

Good luck with the new path you have found. Moodscope, lithium, exercise, sleep, balance, self awareness and acceptance of your diagnosis will all help to give you the full and rewarding life you deserve. I wish you well . I am 51 and was diagnosed with bp 12 years ago. All the above, plus the positive outlook you obviously have, keep me on track most of the time.

curious212000 Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 7:57am

We must all know our enemy, very well Blogged.

Naomi Narod Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 7:59am

Excellent! I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder 30 years ago. What a relief as I didn't know what was happening to me. I have been on lithium ever since and apart from a few blips, have managed to live a creative, interesting and happy life after my first breakdown. Lithium is a life-saver and together with friends, this continues. Keep taking the medication. All good wishes Naomi

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 8:00am

Great story! Very pleased for you. It's good to hear positive stories like that.

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 8:55am

Thank you. An upliftling story. It resonated. After years of yo-yo a chance referral brought me to the right person, like you, and, like you, lithium was central. I no longer go to the dark places and I have my life back. I am glad there is no silver bullet, though. The storms through which I passed are a part of who I am now and I value them as much as my years of 'success'. A friend in Taiwan once said to me that we came here not to achieve but to learn. Amen to that!

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 8:59am

Thanks. What I like most about what you have written is the phrase, 'most of the time'. There are no perfect answers to be had, just life with all that it brings us. I'll settle for 'most of the of the time'!

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 9:07am

I was diagnoised with rapid cycling bipolar last year I am 40 and a Director of a large business, I am just about holding down my job. It was a relief to know what was wrong with me but I find it difficult as I can swing within a day high or low, it's exhausting and hard and because of the rapid swings the doctors find it hard to get my medication right. I keep my illnesss a secret as working in the Financial Services sector of the City in London there is a huge stigma around mental health and I would probably lose my job if work knew. It's lonely and I don't know anyone with bipolar so I feel nobody can understand the hell I can go through when I am wildly swinging from despair and suicidal thoughts to euphoria. It's nice to read a blog with someone with bipolar it doesn't make me feel such a freak. I hope one day I too can feel free to tell people what I have and openly explain this illness without feeling ashamed.

Diana Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 9:26am

"Shame " isn't a bad thing, and is part of being human I suppose.
However it is most damning and debilitating when it's not one's own fault...
as is the case with our illness ( I am also labled Bi-polar, which is not a simple condition ) - I would recommend the videos of two B.B.C. programmes by Stephen Fry, which have recently been put on as U-tube,

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 9:39am

What you say speaks volumes about the limitations of the 'Financial Sector in the City'. Perhaps some of them should feel 'shame' for other reasons but the greatest shame lies in their lack of imagination and understanding where your condition is concerned. Seek those who understand and can share some of the load with you, as important as any medication.

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 9:44am

Be very careful with Lithium carbonate , it has caused me severe kidney damage . Make sure you have regular checkups .

Sara-Louise Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 9:55am

Thank you - this post inspired me to use Moodscope for the first time again in two years. I'm 29 and have suffered with highs and extreme lows since I can remember - I've always tried to ride it out or pull myself out of it but having just suffered yet another break-down of a relationship, I realise I am letting myself be the main barrier to my happiness. Your post has made me want to reach out for some help - I have spoken to friends and family at some points but never about the whole picture and I never want to take up doctors time as I feel guilty and not worthy of the time. But today I will open up and admit that I need help.

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 9:56am


jimpark007 Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 10:42am

It helps when you have sympathetic employers. Despite employment legislation covering diversity, disability etc too many people in management use any perceived weakness for their own ruthless stratagems of leveraging colleagues into weakened positions.

Cabbie Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 11:07am

Thank you for your blog! I was unsuccessfully (though kept alive - was very suicidal) treated for depression 30+ years with anti depressants. Then I came upon a very wise psychiatrist who changed my diagnosis to Bi Polar II, secondary to head trauma (I had fractured my skull in 1972). It was a light bulb moment for me also. Eventually I was put on combo of Abilify and Lamictal. It made a life changing difference. I use Moodscope daily to monitor my stability. A great tool too!! My life isn't always smooth sailing, but Moodscope scores (I made a hardcopy diary card) are the platform for my therapy sessions. Thank you Moodscope for being my daily barometer!

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 11:35am

I suffer from this too, as you can see you are not alone. I have a head injury and a possiable heart problem because of it. I wanted childern since the age of 20 when I had sex with a total stranger. Unfortunately for one reaosn or the other. They could only see me as some sort of sex object. Having sex with loads more strangers having heavier periods. It prolonged me in misery.I now take the pill to support myself with these different types of people in socitey. Now I am just concentrating on having childern. It also makes me think the sheer amount of lies that we tell each other, just to stay together as a family.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 11:57am

Fantastic blog Will! I'm so pleased that your diagnosis was a lightbulb moment for you, and not a life-sentence. Our illness can be managed if not cured and we have to take responsibility for it. The best thing I have found is not only knowing that I am not alone, but realising that many of my fellow sufferers are also intelligent, educated and (often) high-achieving individuals. I am not ashamed, I am angry that some of the world (Yup - the world of Finance is one - Mr Anonymous - I was there too) still stigmatises us instead of helping. But the times, they are a-changing: let's hope they change faster and sooner!

Mary Blackhurst Hill Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 12:01pm

Thank you so much for sharing. Please know you've got support here - and we completely respect your need to stay anonymous. Thinking of you and hoping your medication can get sorted out so you're a bit more stable and less exhausted. Complementary therapies (EFT for instance) can help a bit too, so you might like to check these out. Hit it with everything you can!

heather Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 12:27pm

I am 69 years old and was diagnosed with "manic depression" in my 20s. This was NOT a light bulb moment for me ! quite the reverse, it brought terrible shame. I am now relatively happy to tell people I am "bipolar" and having suffered from acute life shattering ups and downs in my 20s and early 30s, I was finally settled on Lithium and spent the last 10 years of my working life as a Medical Sec. for a Consultant Psychiatrist - a very interesting and enjoyable job. I am an active Mum and very happy to be a Grandmum. Lithum can affect your thyroid and kidneys so you must have very regular checks on all three. I've been on it for over 30 years and my life has been a good one thanks, I believe, to Lithum, but the trouble is I am now afraid to come off it but am told I am OK with three-monthly checks. It is important to know that you should not normally take anti-inflammatories (Ibruprofen) with Lithium, get dehydrated in hot weather (no saunas), or suddenly change your salt intake as these can increase the toxicity of the drug. Best wishes, Heather x

Julia Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 12:35pm

Yes you are so right anonymous 11.35. We do tell lies to family, (friends and work colleagues) just to preserve some minimum image of normality in their eyes. You couldn't have put it better! I also understand when you say that you gave in to many men because of your lack of self confidence caused by depression. I expect you felt that by showing some sort of kindness to them, it was a way of communicating and relating to them. Eventually I imagine you realised that it never worked for you, your dignity suffers and you feel even worse. So well done for writing today. I hope you find someone, a nice kind person who does not take advantage of you in any way, whom you can live with and be a family. You deserve this.

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 12:42pm

Dear Will, I am so pleased for you, I know how you felt and the relieve you feel now. My b-p began when I was 7, 60 years ago. I was diagnosed when I was 43!! I am on a mixed batch of different meds as lithium did not work for me - I am glad it does for you. Please go for regular blood work and check-ups with your doctors. For all of us w/ b-p, thoughts and prayers go out, jane

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 12:46pm

Good advice Heather well done you . Does anyone know how to diagnose BP is there any guidance/questionnaires or can it only be done by a psychiatrist ? I'm sure a lot of women feel its just normal women mood swings hard to know really if BP. Are there options for non pharmacotherapies such as supplements or is lithium the only option ?

Julia Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 12:46pm

It must be reassuring to have one's extremes of moods and general feelings of mental disarray labelled and given a name. So that when one at last receives a diagnosis of bi polar, it must be a relief to know that there is a standard treatment involving drugs primarily Lithium and one can tell friends, work colleagues and family this explains your moods etc and you are now having treatment. However Diana interestingly says it is a complex mental health diagnosis and not so straightforward as the label suggests. What I am saying is that in the past I have almost wished I could have that diagnosis so that I knew what was wrong with me instead of doctors making guesses based on my muddled explanation of how I felt. I still don't know to this day whether I am bi polar (although I think I should know by now if I am?), plain old depressed, insomniac because I am depressed or depressed because I am an insomniac , the list goes on and mostly diagnosed by yours truly. Diana's comment has made me think. Although I am genuinely pleased people with Bi Polar have a name for their mental health issues and more importantly effective treatment, it does not necessarily mean that those who so far have not and maybe never will have a diagnosis, need necessarily strive for one. It's not that simple.

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 2:34pm

Im so chuffed for you ! Hope you find all the areas of happiness that you've missed out on all the very best

trioross Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 2:38pm

Hi Will, it's great to hear things are clearer for you and that Moodscope helps. My name is Carol Ross and I lead writing groups in mental health wards in Cumbria (near Scotland) in the UK. I was wondering whether you have found writing helps you - perhaps a journal or diary? You can find out more here:

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 4:06pm

I'd just like to add something about Bipolar that I uncovered this week on forums. The post to a forum was talking about a relative who was obviously bipolar and refuse treatment because he felt it was weak to be treated. A few people posted their experiences, including a woman who was treated for bipolar and not getting better. She had a terrible story to tell that isn't important for me to recount here. What was important is that she actually had an auto-immune disease of the thyroid. Once one of her family members fell ill with it, she was inspired to have a full thyroid panel done. Sure enough, she had hashimotos! Once they began treating her thyroid, her mental symptoms receeded.
I want to stress that having a full thyroid panel is essential if you are struggling with your moods. Don't assume it's bipolar, or be afraid to get a second opinion, or ask for a full thyroid panel. There are too many people I've worked with being treated for bipolar that I've now wondered if they just had thyroid issues!

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 5:35pm

Hi Sara-Louise; DO go and see your doctor - or maybe a doctor in your practice who you feel will be sympathetic; that is what they are there for after all! And they will have seen and heard it all before. I used to ask for a double appointment so that I had a bit more time to explain. I wish you well on your journey. Frankie

Anonymous Fri, Jan 24th 2014 @ 10:24pm

Dear Will and Everyone who has commented,
This blog is a timely posting for me. I will be 50 years old soon and it feels like I have been fighting a life time to appear and remain normal (normal being maintaining relationships, attending work and appearing to fit in and function). I experience moods swings within each day and grind down to a burn out generally once a year. My days off are all about recovering and being fit for work the following week. The pattern has been to change jobs every 2 years as it all gets difficult to hide. Last year I was seen by a psychiatrist and she gave me the diagnoses of recurrent depressive disorder.
It is very encouraging to hear that some of you have been taking medication for many years and to know it has been helpful to you. I have a really anxiety about with taking any medication long term and finding it almost impossible to get over my fears and reset my thoughts on this. I am just in the midst of recovering from another blip which is putting my job at risk. This time round I can see that I have viewed everybody else as the enemy, especially professional advice as regarding taking medication. Thank you Will for re framing this for me and I hope I can overcome my anxiety regarding this as I truly want to gain a life where I can relax and show up without the daily fears of being triggered or needing to hide away.

Anonymous Sat, Jan 25th 2014 @ 3:14pm

Dear Will,
I have never responded to a blog before but I feel impelled to write this:
I am a fifty-five year old male who lives in a small town in Northwest England, UK. Just over half a year ago I went down with a major depression. I had experienced depression now and then since my teenage but also periods of much energy, enthusiasm and high mood. I have had to resign from several jobs because of mood issues. It has affected my ability to manage my finances and caused much grief for my longsuffering wife and two daughters. I have two university degrees and cannot work at the moment.
With the help of my doctor I have had a consultation with a psychiatrist who has diagnosed me with either bipolar or unipolar. My doctor is now initiating the process of prescribing lithium. I am full of hope after reading your blog and the responses that you have had so far. I have used Moodscope in the past and it encourages me to take it up again. I have a long list of family and friends to thank for getting me through my depressions. Thanks again for yours words, Will.

Mapsie1066 Sun, Jan 26th 2014 @ 10:30pm

Hi Will,
I am a GP and I suffer with Bipolar Part 2 (supposedly the less severe form) - but no less disruptive). I have learned to recognise the warning signs of 'my engine reving' and can take early remedial steps. I find doing Moodscope helps me and my psychiatrist keep track on things I also have a very good friend as my Moodscope buddy. She is always quick to pick up on any dips in the graph and equally quick to say 'Well Don'- (am going through a good phase so lots of that!). It was especially helpful 2 years ago when I hit a very low spell in the winter. I am on Depakote and citalopram- both of which keep me very steady. I can cope with the stress of full-time general practice, but know when I need to say 'No' to things.
I look after our patients with severe mental health problems which includes Bi-polar. Having the condition give me insight, and sharing with them the fact of my own diagnosis give them some hope. I encourage them all to use moodscope and to bring the graphs to their review sessions, or when they feel unwell- it is most useful.
I wish you well for the future. Life after diagnosis on the right treatment is so much better than the rollercoaster ride of pre-diagnosis.
Best wishes

Caroline Ashcroft Tue, Jan 28th 2014 @ 9:32am

So pleased that Moodscope is helping you.

Caroline Ashcroft Tue, Jan 28th 2014 @ 9:34am

I just want to thank everyone who has contributed comments to this blog. Very helpful.

sathyam shonkho Thu, Apr 24th 2014 @ 6:40am

happy living and good behaivear is the only <a href="" rel="nofollow">Diagnosis for Bipolar Disorder</a> and less of it can make the illness grow the severer Sun, May 25th 2014 @ 2:49am


Healthline just launched a video campaign for bipolar disorder called "You've Got This" where bipolar patients can record a short video to give hope and inspiration to those recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

You can visit the homepage and check out videos from the campaign here:

We will be donating $10 for every submitted campaign to To Write Love On Her Arms, so the more exposure the campaign gets the more the videos we'll receive and the more Healthline can donate to research, support, and treatment programs for mental health disorders.

We would appreciate if you could help spread the word about this by sharing the You've Got This with friends and followers or include the campaign as a resource on your page:

Please let me know if this is possible and if you have any questions. And, if you know anyone that would be interested in submitting a video, please encourage them to do so.

Maggie Danhakl • Assistant Marketing Manager
p: 415-281-3124 f: 415-281-3199

Healthline • The Power of Intelligent Health
660 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 | @Healthline | @HealthlineCorp

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