Depressed about Depression?

If you have bipolar disorder, you've probably had
some well-meaning person say "I know how you feel.
I get depressed too".

If you're like me, this may invoke the urge to kick
them in the shin while saying "No, you don't!"
at an inappropriate volume level.

The next time someone suggests they know
about "feeling kind of down", you may want
to refer them to these stats...

This next one is pretty harsh,
especially if you are BPII.

This is why there's medication...
and this is why I don't believe it when people
say "I know how you feel", unless they are one
of the diagnosed.


the Real Me

If you put 10 people diagnosed as "bipolar" in a room
none of them would describe their life in the same way.
There would be similarities, but more often there would
be differences in their symptoms, triggers, medications
and in their experience of "mental illness",
both pre and post-diagnosis.

You would also find they have 10 different ways
of talking about it - how they describe themselves,
and their relationship to bipolarity.

One of the things I've been having trouble with lately
as I've become more engaged with other bps online
is a tendency to see themselves as separate
from 'the illness'. I really don't get it.

It's my problem, not theirs. I'm totally clear
about that... what I don't understand is how one
can separate 'the self' - which is centred in the brain,
yes? - from a medical diagnosis that has a lot
to do with the way said brain functions.

I missed going out with my sister and mom and nieces because I was feeling down and needed sleep. I was
talking to my sis later and she said it would have
been more fun with me.

I explained that the way I am feeling, it definitely
would NOT be more fun. She smiled and answered,
but I mean the REAL you.

I started me thinking, who is the real me? Has anyone
got that figured out? I've been pretending to be happy
so long, I can't think of who the real me might actually be.

Is it the me that feels manic or depressed.
Or is it the me that comes out during "remission" times?


I think the real me is stable on medications.
I don't want to go back to where I was. That just wasn't
me at all. I was very unhappy and could get out of control. Figuring out who you really are can be tricky. I would probably say the in between times where you felt stable would be...


I'm already lost. Weirdly enough, the first thing
that comes to my mind is schizophrenia. Given my musical interests, in a heartbeat I'm thinking Quadrophenia.

       I went back to the doctor
      To get another shrink.
       I sit and tell him about my weekend,
       But he never betrays what he thinks.

      Can you see the real me, doctor?

                     The Real Me - Pete Townsend/The Who

I've been living my life for everyone else for
so many years,  I don't know who the real me
is either! Is it the father, husband, home owner,
good employee ... or the loner, the roamer,
the lost in this world we so call the norm.


I heard on Easter from my mother how she didn't think
I was acting like the real me and my aunt and cousin
had both told her they didn't think so either.

I think it was because I was calm and peaceful.
Certainly I was laughing and enjoying myself,
just not jumpy like they are used too.

I feel like I am the real me when I am stable.
I am fairly new to this stable self and still struggle
with some downs so I feel like I am meeting me
maybe for the first time...


I have a hard time finding the difference between
where bipolar ends and I begin. I've been diagnosed
for 8 years, and have just in the last few years lost
my stability... So finding this "real" me, is kind
of weird, especially because she's not always there!

I like to think the real me is a happy, outgoing, competent woman who loves her family and friends and is great with kids...but that sounds a little too much like my "put on self" right now for me to believe it.


i would think all those people in the post you
mentioned, the up and downs, remission ,
all the parts are the sum of me.


I've lost the real me and I have no clue who
that person is. For years I was the person
who could do anything, try anything and
go, go, go. Now I'm the person that is a no show
and just can't do anything.

How do you find yourself? I'd love to know
"what" I'm supposed to find.

It's funny you mention this... "The Real You".
I have glimpses and short snip-its of who I used to be.
But don't think I'll ever be the same person.

My rational explanation is that our brain and our bodies chemistry has been altered. First by whatever caused us to become BP and secondly by the medication that is helping us become stable. Just because we are stable, does that really make us "the real me" or is it just "the new me who is stable".


I used to be the person who never let anything
stop me. I was going to be important, I was
going to save the world...

Now I make it to work and home, just barely
making it through without crying... I miss that girl
who was unstoppable...and not in a manic way!


Its all you. Its all me. Its the total sum of everything
you have experienced... You don't need to find yourself.
No matter where you look, you're already there.

As ever, the sincerity in these voices moves me
profoundly. This tendency to speak so openly
and honestly about the most profound and
intimate aspects of ones' life seems to me
to be a common trait among bps.
It's humbling, and inspiring. I like to think
I have it too. They certainly inspire me to try...

this was my contribution to the discussion:

i only have one brain. i can no more be "separate"
from the factors that make me bp than i can
from the air i breathe or the ground under my feet.

most of us are familiar with the conscious effort
to "act normal" in social situations, but that's not
me BEING "someone else"- that's "me" CHOOSING
to behave in a certain way.

the real "me" is authentic - curious, open, modest,
sad, honest, scared and doing my best to be
of use in the world.

was i a different person 20 years ago? sure!
will i be a different person tomorrow? probably...
but neither of them was or will be more "me"
than i am right now.

       I went back to my mother
       I said, "I'm crazy ma, help me."
      She said, "I know how it feels son,
      'Cause it runs in the family."

       Can you see the real me, mother?

                     The Real Me - Pete Townsend/The Who

Most people get up every day with things to do,
and things to worry about, but they generally
start with a good idea of who they are...

Some don't.

       Can you see the real me?
       Can you, can you?
       Can you see the real me?
       Can you see the real me... me... me...?

                     The Real Me - Pete Townsend/The Who


Bipolar Disorder and Creativity

what, again?

yes, again. ...because i read a recent study
about Bipolar Disorder and Creativity today.

"Thinking outside the box
might be facilitated by having
a somewhat less intact box"

           says Dr UllĂ©n about his new findings.

if you find this intriguing, you can read all about here*:

Creativity linked to mental health

*  yes, it will be on the final.


on a Good Day


on a good day, i think i've been
learning a few things.

part of my sadness of the past few years came from a sense
of abandonment, i think. i felt i had done a number of people a number of kindnesses over the years. the part of me that has been sad was because i thought that those kindnesses might be returned by and by.

i thought i was mourning their absence, and the injustice
of it all, but mow i think what i was sad about was the dashing of my expectations.

we are who we are, we do what we do.
i gave because i had the inclination and the capacity to do so. it was not an investment to expect a return on. there was no contract specifying reciprocity, ergo any expectations etc etc.
now when i give, i'm clear about that, and it's all good.

as winter's been giving it up for spring over the last few months, i've been wrapping my head around the idea
that my "life" is effectively over.

it sounds very dramatic, but it's not, really.

my past is a done thing. in my present, every day
is very much like another and i don't have a future,
in the conventional sense.

i've applied for a few things and made some overtures
over the last few years, to no great effect. i had planned
on being one of those colourful crotchety elders in the scene, but there's no real place for me where i used to play, or in the greater cultural continuum anymore.

sad? maybe, but not half as sad
as being the only one who cares.


what else do i know? not much.

i'm old. i'm broke. i have what's called a mental illness.
my personal habits - like my perspectives on life, the universe and everything - range from the distasteful
and/or suspect to the out of fashion,
illegal and/or
too far out of the box

i write about it sometimes and sometimes people notice. likewise with the photographs, the comics and other stuff
i am curiously compelled to create.

if you were to ask me what's happening, the best i could probably come up with would be the the rather intense
ten minutes i spent watching a woodpecker working
just a few feet away the other day.

i'm getting back into gardening, which is not the easy
thing here it was in Vancouver. after taking so many photographs of nature here, and staring at it and
listening to it, i'm finally ready to get my hands dirty.

and put down some roots, i guess.

which brings me, at least, back to that whole "my life
is over" thing, and why it's no big deal. because
i've never been so free.

after thirty years in absentia, i'm spending quality time
with my mom while she's still with it and into it.
i've been there for my Dad as he headed off into his own orbit, and when my brother needed somebody around
who wasn't freaked by cancer and  death.

what's happening in my life really is that woodpecker.
i have nothing i'm late for, i get maybe one email a month, when the phone rings, it's never for me and i'm a virgin
of  tweets.

it used to bum me out - expectations were not being met!
lately, it's occurred to me the lack of attention to what
i did or what i do is some kind of freedom.

space. the final frontier.

i produce "stuff" at a remarkable rate. on a good day,
i create a dozen comics, a couple of photos worth
keeping and maybe the bones of a song
or a chunk like this.

it adds up, and maybe something will come of some
of it, or maybe not. the only reason anything's ever
happened within a mile of me was because i was lucky
at bringing crews together.

i am (as ever) open to suggestion and possibilities,
but i don't wake up with any expectations...
and the beat goes on...


Stigma? What Stigma?

another fascinating question came up recently,
and with it some fascinating responses...

How do you deal with the stigma you face with your illness? You are looked at from friends, family and society like your illness is either fathomed up in your brain somewhere
or you're less of a person because you have bi-polar.

some of the responses...

Stigma is a huge issue... sadly. I would like to think it's getting a bit better since I was first diagnosed in 2001...
I think it has a little- at least people talk about it now.

When I was first diagnosed and told my eventual husband... he literally said to me "bipolar people shoot people"...

sometimes the media will still shine a negative light on bipolar disorder- but I always remember I am a person
living with bipolar disorder... not bipolar- it doesn't
define me that way anymore.


I try not to think about how people perceive me.
Of course I can't help it and it starts racing through
my mind and get obsessed about it. Some people ask questions, some don't. That's how I look at it.


In my opinion, the stigma is hit or miss depending
on how receptive the person we are discussing it with is.
I think our perception of the stigma depends on whether
WE have accepted our illness or not also.


I have told people of my illness and they stare oddly
at me and that hurts especially when my ex husband divorced me when i was newly diagnosed ... I deal
with it by knowing i am ok with me me now
and that's
all that matters.


most people do not want to be around out of sorts
people, they do strange things and talk about things
that are not normal...

Well i wouldn't tell my boss (when i had one) ...
i'd say i've got the flu.

mental illnesses i feel the need to hide from people
who may judge me although it doesn't take long in my company to realize i'm fucked up


People think that those with bp are crazy.
That's why you just cant tell anybody. They treat us
like we are second class citizens or something.


bp may have a stigma, but when i think of my illness,
i think about the chemical imbalance not the stigma.
i worked as a health care professional before my illness changed my life and and was a stay at home dad
as well as care giver for my in-laws till their deaths.

i saw how mental illness worked when I was nursing
and so many did not embrace their illness. that i believe
is the first step in moving forward.


yes, there is absolutely a least once a week
i feel i overhear "oh he/she is nuts, he/she must be bipolar". once i heard at a sub shop "they are playing different kinds
of music back to back, i guess it's bipolar day
". wtf ?

altho i am really glad i finally got a diagnosis, i am sad
to have an illness that so many people are still afraid of.
i could not even get individual insurance when i was
living in california because i was bipolar.
that is just wrong.

my response...

I never really asked myself this question,
so I'm glad you have raised it!

One way is I get angry, and then I write about what
life is like with BP, I make art and create comics
about it. It seems to help...

I study - to learn more about BP, and about mental
health in general. I've learned about the huge contributions
that people with BP have made to the world in the arts
and other fields, and how many people I admire
have carried on with it.

There are times when I also go into denial about
the existence of that stigma. I know denial is usually
seen as a bad thing to do, but I think it can have its uses.
I put it in people's faces. I don't usually bring it up,
but if someone else does, I'll go there and try to
educate them - informed by that learning mentioned
above and my own experience.

I also don't define myself by it. I am who I am, I have
my good points and bad points but I am no more defined
by my health issue than my brother was
when he had lymphoma.

- to be continued -

learn more at Stop Stigma


It's All in Your Head

It's All in Your Head

if you're bipolar, you hear this
a lot from people.

see also

33 Things not to say to a Head Case


You don't have to be crazy

You don't have to be crazy...

           ... or do you?

you don't have to love me,
just like me.
Like Me.
Like Me.

Like Me.

You don't have to say you love me
because Love is never
having to say you're sorry.

You Don't Have to Be Thin to Win.

You don't even need

to be present.

You don't have to say

you don't love me,


You don't have to say

a thing

but anything you do say...


what is mental illness to you?

how's that for a question?

it was asked recently on a bipolar site i like.
it struck me, because i'd never been asked
before. it struck me that i'd never
even asked myself.

here are some of the responses from people
with a mental illness...

What is mental illness to you?

- it is just a way of life.

- Trapped and cannot escape

- I feel things more intensely and sometimes
    I feel trapped as if I were paralyzed.

- I feel that I am a warped person, misshapen,
    like something left out in the rain...

- I feel it is hard to know where `the illness' begins
      and where normal finishes !!!

- I get frustrated about how I feel, how I deal,
   and people's lack of understanding. I feel guilty
   because I am not as mentally ill as some people
   I know. and I feel guilty for having to make
   my husband deal with me at my worst.

What is it to me? - me. I know nothing else.
I sometimes look at "normal" people and
wonder how they get through the day -
it must be boring and a burden.

- I feel alone, no one really understands...

- I don't feel that being bipolar has conferred
     any advantages to me, I feel like it has robbed
      me of my potential.

- But, I know that here are the parts that Bipolar
   touches & turns brighter: My laugh, my positive
   outlook, my optimism... And here are the parts
   that Bipolar then in turn snuffs out: My laugh,
   my positive outlook, my optimism, my creativity,
   my friendliness...

- Bipolar to me means having people look at my moods
  under a microscope. Can't laugh too loud, cry too often,
  get angry at ALL!

  Exercise a little too much?
   Must be mania...
  Decide to spend the day on the couch?
   Must be a depression. My actions are no longer
   seen as just a part of everyday life
   and I hate that part.

- I guess what mental illness is to me is something
  unfair and terrible that is thrust on people who
  don't deserve it.

- I don't know what is me or the illness,
  so I don't know who I am.

- Mental illness to me is being trapped in a body
  with a malfunctioning brain. I feel like this illness
  has taken so much away from me and I often
  wonder what my life would be like if I didn't have it.

- My Bi-Polar to me is a different challenge,
  a different way, a different point of view...
  (different = after meds lol)

and my response...

mental illness to me is one more label in a lifetime
of labels. it's on the list with "too sensitive", "gifted", "immature", "a daydreamer", "bad attitude", "lazy", "unrealistic", "visionary" and so many others.

i don't know what it's like to be "normal".
my experience of life (apparently) is grounded
in "illness", but what the hell is that supposed to mean?

these photographs are mental illness to me. too.

i take them for all kinds of reasons. one of them is to try and convey what the world looks like and what the world feels like when you move through it with a mental illness.

this is what i see. this is what i can't help but notice
out walking with the dog, or going to the store for more
smokes.this is what you drive by...

i take pictures like i take meds like i take too long to do things like i try to think of others like i write too late at night. i just do.

What is mental illness to you?


Bipolar - it's like that..?

I don't know if it's the change of seasons, the change
of meds or the lack of anything better to do that
has me thinking about bipolarity more these days...

maybe it's all those MBA types
on the news every night, clucking about The Market and how The Fundamentals
Are Strong that started me wondering
about the fundamentals of bp.

like this one.

if you do an image search for bipolar,
you run into
this a lot.

it makes me uneasy. cancel that - it creeps me out. 

my experience of bipolar is nothing like this.
my life is not now and never has been this simple.
this cut and dried.
this digital.

what do these images say about how doctors,
nurses, social workers and other professionals
see bipolar people?

what do
these images tell people wondering
if they should seek help?

what do they say to we, the diagnosed?
is this how we see ourselves?
is this how others see us?

it seems to be "the look". you find them on all kinds
of sites, from institutes to health boards to bipolar
bloggers - so clearly these images have some kind
of currency, some form of approval.

so why do they creep me out?

they creep me out because they are too easy.
too simple. too dramatic. they don't represent
the 95% of  my bipolar life that takes place
between these extremes.

because if you think love is a many splendoured thing,
you really ought to have a bipolar day sometime.

does these images harken back to the idea
of manic depression?

maybe. there is some nostalgia for that term
and i feel that sometimes too. it's very clear.
it's very simple, to the point of graphic.
it gives people a ballpark understanding
with great economy.

but the bipolar experience was not that simple then,
and it is not that simple now. it is incredibly complex
and infinitely variable.

how i feel is affected by everything from lighting
to ambient sound to my prescribed
and when i last took some.

and then there's "other people"- their presence or absence, the words they do or do not say.

i'm not saying there's a bipolar exclusive on any of this,
but i am saying i'm bipolar, all of the above can rock
my world and none of this is in these pictures.

if this too sad/too happy dichotomy is the working
image of bipolar, what are the implications for
how this 'disorder' will be treated?  

if this is a disorder expressed through behaviours
and/or moods that are
too sad/too happy,
how do we define successful treatment?

am i defined only by my extremes?
when does feeling good
turn into too happy?
how do i know when i'm too sad?

if i'm not too happy or too sad,

am i OK?

would i be the last to know?