So you're bipolar

You have been diagnosed, correctly or incorrectly, with a group of symptoms. The connotations of having bipolar are deeply, deeply unpleasant and even associating the word with yourself probably is a very painful undertaking.

But associate with it for a moment here, and learn what is good about what you have. You have a tremendous amount of currently misused power coursing through your mind. Other people want that vitality. When I was in high school I was voted Most School Spirit which was incredible bullshit given my feminist views on cheerleaders. What I had was just the most spirit. And that is what you have too. You are lucky.

When I went to Vail for the first time and got off the ski lift and looked around I just cried because it was so beautiful. My friend Augie was really jealous when I told him. You have a sensitivity and insight. It's not hard to understand why. Certain neural pathways are too painful for us to be on sometimes. Big chunks of childhood narrative play out in ways that scare us. So we take refuge in other parts of our brain and those parts grow and make us insightful and give us the capacity to understand ourselves and harness that power.

After I had that manic episode in 2004, I had about the worst depression of my life. It was just awful. There is a blackness and pain we know in that side of things that is nothing but bad. But during it, I kept looking online for bipolar success stories, for an inspiration, for a role model, for someone who said, look, it's not that bad, you can be who you want still. And online and in person, I had the horrible experience of only meeting bipolar people who were unemployed and unemployable, strung out on medication, unable to have a relationship, essentially dependent wards of the State in their 30s and 40s.

It does not have to be that way. Plenty of people are pretty high-functioning bipolars, perhaps a great deal undiagnosed. The ones in doctors care deal with the diagnosis by minimizing it in their lives. It's not like being diagnosed with gay, unfortunately, you don't get a community of supporters or a flag or a parade because all the successful ones are in the closet. I'm in the closet at work. You may want to be as well.

Or maybe at some time you want to celebrate what is good about you, all that creative energy, and take on that title, bipolar, and be who you are and show people that you have learned to accept yourself the way you are and they should too. Then you can have the brutal fight with the mainstream to be accepted. Oh, maybe not.

Being diagnosed bipolar is like being diagnosed with a very serious case of being human - you have a surfeit of humanity. Pay attention to yourself and you may in fact become insightful about the human condition.

And, you know, do what everyone needs to do to function optimally as a human: eat well, sleep, drink water, take medication if necessary, exercise, breath, love, create. Oh my God. I almost wrote Eat, Pray, Love. That is distressing. Time to go.


  1. I just found out today that the "anxiety" that follows my depression and repeatedly turns my life upside down is really mania... they`re changing my meds tomorrow. Im scared. Ive run from every job and every relationship Ive ever had. Will medication fix that? I dealt better when I was younger, my charm and ability to pick things up made finding work easy and I even have two children. My daughter is 11 and bipolar, and while I dont understand myself, I seem to intuitively know exactly what she needs. Im afraid that I need a person to do that for me - to keep me on the right track - but Im absolutely terrified that Ill end up another poor schmuck stuck on the dole, or worse, that my children will have to stay with their dad and Ill lose everything that gave my life meaning. I am very, very scared. - Michelle, 33

  2. Dear Mystery: Your comment was trapped in my spam filter so I didn't respond until now. Please leave a comment with an e-mail address or get in touch with me on Facebook or Twitter (Rachel Mariner) so I can e-mail you and read how you are doing. Of course you're scared. Only a fool wouldn't be scared. You probably will do fine because you are smart enough to be scared. I send my love. Rachel


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