The Full Story With Alicia Greensides and Her Experience With Bipolar Disorder
In this full interview, you’ll hear how she came to realize she has been bipolar for a long time and how she could confront the disorder with the support of loved ones.
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Full disclosure. I misquoted Alicia in our official bipolar episode. I mentioned she developed bipolar after her second pregnancy, but she was actually bipolar since 10 and officially diagnosed after her second pregnancy.
I’m all about making sure all the info I give you is honest and transparent–accurate, to boot. In this full interview, you’ll hear how she came to realize she has been bipolar for a long time and how she could confront the disorder with the support of loved ones.
Check Alicia out on Instagram at @bipolar.parenting and on our discord channel.
Sarah Potter 00:02
Welcome back to another wonderful bonus episode with Alicia green sides from our bipolar episode that we had her out earlier this spring. If you remember, Alicia specifically talks about her bipolar disorder and the longevity of her bipolar. And in the episode we really focused on talking about when symptoms started coming up. And when we started noticing that we were bipolar as people. And a correction that I want to make sure that I put out there is that Alicia has had bipolar symptoms, since she was approximately 10 years old. And I really want to make sure that I honor her story and make sure that I am as correct as possible in portraying the right information. That’s kind of like my whole shtick with the podcast is to really portray an honest raw light of what bipolar and ADHD and all these other mental health disorders are like. And although many of the women that we interviewed for this podcast episode on bipolar disorder, had the bipolar diagnosis during or after pregnancy, their pregnancy did not cause they’re bipolar, it simply exacerbated the symptoms that were already there. Bipolar is a genetic disorder that is with us for our entire lives, women and men can go years or most of their life without a proper bipolar diagnosis. And once you receive that diagnosis, you can reflect back on your childhood back on your young adult life and realize, wow, I’ve been bipolar forever. And that’s okay. Pregnancy is known to cause bipolar symptoms to become inflamed, and then begin ongoing symptoms from there on out. So again, pregnancy does not cause bipolar, bipolar has always been there. And it’s just magnified now with the pregnancy. All right. I’m going to let you guys listen in as Alicia tells her story on bipolar and her life growing up. Okay, so to begin. So, tell me what bipolar means to you, outside of the diagnosis when, when people want to know what bipolar is, what is it? How do you explain it?
Alicia Greensides 02:35
So first and foremost, for me, Bipolar disorder is just another illness. I believe it’s an illness that’s heavily stigmatized, and not very well educated among people. But it’s still to me just a regular illness. I am not bipolar. I have bipolar disorder. And this is really an important distinction for me and something that I wish more people realized. No, yes, I have a brain disorder. Yes, that makes me different. But it doesn’t make me less. And it doesn’t make me scary or dangerous or unfeeling. My illness is just that and it needs to be treated as such with self care and kindness, medication and healthy lifestyle. My bipolar means that some days I struggle more than others. Sometimes those Days turned into weeks, which sometimes turn into months. And in these times, when I’m unwell, I may disappear from the lives of the people that I care about, I might stop taking care of myself stop going to work, I might stop going outside altogether, the joy of my life will kind of fade away. And I’m usually left in this darkness that doesn’t get any easier to climb out of. At these times, I am very clearly unwell. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes I will find myself being the life of the party. I might seem like from the outside, I’m doing everything and I’m doing everything very well. For me, it’s important to note that at these times, I am still unwell. People tend to associate on wellness with depression but any alteration from a person’s normal baseline is generally a cause for concern. So, at these times in my life where I project this perfection, I am generally extremely sleep deprived. And I’m often overwhelmed with feelings of paranoia, loss of self hatred and confusion. Because to me, on the inside, everything in my life feels like it’s going wrong but there’s no clear indication as to why I will feel things very intensely. and everything all at once as well. I kind of act impulsively. And sometimes it can feel like there’s literally another person controlling my body, I am my, when I’m in an episode like this, my brain physically changes, I don’t make the same decisions I would make when I’m in my right state of mind. And sometimes I will kind of scream out in ways that are impulsive. And the ways that I am screaming for help in these times are generally not recognizable to other people as signs that I need help. For example, like on one end, it could be an emotional outburst over something very minor. On the other end, it could be me continuously over committing overcommitting in a way that would make somebody else completely exhausted. So I’ve had this illness my whole life, I can remember signs of illness from the age of like 11. And when I was a kid, I, I always dreamed of becoming an actress. And the reasons were, because I wanted everybody to love me, and I love this idea of becoming whoever I want it to be. And as an adult, now, I think it’s so funny, because I realized, in a way, I’ve been an actress my whole life, I have had chaos in my brain this whole time, and have just been showing the world pieces of me that I thought they wanted to see. Not realizing that it’s important to see every aspect of of who somebody is and their mental wellness. And now with my diagnosis, I refuse to live that way anymore. When I accepted my diagnosis, I took off my mask, I decided I would show the world who I was. Because I know that there are so many other people out there, like me with bipolar disorder and other mental illness. And if I can stop pretending that I have my shit together, and if that changes something for one other person, then for me, that really makes it worth it. You know, when I was growing up, I believed that I was always alone. And my goal is to make sure that the worlds my children grow up in never make them feel that way because of a potential illness they may have.
Sarah Potter 07:42
I really, I really love everything you said, I, I liked the part where you’re discussed, pretending you don’t have your shit together anymore. Because that is something that we were taught as children, we were taught to have the perfect life to not show anyone our flaws or mistakes or fuck ups and live in this totally fabricated life. That we would show outward to the world and not admit to ourselves or anyone else around us if there was something wrong with us. And I feel those ideals that have been instilled in people like you and I, since we were small kids, as the right way to live, has perpetuated our illness into a very bad direction. It has created turmoil for our own selves on a whole new level, an additional level, to what was already going on inside. And has caused us to have so many self identification issues in our lives. That we have not been able to keep relationships with people or have good friendships, or be able to really connect with our kids until we’ve been able to realize and have that level of self awareness about our illness, about who we actually are and that none of the things we were taught are required of us. Absolutely. Once we realize those things, being able to let go and and say things like yeah, I am bipolar, I have bipolar. And that’s just how it is. My life is very different from yours. I don’t have my shit together ever. And when I do, I’m pretending for the sake of myself. So you can either be on board with that or you can move on but you don’t get to use my mental health against me you don’t get a weaponized my illness against me. You don’t get to weaponize me taking medication or being in therapy against me by any way any shape or form? And if that is what you choose to do, you will be disconnected from my life. Yeah,
Alicia Greensides 10:06
absolutely very well said, Yeah. And that’s where it kind of comes in with like, being a parent and raising little humans, they are, they are little humans, they feel things just like we do. And the parts of their brain that regulate emotions is not formed yet. And so, really me being able to regulate my own emotions is the best thing for them. And that’s one of the reasons why I treat my bipolar before anything else. Because growing up, like you said, like in my household, anytime I showed a big emotion, it was wrong, it was shut down. And to a child, that’s, it’s confusing, first of all. And second of all, it teaches a child that the things they feel are incorrect. And I don’t want to do that to my children. My children’s big emotions are valid. They make me uncomfortable sometimes because of my childhood experience. And because I’m still working through my trauma and my big emotions, too. But like I said, the best thing that I can do for them is show them what that regulation looks like. Yeah. Am I always perfect? Absolutely not. Yeah. But I will apologize to my child if I, you know, freak out on them when I shouldn’t have. And I think that’s also an important step is showing our children, hey, you know, I am not perfect. And that’s okay. What’s important is that if you hurt someone else, you make a genuine attempt to write that wrong. Yeah,
Sarah Potter 11:49
I agree. Like, you know, with my, with my episodes that I have, I lash out at everybody around me, in an and it’s so uncontrollable, and frustrating. And I hate it. But I have come to the point in my life, where I’m realizing like, I need to give myself grace in those moments, I am not in control of that regulation. And I have lost that control. And that is okay. explaining that to the kids explaining, and showing that I have empathy for myself, as well as empathy and an apologetic, you know, stance towards them for what they went through, too. Because one thing that I, I tried to keep in mind is when I have a manic episode, it doesn’t just affect me, it affects everybody in my house. And sometimes, that effect is small. And sometimes that effect is very big. And being able to go to the kids and explain that to them, and look like you know how mommy sick all the time. Well, mom was really sick last night, and I’m really sorry. Yeah. And they they understand they’re forgiving. They get it to, you know, do their own child mind.
Alicia Greensides 13:13
Free, you can explain mental illness in an age appropriate way. Children are very intelligent. Just because you don’t insert those big scientific words doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to explain to a child, Mommy is sick, just like you said, because it is an illness.
Sarah Potter 13:31
And if I had examples of that, as a child, for myself, it wouldn’t have been this difficult to do in the first place, it wouldn’t have been as difficult to admit to myself in the first place. Yeah. So I mean that talking a little bit about mania kind of brings me to my next question, which is, you know, what’s up with the manic party? The everyone that I’ve spoken to for this episode has experienced mania in a couple of different ways. A common thread is the manic depressive episodes, and how horridly we talk to ourselves during and after those episodes. So I’m curious as to, you know, how does your mania present itself for you?
Alicia Greensides 14:19
So I love what you said, I really do believe that. Mania is a personal experience. I have kind of a lot to say about it. Actually. Once I started once the ball started rolling, I was like, wow, I got a lot pent up about this mania shit. But first, I wanted to just make a distinction. There’s actually two sides to mania. There’s hypomania. And then there’s mania. And both of these as well as bipolar depression are episodic, which just means like they happen in a chunk of time and not outside of it. That’s what bipolar is. The signs and symptoms of hypomania and mania are generally the same. But what makes them different is the duration intensity of the episode as well as how much it impairs your everyday life, right. And in all of these aspects, hypomania is on the lower end of the spectrum and mania is on the higher end of the spectrum. The other thing that differentiates them is that sometimes in a manic episode, you can experience psychosis, which is not something that would happen in a hypomanic episode. If you are experiencing symptoms of hypomania, or mania, and then you also experienced psychosis, that then becomes classified as media. And just for clarification, because this is something that I did not learn for a very long time, was what psychosis actually is. And that’s partly because of my lack of education around mental health growing up, yeah, and the way that media portrayed likes to portray people with mental illness. But psychosis is defined as having either delusions which are false beliefs, and or hallucinations, which I didn’t know this either is seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling things that are not there. And, again, even if you, even if you know that these things are not real, the fact that they’re happening makes it a delusion and a hallucination. And that brings me back to the hypomania mania, because when I was getting diagnosed, I didn’t understand all of this. And one of the issues of the many issues with our health care system is that when you’re getting diagnosed, sometimes things aren’t explained to you in a way that you can understand. And it’s just very clinical. And so when I was asked if I had ever experienced psychosis, I said no. And when I realized what it was I and and became aware of what I say what a delusion and a hallucination actually were, I realized that I had actually experienced psychosis and every manic episode I’ve ever had. And so when I was originally diagnosed with bipolar type two, that then changed to type one, because what I thought was hypomania was actually Mania with a psychosis being present. So with that being said, I again found it very difficult to relate to the technical definitions of media that you find online. very chatty. Oh, yeah. Like even deep diving. Like, it’s it’s very, like repetitive. And, and strict, kind of, and the the main symptom of mania is euphoria, excitement, or energy, which I just did not relate to. And because of how prominent that was in everything I read online, I was like, No, this isn’t mania. I can’t be bipolar. I’m exactly like, Oh, my goodness. So yeah, some people do experience hypomania and mania that way, but for me, it was very much like heightened your irritability, extreme over commitment. Overconfidence, yeah, and the ability to thrive in my life, with no caffeine and very little sleep. And that kind of circles into the energy. But I didn’t feel more energized, I just felt at a baseline, even though I wasn’t sleeping, and that that was kind of really important for me. And one of the reasons why I didn’t relate to what I was reading online is because people talk about these as being like clear cut symptoms, when in reality, Bipolar disorder is is much more of a spectrum. And, again, people experience things in very individual different ways. So for me, I like I said, I’ve lived with bipolar disorder my whole life, but I was only diagnosed within the last two years. So I have viewed the majority of my manic episodes through hindsight. And I’m very much learning how to recognize the signs and symptoms of mania in myself because of this. Learning about what psychosis was, and being able to recognize psychosis in my own life. I can literally look back at times in my life and pinpoint when I was manic by recalling when I was experiencing delusions and or Are hallucinations. And that’s really been such an important step for me because it’s given me the ability to look at other things that were happening in my life at that time, and say, Oh, that it, pick something out and say that is a symptom of mania. Now, I know that that’s something I do when I manic, I can look for that in the future, so that I can set up barriers to help prevent or limit a future episode. And that is so important in bipolar because it’s a chronic illness, it’s not something that’s gonna go away. It’s something that we have to learn to live with. And, you know, doing self care and putting these these steps in place, when you notice those early warning signs becomes so important, like endlessly important. And, personally, me, because I’ve had so many episodes, I my, I have like gaps in my memory. So it becomes very hard for me to remember things that I’ve experienced in a manic episode, but also depression. And so, again, noticing the psychosis and myself has been such a stepping stone into recognizing other signs of mania in myself. Yeah. Besides psychosis, the other thing that is consistent throughout my manic or hypomanic episodes, is a lack of sleep. And this is something that’s like Telltale in everybody who experiences hypomania or mania, right? Yep. Yep. Yeah. But it is so sneaky and hard to deal with. And I say that, because I know some people who have gone into a manic or hypomanic episode, only having missed one or two hours of sleep a night. And if you are not tracking your sleep in some way, it can be really easy to miss that sign and not become aware of your episode, which just cycle and make it worse.
Sarah Potter 22:13
I will say quick interjection here, I’ve been able to track my sleep, and my sleep cycles by using just a Fitbit. Or you have an Apple watch, you can do you have actors app. So for those watching, listening, like finding a way to do that, so that it takes the work out of you doing it or having to journal it is by far one of the best things to do. Because then you can start seeing like, Oh, we’re gonna have a manic episode today, because look at this lips like Oh, damn, yeah, anyway.
Alicia Greensides 22:47
And like, for me, I’ve always been very stubborn asleep. Before my diagnosis, I knew that I went through periods of insomnia, but I obviously didn’t understand what it was. So I, I would usually survive on less than four hours of sleep at night, which now clearly indicates mania to me. But I would sleep less than four hours and then the rest of the night I would lay there with my eyes squeezed tight, refusing to admit that I could not sleep. And for me, that’s, that’s like a big sign. But for some people, it’s not it’s not that obvious. Yeah. Yeah, so the psychosis and the lack of sleep are two very, very big clear indicators for me that I am experiencing mania or hypomania. Just to list off three other less extreme examples, that maybe not everybody would relate to, but some people may when I’m manic, or hypomanic, I will clearly throw myself into multiple new projects or ideas like completely, and I will not follow through on any of them. Whether it’s because whether it happens, I think that
Sarah Potter 24:05
might be the ADHD playing, playing off of the bipolar, because that is a new major ADHD thing is multiple hobbies can’t stick to it, jumping from one thing to the other, because your insert has that dopamine.
Alicia Greensides 24:19
Yeah. And the bipolar, like an epic up about a bipolar episode, I think really enhances the ADHD because it’s all about brain chemicals, right? And it really intensifies it. And like, I’ll get distracted from the product projects that I’m starting, or it comes back into that over commitment, where it’s literally impossible for me to follow through with any of the things that I’ve that I’ve started. And you know, I get knee deep into all of these projects. I’m talking like money spent time wasted things avoided like all the way in.
Sarah Potter 24:56
Oh, yeah, there have been days weeks where I avoided doing any work at all? Because I was so hyper focused on this one little hobby. I was turning into a business that oh yeah, when I went and bought the URL for I bought all the supplies. And then I started building marketing tools and a building. Yep. And I and my husband was like, I think your hobby is like, building businesses and then never following up with them. And I’m like, Oh, wow.
Alicia Greensides 25:25
So funny. Oh, yeah. And like, I have done that to the businesses. It’s everything I’m interested in needs to make me money. You know, I’ve, I did start my own business once. I made like custom cookies and cupcakes and cakes and stuff. And that was fun, but it it literally spiraled me into a manic episode. Other times, you know, I’ve been like, Oh, I’m gonna paint I’m gonna sell my paintings and I’m gonna make so much money or I’m gonna make dream catchers or crochet and everybody’s gonna love me. And, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s less about the starting of multiple things and more about how consuming it becomes. and reckless, reckless as well. Yeah. The other thing that I always do during an episode is I’ll make very reckless and impulsive decisions that don’t line up with my general views or values. When I’m in a, in a normal, quote, unquote, state. These decisions are usually, you know, around like money or sex or relationships. Substances as well, like I will, I will definitely use substances when I’m in a manic episode. And I also have very strong compulsions to make huge life decisions, decisions that I should not be making at that time. Yeah. Yeah. And the last thing I want to say, I, when I manic, I honestly think that I am the sexiest pitch alive. Everybody is obsessed with me. You know, somebody could argue that that’s a delusion but I wanted to mention it just for shits and giggles because I’m clearly not the hottest pitch alive. You aren’t so sad for me. You’re beautiful. And just the way we’re all desire in every way possible to everybody all the time just in different ways.
And for some people, they may not want to admit it. But yeah,
Sarah Potter 27:39
the overconfidence the grandiose ness of bipolar those are two things that are that used to be very frequent for me and as I’ve become more self aware of my bipolar, I have none of that anymore. Like yeah, I am I like I flipped from being like I’m the best thing ever to I am awful and terrible no one I’m the worst so like this totally the opposite. And like I I’ll go all I’ll go into those hypo manic like depressions much more frequently now than then the hyperactive mania I will experience it from time to time but because sleep is one of my triggers it usually go leans the hyper wave versus the the high energy light but I do still experience some of those high energy moments. Like a couple of weeks ago I woke up after four hours asleep probably less if I if I am being real about that. And then had crazy balls energy until like two or three o’clock in the afternoon and then I just crashed fell down hard crashed and was like a fucking bitch basis.
Yeah, everybody and
Sarah Potter 29:09
Yeah, true. And I was hostile and angry and all over the place and out of control with that and then as soon as the hypo mania kicked in, I came crashing right back down from that angry hostile person into a sad depressive slump. And then that transitioned right back up into impulsive spending in poor purchase decisions. And like my my episodes as of late have have been very, like riding a wave very up and down throughout the entire process. But anyway,
Alicia Greensides 29:48
yeah, those mixed episodes are a real bitch. Oh, they honestly. They are the worst. They are it they made. I don’t like using the word crazy but they make Make me feel crazy.
Sarah Potter 30:01
Yes, they make me feel like I’m losing my mind. And that I don’t understand which way is up or down. And the way I was describing it with another woman that I interviewed for this episode is it feels like I’m in a glass box, inside the middle of my brain, watching, hearing feelings, sensing, smelling all the things happening around me, with zero control over what is actually occurring. I can’t do anything to stop it. It’s too late. The trains moving, I’m on the train for the ride, and I can’t get out. I can’t say anything. I’m trapped, physically, emotionally, mentally trapped inside my body. While at while I continue to do all these awful terrible things and say and do all these awful, terrible things. And then, once I start to gain back some of that control, my, my sad part takes over and it becomes this. Let’s talk shit about myself now, because I’m such an awful person and undeserving of everything. Yeah. And then my husband will come in and he’ll check on me and try to give me this pep talk. And then it’ll turn right back into that hostile angry fuck right off emotion. And I hate myself so much. During those mixed episodes, yeah. Yeah. Because I can be empathetic and sympathetic for everything going on when I’m by myself, but as soon as another person interjects, I’m just like, instantaneously hostile. And mean, just yeah, just mean How dare
Alicia Greensides 31:37
you comment on my own? Very, you try to make me feel better. And you know, exactly what you’re talking about is why it’s so important, not only for us to educate ourselves on our illness, but for us to educate the people in our lives about our illness. And because, you know, when I said earlier about what bipolar is, to me, how sometimes I scream for help, but my screams for help are unrecognizable to other people. It’s because they don’t know what those signs are. They don’t know what to look for, you know, the signs of depression can be so clear. You know, I feel like most people understand what depression looks like. Yeah. Bipolar depression is a little bit different. It’s kind of its own monster. But still, it looks generally the same. Yeah, mania. You know, I didn’t know what mania was, I didn’t even I didn’t understand the word until I learned about my illness. You know, I didn’t know. I was experiencing it so intensely, and I had no idea that I was experiencing anything other than what everybody else experienced. Yeah,
Sarah Potter 32:48
I just thought it was my personality. To be honest, I didn’t know what’s going on. Exactly like there. Another woman also said, when she’s in her having a manic episode, she experiences these euphoric highs of just pure, blissful creativity. She is top performing, she can write everything is clear. She’s doing amazing, and all these things. And then it crashes uncontrollably, and gets really bad.
And just inevitable. Yeah,
Sarah Potter 33:25
whether it’s in a couple hours, or in a few days, like, my, my manic cycles are quick, they’re very fast and very turbulent. And it’s really hard to to overcome them. But for the for her, like hers would last days, and sometimes weeks and months. And the challenge in a lot of these manic episodes and describing them to people or like educating people just in general, is so difficult because it’s so different for every single person. And you may experience the euphoric mania episodes, or you could just not have them at all. Yeah. And you could just have those intensely hostile, manic episodes, like bipolar anger is a huge thing that is not very common. I think. I think it’s 13% or so of bipolar people who have Bipolar anger. Oh, and experience it. So it’s so like, there’s normal anger where you’re like, I’m so frustrated and angry at you right now. But then there is like, Next Level bipolar anger, where rip
Alicia Greensides 34:44
everything apart. Yeah, everything everyone.
Sarah Potter 34:49
Yeah, I described it as being the X Men Phoenix and running
with my eyeballs. That’s a man that’s Exactly It
Sarah Potter 35:01
might have been. Yeah, like he, I can’t remember what he calls it. But there’s like this point in time where I just get so hostile and angry, where it feels like I’m looking right through him. And then I’m just singeing him on every level. And I’m like, Yeah, I recognize when I start feeling that way now, and I’m able to like, soften and try to diminish, diminish it as much as possible. But there are other times that are much rarer now. Thank you medication, where that gets real, real really fast.
Alicia Greensides 35:39
Yeah. And you know, hypomania is so sneaky. I have found that a times in my life where I was hypomanic, or before my mania became too much to handle, I was getting compliments left and right. I was handling everything professionally, at least educationally in my life super well, like you said top performing all the gold stars. Yeah, but if you were in my personal life, or in my brain, you would know that it was exactly the opposite. And, and looking for, again, I’ll say any kind of alteration from somebody’s normal baseline is when you should become to be worried when they’re acting in ways that are not rational and do not line up with who they are as a person. That is when you should get worried.
Sarah Potter 36:31
Yeah. And you should really take the time to get to know the bipolar people in your life. Yes, what they’re like during mania and and outside of mania, because there are people in my life who think that they know me, or thought that they did. And what they were thinking was me was their projection of what they wanted me to be. Oh, yeah. So they would classify my normal interests and behaviors as a psychosis or psychotic versus like, now I actually just really am obsessed with Star Wars, Lord of the Rings. That’s not that’s not anything that’s ever changed. Yeah, that’s, that’s normal. And me liking what other people like that’s, that’s a normal thing to like, yeah, I can enjoy some things. Anyway, getting off topic here. The next question I have is, is what bipolar isn’t? This, this is a big one, mainly for the neurotypical individuals listening and watching. Because bipolar isn’t is not a lot of things. To those who don’t understand it, like for instance of its ways, yeah. Yeah.
Alicia Greensides 37:50
So again, I’ll say my bipolar disorder is an illness. What it is not is an excuse. It’s not a cool trend. Doesn’t make me dangerous. Just make me unreliable, doesn’t prevent me from, you know, creating and raising my family. It doesn’t prevent me from maintaining healthy relationships or holding down a job. My Bipolar disorder is not the average mood swing. Okay. I don’t switch my moods on a dime. My Bipolar disorder is not something that can be cured, it can only be managed. It’s a chronic illness, which means I will have it for the rest of my life. I cannot cure my illness with positive vibes only. Oh, fucking hate when people say that shit. I’m just like, takes your take your balls, toxic positivity and shove it right up your ass because, honestly, not popping helpful. No, it’s not. It’s really not. And it again teaches people that the way they feel is wrong, you know, and all feelings are good feelings. They just need to be appropriately managed. Yeah, like my bipolar disorder. It’s an illness and it makes me different, but does not it does not make me less than somebody else. You know, I honestly think that my bipolar disorder is the most interesting thing about me. I think I bring a lot to the table.
Sarah Potter 39:30
I see we see the world through a different colored lens rather than this rose colored glasses perspective that neurotypicals usually have. It’s, it’s more orange. It’s like a bird Sienna. Yeah, something like that. Yeah, it’s that I think that leads well into another question of like, Why do you think people are using bipolar as an insult? Why? Why do people use bipolar? or as a self descriptor when they’re not bipolar?
Alicia Greensides 40:05
You know, I love this question. And I honestly, honestly believe that the reason why people make comments like this is just due to a lack of education on mental health. People who use misplaced comments like the weather is so bipolar, tend to know very little about the illness they’re trying to use as an insult, you know. And I really think that this is largely due to the fact that shaming and silencing people with mental illness has been such a cultural norm in our society for a very long time. You know, mental illness is something that is very commonly passed on through genetics. And so we have countless generations of families collectively suffering through this shame, and through this stigma, and who are then raising their own families and continuing to pass along this norm of hiding and shaming their illness as a way. In addition to this, because of the way people with mental illness have historically been treated, there is this discomfort around normalizing what mental illness actually looks like. And so that’s when we get these portrayals in the media, of the absolute extremes. And sometimes, you know, fabrications, of what illnesses look alike, like bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, and antisocial personality disorder. And because of these often incorrect in overdramatic size portrayals, these illnesses then become labeled as dangerous. And unfortunately, in most cases, because of the lack of education around mental illness, and because of the stigma, and because of the shame, that spanned back through generations, we have a general public of people who don’t actually know what mental illness looks like. And so they, they take these stigmas and these dangerous portrayals of, of mental illness from the media, and they create these images in their head of what mental illness looks like. And then they make comments like the weather is so bipolar. Because they don’t know, they just don’t know. And another thing they don’t know is how many of us there are, we are everywhere. I guarantee you, every one of you people listening know somebody that suffers from a mental illness. Yeah, whether
Sarah Potter 42:35
it’s bipolar or otherwise, there’s mental illness is very prevalent in everybody. Yeah, it is, it is very likely that there are more neurodivergent people in this world than there are neurotypical. And that is something that I think needs to be embraced this idea of neurotypical people defining what we as neuro divergence, have to uphold or or pretend to be on, on par with, it needs to be the opposite. There needs to be more accommodations. There need to be more acceptance, there needs to be rules and regulations and things set in place to protect people with mental illnesses, because we can’t disclose that on a job application. We can’t say I’m bipolar on a job application, because of the stigma, because of the way in which bipolar has been presented to the world by neurotypicals. Yeah, so fuck neurotypicals my man, especially. Not all of them. The ones beyond educated rules, the uneducated ones, the ones I know want to lose? Yes. The ones who refuse to learn who refuse to understand and accept anything beyond their pea brained perspective of what mental illness is.
Alicia Greensides 44:05
And you know, like, some people are mentally ill. They just don’t know it.
Sarah Potter 44:11
Yes, some of these people are, are just as off as the rest of us. And honestly, life is more interesting being off than on.
Oh, so, so much more interesting.
Sarah Potter 44:24
Maybe not the bad parts, but the good parts? Yeah. So my next question is to kind of like roll all of these points in to one place. What is your bipolar journey been like? How would you define it?
Alicia Greensides 44:45
So I want to answer this in two parts. I because that’s very much how I see it. I see it as my before diagnosis journey and as my after diagnosis journey because like I said, I have been diagnosed for less than two years now. But I’ve, I’ve lived with this illness my whole life, you know, maybe not the first, you know, 10, but I’m older now. It’s been my whole life, okay. So before my diagnosis, I would define my life as full of pain honestly, you know, growing up, my family was very dysfunctional. Both of my parents unknowingly suffer very strongly from different mental illnesses. And this is not something that became clear to me until after my own diagnosis when I began to realize what mental illness looked like. Because of this stability was not something that I ever experienced. Alcoholism and abuse were very strong themes throughout my childhood. And because of this, as a direct result, I struggle with my own substance use issues. And for a very long time, I only surrounded myself with people who put me down, and situations that put me down. I started self harming at the ripe age of 11, I developed an eating disorder when I was 12. And at the same age, I attempted suicide for the first of many times. At 13, I experienced my first psychotic episode, which I did not understand what it was until the last two years when I began learning about my illness. By 14, I had been abandoned yet again by my mother. And a few months afterwards, I made the very poor choice to run away across the country to be with her. Needless to say, this did not turn out well. And I was on my own. Shortly after that. I spent basically the rest of my teen years cycling in and out of extreme episodes. Looking back now, I honestly don’t think that there was a time that I was ever stable. Because I was unaware of my mental illness, I made very poor choices, which in turn made my illness much worse. I spent every one of those years in a pit of such depression, that I had to constantly remind myself of the reasons to live. And, you know, I, my life was so chaotic. I honestly fell short on these reasons. And so I would turn to guilting myself into living, which in turn would make my symptoms worse. Because one of the worst things you can do to somebody who is suicidal is guilt them into living. People deserve their own reasons for wanting to live. By 18, I had manic dreams of success and life, and I decided to move back to my city home. At 19, I was accepted into the University of Toronto, which was a dream of mine. Because of reasons outside of my control, I was only able to attend for a little over a year. And I spent that year completely manic and psychotic. I was drinking my way through classes, I was taking ecstasy and raiding on the weekends. My life was so chaotic. Even though I was high functioning on the outside. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep. I created intense relationships and destroyed them just as fast. I felt everything all at once. And at the same time. I was so numb that I would physically harm myself to feel some kind of excitement. Sadly. I was delusional. I was paranoid. I was hallucinating constantly. And I had absolutely no idea what was going on. My lack of education on mental health hindered my ability to recognize these clear and worrying signs and myself. And there was no one in my life who cared or knew enough to tell me that I needed help. At 21, my life began to change. I left a toxic relationship, I started putting money aside and plan for an adventurous future. Later that year was when I met my partner. Right from the start, we were glued to each other. I could not get enough of him. I walked away from other plans I had for my life and I invested myself in him because I knew in my bones that he was the one called manic intuition. Eight months into our relationship I got pregnant. We were already very serious by that point. So we decided now was just as good as later. We moved in together. And in 2015 I had my first kid he’s almost seven now. So it’s been seven years. After I gave birth, I experienced what I then thought was postpartum depression, but what I now know was a psychotic mixed episode, which was the worst. I spent the next three years loving the shit out of my son but feelings so long. To control inside my head, and 2018, I had my second child. And after birth, I again experienced a psychotic mixed episode. And it was terrifying. It was so scary. Shortly afterwards, my husband came to me in tears and told me that I needed help. And up until that point, I had never realized that my mental wellness affected the people around me in my life, because up until that point, there was never anyone in my life who showed me that it affected them. Yeah. The next two years I spent trying to get help. I spent those two years mixed up in a very broken healthcare system on the wrong medication, with no treatment plan, and absolutely no offer of diagnosis. And 2020, the world fell apart, obviously. Yeah, and I fell into the worst mixed episode I have ever had. I was suicidal, I was sleeping 15 hours a day or not at all. And when I would leave my bed, I would walk in and out of rooms crying because I could not stop my body. I had to fight tooth and nail with my my doctor to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. And it was then that I got my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Now we come to the after my. After my diagnosis, my world shifted. Everything in my life went from being confusing to me to being absolutely fucking clear. I spent months after that on a roller coaster of acceptance, learning all that I could about bipolar disorder, but only focusing on the negative. Again, I found myself looking for reasons to live. But this time, I had to look into my children’s faces while my brain was full of suicide ideation. It was honestly one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to live through having every reason in front of me to be happy. But being filled with only darkness. I had been given a diagnosis and a prescription and then I had been sent on my way, I had no follow up appointment, no resources for support, no psychiatrist to monitor my beds, I was on my own again. Three months later, nothing had changed. And I had finally worked up the courage to go to the ER at a local mental health hospital. And honestly, that changed my life. They saved me. They adjusted my dosages, they gave me a wonderful psychiatrist who I still see today. And after a few months with medication, adjustments, lifestyle changes. I in close monitoring, of course, I was beginning to feel stable. And with that stability came clarity, clarity that I had never, in fact been stable before. Clarity of all the love I had in my life. And finally, clarity of the reasons that I had to live. With that stability, everything changed again, I began to finally see my own strengths, and how much a lot I had overcome. I began connecting with other people who shared in a mental health diagnosis, both bipolar disorder and others. And their stories brought me strength and confidence. And it helped me to break down the stigmas that I myself had around mental illness, I continued to learn more about bipolar disorder. And instead of focusing on the negative, I was beginning to see the positive. Now my illness actually empowers me, I look at it as my companion. It’s not who I am, but it is a big part of me. And because I better understand it, I better understand myself. My diagnosis has given me the opportunity to look at my life and that my future and decide what I want for myself and know that with the right steps, I can reach my goals. I don’t have to lower the expectations that I want for my life. But because of my illness, I do have to adjust the way that I reach them. And that is what led me on my mental advocacy journey is wanting to empower other people with mental illness to realize that it can be a strength. It’s just a part of who we are. It is not who we are.
Sarah Potter 54:26
I thank you for sharing that. With all of that. I think a lot of people when they re get that diagnosis of bipolar, they realize oh my god, this has been my whole life. How the fuck did I get through all of that? And then how am I still here? I had I had that thought last night like because I am without medication currently because of issues with my health insurance. Health insurance likes to ask to like the doctor and know what you should or shouldn’t be taking, so I’m stuck without. And it has been so loud and so dysfunctional inside my head again. And last night, I realized like, how? How did I manage all that time alone? How did I manage being a single parent for such a long time? How the hell did I get through it on the other side alive? Like, I don’t, I don’t understand it. But I am beginning to through therapy,
therapies, and everybody should get some everyone
Sarah Potter 55:39
needs therapy. Everyone therapy is not an insult when someone says like, you should try therapy, it’s not because we think there’s something wrong with you. It’s because we want to support you, and give you a powerful outlet to become a better more self aware person. Mm hmm. So all that it is. Yeah. And anyway, like your, your journey is so heartbreaking and empowering and hopeful for so many people who went through so many turbulent years in their life as a child as a teenager as a young adult. And it’s, it’s always when they find someone who can support them, and who allows them to be fully who they are, that that person can then say like, Hey, I think there’s something going on here. What do you think? Let’s figure this out together. Because figuring out alone, figuring it, figuring anything out alone is impossible. No, especially when you have gone through an immense a mentally and emotionally turbulent life. It’s very hard when you mix ADHD and trauma into bipolar, you can’t tell up from down left from right, right from wrong. None of that makes any sense. You completely lose sight of who you are. Yeah. And having the right people there to help guide you, towards you figuring out who you are, is the right path. The wrong path is being surrounded by people who are telling you who you are, and pushing you down their projection of who they want you to be and what they think is right for you. It should always be about empowering the individual with the mental illness, or the person who is struggling to help themselves and support them in that journey. And I love I love that your your husband was there to do that for you. I think that is so wonderful.
Alicia Greensides 57:49
Yeah, honestly, the thing that I am most grateful for in my life is that he came to me and told me that I needed help, that he, he is my anchor, I couldn’t do this without him, I wouldn’t be doing this without him. You know, I’m so grateful to have him in my life. He is he’s just amazing.
Sarah Potter 58:07
And you know, is something interesting that you mentioned too, is that a lot of this he started realizing postpartum I was diagnosed bipolar while I was pregnant. And then in postpartum, I couldn’t tell the difference between postpartum depression and manic depression, because it was just so blended. And one thing that I discovered is, interestingly enough, I have fibromyalgia a physical chronic, like a central nervous system, chronic illness, and 26% of fibromyalgia women will be come bipolar during pregnancy. And it’s not that all of a sudden your brain chemistry changes and you’re bipolar. It’s always been there. It becomes magnified because of the neurological and hormonal changes occurring within your body. And for some women, that is the most powerful during pregnancy, and for others, it’s after pregnancy when that huge depletion of hormones is gone. Any dramatic shift in neurological or hormonal activity for any individual who’s living with bipolar is going to make it worse and on and bring on the full illness and bring it into the light. And that’s not a bad thing. It is a scary thing. It is terrifying. Oh yeah. But if you are if you have the right people in your life, who you can fall apart around. You can rest assured that there will be someone there to help you realize what you need,
Alicia Greensides 59:57
you know, for anybody listening as well like I don’t want you to be discouraged from having children. If you have bipolar disorder, it is completely possible to be happy and healthy and have children, you just need to make steps and put plans in place to make sure that you are also taken care of, you know, you need a team to help you. And you need to accept things that you might not be able to do. For example, if I had known I was bipolar before I had children, my husband would have been getting up through that throughout the night, you know, I wouldn’t have been getting up immensely. That’s sleep deprivation made everything whereas you know, and that’s just one example. You just have to take your illness into consideration, and, you know, make the appropriate changes, but it’s completely possible.
Sarah Potter 1:00:49
Yes, it is. It is difficult. Parenting, pre bipolar. I just numbed it all and suppressed it and ignored it. And parenting felt easier. But I can look back and see when I was manic that it was not. And now with having a 10 month old, there’s still wakes up in the middle of the night. So yeah, it is it is so much harder. And I could not imagine doing it alone. And nor would I want to, because I have someone who can help support my needs during that. And I think that something that a lot of bipolar people don’t realize is how important having a physical support system around you is whether it’s your friends or your family or the family that you’ve chosen. Having people around you is so key in your continued healing and recovery and life. Absolutely.
Stuff that helps
Ember Coffee Mug – that literally keeps itself warm.
When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar, I knew I needed to start taking better care of myself. So while being freshly diagnosed and having a sweet newborn. I chose to use coffee and tea as a creature comfort.
But my coffee always went cold. UNTIL the ember coffee mug!!! I was gifted this by a client and I literally cannot live without it now.
Articles & Episodes on Mental Health
Week One of Cooking Through “That Sounds So Good,” By Carla Lalli Music | Cooking is A Mental Health Coping Mechanism
BlogWeek One of Cooking Through, That Sounds So Good, By Carla Lalli MusicEach week I'll share all my food adventures and the menu I'm cooking up. Check out the book by clicking here.Managing our mental health requires coping mechanisms. One of my favorite coping...
PODCASTThings People Living With Bipolar Want You to KnowI am living with bipolar. It’s the lovable sludge monster living on my shoulder every day and as I’m getting to know it, it blooms into something new. My experience, as well as the four women interviewed...
Marketing budget. It sounds like such an overly professional thing that should just be easy to understand right? For me, marketing budgets cause me so much anxiety. Mainly because I just suck at budgeting overall.