PODCAST

Things People Living With Bipolar Want You to Know

I 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 throughout this episode, is personal and different from others. Personal bipolar experiences are not shared anywhere outside of private conversations–making bipolar a taboo topic and a sensitive one to discuss.

So, just like we’re publicly talking about periods now (and the real truth about them), we are going to talk about bipolar.  Take care while listening to this episode as sensitive topics such as suicidal ideation, medication, and we will mention frequently triggering content throughout the episode. 

By Sarah Potter

March, 31, 2022

This episode is sponsored Sunsama. Sunsama is the go-to daily planner for busy and neurodivergent people needing to see all of their work, to-dos, family plans, and appointments in one place. Check it out here.

 

TRANSCRIPT: 

>>> Sarah   What is bipolar anyway? 

 

Moriah   “It’s the best parts of me, and the worst parts of me” 

 

>>> Sarah   That was Moriah, we’ll hear more from her in a moment, let’s try to get to the bottom of what bipolar is.

Mackenzie   start at 000 “It’s a spectrum” stop at 00

 

>>> Sarah   This is Mackenzie. 

Start at 00 …. “I’m having such a bipolar day today…this is what it’s not.” stop at 00

 

>>> Sarah   So bipolar is a heightened experience. It’s the best and worst parts of its inhabitants. Does it define the weather? Or is it a self-descriptor? What if I were to say something like, “Ugh I’m SO Bipolar today?”

 

Moriah   – “I hate it.”

 

>>> Sarah   According to my online research, and personal experience with the disorder, bipolar is nuanced, it’s different for everyone and there’s no right way, or wrong way to describe it. Which is what makes it so difficult to find accurate or empathic descriptions of what it’s like living with bipolar.

 

>>>One thing I do know for certain though is bipolar doesn’t define our personalities. Alicia   “Not a cool trend doesn’t make me dangerous doesn’t 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 our job.” 

 

>>> Sarah   We’re fully capable humans, and like other neurodivergent people, we need accommodations and extra care from time to time. 

 

>>>  Sarah   Hi I’m your magical mental health mentor,  Sarah Potter, and host of social media therapy. Join me and four women living with bipolar today as we embark on a mental health quest help you understand bipolar from our own perspectives–not a clinician. 

 

Real quick here, just to make the lawyers feel safe, I am not a mental health professional. This show is composed of my learnings, opinions, and perspectives. Please do not take it as medical advice. Speak with your own medical professionals for medical advice. 

 

But do not despair! I do, in fact, live 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.

 

In today’s episode we’re going to get into the nitty gritty of bipolar from the perspectives of four women. Each lives with bipolar, each leads a perfectly healthy life..with special accommodations. 

 

>>> Sarah  0 I’d like you to meet Casey. 

 

Casey intro  “My name is Casey triber I am a stay at home mom to a seven year old and a three year old.”

 

>>> Sarah   Casey was diagnosed bipolar after having her second child. Just. like. Me. Except the only difference here is someone diagnosed me while I was pregnant. I felt so entirely  Sarah   “Out of control like everything was chaos I couldn’t handle simple conversations and was slowly losing my mind and hallucinating and I thought it was just like prenatal depression and it ended up being bipolar.”.

 

>>> Sarah   Many women between  and 0 are experiencing the onset of bipolar after they have babies. Actually after they have children. Oh, yeah, like the hormonal drop, that women experience right after they have that baby is insane. And it’s no wonder to me that these mental health illnesses come up so predominantly postpartum because it is the ( Sarah and Casey   00 – min) “the perfect storm. And then it’s, it’s not gradual by any means. No, I mean, I feel like me it just kind of punched me in the gut. You know, all of a sudden, I thought that I was just freaking out because that’s what you do as a mom when you’re overwhelmed and too much stuff is going on. But then, you know, later realizing that you’re actually experiencing, at least for me, it’s hypomania.”

 

>>> Sarah   Okay let’s pause for a moment. Casey just mentioned hypomania. In people living with bipolar, they often experience episodes of mania. From the media’s perspective this is right about when people with bipolar start to go crazy, but that’s not reality. Alicia  . “mania is a personal experience.”

 

>>> Sarah   That’s Alicia, she was also diagnosed with bipolar after having her kids similar to Casey and I. 

 

>>>Alicia   “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.”

 

>>> Sarah   Okay, so so far this is what I have for bipolar It’s a spectrum, it’s not something we use to describe ourselves or the weather, (specific to neurotypicals), it can come one at any time, but the sweet spot is between -, and then there’s mania on top of it all and also hypomania. And you can feel out of control and chaotic. 

 

Bipolar is nuanced. It’s different from person to person. The key thing that gives someone the label of bipolar are the episodes, the duration, and the intensity. But it doesn’t just stop there. Bipolar has four different subgroupings. There’s bipolar I (associated with mania), bipolar II (associated with hypomania more commonly, but can also experience mania occasionally), there’s also Cyclothymic disorder (which is a mild form or bipolar but not labeled bipolar because it more specifically refers to psychological highs and lows), and lastly, there’s this nugget Unspecified bipolar disorder (which is just a fancy way of saying you’re not bipolar, but you are bipolar, but you’re not cyclothymic, while maybe also still being that way. AKA you don’t meet the specific criteria for bipolar. And in my opinion, I would look for a second opinion because you could be BPD or you could be Schizoaffective (which is schizophrenia and bipolar combined). Again, not a doctor, just have done my research. 

 

Okay, so now we understand the disorders, so how do you know which one is which and which one you fall under? 

 

It’s all about the mania. So, let’s dig into that a little more. 

 

Like I mentioned earlier, there’s hypomania and then there’s mania. Mania and hypomania differ with respect to duration, intensity, and functional impairment Typically, mania has elevated or irritable moods that last AT LEAST one week. Some people who go through mania have described mania lasting weeks and even months. Hypomania is the opposite. You can experience hypomania for at least four days, but no longer than a few weeks. There’s where things get fuzzy. Both mania and hypomania have some overlap in duration. 

 

Let’s talk about intensity. In mania, symptoms are severe. Like, “I am losing control of my mind, and I’m not myself,” severe. I don’t think this paints the picture right so I’m going to have Mackenzie describe it;
 

>>> Sarah and Mackenzie  “Sometimes it feels like I am watching myself through a window. And it’s like, I can see what I’m doing. And I understand what I’m doing. But I can’t stop myself from doing it. You know, it’s very like, like, I am fully cognizant that what I’m reacting to might be not the right way to react or how I’m feeling is and the racing thoughts are totally lies, and I know that it’s yes, yes, I cannot stop it. I have to. Sometimes it feels like I am a constant. What’s the word spectator of these moments? And I can’t jump on the field and be like, I got it. You know, it’s, it’s..”

 

“Literally like tearing up as you’re saying this because this is exactly how I describe it. When I was recording myself last night. Like really? Yes. Like I’m trapped in a glass box in the middle of my brain. Watching all of this happen and I can’t stop it. And I and I want to but I can’t.” 

>>> Sarah   What Mackenzie and I just described is the feeling of being trapped in our own minds. Those who experience mania, bipolar rage, and psychosis have described this same idea–being trapped inside a glass in our own mind where we’re the spectator, along for a ride we didn’t ask for, unable to stop the car, and get out–gain our control back. 

 

>>>Alicia   “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.”

 

>>> Sarah   That was Alicia again making a great point on another differentiator between mania and hypomania. So then, what is psychosis? What does it feel like? 

 

>>> Moriah   “I kind of describe mania as like being on drugs. And it’s super fun and you don’t have a lot of control over it. That’s a misgiving with Bipolar is that it’s just mood swings. And like, you just can’t control your emotions. But that’s that’s not really what it is it it can be harder to control your emotions can you feel them so much bigger than the average person? But when you’re manic, or when you’re depressed you don’t really have control of that. And then I am really lucky not actually but I won’t have mania and depression at the same time. “

 

>>> Sarah   What Moriah is describing here is what’s called a mixed episode. Mixed episodes are typically described as having both mania and hypomania at the same time, accompanied by depressive episode as well. In these mixed episodes, the manic energy drives the depression. That’s the thing with mania–it’s always in the drivers seat. 

 

>>> Alicia mixed episode  “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 feeling so lost and out of control inside my head. In 0 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.” 

 

>>> Sarah   Casey also experienced mania in a rarer way Bipolar rage started to come into the mix of her episodes.

 

>>> Sarah and Casey   “the mania was becoming too much. And it started to very quickly get to the point where I couldn’t function daily. When when the mania set in for anything, like I had no concept of time. So my time management was awful. And I was constantly running late to things that I shouldn’t have been running late to. And I’m I was also becoming very mean to people in my life and I didn’t mean to do that. Drinking escalated because I wasn’t sleeping. And I wanted so desperately just asleep. And you know, where I live it’s sort of like THC is not legal. So I wasn’t able to get anything like that to help with sleep. And none of the over the counter sleeping meds were working. 

 

>>> Sarah   sleep

 

>>> Mackenzieand  Sarah   “sleep is one of my triggers. I can always tell how, how hard it’s coming on by how my sleep is. And yeah, that like, I’ve it’s not really, I don’t know if like, God Complex is the way to call it but yeah, it’s like where you wake up, you’re like, I can fix everything in the world. If I start bright now like I can absolutely do this. And then by like, two o’clock in the day, you’re just like, I’m done. Like I am done being a living creature.”

“It’s like we’re running a marathon”

 

“Yeah, a marathon I have absolutely zero training for”…(laughter)

 

>>> Sarah  0 Similar to how those with trauma are triggered, bipolar episodes can be triggered too. As Mackenzie just mentioned, sleep is her trigger. Sleep might not be a trigger for you or someone you know living with bipolar, it could be something entirely different, like the smell of eggs in the morning, or a common phrase, or a child’s behavior. Again, bipolar is a spectrum, mania is a personal experience, it’s different for everyone. 

 

For me, I have a variety of episodes. Sometimes, I can have a mixed episode while I’m in a prolonged state of mania. That’s when it becomes really difficult to identify when I’m in mania or about to have a manic episode. This is where the second classification aspect of “intensity” steps into the room. Mania can be so intense that it causes functional impairment like Casey described. Or it can be sort of euphoric and exciting like Moriah explained. Sometimes, mania is a really serious issues, so serious that it can put you in the hospital. I’d like to preface this next part by asking you to take caution. These are real experiences, mildly graphic details, and contains information about suicide and eating disorders. If you become triggered, please skip ahead.

 

>>>Mackenzie Sarah   I would just not eat, I’d be like, you don’t even deserve you don’t even deserve to eat, why, why go through the energy of doing that you don’t even deserve it. And at my lowest point, I was  pounds. I was passing out in the shower, I was losing my hair, you know, and like, I don’t want to cry on your podcast, but I’m gonna cry on your podcast I wrote, I’m sorry. But I I remember getting out of the shower. And, you know, just lotion, everything was so tired. And I happen to look in the mirror and I saw how much my my back bones were protruding. And I was like, this is gonna kill you. Like if you don’t handle this, and this is going to kill you. And it was so shocking to see that like, this wasn’t because of cancer, or a car accident or anything like that. It was literally my mind if I did it. And like, you can’t just think that away, you know, it takes a lot of practice. And like you said you have to go to you know, you have to go to therapy, it’s not just like you have to talk it out in advance like you have to have a professional tell you this is what your brain is doing. This is the functions that change how you’re thinking and this is how we kind of change the railroad tracks you know, like you know when you see there and they just like shift that you’re learning how to do that 0 million times a day.

 

>>>Alicia   I was suicidal, I was sleeping  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. 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 was honestly one of the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to live through having every reason in front of me to be happy. Three months later, nothing had changed. And I had ly worked up the courage to go to the ER at a local mental health hospital. And honestly, that changed my life. They saved me. 

 

>>>Moriah   I called like 0 psychiatrist because I was like, I need medication I can’t handle because the first time I had mania and depression together, and I was like, out of control, and I didn’t know what to do, and it didn’t feel fun, because like, mania is fun. But mania plus wanting to die is not fun. It’s really scary. So I can’t like 0 psychiatrist, no one was taking new patients. So I ly found this program. And I essentially went to I hospitalized myself. It was an outpatient hospitalization program. So I like stayed at home. But then I was in therapy for 0 hours a week. Plus, they got me on the right medication, and I ly got diagnosed. But it was a two month long program. And it was intense. Like, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. 

 

>>> Sarah   Something to note here too is not everyone experiences bipolar in the same way Mackenzie, Alicia, or Moriah do. Casey had a slow realization that something was off and started researching solutions. For me, I went to my prenatal doctor and got help after experiencing the slow slip into mania a few nights in a row. I am lucky. I caught it quick. I like to think it was my hypochondria that served me and pushed me to understand what I was experiencing in my mind–mania. 

 

I’d like to take another step back here. Take a few deep breaths. ………breathe out. Repeat as needed. We’ve been talking a lot of mania and I want to make sure you’re keeping the right frame of mind. Mania does not mean you’re a homicidal lunatic or someone wandering the world talking to themselves. Mania is not losing you shit on everyone because you’re “so selfish” as I’ve been told. Mania is a personal experience people living with bipolar have that can feel like an insane energy rush, both depressed and elated at the same time, full-on depressed, suicidal, eurphoric, and sometimes functionality impairment. 

 

>>>Functional impairment is one of those other criteria I mentioned earlier on. Scientists have suggested that some people with bipolar disorder experience memory problems due to changes in the brain. These could involve changes in The prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in planning, attention, problem-solving, and memory, among other functions. And just as a reminder, bipolar is a chronic illness and is disabling for some. So much so that some people living with bipolar need to live with a caretaker or caretakers. This can help the bipolar person feel more stable, safe, and accountable. 

 

Let’s jump to Moriah for a moment. As a recently diagnosed bipolar person, she has made so drastic changes in her life to help accommodate her functional impairment including a choice where she

>>> Moriah    “moved in to my mom’s room after that, and I still haven’t moved out because it’s just easier to like, I know that she’s keeping an eye on me and like she notices when I’m staying out late and like it’s just, it’s good to have that social support of someone who really cares about you.” 

 

>>> Sarah   Support for bipolar people is so incredibly important. Not just in the days where we’re struggling. But also in the times where we may be or seem stable. Stability without medication (and sometimes with) is fleeting. We can still experience manic highs, manic lows, and the low low lows. Some days it is easy for us to manage ourselves, especially on a manic high day. But…

 

>>> Alicia   “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.”

 

>>> Sarah   Bipolar can feel like exactly that. A dark hole you can’t climb out of. People living with bipolar also experience task paralysis and executive dysfunction issues, similar to those who are ADHD. Now, functional impairment is something that is always happening in or out of mania. And often times, it can begin to be a small sign there are some bipolar things happening. With Mackenzie, her job in working with animals was amazing–she loved it. Until one day when…

 

>>> Mackenzie   “I was terrified to walk in the door and I would leave work and I would seriously like sit in my car in the parking lot. No, like I would just sit there totally catatonic like I could just not have any stimulus. eventually that started bleeding into home life. Like it wasn’t just at work. It was I was having panic attacks at home, I was having panic attacks when I was driving my like reactions to you know, plans changing and stuff was just escalating. after that I was like this is not like me like that. I don’t know if it was that was the time that like those things were going to present themselves but it was definitely like a five to six month period where it just escalated and then I was like yeah, we’re we’re going to talk to somebody because I can’t can’t function like this.”

 

>>> Sarah   Being able to function in life isn’t just about walking, working, eating, sleeping, sometimes it’s also about skill set impairments. Because of the way we think and process information, it’s really easy for us to just drop a ton of money on anything and everything.

 

>>> Moriah  horse “one time I quit my job and bought a horse.”

>>>Casey  cruise “And I went ahead and I booked a $,000 cruise on a whim. and then the next time I was manic, I ended up buying a peloton.”


>>> Sarah   Sometimes it’s not things we buy, but businesses or hobbies we start. Alicia  money “I’m talking like money spent time wasted things avoided like all the way in.”

 

>>>  Sarah and Casey  

 

“oh, that’s what that’s what we do is that he has all of the money and like our bank accounts, or we have separate debit cards, or separate accounts, um, but he could transfer money into my account at any time. But it’s more like, Hey, I was thinking of getting this. And then, you know, then it gets to we get to figure out if it’s due to something I actually really want or If I’m manic at that moment.”

 

>>> Sarah   Money is intrinsically tied to our mental wellbeing. Neurotypical’s struggle with it, so imagine a neurodivergent individual’s struggle. Now multiply that by 00. When you are living with bipolar and trying to manage your emotional regulation, your tasks, you day-to-day life, and your money, things can get really out of hand, as you’ve just heard. So, sometimes giving up control over budgeting and finance can help us a lot. 

 

>>>Mackenzie  In Mackenzie’s case though she “actually run a personal finance blog about living life at a low income and actually finding actionable and realistic stuff that people at my income level can use. And while I was doing I realized that there’s a lot of overlap between money and mental illness, and how much of my mental illness actually plays a part in, you know, the low income side of it. So I definitely, like incorporate the two of those. I live at home with my parents and my boyfriend and our four animals. Because housing prices are horrifying. Like, we don’t make enough to live on our own, but um, that is really helped the stability of like, stable job and everything to be able to handle the mental illness and the financial side of it.”

 

>>> Sarah   Moriah mentioned she lives with her mom too. And Casey, Alicia, and I rely on our partners to help us manage life and money. There’s no shame in that.

Something I’d like for you to think about is what are the most important things you want to take care of or manage. Then, write that down. Next, think about the things you have zero interest in having control over. Write that down. Now you have a wonderful list of things you can manage and things you can’t/don’t want to and can begin a conversation with your partner and focus on how you guys can support one another through your mental healing. 

 

This idea is easier said than done, I know firsthand. When my partner and I first started talking about money, we fought every single time. Because I started the fight, would get angry, and would then turn the entire issue of money into something else. Both my ADHD and Bipolar played a role in that. So, I talked about it in therapy, came up with a list like the one you were just prompted with, and my partner and I began making really great progress toward healthy communication around money and what we both want out of that part of our life together. 

 

>>> Sarah   For those who aren’t married or living back at home, you’d need a different conversation and I would recommend reaching out to a financial therapist for that. I know a great one, Steven M. Hughes. I’m actually releasing an interview with him at the end of April, so stay tuned for that. 

 

So, we’ve discussed the main parts of what makes someone bipolar, . Experiencing mania and hypomania . The duration of manic episodes, . The intensity of manic episodes, and . functional impairment (whether you’re able to do typical activities or tasks without executive dysfunction issues, or a physical/emotional impairment. 

 

If you’ve listened all the way through to this episode and you’ve been questioning if you have bipolar or you’re maybe a little in denial or lost, I hope this all brought some clarity to you. If not, I’m going to read a very specific (and more clinical) list of symptoms and issues bipolar causes.

Changes in thought patterns that look like 

  • An increased focus on religion or religious activity
  • Disorientation or disjointed thinking
  • Enhanced creativity or inventiveness (often perceived as a “breakthrough” or an epiphany)
  • Flight of ideas (a rapid succession of thoughts that shoot from one idea to the next)
  • Racing thoughts (a rapid stream of thought, often repetitive)

 

Development of Psychosis (break from reality)

  • Delusions (believing things that are not real)
  • Hallucinations (hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, or feeling things that are not real)
  • Paranoia (fearing things that are not real)

 

Impaired Judgment

 

  • An apparent lack of insight into the consequences of an action
  • Extreme impulsiveness (including gambling and risk-taking)
  • Inappropriate humor and brash behavior
  • Hypersexuality and sexually provocative behaviors
  • Reckless and extravagant spending (including the lavishing of gifts on friends, casual acquaintances, and even strangers)

 

Mood Changes

  • An expansive mood
  • Extreme excitability
  • Grandiosity and imperiousness
  • Sudden shifts to extreme irritability, hostility, or even anger

 

Speech Disruptions

  • Clang associations (a serious condition in which words that sound similar are grouped together even if they don’t make any sense)0
  • Incoherent speech (often described as rambling and persistent)
  • Rapid, pressured speech (as if you cannot get enough words in)

 

Sudden Changes in Energy

  • A decreased need for sleep with little apparent fatigue
  • A sudden increase in goal-oriented activities (such as a project that needs to be done to the exclusion of other activities)
  • Persistent and often purposeless movement
  • Restlessness and an inability to remain still

 

If this sounds like you, please reach out to your doctor to get started, or hit up the discord channel where we’re going to be actively hosting conversations about this episode and other topics like it. 

 

If there is something you take away from this episode, at the very least it’s seeing these women and people like us as human. As humans who are capable, strong, and battling to be here everyday. Like Alicia said at the start. Bipolar is a personal experience. Mania is a personal experience and each bipolar perspective will differ from the other. The last thing Mackenzie, Moriah, Alicia, and Casey shared with me is something more personal. 

 

>>> Casey   “my bipolar is not a personality trait. It’s not something that I mean, this is so cliche, it’s not something that defines me. Is it a part of me? Yes. And I have to deal with it every single day. But that doesn’t change my sense of humor, or my interests, or things that I like or dislike. It’s just something that I have to deal with every now and then. But it is. I’m able to deal with it.”

 

>>>Moriah   “I don’t get approval I’m escaping my emotions. Like, I can’t compartmentalize them. I really like the the riding the e analogy that is used a lot in therapy, where you’re just on this giant e, and you have to surf it. And sometimes the es are so big that they crash over you. And sometimes they’re little es. But like, you just have to sit with your emotion. And eventually it’ll dissipate.”

 

>>>Alicia   “ 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”

 

>>> Sarah    file 

 

And that’s the episode. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. Over the next few weeks the SMT team and I will be releasing the full interviews with each of the women featured today. You’ll get to hear the full, raw, and unedited details of their bipolar experience and how they live their lives.

The next episode we’ll be releasing is all a bout financial shame and the way people shame others on social media. We’ll be talking with  Sarah Li Cain, former podcast host of Beyond the Dollar and  Sarah Li Cain Writes, along with certified financial therapist Steven M. Hughes. 

 

Jon Ingram produced today’s episode 

Music and intro by Jon Ingram

Research and writing by me,  Sarah Potter

Editing by  Sarah Potter and Jon Ingram

Creative Direction by  Sarah Potter

Interviews with Casey Triber, Moriah Chaze, Alicia Greensides, and Mackenzie Stewart

 

If you loved today’s episode, I would really appreciate it if you could leave me a five star reviewing telling me what you loved, and if you have some feedback find us at socialmediatherapypodcast@gmail.com . 

 

Until next time, Live fully, breathe deeply, laugh frequently. 

 

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