34 thoughts on “Getting Comfortable With Bipolar

  • September 29, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I skimmed through what you wrote and I generally agree with it. I am currently in a hypomanic state. About a week ago I noticed the beginning of a manic phase and increased the dose of my medication. Some manic episodes in my past have included pretty extreme psychosis so right now I am glad for medication that can keep me from going down that road again. Maybe I will comment more about ch.1 another time.

  • September 29, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    I agree with your ideas but you’ve got about 4 charts too many for me to follow. They distract rather than clarify…for me.

  • September 29, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    HI, Tom,

    This is quite timely for me actually. I have been beyond my comfort zone for about a year. I have been mildly to moderately depressed since last October. Although I am not bipolar I have had my fair share of depressive episodes. The one that seemed to be the most difficult for me about 6 years ago took me 18 months to recover from.
    With this past year I have been living life in more of a flat line with little energy and complete lack of motivation. My depression always creeps up to force me to move beyond my comfort zone – this I know. When I am unhappy with my life it rears it’s ugly head to kick me in the butt to get moving and change things in my life. But, yes, it does require the help of a therapist.
    I like what you have written, however I think the charts could use a little more description or explanation – unless I have missed something. For me – moving beyond my comfort zone, no matter how uncomfortable and difficult is good for me whether I like it or not.

    Hope this helps???

  • September 29, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Hi Laurie,
    i look forward to your review. It seems that you already understand the concept that if we catch it earlier we don’t need as extreme of intervention. Definitely better than waiting for it to get so far as to end up in the hospital. It is great that you are taking measures to get it under control now and that you are basing it on insight gained from past experience. That is the kind of growth I am talking about.

  • September 29, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Hi Joye,
    The charts are from my talk. They may not work at all in a book. For that matter, it might be good to consider new charts for the talk too. Thanks for sharing your insight about them. Do you think the text could stand on its own?

  • September 29, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    First, yes, I’m happy to comment. I was a little surprised to see your name, Tom, in my inbox!

    One of my issues, I’ve found, is that I typically go either in the comfort zone (almost all too much), or into the mild orange/darker orange. I’m rarely in the growth range, which obviously is a problem. And then, when encouraged to go into the ‘growth zone,’ it seems I am suddenly pushed into the growth zone. Instead of occasionally stepping over that line just outside of my comfort zone when I feel prepared enough to do so, people (who fully intend to help, not hurt) try to push me along over that line rapidly. I’ve also had issues with the expectation that ‘getting over something’ means dominating the issue in one fell swoop. False! Doesn’t work very well like that.

    I, personally, think the graphics are alright, but if others are leaning a bit otherwise, then I suggest simply doing what would work best for the majority of your readers. To me, they seemed slightly… well, they didn’t seem to flow as well with the rest of the content. The idea of the fading from blue to orange I thought was an excellent way of conveying the idea, but the graphics do pop out and contrast the rest of the text in a… slightly ‘off’ way. It’s not terrible – and seems plenty doable – but I do agree that there may need to be a little bit of reworking.

    Other than that, I strongly agree with what you wrote. There are two sayings that I think work well with the idea you’re conveying here: ‘baby steps’ and ‘you have to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you run.’ It’s the idea of honing your coping and adapting skills until it’s second nature – and before you know it, you’re a pro at life! I admittedly have to work on that a lot more, though.

  • September 29, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    I came back for a quick second look before going to bed and this time your 6 charts remind me of something I might produce when I am on the manic side of my illness. I think fewer would be better or maybe it is my state of mind that makes it seem like too much. When my mind is slightly racing I don’t have much focus for reading (or some other of my usual activities like crosswords and cryptoquip puzzles.)

    With my history of cycling through both ends of the spectrum several times in the past few years, I am currently more interested in stability than growth, but I do want to maintain my balance with the lowest dose of medication that will get the job done.

  • September 29, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Hi. I’m glad you posted it and accept comments on the way of starting your new book. I heard the whole posting and re-heard some parts of it. The name is amazing. It finally brings up the idea of still being bipolar but it being in-order instead of it only being a disorder where people think it’s bad. To me it’s reversed in a way. It’s an amazing part of myself to enjoy and see what my moods are like and what the current one will change to at a good timing or too early or late and how it mixes. When I wasn’t as lucky Abilify covered it up too “good.” I didn’t even know my own bipolar. Now I’m on Lithium. I love being hypomanic like these days, and I love being mildly/moderately depressed or mixed. It’s not so there that I couldn’t function. I didn’t know I would ever be this lucky and only thought before that it had to be so covered up that I wouldn’t ever get to know it in my whole life. It doesn’t seem too far out to be too far out of the comfort zone/in the worry zone. An idea I just thought of is the comfort zone to the experiencer and the worry zone to the experiencer and to others who aren’t experiencing it first-hand. literally 5 years ago I was delusional and psychotic that was amazing except for the no memory parts and I do remember an over-amount of anxiety. One day I went to the mall with my friend and forgot that my Lift was set up that day to go home from my friend’s, and I missed it. That kind of part to it isn’t that good, but I wasn’t as in this reality. I can’t think of what to comment on about needing to grow, but that’s interesting. I thought of examples of what it’s like to rein while being hypo/manic/mixed/depressed. To me it sounds like unfortunately making it not as noticable of being bipolar. To me that’s as bad as if I thought I would have to covering up the amazingness of high-functioning autism. I also think it’s not good to be an actual danger, but I also love expressing the mood-state like laughing or being more hyper or being faster if thoughts/being in reality moves faster without it being at a dangerous level or things relating to mixed or not too depressed mood-settings of days.

  • September 30, 2010 at 12:50 am

    Hi Chaz,
    I greatly appreciate your feedback, which is why I asked for it again.

    The graphics I used in the talks I recently gave to over 600 people were more subdued than the ones I posted here. They didn’t as powerfully convey the idea of caution and danger zone as the these do with the blue and orange, but didn’t stick out like a sore thumb either. That may be part of the response about them. On the other hand, people expect visuals with talks and not with books or blogs… It may be that the concepts don’t need charts, but in the next chapter the need might be much stronger. I look forward to more feedback about the graphics as well as suggestions on how to improve or remove them.

    I wrote the ideas six months ago for this chapter. They were way more complex. The feedback at the time made me feel like I needed to simplify the message. It is also not really a central part of the book, but an important foundation – essentially the concept of getting outside of our comfort zone, but not too far out plus the need for intervention when we go too far. Some of the more complex ideas will be spread out in the parts of the book that detail how to achieve Bipolar In Order.

    I love your ideas about ‘baby steps’ and ‘you have to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you run.’ I think those exact words can be a great part of future chapters as I certainly intend to spell out a path that fits them. You are so right about it not working in one fell swoop. I was meeting with Dr. Forster the other day about the talk and book and he emphasized the importance of reminding people of the responsibility that comes with moving toward growth and the difficulty and risks involved.

  • September 30, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Hi Laurie,
    Thanks for coming back and adding some insight. Perhaps the graphics are too garish and better ones might communicate them better. If there are any artists in the audience… Bipolar and art is supposed to go together, but not so much with me unless you call public speaking an art form.

    I have some interesting stuff coming about stability, but in the mean time there is a video on our youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/bipolaradvantage called Stability that you might find interesting.

  • September 30, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Hi Annifur,
    I can wait to share the next chapter with you. It gets into the heart of the book and outlines what it means to have Bipolar In Order. Someone said before one of my talks that it was a cute play on words and then after was blown away that I actually meant it. I think you are going to love it.

  • September 30, 2010 at 1:14 am

    High or low energy doesn’t feel equally functional. They are certainly, if functional at all, functional in different ways. They are, however, opportunities for growth–though they don’t necessarily equate with growth.
    It is how these states are used that determines whether they will lead to growth or devolution/decompensation/spiraling out of control.
    Whether the comfort zone should include these states or not needs to be a matter of discernment. Some folks are comfortable with highs and lows because that’s all they’ve known, and for this reason they don’t like the evening out effect of meds.
    Others are uncomfortable with them but tolerate them because they recognize the opportunity for growth, even though it requires work to either reign in and channel high energy, or to use low energy as a signal to pay attention to oneself and take care of oneself–to do some self-nurturance.

  • September 30, 2010 at 2:56 am

    Hi Darlene,
    You are absolutely right, high and low energy, or any of the other states on the spectrum, do not feel equally functional until we reach a state of equanimity. Even there, we function differently and find different meaning from each state, which, for those who are paying attention, is a Zen Koan-like statement. How can they be the same yet different at the same time? But, that is in future chapters so the explanation and discussion will have to wait.

    Your whole comment is an inspiration to me. It is so refreshing to meet someone who gets it at such a high level. I hope you find what I am trying to do interesting and get more involved. Your insights can help many people to see the value in taking responsibility for how we react to our condition. That is perhaps the most important step in getting bipolar in order.

  • September 30, 2010 at 2:59 am

    Hi Tom,
    I am so pleased you have ventured into the realms of the comfort zone and the ability that we all have to leave it. I tend to call this zone the ‘familiar’ zone ~ it may not be the nicest place to live but it is familiar. I know many with bi-polar would rather stay as they are being familiar with how they feel that let that go to a place they are unfamiliar with. With each little step outside all the positive learnings we can take in will generalise to all other areas of our lives. I think I willread your thoughts a little more to really get what you write. keep up the good work

  • September 30, 2010 at 4:51 am

    Hey Tom

    My apologies. I reread my earlier comment and realized that I had rambled on and on about myself and not even bothered to give you feedback on your chapter! I would remove my earlier comment if possible, but I did not see how to do so. How unlike me to get lost in self-absorbed reflection and ignore the needs of those around me! Perhaps I am “suffering” a bit of hypomania and depression or mixed state. LOL

    I know you make allowance for physiological problems in your books and in your sessions so most of my earlier note is a moot point.

    My comfort zone can become my straight jacket – in my case quite literally. I think this is because my move to the comfort zone most often is based on fear. Living in my comfort zone requires that I fear change. Learning to accept and grow with change is one of the things that make life worthwhile.

    There are times when I “rest up” in my comfort zone but it is not a good idea to remain there. Unless I step outside it, my comfort zone shrinks until I find myself living the life of an emotionless zombie. Sometimes I have mistaken this zombie like state for serenity. LOL

    As you suggest, it is only by stepping outside my comfort zone that I expand my horizons and extend my freedom of movement. Recently, I began a fitness program with a trainer. It has been an eye opening experience. Years spent in my physical comfort zone of being seated in front of a computer or television had left me so weak that I nearly passed out during my first workout. Little by little my trainer has been helping me to increase my range of movement and my endurance. My physical comfort zone now includes stairs, weights, jogging, rowing and many other activities that I only dreamed of while trapped in my recliner comfort zone. I may never be the 20 year old I once was, but I will be a 60 year old who can climb Machu Picchu. And this February I will be sending you pictures of me riding camels in Egypt. Similarly, I believe a holistic approach to mental health such as yours can lead to mental comfort zone that is even greater than the one I had when I was young. At 20, I used drugs to “expand my consciousness” and had many wonderful hallucinations. At 59, the hallucinations are free! If I monitor and manage them carefully they can lead me to new zones where I achieve things I never thought possible.

    Thank you for continuing your work. I look forward to the day when we can get the establishment to begin looking into models such as yours and doing the hard research needed to convince skeptics of what we already know – life is not about worrying about what we cannot do but about doing what we can with what we have.

  • September 30, 2010 at 5:04 am

    This is the same philosophy I’ve been trying to follow for some time. I like the graphs because they make it easy to explain to others that they don’t need to panic at the first symptom of an episode but merely be aware and supportive.

  • September 30, 2010 at 5:17 am

    I think you could probably just drop the 2nd & 3rd chart since the 4th one includes both concepts and is probably the one I would use to explain the concept to others. (Many people don’t want to take the time to read a book, a chapter, or even a paragraph)

  • September 30, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Hi Tom

    I think the graphics are clear, concise and encapsulate your ideas precisely. I wouldn’t change them a bit. Bear in mind, your ideas are both counter to conventional thinking on bipolar and complex. There is much to be read in those graphics and it requires reflection to interpret them fully. A first time reader won’t take it in at a cursory glance. The reader needs to think about it.

    What I find most compelling about this post is the whole notion of fear. When I first came out of crisis/recovery stage, I was consumed with fear. And at that stage of my journey, that was the most debilitating aspect of my illness. As Roosevelt once said, ‘there’s nothing to fear but fear itself’. Certainly, when I was manic, I was too busy behaving badly to bother about fear. But once I got well, it was the fear that held me back. Your idea that once we get to a certain stage of bipolar in order, we’ll never slide back to the crisis phase is a great comfort to me. I can have confidence that I have gained too many insights and skills to go back to the bad old days. That is a source of great comfort and confidence to grow. Thank you.


  • September 30, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Ahh, that comfort zone and moving slightly up or down it is very important. I have a habit of chucking myself in the deep end which is not my comfort zone, then crawling around in circles on the bottom drowning along the way. Now I tend to dip my toe in the water and if it is too hot or cold, I pull back and meditate on it.

  • September 30, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I like the different levels of outside the comfort zone that you described. Thanks.

  • September 30, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Hi Paul,
    ‘Familiar’ zone is an interesting concept. We certainly do become more comfortable as we become more familiar with many things. I especially like the idea you shared about how positive learnings can generalize to other areas of our lives.

  • September 30, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Hi Sonia,
    I think bipolar throws us into the deep end sometimes and we crawl around unknowing in it until someone else notices. It certainly needs major intervention to keep us from drowning. It is a great idea to dip your toe in and meditate on it. Great way of putting it.

  • September 30, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Hi Dale,
    You make so many great points that I can’t respond to the all without writing another book! I especially love the one about fitness. Can I just paste it into the chapter as a personal story with reference to you?

    This one is just plain brilliant – “There are times when I “rest up” in my comfort zone but it is not a good idea to remain there. Unless I step outside it, my comfort zone shrinks until I find myself living the life of an emotionless zombie. Sometimes I have mistaken this zombie like state for serenity. LOL”

  • September 30, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Hi Kay,
    That is a great idea to drop the second and third charts, while retaining the others. I went to bed last night thinking how great it would be for someone who has graphics ability to create whole new ones that visually make the points.

    I think visual is an important way to get people to see the relationships between all of the factors, but freely admit that I suck at doing it. What I need is someone with graphics talent who also gets the concepts.

  • October 1, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Like the article…..- It is (or a least the beginning of) an encouragable/useful ‘track’ and challenging ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone; is something thats good for everyone (regardless of which (if any) disorder one may have). (Although obviously how we go about this, how far and how quickly; should be something to be considered also).

    Only thing I can say is that personally I think the article (or chapter) could be ‘compressed’ a little and also I think there are a few too many ‘charts’ or illustrations (which could possibly be combined and reduced in number).

    All the best with your work,


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