Bipolar disorder really is a disability.

I just found out I have a disability. I knew that I had a mental illness, obviously, but what I didn’t know what that bipolar disorder is among the illnesses and disabilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. For those that may not be aware, the goal of the ADA is to provide protections and accommodations for those with, well, disabilities. It’s why things like wheelchair ramps and handicap-accessible hotel rooms exist. It’s there to make it easier to cope. I knew physical disabilities and injuries were covered as well as things like hearing and vision problems, AIDS, cancer, etc., but it hadn’t occurred to me that I was also qualified because the US government recognizes that dealing with mental illness is a struggle and that we could use a little help.


Take a breath.

So, I've been doing all of this talking about anxiety, but I haven't provided a whole lot of solutions. There is one in particular that has an immediate impact and can do the trick for me. It's not a long-term solution until you get used to it and practice. Use your new-found focus knowledge on a short-term focus task: to remember to breathe.


My anxiety is keeping me from focusing.

Welcome to Part 2 of my 3-part series on anxiety. I'm sure I'll be talking a lot more about anxiety in the future but a general set up always helps me.

During an anxiety/dysphoric episode, I find it hard to focus on any one thing. I'm having trouble focusing on writing. I find no irony in this. It's predictable, but it provides inspiration. I write what I know. Now, let's focus. See what I did there?


Dealing with Anxiety & Bipolar Disorder

It's been more than a week since my anxiety cycle began. I've been super wired. I have to remind myself to breathe and take time to close my eyes and try to de-sensitize. Basically, my anxiety is causing anxiety. It's an ouroboros. Anxiety feeds on itself and it's incredibly difficult to break the cycle to get yourself down to my baseline.


Bipolar- What’s so funny?

I just opened a new tab in my browser and was going to type in the term "bipolar journals," but I only got as far as "bipolar j." The suggestion I was given was "bipolar jokes." I wasn't sure what to do with that. Is it funny? Should I be offended? What kind of jokes does one tell about having bipolar disorder or knowing someone with bipolar disorder? The results were pretty much what you'd expect. A list of how many different ways can we talk about something flipping from minute to minute. "I hate being bipolar! It's awesome!" The only times I tend to take offense at someone joking about mental illness, or generally anything, is when it's disrespectful. Other than that, whatever. Humans are funny, and we should be able to laugh about it. So what about the bipolar jokes?

It turns out, I wasn't offended. I was disappointed. If you're going to laugh at my illness, you need to be more clever.


What’s the deal with binge-eating and bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is hard to deal with even on good days. Medications help keep it “under control” but there is always the chance of breakthrough symptoms. To make matters worse, bipolar disorder is often accompanied by other, physical symptoms that may seem unrelated at all. Arthritis? Asthma? It hardly seems fair to get an extra portion of illness on the side. What is not surprising is that bipolar disorder often has other mental health issues often tag along. By often, I mean 65% of us have to deal with other psychological problems like additional anxiety, ADHD or substance abuse.

Less likely, but equally potent, are eating disorders. About 5% of bipolar disorder patients have some form of eating disorder throughout their lifetime including anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorders. Unfortunately, the earlier the symptoms of bipolar appear and the more rapid cycling in a person, the more likely they are to also have an eating disorder.


Bipolar patients can be SAD too.

In case you’ve been trapped under a snow bank, you know that, lately, New England has been pelted with numerous, horrible snow storms. While others are seeing hints of spring-to-come, in the north it seems like winter is here to stay. I actually find it a bit jarring when I see photos and there’s grass. Real live grass! Basically, up here, it’s still prime real estate for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Around 5% of the population is thought to deal with SAD on a regular basis. Prevalence increases as you head north. The sun sleeps in and goes to bed early. It’s cold. The kind of cold that freezes the inside of your nose and makes you think you will never be warm again. Part of your brain hails back to its hibernating brethren. You pack on the winter poundage and hibernate. Except you can’t, because you’re human and humans tend to have responsibilities that can’t go on hold for several months at a time. Just talking about it is depressing. Take it to a clinical level and it will get you to what it feels like to have SAD.


A Tribute to Dr. Oliver Sacks

“I am also an honorary Asperger. And I’m an honorary bipolar. I suspect we all have a bit of everything.”
I recently read a letter from Dr. Oliver Sacks. At 81 years-old he has been diagnosed with metastasized ocular cancer and has only a few months left of his life. Now, I realize that 81 is not young. He has outlived the average age and all of my grandparents, but I feel like I will lose a scientific grandparent of sorts. My grandfather always told wonderful stories. He was invested in his characters and captured our attention with his exquisite detail and commitment. This is what Dr. Sacks has done telling the stories of his patients and encounters with those who have mental illness. In his stories we are not just case studies. We are lives with narratives of our own that need to be told. His impending death will be a loss that not only impacts me, but will impact the many admirers, authors and scientists that have had the pleasure to experience what he has given the world of psychiatry and neurology.

Coping with Bipolar

Let me introduce myself.

Hello, everybody and welcome to the blog about all things bipolar! I’m LaRae and I’ll be leading you on adventures of dealing with bipolar disorder on a personal level.

You may have noticed, I don’t have the letters M.D., Ph.D., PsyD or anything inferring that I’m a psychological professional. That’s because I’m not. So what gives me the authority to talk about bipolar disorder? I have bipolar disorder. It’s as simple as that.

The name “Bipolar Out Loud” is a tribute to the biggest goal I have for this blog. I don’t want it to be a bad word, whispered behind backs as a pejorative. I want it to be face to face, unabashed “I have bipolar disorder.” Getting rid of the fear will be a huge step in treating not just bipolar disorder, but mental illness in general. Am I going to fly my bipolar flag high and super-hero away the stigma throughout the world? No. I have no ideas that resemble anything that grandiose. I just want to do my part and offer a leg-up for anyone that needs one.

Welcome to Bipolar Laid Bare

We know that living with bipolar disorder -- just like living with any mental health concern -- is rarely an easy road to walk.

That's why it takes a gentle yet deft hand to share one's own experiences with bipolar disorder, in order to...