Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety and Panic Attacks: How to Calm the Heck Down!

I have a lot of work to do today. I created the work. I want the work and darn it, I’m going to do the work. Getting myself in a space where the work is possible is a challenge. Here is what I’m going to do.
1. Notice the position of my shoulders. Yep. Up against my ears. I just lowered them. Doing this helped me take a natural and deep breath.
2. Focus on breathing. I put my arms behind my head and clasp them together. I push my shoulders back and breathe.
3. Go through a short EFT tapping session. Ah, that feels better. I am now back in my body instead of floating with anxiety.
4. Create a short to do list. Get it Done When You’re Depressed reminds me that to do lists can be short and in the moment. I have one task, to answer email and bill my clients. I have five hundred other things I need to do as well, but this is what comes first. So my to do list can be short. Answer email. Send invoices. I don’t have to make the list any longer than this.
5. Feel the anxiety and do it anyway. Work anxiety is my bugaboo. Grand goals send me out of my body and into a universe of worry. Getting myself BACK IN MY BODY helps me focus on what is in front of me instead of what might happen or what might go wrong.
6. Praise myself all day long. I do my best. You do your best. We are doing our best. Bipolar disorder is a challenge we can rise to and meet.
We are strong. What project do you want to start today? What are the first three, tiny steps. Do those little steps and go from there.
I can do it. You can do it! We can do it!
What can you do right now to laugh? Click here and see if you can laugh. It will absolutely help with anxiety.
 Remaining playful during a panic attack helps. Yes, I just talked myself through a panic attack. You can do the same!



Here I am during a panic attack. Notice the face and how tense I look? I can relax my shoulders. Breath in deeply and get plenty of air in my chest and get my body back to normal.

What is it really like to work when you have active bipolar disorder, psychosis and anxiety?


I just sent out a newsletter. Here is what I experienced the entire time I was working:

1. Shortness of breath.
2. Felt like my heart was in my throat- literally- like a lump.
3. Dizziness
4. Worry
5. Guilt
6. Dread
7. Anger that I have to go through this CRAP
8. Lack of faith in what I was writing.
9. A great desire to simply quit what I was doing.
10. Zero belief I would reach my goal.

I have lived with this my entire life. It is my brain. I have a lot of mental health symptoms that simply show up when I work.

The secret is learning to work THROUGH them.

I sent that darn newsletter and it is beautiful. Who cares that I felt like I was dying while working on the project. I will keep going.


My Bipolar Disorder DESPITE List

Here is my DESPITE list- a positive way to look at what we CAN do when the mood swings are trying to take away our ability to live our lives.

Today, despite being quite sick, I did the following:

– I was nice to the people I met.
– I talked with a friend on the phone instead of NOT answering.
– Recorded a video when I was unable to work this morning.
– Felt thankful for my therapist who understands how much I struggle with work due to my bipolar and anxiety.
– Printed out the sheet music for a singing class I’m taking tonight to make myself get out in public, DESPITE being sick.
– Talked nicely to myself.
– Set up my next Cannabis and Bipolar Workshop. Reminded myself that it’s ok to only be able to set the date and not be able to market. That will come later when I am feeling better.
– Paid attention to my mom’s dog Cookie. Animals help us feel better!
– Decided that I am going to be ok.
– Answered a few email- my main system when the anxiety is raging.
– Did NOT eat sugar to feel better. It’s four months now that I’m dealing with my symptoms instead of eating my way through my symptoms.
– Accepted that this is probably about it for the day.
– Read a few chapters of the excellent and life affirming memoir called Harpo Speaks from Harpo Marx. This book will help you feel better!

I believe in you. Bipolar disorder affects our ability to work. I have blogs due. I have an article due. I have coaching inquiries to answer. I have to work to support myself. But I can’t always do it. I just can’t. On many days, my life is about staying stable and alive and focused on getting better. That is my job today. You can do the same. Then, when the bipolar is better, I will get back to work.

Bipolar disorder and anxiety are real. They affect our lives in every way. We must take time to get better if we want to get on with life and reach our goals.

Please visit my Julie A. Fast Facebook Page and share your list. Be NICE to yourself!


The Suspicious, Controller Personality

After seven years of working with thousands of family members and partners, I’ve noticed one personality type that always causes confusion and distress for the family. I call this the Suspicious, Controller Personality. I of course see this behavior when a person with bipolar disorder is in a dysphoric, manic and psychotic episode, but I’m talking about personality here which means the behavior is consistent over time and is not part of a mood swing. I have found that cannabis with high THC affects this personality the most. This personality is usually seen in men and can be very confusing and scary for family members if it is a young son. I teach a communication tool that family members can use to successfully interact with such a personality to all of my clients.
The Suspicious, Controller Personality
– Has to have the last word. Especially if it is a text or email battle.
 -Will use your ideas to get help, but only if he can modify them.
– Argues about everything for the sake of arguing.
– Always has a better plan that what you suggest.
– Does not give out information, unless it is to his benefit.
– Does what he wants, even when he is telling you he is doing something different.
– Greatly depends on others, especially financially, but but doesn’t see it as dependence.
– If he doesn’t like an idea, he will put you down for having the idea.
– Knows more than everyone.
– Looks up information online to prove he is right.
– Sends random information to prove he is right.
– Snows over his health care professionals.
– Always has an answer.
– Has trouble listening.
– Verbally aggressive and sometimes physically aggressive if pushed too far.
– Has to be right all of the time.
– When you get tired and back down because you have had enough, he thinks he won the argument and feels successful.
– No matter what you suggest, he will come up with reasons why your suggestion will not work.
– Needs a lot of stimulation.
– Reckless.
– More outwardly focused on others than working on internal change.
– Lies, but doesn’t see it as lying. Lies of omission.
– Very, very good at twisting your words and tying YOU in a knot.
– Trusts only himself and his own memories and experiences.
– Doubts everything.
– Suspicious about why you are asking questions. Why are you asking me that is an answer that gets him out of having to actually answer your questions.
– Asks why you are doing what you do, but does not allow you to ask why he is doing what he does.
– Gas lighting. You are the one with the problem! Maybe you need a doctor, not me! I see paranoia in you with all of these questions!
– You feel awful after having a conversation with him.
– Is very good at getting you to doubt yourself.
-Is not there for you, unless you do what he wants you to do.
– Discusses things in the guise of asking for advice, but then goes and does what he wants.
– Gets angry easily and often says you, or what you’re doing makes him angry.
– Lets you know all of the time that he does not have a problem.
If you are in a relationship with a suspicious, controller, you will not change him. Instead, you can change how you communicate with him. That is the only thing I have found that works! This is the basis of my coaching with family members and partners.


 Julie is the bestselling author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get it Done When You’re Depressed and the Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. She works as a family and partner coach and regularly trains health care professionals on bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder management strategies. You can read more about her coaching here

I have a case of #bipolar envy? What about you?

What if the Sun Doesn’t Come Out Tomorrow? Thoughts on Chronic Bipolar Disorder- A BP Magazine Blog from Julie A. Fast


Dealing with ‘bipolar envy’ when watching celebs with bipolar disorder jet set and live their lives.

I love writing for Bp Magazine.  In this edition, I write about my bipolar envy and how I wish I were like the celebrities who seem to have bipolar and yet are still able to jet set around the world- ignore triggers- drink and live it up and still be stable. HMMM.

From the Bp Magazine for Bipolar blog:

I have a massive case of bipolar envy.  I’ve heard of people who get really sick and then find a medication that works and they never get sick again. Some people go YEARS between mood swings.  Others can have full time jobs and lead relatively normal lives after a bipolar disorder diagnosis.  These people exist. I have heard of them, but wow, this is not the bipolar disorder I know.

My bipolar is chronic. It’s every day.  I feel like I walk on the edge between being stable and being sick from the minute I wake up until I finally fall asleep in a Melatonin haze. Please know this doesn’t mean I’m unhappy and it doesn’t mean I don’t get on with my life, but the concept of a life without daily bipolar disorder symptoms is currently just a dream in my world.

It took me many years to come to terms with the concept that I have a very serious mental illness.

I am in the SMI (Serious Mental Illness) category and without my management plan, I would be in the hospital regularly.  Maybe this makes me different from others with bipolar, which is why I feel so envious to read of those who aren’t freaking gobsmacked by mood swings almost every single day…


Click here to read the rest of the article on the website. 




Bipolar Disorder Depression Distortion

This article originally appeared in Bp Magazine……

It takes a lot longer to worry about getting things done than it does to actually finish a project. Sounds easy, right? Not when you have depression.


Depression makes me squirm and put things off and worry that I’m not getting things done. It distorts reality to the point that I put off even the most basic projects because they feel so overwhelming. This is because depression affects our ability to see a project realistically in terms of time, which is why we waste so much time not getting things done. I can spend hours, days, and even weeks ruminating about deadlines, To Do lists, and missed opportunities. Projects that may take just a few hours to complete can turn into days of feeling upset at my lack of productivity. In the past, this meant that I didn’t even start projects and wasn’t able to support myself.

For years I put myself down because of this behavior. Once I realized it was a symptom of my depression, I came up with ways to balance out my ridiculously out-of-touch brain with the reality of a project.

It always takes less time than I think it will to complete a project. Always. In fact, it often takes half the time. Think of situations where this is especially true: answering email, paying bills, exercising, cleaning, and paying taxes!

So, how long does it really take to unload a dishwasher? I always ask this question when I talk about depression, and no one ever gets it right. I hear: Three minutes? Five minutes? Unless you’re trying to unload the dishwasher with your teeth, it usually takes less than 90 seconds. (I know depression can make a person underestimate the time it takes to do a project, but in my experience, it inflates the time to the point that we’re scared to even get started.)

When you’re depressed, a simple project like unloading the dishwasher feels like more than you can handle—which means you put it off and then get upset with yourself for putting it off and then end up piling dishes in the sink while the dishwasher remains an unloaded symbol of your ineffectiveness! This is how a 90-second project can turn into hours and hours of self-punishment.


Here’s what I do when I’m depressed and feeling overwhelmed by my To Do list:

1. Pick one project that you need to get done. Write down the name of the project and a start time.

2. Note how long you think it will take to finish the project.

3. Complete the project without moving on to other projects until you’re done, no matter how painful this feels.

4. Now compare your depressed brain’s perception of time to how long it actually took you. (If you tend to underestimate the time it takes, you can use these same tools.)


Depression can make you multitask—but this is not the way to get things done. If I think about all of my writing projects at once, this bundles the projects into what I call the “tangled ball of string.” I have to force myself to separate each project and focus on one at a time, and measure the time it takes to complete each of them individually.

Once you learn the times for tasks that you do on a regular basis, you can switch from your “depression-distortion” brain to your “get-it-done” brain. For example, I’ve written enough columns for this magazine to know how long it takes—and yet when I’m depressed it can still be a struggle to stick with reality. I’ve been using my get-it-done techniques for 15 years, and yet I can still find myself getting caught in the trap of depression distortion. Why on earth would I spend time on procrastinating when I know I can write a darn good column in less than three hours?

It will never feel good to start a project when you’re depressed, but you will always feel better once you finish the project. So go easy on yourself, make a plan, and stick to it: Step back. Write it down. Time it out. Get it done.

And unload that dishwasher!


Click here to read more about Bp Magazine for Bipolar. I love the hard copy of the magazine and highly recommend a subscription for yourself or your health care professional’s office!

Click on the book cover to read more about Get it Done When You’re Depressed.

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