Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder

Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder is my foundational book. It’s the one I recommend for those who are new to bipolar disorder.

A description of the book is below. If you’re a family member or health care professional who wants to learn the basics of bipolar disorder and how the illness can be treated with a management plan, you will love this book! Take Charge was the first book to talk about having a trigger management plan for bipolar disorder. It also introduced the idea of avoiding the bipolar disorder conversation and the importance of having a team in place to help manage the illness.

Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder with Julie A. Fast: A 4-Step Management Plan for People with Bipolar Disorder, Family Members and Health Care Professionals to Help Manage the Illness and Create Meaningful and Productive Lives

Julie A. Fast shares her journey to manage bipolar disorder and how you, a loved one, friend or client can learn to do the same. Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder teaches readers the four step plan Julie uses daily to lead a productive and happy life. The book covers these topics:

1. The key to a correct diagnosis.

2. Specific lifestyle changes and trigger management skills anyone affected by the illness can use at no cost.

3. Strategies to find a supportive health care team.

4. Tips to find and keep enjoyable work while managing the illness.

5. How to talk with others about bipolar disorder.

….and ultimately how, like Julie you can create and integrate an easy to use management plan for the whole family or client to use.

Never forget: 

  • Family members can learn to help (without enabling) while keeping their own lives stable.
  • Partners can work together to create a stable relationship that is not controlled by bipolar disorder.
  • Health care professionals can find more options than medications alone to help their patients find stable, productive and joyful lives.
  • People with bipolar disorder can create a management plan that helps create a happy and productive life.


I wrote Take Charge over 12 years ago and still use the ideas in the book almost every day. I loved the writing process and hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.




Bipolar Disorder and Psychosis: Yes, we can have paranoid delusions!

Here is an example the BipolarHappens.com Newsletter   

Today’s Topic:  Bipolar Disorder and Paranoid Delusions


by Julie A. Fast

Paranoia is a type of psychosis called a delusion. A delusion is a false belief.

For example, paranoia can be the belief that you have done something wrong and that a person or an organization is upset with you. This is a scary experience as it feels so real.

Paranoia used to really cause me a lot of trouble. I’ve worked hard so that I can at least recognize paranoia before it makes me do something stupid.

I often get the feeling that my friends are ignoring me and that they have met friends they like a lot better than myself. It’s a terrible experience. Luckily, I know the signs of paranoia and don’t act on them, instead I call my friends and ask them to hang out.  When they say yes, I know that all is fine. My friends are the type who will tell me if something is wrong- so my paranoia is always rooted in bipolar disorder and not reality.

Paranoid delusions are FALSE, but you have to be careful because they are VERY sneaky. 

– Paranoid worry is often based on at least some factual evidence which makes it hard to figure out what is really happening. 

– Paranoia does not stand up to factual questioning- but for the person in the paranoid episode, it feels more real than anything they have ever experienced. If you try to talk a paranoid person out of their beliefs, it won’t work.  It’s like trying to convince someone that the sky isn’t blue.

Here are some examples of paranoia. Have you seen these in yourself or your loved ones?

1. Believing that someone is standing across the street staring at you through your apartment window, but when you look outside, there is no one there.

2. Feeling with great certainty that your coworkers have a plan to get you fired. You know this because when they are in a group and you walk up to them, they all scatter in different directions without saying hi.

3. Once, when my former partner Ivan was in the hospital, he was very, very paranoid. I went in one day to say hello and he looked at me and said, “Why is your face so red? Have you been doing something wrong that you aren’t telling me?” True paranoia. He told me later that he really believed  I was seeing someone while he was in the hospital. 

When you are well, these thoughts never even come up. You know there is no one outside and you know that your colleagues wouldn’t have time to plot against you even if they wanted to! They simply go back to their desks when they finish a conversation. You are not the focus of their day.

Paranoia is dangerous when the person takes action such as calling the cops on a neighbor or trying to break into their own office building to find cameras directed at their desk. 

What is the best treatment for paranoia? The first step is a symptom management plan like I teach in the Health Cards and Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder. Once you have identified the symptoms, you can get help.  I use a combination of my trigger management plan, lifestyle changes and medications to manage my psychosis. Anti psychotics work well- the lower the dose the better due to the side effects. Paranoid symptoms must be caught early so they don’t move into destructive behavior.

Education and prevention are key!

This is what I have done, so it’s possible to stay stable and steady when you live with psychosis. 


PS: There is a nice man I sit next to in Starbucks who has a lot of paranoia. It mostly comes out when he is reading the paper. He says all of this very quietly. 

They are rearranging everything to see you.  It’s the big pharmaceutical companies. What are they not telling you? Look at that picture all of those men. Too much stuff. It’s garbage. It’s all it can be. There is no reason to be there anyway. There is no reason to be there. It’s a prison.  All that stuff- 10s of billions. (Laughs.)  I’m not gonna hang around for Obama Clinton.  They do not acknowledge a single one- not one. Like the Tea Party. My mind is made up.

When he talks with friends- he still has the paranoid thinking, but it sounds more like an average conversation. His paranoia is around big pharma and I can understand that! 






Ask Julie Fast: How do you remain organized and focused in your thinking?

A new way to focus my attention!  I am trying to focus on just one sporting event when faced with a gazillion TVs in a sports bar. HEHE. 


ANSWER:   I don’t remain organized and focused in my thinking. It’s a daily and sometimes hourly struggle for me to focus. I have to get help in order to get my work done.

I’m extremely unfocused- it’s pathological and is a struggle very single day. My manager Vy is a life savor. She makes charts that I work hard to follow. I cannot write books without help.

I’m getting worse as I get older and there is no question that my head injury from 2012 doesn’t help. This is not meant to be depressing. It is simply my reality. When I’m stable, I just deal with it. When I’m depressed, it’s my #1 worry. How are we supposed to work and support ourselves when our bipolar brains give us so much trouble? ARG!!!!

I CAN say that I truly use the tips in Get it Done When You’re Depressed. I use them every single day and they help me focus as best I can. So, I do have moments of focus and organization, but it’s hard work and I use everything I write about in my books. Get it Done saves me. It was written for depression, but it works for ADD/ADHD symptoms just as well. Anxiety is also a big reason for focus problems. Sometimes it hurts to work. I was much more able to work in the past. My goal these days is getting as much work done as possible when I’m stable so that I have a buffer on the tough days. I wish I could tell you that I focus just fine and that I have a secret so that you can end your focus problems. I have not found this yet. For now, it’s management. I am still here, still writing and still getting things done, so something is working.  You can do it as well!


I have a theory. I believe that many of us with bipolar disorder are innately restless. It is an issue that affects our work and relationships. Here is my blog for Bp Magazine:  Life with Bipolar: Why Am I So Restless? on the topic.

Tips to Get Out of a Severe Bipolar Depression

Remind yourself that depression is an illness. The symptoms will always be the same. It is not a personal problem. It is not a weakness. It is an illness.  Here are the signs of bipolar depression that remind you that bipolar depression needs to be treated in the same way you would treat pneumonia.

Bipolar Depression Symptoms:

Lack of joy in what used to bring joy. This does NOT mean you need to change your life. It means you need to end the depression so that you can again experience joy. Many people make the mistake of leaving relationships, quitting jobs and thinking a big change is the answer to ending depression. I suggest that managing depression is a better choice.

A sense that you will never get better. This is a symptom of depression. Depression is a succubus. It lies. I call depression the most successful illness in the world. It does the job well. I fight this by accepting that I am going to lose work time and energy while I am depressed. It feels like I am drowning even though I am sitting in a life raft. I have to open my eyes and see that I am in a life raft and I am going to get through the depression. I always do.

I could go on here- our list of symptoms is very long. I wrote my book Get it Done When You’re Depressed when I was depressed. I remember thinking I would NEVER finish the book. How could I possibly write a book when I was so sick from the stress of being in a downswing? I did it through reminding myself that even though I had little joy when writing the book , I would be better in the future. I was right.

There is a chance you are reading this while depressed. It’s ok to be depressed when you have bipolar disorder. What do you need to do next to get out of the depression? My book is available on Amazon and in libraries. There are other great books out there to help you. Programs are available from other writers. Support lines are ready for your call. All that matters is seeing bipolar depression for what it is- an illness.

Depression has nothing to do with YOU. I has nothing to do with me. It is not different than diabetes. It’s chemicals.

I fight my depression and I will win.

You can do the same.


What is Your SELF Inside the Bipolar Disorder?


I believe there is a SELF inside of ME that is separate from bipolar disorder. When something stressful happens in my life- a trigger- my bipolar disorder is the first thing to react.

I rarely get to respond to life from my SELF.

Life goes through my bipolar disorder filter first. If I’m unaware of my own bipolar disorder symptoms, such as my tendency to paranoia, self flagellation and the doomsday feeling that life is never going to work out, I will react to something without thinking.

This is damaging. I fight this desire to act from my first thought. I step back and see if it is bipolar talking or if my SELF is in control.

So far, my SELF always comes in second. My goal is to put the SELF first and respond from that position.

It is so hard. It takes so much time. It is stressful and frustrating to have to second guess myself, but it saves my work and it saves my relationships.

I encourage all of us to know our symptoms, write them down and live from the SELF and not our bipolar disorder reactions.

It’s a life long process that I never fully master. I will never stop trying!


Relationship Disappointment and How it Affects Bipolar Disorder

On the list of the worst triggers for bipolar disorder mood swings,  relationship troubles are right at the top for me. I used to walk into new relationships blindly. I would think, oh well, if it doesn’t work out I will just deal with the depression.

What a dumb plan! I can’t do this as a person with bipolar disorder. The bipolar will always win. I played with this illness for a long time around romantic relationships. I’ll go out with this guy, just for fun. I will be fine.

No, I wasn’t fine. When it self destructed, I did as well.

I have a different policy now.

Nothing is worth a terrible depression.

Nothing. We all have to protect ourselves from bipolar disorder by watching who we let into our lives. It makes me so mad that I have to be so careful. There are a lot of fun people out there who add excitement to life, but if they add mood swings as well, it’s just not worth it!

What about you? Is there someone in you life today who needs to go in order for you to be stable?


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