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The following is part one of a two part article on accepting the bipolar disorder diagnosis. 


The Reality of a Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

by Julie A. Fast

People with bipolar disorder often have a hard time accepting the diagnosis. I know that I still struggle with the reality that I have a serious, genetic mental illness. It still shocks and upsets me that this has happened, but I have learned to live with the illness the best way I can and it’s my goal to help others do the same. Part one of this series will give my tips on how people with bipolar disorder can better accept the diagnosis and move on with their lives. Future installments will focus on more tips to live with the illness and how friends and family members can help their loved ones accept the diagnosis. Acceptance and the resulting stability are possible.

Reasons people can’t or won’t accept the reality of bipolar disorder:

  • They have a dual diagnosis that masks their symptoms
  • They think the diagnosis is a mistake
  • They’re scared
  • The illness tells them they’re fine and don’t need help
  • The reality is too hard to face
  • The people around them feed the idea that the diagnosis isn’t real
  • They don’t want to change their lifestyle
  • They can’t see that their choices are making them sick
  • The depression makes them hopeless and helpless
  • They are psychotic
  • They are manic
  • The illness is too strong

These are just a few of the reasons a person might have trouble accepting a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

If you’re a friend or family member of someone with bipolar disorder it’s very important that you understand that it’s NORMAL for some people with bipolar disorder to think that they’re fine. It’s normal for them not to take medications. It’s normal that they can’t see the signs that they’re sick, even though the illness wrecks their relationships and ruins their lives. This is how the illness operates in some people. They’re not acting this way to upset you. It’s just how bipolar disorder makes them act. There will be more on this topic in the next newsletter.

If you have bipolar disorder and you sometimes stop your medications or try to convince yourself that you’re fine and that you don’t have to take care of the bipolar disorder, then you’re normal as well. We all flirt with the limits of this illness. We skip medications, get ourselves into situations we know aren’t healthy and often ignore the signs that we’re sick. The trouble with this is that it damages our future and causes serious problems in our lives. If we can simply accept that we have an illness that needs daily monitoring, just as a person with diabetes has to monitor their insulin, then we can manage the illness successfully and get on with our lives. No, it’s not easy, but once you are accepting of reality, you can move into management.

The following section gives advice on how you can move towards accepting the realities of bipolar disorder, so that you can then focus on the rewarding experiences in life.

The Diagnosis:

When a person is first diagnosed with bipolar disorder there can be a lot of denial. I remember feeling happy to finally have answers, but the feeling didn’t last long. When the reality hit me that I have a life long genetic illness, it wasn’t easy to accept the news. I then thought that medications would take care of the problems for me. When the first medications I tried didn’t work, I was once again faced with the reality that I just might stay sick for the rest of my life. This is when I created the Health Cards.

Now, fifteen years after I was diagnosed in 1995 at age 31, I’m more accepting simply because it’s the best way for me to stay well. If I’m fighting the reality of my life, I will have less time to take care of myself. I don’t have to like this diagnosis, but accepting it makes life easier.

Do you accept the fact that you have bipolar disorder or do you fight the diagnosis and then try to ignore the changes you need to make in order to stay well?

The lifestyle changes:

There’s no question that accepting that I can no longer go out every night and drink with my friends and that I can no longer travel the way I want to travel are hard realities for me to accept about this rotten illness. I had to change my life drastically at first in order to stay well. Now that I have intimate knowledge of my personal symptoms and how I respond to triggers, I can add some of my previous behaviors back into my life. But I’ll never be able nor do I want to go back to the life that may have seemed wild and fun, but left me very sick. So I have created a new life that accepts that my lifestyle has to take bipolar disorder into account if I want to stay well.

What lifestyle changes do you have to make in order to stay well? Do you make these changes or do you continue with your current life and hope that bipolar disorder will just somehow go away?


This is such a huge issue for people with bipolar disorder. The medications can cause a lot of problems and realizing you will probably have to take medications for the rest of your life can truly be a struggle. But for many, many people, these medications work wonders. I remember the day that my Lamictal (a mood stabilizer that is called Lamotrigine in its generic form) started to work. It was a new world. It now takes care of around 50% of my symptoms. It improved my life more than I can say and believe it or not, it was the 23rd medication I tried. I always tell people that they need a comprehensive plan in order to manage bipolar disorder and medications are an integral part of the plan, so keep trying until you find something that works. No matter how long it takes.

Do you resist the idea that you need medications? Are you better when you’re on medications and yet you don’t take them as you should? Are you staying on medications that have too many side effects instead of asking for alternatives? Have you let your doctor know what you need in order to stay on the medications? What can you do right now to help yourself accept the role medications play in your life?

I have some very basic goals in life:

  1. Manage bipolar disorder successfully
  2. Have loving and stable relationships
  3. Work and make money to the best of my ability
  4. Live to a mentally and physically healthy old age!

This is only possible if I accept my bipolar disorder diagnosis. I would like to encourage you to do the same. When reality stares you in the face, it’s much easier to accept reality than spend all of your energy fighting it.

What is Your Next Step to Acceptance?

If you received this article by signing up for the newsletter at you will receive part two in your e-mail tomorrow. Be sure to add “” to your e-mail safe list to ensure delivery of your newsletters.

A Note From Julie

Thank you for all of your support and kind comments about my work. You are the reason I’ve made the Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder available to the public and the motivation behind all of my work. With your help, the Health Cards are recognized around the globe as the number one self-help treatment program for bipolar disorder for both consumers, friends and family members.

The Health Cards provide many strategies for the holistic treatment of bipolar disorder. I support myself and my cause of helping others to get better through all of my books, and the amazing thing is that it’s because of the Health Cards that I can work again. I want everyone with bipolar disorder to have the same choices. This illness is so strong, but there are treatment plans that work. You really can get better. Every person with bipolar disorder needs a treatment plan that incorporates medications, behavior modification, lifestyle changes, and the help of friends and family into one easy to use system. The Health Cards work for those with the illness and can be used by family members and friends even when the person they care about is not currently open to a treatment plan.

Thank you for your supportive emails!

Please note that I am no longer able to personally answer e-mail as I continue to spend much of my time writing, speaking and coaching family members. I have learned to balance my work and daily life in order to remain stable. I do so appreciate all of your support and appreciation. Please refer to the website and my books for possible answers to questions you may have. My blog also addresses a wide variety of issues. I especially appreciate comments left on the blog as I am interested in your opinions. This is also a great place to share your experiences with others.

Thank you,