Are You Wearing out the People in Your Life with Your Bipolar Needs?

The Hierarchy of Needs List for People with Bipolar Disorder 

Those of us with bipolar disorder can be complicated people with complicated emotions.  We are often over the top and because of this, our needs can seem larger than life. As a result, we may rush into things blindly and ask the people in our lives for help without thinking of the consequences to the relationship as a whole . We may say, “I’m sick, please help me!”  to the wrong person and often too many times. This can lead to many relationship problems and in some cases, the end of a relationship.  

I ruined quite a few friendships in this way when my need for help turned into neediness!  I made the mistake of reacting from neediness before I thought of what I could do for myself first or how my actions would affect the other person.  I just naturally turned to the people I felt close to. And I turned to them a bit too much. You may have had the same experience! 

This all changed when I created what I call my hierarchy of needs list. This is a list of people (and sometimes activities) you can turn to when the going gets tough. It has a specific order of people to contact like a chain of command and it guarantees you the help you need while respecting the boundaries of others.  The first step is to see what you’re currently doing that may be seen as neediness. 

Common, needy mistakes 

  • Constantly call a partner at work 
  • Expect a ‘best friend’ to be therapist
  • Tell too much to people you don’t know well, especially in a romantic situation 
  • Miss the signals others are sending you
  • Tell a coworker all about your bipolar disorder problems. 
  • Put the burden of your needs on family members 
  • Assume that others want or should to help you with bipolar disorder 

I did all of the above with disastrous results and then I had an epiphany:   

Just because someone is a friend, family member or a partner, it does NOT mean they are the best person to turn to when you need help with mood swings. 

No matter how much someone cares for you, if you constantly assault them with your needs, they will get overwhelmed.  And sometimes, you may pick the 100% wrong person to ask for help and become very embarrassed! (Been there! Done that!) The secret is to determine who can help in certain situations and then put them in order of their ability and desire to help you. This takes time, but it can change your negative relationship patterns around bipolar disorder forever. 

The following is my hierarchy of needs list. 

Julie’s List

1. Myself: I use the treatment plans in my books, write in my journal, exercise, and really examine what is going on with myself before I turn to others. This took many years to perfect. I’ve learned to live with a lot of bipolar pain on my own. 

2. My therapist, doctors and coauthor Dr. John Preston:  Trained professionals know how to hear your needs and help you without getting overwhelmed. I am respectful of their time and make sure I ask for their help in an appropriate way, but they have received quite a few desperate phone calls. 

3. Friends with ability to help me without getting upset:  I have many friends who will hold my hand when I cry. They can listen to all of my ‘problems’ without getting upset. I know how to limit these conversations and always make sure we talk about how they are doing as well.  These are the friends whom I know I can call at 3AM and they will say- “I’m here for you Julie.”

4. My mother:  I definitely turn to my mother- but I often do it in a physical way. I watch her garden, play with her puppy and just exist.  She always knows when I’m sick and now knows what to do and most importantly, what not to do. We’ve been a team for a long time.  When I’m very ill, she is always there for me, but unlike in the past, I think of her needs as much as my own. 

5. Social friends who help me get better through activities:  I have dear friends who like to watch movies, play games, go to happy hour and talk about the world. They are often my first choice when I need to be around people and just turn the focus off of bipolar disorder. They are ready to talk about the illness when I need to, but I try to keep things lighter so that I can have some fun even when I’m sick. 

7. My brother: People help in so many ways you may not recognize. My brother doesn’t talk much about my bipolar. In fact, I don’t think he knows what to say- but he does use my treatment plan I talk about in my books. He helps me around the house when I get depressed. He does my lawn, fixes appliances, sees how I am and does fun things with me. We never talk about bipolar unless I say, “I’m sick today and I need to get out and do something.”  And if I’m getting manic, he lets me know! 

This list changes and grows- but I’m always at the top.  This list can also include a support group, meditation, a walk with a dog or a visit to the coast. It’s up to you.  What matters is that there is not only one person on the list- such as a partner or a friend. That is just too much burden to place on one person. 

Create Your Hierarchy of Needs List 

Once you have given this some thought, you can make your own list.  If you had not read this article first, who would have been at the top of your list? Have you overwhelmed some people in your life? Who would you put there now?  People can be helpers and listeners, others are doers and others love you but want absolutely nothing to do with this illness.  They may not even talk about it or believe it’s real.  It’s up to you to recognize their qualities instead of trying to make them fit your needs.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed by making this list or that there are not enough people in your life to help, please remember that it took me many years to get where I am today.  If you are not sure how to ask for help, start with a support group that focuses on stability and a therapist who can help with behavior changes, you can then add more personal relationships to the list. 

You are Ready for Stable Relationships! 

As a result of creating and using my hierarchy of needs list, my relationships are more long term and stable. Sure, some of my friendships end and it’s very hard, but it’s not from bipolar disorder neediness.  Now that I have the list, I’m reminded that there is help out there. I’m amazed at how learning about what I need and then recognizing who can really help has changed me. It’s about understanding how bipolar disorder affects my life and my needs while also respecting the needs of others.  Your list may surprise you. Sometimes it’s the least expected people who can help the most! 


Questions to ask the close people in your life: 

How do you feel when I talk with you about bipolar disorder? 

What role would you like to play in my management plan? 

Is there someone else you feel I could talk to? 

What do you want our relationship to look like in terms of bipolar disorder? 

This can be hard as you may get some super honest answers- but this is what leads to true and lasting relationships. 


Questions to ask yourself before you ask for help: 

1. What has my relationship with this person been like so far? Am I asking too much? 

2. Has this person said that I can call any time? 

3. Have I done all I can on my own to help myself? 

4. Is this something that should go to a health care professional? 

5. Does the person I want to lean on have too much going on in their lives? 

6. Is there someone better to turn to? 

7. Am I there for them in the way I need them to be there for me? 


If you have bipolar or care about a child or friend with bipolar, I recommend Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder.

If you are a partner of someone with bipolar disorder, I recommend Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder:Understanding and Helping Your Partner. 

If you want an advanced management plan that allows you or a loved one to reduce meds and manage bipolar disorder on a daily basis, I recommend The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder.


Bipolar and Cannabis Marijuana: A Balanced Perspective on 420

Bipolar and Cannabis Marijuana: A Balanced Perspective. This post is in honor of 4/20 and those of us who want more discussion about the not so pleasant aspects of today’s marijuana if you have bipolar, schizoaffective or schizophrenia.
There are 113 cannabinoids in the cannabis marijuana plant. They are wondrous substances that can help with cancer pain, restlessness, sleep, and more. Many swear by cannabis for chronic pain and helping with trauma.
The main cannabinoids in cannabis marijuana are CBD and THC. These are also referred to as the chemicals in cannabis. They can be extracted and modified in labs or through genetic growing practices, yeast solutions and more.
CBD is the calming chemical in cannabis marijuana and cannabis #hemp. Heavy CBD, low THC cannabis marijuana is referred to as Indica.
THC is the hallucinogenic chemical in cannabis marijuana. It is not as present in cannabis hemp. THC is the most stimulating of all cannabis chemicals. Cannabis marijuana with a higher level of THC is referred to as Sativa.  This is the weed that gets a person high.
CBD is the chemical in cannabis marijuana that people use for relaxation. It’s Cheech and Chong silly pot. It causes mild paranoia, but due to the low THC and the pure growing (not hydroponically grown, mass grown with chemicals or genetically modified for certain strains, this pot was pretty darn benign for people with serious mental illness, although it was still a drug that kept people inactive if they used it a lot. THIS IS THE POT THAT PEOPLE WANTED TO LEGALIZE and use medically.
In the 70s and 80s when I used a lot of #weed, the product all over the world was a very heavy CBD product with an average TCH of around 4%.
Here is where cannabis marijuana and serious mental illness intersect. No one feels that CBD is a problem in SMI. It’s considered calming and there may be beneficial uses in the future if we can find pure CBD, such as growing CBD in a yeast solution.
The problem with today’s pot, a pot I called the New Psychotic Pot when I saw the harm it caused to the children and partners of my clients starting in 2010, is the high level of THC.
We know, without question that THC increases the risk of psychosis in a person with an SMI by around 500%. Think about that please. 500%. The higher the THC, the higher the risk of psychosis.
Today’s cannabis marijuana has an average THC of 18%.
The number one selling Blue Dream for medical marijuana in California has a THC of 18%. I found that Portland averages around 25% when selling Sativa weed.
We know that THC increases the chance of psychosis in people with SMI and yet this product is sold with no psychosis or mental health warning. It is the same in all states with medical and or recreational marijuana.
It has created a mental health crisis in every state where it was legalized without education and regulation: Colorado, Washington, my state of Oregon and now California.
The ER is filled to maximum with people in a mental health crisis as soon as cannabis marijuana is legalized. Psych hospital beds are full to capacity as soon as marijuana is legalized. Visits to the emergency room for psychhosis in general increase rapidly in states that legalize marijuana. Homelessness increases as does street violence.
All of this research is now available online. It’s also coming out in books. I work directly with ER doctors and police officers, so please know that what I’m writing is not simply an opinion.
When it comes to bipolar, we are hit with a double whammy of psychosis and #MANIA. THC is the most stimulating chemical in the cannabis plant and when used by people with bipolar, we tend to get manic and psychotic with dysphoric mania. For some reason, it doesn’t seem to create euphoric mania.
When a person dabs, the THC content is 80-90%. This hits the bipolar brain like meth.
We all want relief and the marketing arm of the cannabis industry has been incredibly good at telling literally everyone that cannabis can help.. no matter what ails you.
This is not a question of what cannabis can help. Of course it has benefits. My work is to help educate the public on the common side effects of using today’s cannabis marijuana:
Psychosis and mania.
Products labeled CBD heavy or low THC are not tested. They almost always contain more THC than suggested. Also, I believe that we have changed cannabis marijuana through genetic growing and the THC has changed, so even the lower THC Indica weed can cause serious symptoms for those of us with bipolar, schizoaffective and schizophrenia.
When legalized, prices plummet and ALL companies start to compete on THC strength.
The choice is yours. No one can tell you what to do. No one can stop you from using cannabis marijuana. I know how badly you want to feel better or escape, but please know that for the majority of people myself with SMI, we will get sick if we use today’s weed.


Let’s Look into the Face of Bipolar Depression


How do we handle the reality of having a serious mental illness when the world tends to talk about recovery and reducing stigma instead of focusing on the direct medical needs of those of us with SMI? (SMI is bipolar, schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia.)
This is a big question. I know that organizations feel they have to work on discrimination (stigma) and sending a hopeful message (recovery). But… if this is not combined with management skills, it is just talk.
I represent a section of people with bipolar who aren’t even close to recovery. This is why you will not see me use this word. We are surviving.
Today’s cameras allow us to capture this and use it to our benefit. The image below is what a severe downing looks like. I used to live in this mood, now it shows up regularly, but not daily! That is progress!
I suffer. The children and partners of my clients suffer. Let’s allow this part of the illness to have a space in the discussion. I break into pieces and then get up and put myself back together on a regular basis. This is not personal. It is an illness that is no different than diabetes. My brain chemicals don’t function normally.
We talk about ending suicide and yet don’t teach young kids how to recognize and manage suicidal thoughts.
We talk about people getting better and yet there is NO public education for the children of parents with genetic mental health disorders.
We focus on reducing stigma while there is a two month wait for psychiatric appointments.
You can look into my face of suffering and when you see this in yourself or a loved one, remember this… it’s an illness. This is what bipolar looks like. It’s ok to get sick like this. Feel it, open up about it and remind yourself that you will get out of it eventually.

Straight Talk about Work and Bipolar Disorder


This is me exactly a year ago. I was excited to be working on a new book and thought all was well. Then the bipolar hit and I had to take time off to manage my moods. By the time I got back to working on my regular writing projects and my paid work as a soccer marketer, the book was simply not possible. This is life with bipolar.

It is my goal to be brutally honest with people about life with this illness. The concept of straight talk has been there from day one when I started my webpage in 2002.

It is ok if you have trouble working when you have bipolar. It means you are normal. It means you have an illness that needs management.

I don’t write this to help you dear reader, it is a message to myself as well. I struggle every day with work. There are days when I honestly think about quitting it all. Why struggle so much?  Why not get in a relationship and have fun with another person and live on a limited income? Why not stop all of this work focus and just stop the daily grind of trying to eek out another project? The reason is that I am not sick all of the time like my brain tells me I am.

I do get work done.

Is it in a way that others without bipolar can work?  Not at all. In my marketing life, I see how regular people can sit down and have a to do list and simply get things done. My brain doesn’t allow this and NEVER HAS.  I gave up mania over ten years ago and this requires that my work is done only when the bipolar is managed.  In the past, I fed off euphoric mania and allowed myself to work myself into the ground. This always ended badly.  Today, my goal is Treat Bipolar First and then focus on work. That is what I want.

What about you? Maybe work is NOT your goal. It is ok to explore disability or getting help from others if work is making you sick. Work does make me sick. There is no question about it. But work is what I love, so I will continue to struggle my way through.

This is your life. The picture of me from a year ago reminds me that a new book is waiting in the wings. I will get to it ONE DAY. That is life with bipolar.


I use the strategies in Get it Done When You’re Depressed every day.  They work for depression, anxiety, ADD and overall focus problems. We can do this.

Partner Advice on Abusive: What is Bipolar Abuse and What is Abuse?

Let’s talk about abusive or out of control behavior in #bipolar disorder. If the abusive behavior is about bipolar, it will always be attached to either a mania or a depression mood swing. The abusive or out of control behavior will be VERY out of character. People will say this,
“Oh my god! He did what? That is so unlike him. He is a family man. He would NEVER have an affair.
“She did what in public? She took off her top in public? Are you sure that is the right person! She would never do that!”
Bipolar is a very specific illness. We have mood swings. Our mood swing behaviors are not based on our personality. Many of our mood swing behaviors will be incredibly out of character.
When we come out of the mood swing, we have thoughts like these,
“What just happened? Did I really do that?”
“Was I possessed?”
“Maybe someone spiked my drink?”
“I am so mortified/embarrassed/ashamed/upset by what happened”
“This is terrible. I am not this person! I don’t know what to do. I am so sorry!”
We will NOT say this once we are out of the mood swing:
“It’s all your fault. You are trying to pin something on me that is your problem.”
“I can do what I want. You are not the boss of me. That is none of your business. I don’t care what you think. I am not a child. You are the one who needs to grow up!”
If we talk this way we are either still sick or we have a lot more going on than bipolar.
If you are a parent of a child with bipolar disorder, please join me on The Stable Table on Facebook.
If you are a partner, please join me on The Stable Bed.
If you want to follow my journey with bipolar, please join me on Julie A. Fast and Julie A. Fast Books on Facebook.

Help for Parents of Children with Bipolar Disorder

Here are a few of my latest articles from Bp Magazine on the topic of children, teens and adults with bipolar disorder who live at home with parents or who are supported financially by parents. I will introduce the article with a short description and you can then visit the BpHope page for the full article. Please note that these articles are also great for partners and health care professionals.

If you are parent of a child of any age with bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder, I hope you will join me on my closed Facebook page The Stable Table. (Partners can join me on The Stable Bed.)

The following article gives an outline of the system I teach to my coaching clients.  It is possible to help a child who refuses help. It is possible to keep yourself healthy while trying to navigate the world of a child who has all of the symptoms of bipolar or schizoaffective disorder, but refuses treatment. Here is the opening paragraph and a link to the BP Magazine article:


You’re supporting an adult child with bipolar. What are your needs?

This is the most important question I ask parents in my coaching practice. Parents are used to talking about what the child with bipolar needs. Rarely do they stop and think about what they need as parents. These needs can get lost and, in some cases, stay lost forever.

My goal is to help parents figure out what they need. Then they can discuss these needs—openly—with their child. At first, this can be very scary.

If I tell my child what I need, this will make my child really sick.

Click the link to read the full article. Reciprocal Relationships: Parenting Your Adult Child While Meeting Your Needs

One of my first articles on this topic is called The ‘Hijacked House’: Tips for Parents of Adult Children with Bipolar Disorder Living at Home

Oh, the relief you will feel when you know you’re not alone if you feel that your child, someone you love very much … has actually taken over your house and you feel like a hostage to his or her illness.

Finally, when it’s time to talk with a health care professional about an child, teen or adult kid with mental health symptoms, knowing how to report these symptoms in a way that actually gets your point across to a health care professional is essential. My article When Your Child Needs A Therapist: How To Effectively Report Symptoms teaches you to clearly and succinctly tell YOUR experience of the symptoms  you see in a child.

I also post my articles regularly on my Julie A. Fast Facebook page.