Why I Take Meds for My Bipolar Disorder

Julie A. Fast holding lithium!


Today isn’t the best day for my brain. The OCD is raging and I can feel the paranoia that I often experience when my mood is rapid cycling.  I manage the majority of my symptoms by using the ideas in my books, but on some days, the bipolar is just too strong.

Today is one of those days.

Bipolar is an illness triggered by outside events. I am often the cause of the trigger:

Working too much.

Waking up too early and not making myself go back to sleep.

Using way too much social media and getting involved with discussions that I need to leave alone.

Just life in general!

Bipolar is a life triggered illness which is one reason it can be so hard to manage.

I take a medication daily for my depression. I’m able to use it without too many side effects. If I miss it for even a few days, I go into a messy, suicidal depression within a week. It’s amazing how well it works. It also shows me that my depression is completely chemical. If you don’t have a medication yet for suicidal depression, please keep going.  We need to avoid SSRI anti depressants, but there are other meds we can use safely.

It’s the same with psychosis. I manage my paranoia and hallucinations by avoiding substances that make me psychotic like cannabis marijuana and keeping myself away from difficult work situations as best I can. (I can tolerate cannabis hemp, but don’t find it helps my symptoms very much!)  Anti psychotic medications can be life savers for many people, but I can’t tolerate the side effects at all.  I know some people who can take them with NO weight gain and some that gain about 30 pounds. I gain and gain with no stop. For this reason, I have to make sure I am really careful regarding psychosis triggers. I have lost too many relationships from paranoia to ever let it take over my life again.

What about Mania and Meds? 

I manage mania by paying very careful attention to my sleep and removing myself from situations that can increase my mania such as staying out partying when I feel good! Not easy! But I am committed to managing my mania as much as my depression.  For the majority of the time I can do this on my own, but on some days like today, I simply have to take my lithium. I wish I could take lithium every day. Many people can. I can’t. So I use it like gold. It really does help me that much. If I take it every day, I’m not able to manage my weight at all, nor can I handle the apathy that I get from long term use. I am more of an exception than the norm, so please know I am sharing this story to show how we are all different, but overall, I want to encourage all of us to use medications when possible. I use lithium orotate when the mania is just getting a bit too intense.

Please keep an open mind about meds. I am all for treating bipolar disorder as naturally as possible.  All of my books, especially Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder can be used with or without mediations, but as a person with bipolar and a psychotic disorder, I have to say that I can’t do this completely naturally.  The illness is too strong.

If you need meds, take them. Keep the dose low enough to help your symptoms without causing too many side effects. We are strong and we can make good decisions around meds. Saying NO to meds completely doesn’t feel balanced to me. I want to keep is natural and clean, but it’s not always possible.

So I take my meds.






Bipolar disorder and Difficult Situations.

Why is it SO hard for us to handle uncertainty?
Bipolar is an illness that often remains idle if there are no outside triggers. This is one reason that stability at home helps us find stability in our minds.
But wow, unless we decide to stay in a dark room and never go out in the world, we will find triggers around ever corner. This is especially true if we work with others.
Uncertain situations are stressful for us. Two people with two different ideas are not always great at working things out! People without bipolar do get upset in these situations, but for those of us with bipolar? Uncertainty can set off a chain of events that ends with a serious mood swing.
When I am in a situation that I find uncertain or upsetting, my brain goes into over drive. I start to pick fights in my head with the other person. My bipolar brain creates trouble for ME. It’s awful.
For the past 20 years, I have worked on a plan to help myself calm down in situations that used to lead to serious illness in the past. Here are a few strategies I use.
1. I truly, truly do NOT send the first email reply that comes to mind when I have to stick up for myself or answer to something I find upsetting. My brain starts churning the minute I read something difficult and boom, I want to write back and tell them where to stick it!
It never works out well. I have leraed from my experience and taught myself to write as much as I want, but I have to take the time needed to calm the heck down before I reply.
2. I use the ideas from the book The Four Agreements and constantly remind myself that while I always think I’m in the center of the universe, the person on the other side also thinks she is the center of the universe! This means I have to do everything possible to see her point of view or his point of view before exploding as I did in the past. My writing skills can create a pretty vicious email reply.
Not any more.
3. I learn from my triggers. If something makes me sick over and over again, I remove the trigger.
We are the master of our own ship- we are the only ones who can learn to control the brain that is in our head. It is up to us to recognize and learn from difficult and uncertain situations. My book Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder explains the process of trigger management in bipolar disorder. 
I know my brain is not my friend. I know that how I react to the world is not normal. I know what stability feels like and I strive for it every day.



Will I Always Feel this Bad, Julie?

Oh, I do know how you’re feeling. The bipolar can be so rough sometimes. Here is one way to lessen the pain felt by bipolar mood swings.

Treat bipolar disorder as an illness.

It’s no different than having diabetes. If one had diabetes and had trouble with energy or felt faint when standing up, the natural response would be, oh, this is my diabetes! Why is it so different when one has bipolar?

When we’re depressed, or overwhelmed or we feel that life is hopeless and that we’re helpless, we go straight to blaming ourselves….

Why do I feel so bad!

What is wrong with me!

I’m a failure!

My life is worthless! 

..instead of reminding ourselves that feeling bad is a symptom of the illness called bipolar!

Let’s change this behavior.

It’s normal to feel bad when you have bipolar. It’s a symptom.

The goal is to reduce the intensity and length of symptoms that make you feel so bad and work towards having more when you feel stable. Reminding yourself that bipolar is an illness and that feeling bad is simply a symptom that can be managed is a good place to start feeling better.

So, to answer your question, will I always feel this bad? No. If you learn to manage bipolar disorder using the ideas in Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder (or any system that works for you!) the times you feel bad can be reduced.  For myself, I noticed that the intensity of how terrible I felt started to decrease once I used the system I now teach.

Eventually, not only did the intensity decrease, the amount of time I felt bad decreased.

Today, 20 years into my bipolar management ‘career,’ I can say that my days of feeling bad still feel freaking bad, but they’re truly, truly much less intense and of way shorter duration than in the past.

Management is HARD. Lifestyle changes are HARD. But I sure as heck choose difficult changes over felling bad all of the time.


PS: If you truly feel bad all of the time as compared to feeling bad during episodes and eventually getting better once they end, please ask for more help. Bipolar is episodic. Feeling bad over long periods of time is an indication that something else is present along with the bipolar.

How to Talk to a Loved One about Bipolar Disorder Treatment in Portland, Oregon

Parent or Partner of a person with bipolar disorder in Portland, Oregon?

I hope you will join me for my next Meetup group: How to Talk to a Love One about Bipolar Disorder Treatment. We will meet on Saturday, September 21st from 4:00-6:00 PM.  You can learn to talk to someone about bipolar, even if the person has lack of insight, can’t get help or refuses treatment. There is hope.

Click here to read more about the event.



Do I Have Bipolar Anxiety or a Separate Anxiety Disorder?















This blog is extra information related to my Bp Magazine Blog Making a Living When You Have Bipolar Anxiety. 

How much of your behavior is anxiety? It’s a VERY untreated component of bipolar as well as a very common secondary diagnosis for people with the illness. Remember, if a person has anxiety when not manic or depressed, it IS NOT bipolar disorder. All symptoms of bipolar are attached to mania and depression.

I have a serious frontal lobe head injury that exacerbated my coexisting anxiety disorder. If I am really honest with myself about what I live with daily, it’s pretty overwhelming.

– Psychotic disorder that started at 16. I often have signs of schizophrenia due to the chronic nature of my psychosis. I get psychotic when depressed or manic (dysphoric mania) and separately when stressed. I definitely have anxious psychosis.

– Bipolar two that is almost bipolar one that started with hypomania at age 17. I will have a full blown manic episode if I use anti depressants, cannabis marijuana or steroids just to name a few on my forbidden to touch list! This means I am in between bipolar two and one. I took charge of my mania ten years ago and it saved my life. Mania is the MAIN PROBLEM IN BIPOLAR.

When you combine bipolar and a psychotic disorder it’s called schizoaffective. If you have bipolar and full schizophrenia, it’s two separate diagnoses. I have schizoaffective leaning towards schizophrenia. I am not scared of that word. It is just an illness of the brain.

– Anxiety disorder. I’ve had panic attacks all of my life and didn’t know what they were. My bipolar comes from my dad’s side of the family. The anxiety is from my mom’s side. No one in her family tree has bipolar, but they have anxiety and depression. I literally have no idea where the psychotic disorder comes from as I don’t have much contact with my dad’s side.

Knowing your partner’s symptoms is essential. We have very distinct mood swings as well as combined mood swings. Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder (for partners)  and Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder (for all of us!) will help you unravel all of this. My Health Cards are being edited (I know, it is taking me forever to do this project due to my own symptoms) and will be available soon.

My blog for Bp Magazine Making a Living when You Have Bipolar Anxiety explains what it’s like to live with anxiety and panic attacks.


Three Unexpected Signs of Bipolar Depression from Julie’s Bp Magazine Blog

There’s weepy, sad, and needy depression—and also irritated, unloving, and restless depression…

I remember the day I realized that my definition of depression was VERY limited.  For three years after my bipolar disorder diagnosis in 1995, I wrote down every symptom I had at the time and each one I could remember from the past. Soon, I had thousands of symptoms. This eventually turned into my Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder.  I also tracked my mood on a chart for 12 years in order to figure out my mood swing patterns. You can see one of these charts in the appendix of Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder.  The following article from my Bp Magazine blogs synthesizes my thoughts on how very different depression can appear depending on what type of depression a person experiences.

I now divide depression into weepy and agitated depression.  This explains why some of us are just downright mean and nasty when we are depressed, while at other times we might be clingy and weepy!

From the blog:

Depression can make us weepy, sad, and needy—but did you know it can also make us really irritated, unloving, and restless? So many of my relationship problems stemmed from the negative filters of depression. I didn’t even know that I was an incredibly positive person until my depression was brought under control.

Sign #1: Irritation

Irritated depression makes me kick and punch things, have terrible road rage, see the dirt of the world instead of the beauty, and experience the most caustic, negative, and judgmental thoughts you can imagine. It’s awful. I’m a witch. It’s as though I put on negativity glasses and the lenses make it impossible for me to think a nice thought or say a nice word.

Click here to read 3 Unexpected Signs of Bipolar Depression on Bp Magazine.