Me & My Bipolar
Bipolar can be full of inner conflict, which I think this photo by Graham Spence, captures beautifully.

Bipolar can be full of inner conflict, which I think this photo by Graham Spence, captures beautifully.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 in 2011. I originally pursued my diagnosis as a means of financial survival when I could not work, but today I believe that was part of God's plan for my life so I would get the help I so desperately needed in all areas of my life. My diagnosis put my mental health and spiritual life in conflict and I set out to research what Bipolar was and how to manage and treat it. A part of coming to terms about my diagnosis was to speak out about it and after a few years of recovery, I returned to the standup comedy scene, although in a different capacity, trying to make real-life and real-things, funny. Standing up and talking about my recent Bipolar diagnosis really helped me understand and embrace my diagnosis as not good or bad, but just another part of me. When I manage it correctly, opposed to it managing me, I humbly think it can be one of the best parts of myself.    

Here's a little background information on Types of Bipolar (remember I am not a doctor, I am sharing what I learned)

Bipolar I

Although depression is the prevailing mood state for many people who have a bipolar diagnosis, it’s the manic symptoms that dictate which particular diagnosis is given. Even one full-blown manic episode during a person’s lifetime—regardless of history of depression—equals bipolar I.

Bipolar II

This diagnosis calls for at least one lifetime episode of major depression plus at least one hypomanic episode.

Cyclothymic Disorder

This diagnosis indicates “there’ve been mood issues that haven’t gotten all the way to a depression, haven’t gotten all the way to mania, but they’ve lasted a long time,” occurring frequently over the span of at least two years, causing significant distress but never qualifying as a diagnosable mood episode.

Other Specified Bipolar

Formerly called Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, this is a kind of stopgap when symptoms don’t clearly indicate one of the other bipolar diagnoses.  DSM 5

Rapid Cycling

This is not actually a diagnostic category. Rather, it’s a “specifier” that is added to the diagnosis to indicate that four or more separate mood episodes of any stripe occurred within a single year.

With Psychotic Features

This specifier can be applied to either a manic or depressive episode to indicate a break with reality, such as hallucinations (seeing or hearing things which aren’t there) and delusions (believing things that aren’t true). Hearing voices, receiving special messages, taking on a different identity (often that of a religious or famous figure), and being convinced of a special mission (again, often religious) are common psychotic symptoms. Paranoia and disordered thinking (not making sense) are other hallmarks of psychosis. Catatonia (paralysis of movement and speech) can occur during severe depression.

With Mixed Features

This new specifier takes the place of “mixed episode” and can be applied when depressive features are present during an episode of mania or hypomania.

With Anxious Distress

This specifier was added to indicate symptoms of anxiety that don’t meet the full criteria for panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder or one of the other anxiety disorders.

Some Symptoms Include: Anger, Addiction, Anxiety, Depression, Hypersexuality, Impulsivity, Mania, Mood Swings, Psychosis, Sleep Problems, Stress, Suicidal Thoughts, Substance Abuse, Thinking Problems/Fast Speech.

The manic episode as defined by DSM-IV-TR is “a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood lasting at least one week” can be mild, moderate or severe. Associated with racing thoughts, pressured speech, grandiosity, increased activity, engaging in pleasurable activities, distractibility and decreased need for sleep.

SEX: We know that in bipolar the homeostatic regulation between the amygdala and other areas of the brain are out of balance,” - during sexual arousal and orgasm, biochemicals are activated that generate a feeling of safety and calm. With bipolar disorder you have people who are more vulnerable to using sex as an addiction because they use it for soothing. It’s a painkiller.

THE SOLUTION IS Management. People with bipolar disorder do not have these symptoms unless the mood swings are raging. Prevent the mood swings and you can prevent the dangerous, aggressive and hypersexual behavior.

Carrie Fisher “came out” 15 years ago and emphasizes the need to pursue sobriety in order to manage bipolar: “You can’t even determine if someone’s bipolar unless they’re sober, so that has to be treated first, because all addiction and alcoholism looks like manic depression.”

Some Ways To Prevent The Mood Swings/Management:



Peer Support/Routine/Schedule

Avoiding Triggers (work, relationships, stress)

Mindfulness/ Meditation

Art/Creativity/Telling Story/ Helping Others


Now that we know what Bipolar IS – What I want to share with you, is how Bipolar FEELS. This is a presentation from when I attended Vancouver College of Counsellor Training that I did on my experience with Bipolar 2 and Rapid Cycling; before and after my diagnosis. At the time of this presentation, I felt vulnerable, honest and kind of embarrassed. It's still a hard part of myself to share. The video is also kind of long, but if I started editing, I know I would edit out all the parts I don't want you to see, which is most of it, so I just posted the whole thing. Raw. Uncut. LOL. Today I do all the things listed "Some Ways To Prevent The Mood Swings/Management" and I accept that I will never be cured or fixed, but I have learned, through much trial and error, how to have a good life and I hope this information is helpful to someone trying to do the same.  

Thanks so much for listening!

All my Relations - Frances Stone, Ms. Recovery Writes


Frances Stone is the Author of A Reflection of Love ~ A Different Kind of Love Story,  a Recovery Counsellor and a Radio Co-Host of Talk Recovery Vancouver, a show about addiction and recovery issues, located in the DTES of Vancouver, BC. In her spare time, she does laundry and mothers three clever, curious and challenging little humans.