The Frustrations of Being a Mental Health Advocate

megaphone2I recently posted on my FB page this and I truly believe it. It feels like an uphill battle. I have so many good things to offer if I could just get ONE person with influence to hear me.   I feel defeated oftentimes and will take months off at a time thinking there is no way I am going to make a difference and then one day I have another idea that might just go “viral” only to be knocked down again.

Excerpt from my FB post:

I have called, written emails, filled out forms, tweeted, and sent FB messages about a topic dealing with mental illness and Parkland Shooting to everyone i can think of. (media, parkland survivors, politicians, local media, etc.) and have not heard from anyone.

I keep saying that this is going to be the last time I am going to try and fight stigma and do something about the mental illness problem and then for “stupid” reason, I start back up again and get frustrated again.

I guess I have to hold onto the good things I have gotten accomplished like letter from President Clinton after he was in office, several governors declaring Mental Illness Awareness Week, starting Mental Health Advocates United and the group Advocates for people with Mental Illnesses and blogging under Bipolar Bandit.

I just want to accomplish more. When will I ever get there? Sorry…having a pity party! I just think if it was something else I was writing about, I would have gotten hundreds of replies.”

The article that I want people to read the most is:  If you want more that pertain to what I Feel needs to be done, let me know by emailing me at

Dear Future President,

If anyone knows anyone who can help me get someone to listen, I plead with you to have them email me at or phone me at 336.201.2390.

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Dear Parkland Students,

delparkland delparkland2 delparkland3

Pictures Source

I have heard your frustrations about the politicians not listening to you in regards to gun control.  I am not going to get into how I feel about gun control.  What I do want to talk about are my frustrations regarding mental health.

Many of you have been having your voices heard via social media, the news channels, a town hall, and even a visit to the Oval Office.

I, unlike you, can not get my voice heard.  I have a mental illness and am a  well known mental health advocate online.  I have written numerous letters, emails, made phone calls and even met a few legislators.  Although, I have heard back from President Clinton (after he was out of office), some governors, and a few local politicians, and two Congressman, all in all, I have not gotten my voice heard.

I commend you for not giving up. I have not given up either. I just can’t get my voice heard like you and am wondering why and am hoping you can help.

Every time there is a mass shooting, the media likes to talk about gun control and mental health as the main two topics as to the cause. Too quickly the main focus goes to gun control and that is probably because it is so partisan.  However, mental health reform does not have to be something that needs to be debated as it is a known problem and people on both sides of the aisle agree something needs to be done.  Unfortunately, the stories fade, and little is done.

There have been laws brought up on the floor of Congress and a few even passed that have dealt with mental health.  However, none of them really have helped much obviously.

The thing that bothers me the most is that when they convene study groups, they do not include people who are mentally ill.  They will include psychiatrists, politicians, physicians,some advocates, but rarely do they include people who are dealing with the mental illnesses.  We, the mentally ill, should be the first line of defense and should get our voices heard.  Just like you, Parkland High students, who have dealt with the issue at hand, we, the mentally ill, have dealt with mental illness firsthand.

You have lost 17 valuable lives and in no way am I belittling that, but do you know how many people are lost due to mental illness?  Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder Source1 , 20 veterans commit suicide each day, Source2  About 13% of those suffering from Schizophrenia die from suicide.  Source3

Due to the misconceptions in the media oftentimes, I do want to point out that less than 2% of people with mental illness are violent and therefore are not any more likely to carry out a mass shooting than any other evil person.

To the Victims/Survivors of Stoneman Douglas High School: You have a voice and now I hope you can help mental health advocates, like me get a voice too.  I have written to numerous media outlets and as previously stated many politicians to no avail.   You obviously have gotten your word out.  What can I do to get heard?  I have written many blogs under the pseudonym “Bipolar Bandit” many of which deal with mental health advocacy.  I also started a FB group and FB page dealing with mental health advocacy that have combined approximately 45,000 members worldwide.  My blogs are read by hundreds every day and my groups and pages are very active.  My main purpose of the group and page is to unite those with mental illness and their advocates for change. I also am on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as Bipolar Bandit and the advocacy page also has a Twitter and Pinterest page.

I hope this does not fall on deaf ears and you can help me.  Mental illness played a part in the Parkland shooting and many other mass killings lately and it gets talked about after the shooting, but fades away shortly thereafter.  Let’s put a change to that!  You are the future! I hope that you can change the way people with mental illnesses are handled and help to erase the stigma.

I have written several blogs that I would like for you to read to give you an idea of the things I have attempted to do including letters I have written to politicians. (links below)

Thanks for your time.  If you have read this, I hope that you pass it on to your followers via retweeting the link or sharing on your FB page or talking to your legislators.  I also would like to hear  from you.  My email address is or you can contact me via FB at:  Even if it is a voice of encouragement, I would greatly appreciate it and I am up for any advice and constructive criticism.

I would be happy to do the same for you to better your cause.  Let’s work together and make a difference so things like this don’t keep happening.  Let me know how I can help. I would be happy to retweet your tweets and follow your social media sites.

Candidates-Do you care about the mentally ill? PROVE IT!

I Have a Dream Re: Mental Illness

Mental Illness Issue? Make Your Politicians Accountable!

The Presidential Candidates Need to Talk about Mental Health

March Madness when it comes to Politics and Mental Health

(These are just a few mental health advocacy related articles I have written.) I encourage you to join our group called Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses to help us change the system.  )

Thanks for your time.


Michelle Lande Clark

“Bipolar Bandit”








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Interview with the Author of Bipolar Disorder, My Biggest Competitor: An Olympian’s Journey with Mental Illness

14100357_10202096260164118_1497847250760819476_n(1)Amy Gamble is a Mental Health Speaker, Coach & Advocate. Olympian and Bipolar survivor. Find out more about her and her cause and fight at

Amy Gamble is the Executive Director of NAMI Greater Wheeling.  She’s been speaking for the past two years and has reached over 4000 people.  From conferences to commencement speeches, Amy has given over 100 talks in two years.  She’s well know for her inspiring and educational talks. Amy has a unique pathway to becoming a speaker.

She has written a book entitled Bipolar Disorder, My Biggest Competitor: An Olympian’s Journey with Mental Illness .  delamy

Some more information about her Olympic Career: She graduated from John Marshall High School in 1982) and is one of the Ohio Valley’s greatest female athletes of all time. Gamble excelled in three sports – basketball, track and women’s handball.

She became Marshall County’s first Olympian when she competed with the U.S. Women’s Handball Team in the 1988 Games held in Seoul, Korea. Earlier, the U.S. Women were crowned as champions of the Pan American Games.

Gamble was selected as the West Virginia Women’s Basketball Player of the Year in 1982 after leading John Marshall to the state Class AAA championship. She averaged 23 points and 18 rebounds on a 22-1 record team which avenged its only loss by defeating Elkins in the state finals. Captain of the All-State Team, Gamble was a two-time Class AAA first-team honoree. She was chosen All-OVAC and All-Valley three straight years.

She was the first JMHS girls’ basketball performer to score more than 1,000 points and the initial Monarch athlete to have her jersey retired. She scored 1,498 career points. Gamble was ranked as the No. 4 girls’ basketballplayer in the country her senior season when was named to the Parade, Street & Smith and USA Today All-American teams.

Recruited by Tennessee, she played as a backup on the 1983 Lady Vols’ squad that finished as the NCAA tournament runners-up, losing to the Cheryl Miller-led Southern Cal powerhouse. She left Tennessee at the end of that season and transferred to West Virginia University but played just one season before deciding to try team handball.

After her appearance in the Olympics, Gamble returned to basketball and enrolled at the University of Arizona. Despite having just one season of eligibility remaining, Gamble was the team’s leading scorer and she earned Pacific-10 Conference player of the week laurels.

Her high school track career was also brilliant, as Gamble set numerous invitational meet and OVAC records in the shot put and the discus. She established all-time OVAC standards in both events and was a West Virginia state champion in both events. She was a three-time All-Valley honoree.





What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest all-time accomplishment has been my personal recovery journey from bipolar disorder.  Of course I’m not cured, but I am stable and have learned how to manage my condition.  I say it’s my biggest accomplishment because it was more difficult than becoming an Olympic athlete, and that was a difficult challenge.  But recovery took everything I had and then some.  I’m proud of where I am today as a contributing and respected person in my community.

What are you most proud of in regards to your mental health advocacy work?

I’ve had the unique opportunity to help a local NAMI affiliate (NAMI Greater Wheeling) grow.  We have trained over 400 people in mental health first aid and were recently recognized nationally for our work.  We have 7 support groups.  And last November along with a community partnership with Youth Services System-produced a show called “This is My Brave.”  The show gave 16 cast members the opportunity to share their stories of living with and overcoming mental illness.  It was a tremendous event to shine light on these illnesses.

So I’m really proud when other people want to get involved and help our efforts to implement stigma.  Last week I had high school student who had read my book and performed a part of it for a speech competition.  I was deeply humbled she would be inspired by my story of struggle and triumph.

What are the biggest obstacles you’ve encountered dealing with bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder can be such a debilitating illness.  My entire life was essentially blown up once I became very ill.  So, obstacle number one would have been learning how to manage bipolar disorder.  Learning how the symptoms effect me and what my triggers are.  It was hard to learn how to not blame myself for my illness, because there’s so much stigma that exists.
Obstacle number two has been rebuilding my life.  I lost my career of twenty years.  I lost most of my friends.  I’d been to the top of the world as an Olympian and then to the bottom when I was arrested during a psychotic episode.  Overcoming all those things was very challenging, but I’m proud to say I did it.


Do you think there will be a cure for bipolar disorder in your lifetime?

I don’t know if there will be a cure, but I believe there will be more clear cut ways if diagnosing with the use of powerful MRIs.  The way we diagnose is important to the credibility of professionals and will help eliminate stigma.  I do believe one day genetic treatment will cure people with bipolar disorder.

Are you married? Do you have any children/grandchildren/pets? 

I don’t have any children but I do have a dog and a cat who I love dearly.  My dogs were always by my side whether I was manic or depressed and I write about them in my book.  My family had also been the solid rock I can rely on for support.

Why did you decide to write the book and how long did it take?

I came to a point in my advocacy work and personal journey where I wanted to reach as many people as I could.  I wanted people to know they are not alone.  I knew having been an Olympic athlete and tremendously successful would shed light on the fact that bipolar disorder does not discriminate.  And I also knew I have a powerful story of recovery, and my hope is the book will help one other person be inspired to recover.
It took me about 1 1/2 years from start to finish including all the edits.  I also had to take breaks because it was hard bringing up the difficult times.  But in the end I can say it was incredibly empowering and really healing to write the book.



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Weeks/Months/Days Dedicated to Mental Health Topics

Here are some of the days/weeks/months set aside for the various mental illnesses and/or mental health topics.  Take some time to click on the source link to learn how you can help to raise awareness on  the topic. If you own a social media site or write a blog, share information about the topic during that time period and encourage others to share it too.  Let’s spread the word about the various mental illnesses together.  

delmonthMental Health Awareness Month: May Source

Mental Illness Awareness Week: 1st week of October Source

World Bipolar Day: March 30th Source

National Suicide Prevention Week: The Sunday through Saturday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th.  Source

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: February 26-March 4th  Source 

National Autism Awareness Month: April Source

ADHD Awareness Month: October Source

PTSD Awareness Day: June 27th Source

National Recovery Month: September Source

National Anger Awareness Month: December Source

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: October Source

National Codependence Awareness Month: January Source

Borderline Personality Disorder Month: May Source

National Bullying Prevention Month: October Source

Depression Awareness Month: October Source

OCD Awareness Week: 2nd Week in October Source

Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month: May Source

Self-Injury Awareness Day: March 1 Source

Schizophrenia Awareness Day: May 24 Source

ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) Day: September 12 Source

National Stress Awareness Month: April Source

Hoarding Day/ Week:October 20th in Washington Source May 14- 18th in UK Source


If I have left one out, please contact me at  Put in subject line: Please add to Mental Health Awareness












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Guest Post: How to Slow Your Racing Mind by Charles Francis

Do you ever find it difficult to slow down your mind? For some of us, a racing mind is a serious problem. When we’re agitated, we have no control over our mind, and it becomes extremely difficult to meditate.

An agitated mind leads to stress and a whole host of health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. It even disrupts our relationships and sleep.

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to this problem. No matter how fast your mind is racing, you can learn how to cultivate a calm and serene mind, and the good news is that it’s a lot easier than you might think. The only catch is that you have to be willing to take a few simple suggestions.

Sources of Mental Agitation

Some people have the misconception that they need to calm their minds before they start meditating. They often think that they’re “the type of person” who just can’t sit still. Having a calm mind is not a matter of who you are, but rather what you do.

To understand why our minds get so agitated, it would help to understand a little about how they work. The primary mechanism by which we perceive the world is through our five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell). These are our receptors. They are connected to our brains and send us raw information about what is taking place around us at any given moment.

Each time our senses are stimulated, our brain reacts by trying to interpret the signals it receives and tries to determine the proper response. In other words, each stimulus triggers a thought, either conscious or unconscious.

There are four main sources of mental agitation: 1) Too many commitments, 2) background noise, 3) painful memories, and 4) worrying. There are short-term solutions for dealing with too many commitments and background noise. Painful memories and worrying will take more time to overcome, but they will resolve themselves through a regular meditation practice.

Too Many Commitments

Most of us are unaware that our daily activities are the primary sources of our mental agitation. Once we become aware of these sources, we can do something about them. So when people ask me how to stop their minds from racing, I tell them to start by taking their foot off the accelerator.

Some of us have too many commitments in our lives. Every waking moment of our day is packed with activities, and we never have time to rest. We all want to be productive because it gives us a sense of accomplishment and purpose. The problem with having too many commitments is that all the activities agitate our minds so much that it becomes increasingly harder to slow it down. This makes it harder to think clearly, therefore, lowering our effectiveness and productivity.

To address this problem, I suggest making a list of all your activities and commitments, including meditation. Remember that your spiritual development is important to your family’s happiness, because it will enable you to truly be there for them. Then prioritize your commitments according to how much they contribute to your and your family’s happiness, and give up the least important ones to make time for your personal needs, such as rest and meditation.

With many of our commitments, we have no choice in the short-run. We can’t quit our jobs or abandon our families, but we can consider more carefully what we truly need to survive and be happy. For example, do all our material possessions really make our family happier, or do they take us away from our loved ones? With mindfulness, we can determine the real sources of happiness and strive to incorporate them into our lives.

Background Noise

Background noise is another major source of mental agitation, and much of it is unnecessary. Often when we’re driving home after a busy day at work, we’ll turn on the radio in our car to help us unwind—all the while, still thinking about work or things we need to do at home, such as checking on the kids or making dinner.

When we get home, we might turn on the television while we settle in, not really paying attention to what’s on. We usually do this unconsciously to drown out the constant chatter in our mind. What we may not realize is that this background noise is agitating our mind even more, and when it becomes too much, we might pour ourselves a drink to help us relax.

Some people play the radio or television while they work, thinking this will help them concentrate. The reason this seems to help is because the extra noise prevents uncomfortable thoughts from rising to the surface, but the background noise only creates more agitation.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with watching TV or listening to the radio. The problem arises when we simply use them as background noise. Of course, we should also use some discretion concerning what we watch or listen to. Remember, whichever seeds in your mind you water, those will be the ones that grow.

I would suggest turning off the radio or television (or any other entertainment device) when you’re doing something else. This will help you concentrate on what you’re doing. Try it for a week. I think you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes.

The Calming Power of Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing is a simple tool for keeping your mind from racing out of control. Practicing mindful breathing is very easy and doesn’t take long, and it will interrupt the acceleration of your mind. This will enable you to think with greater clarity, since you’ll have less mental agitation.

All you have to do is stop occasionally and take three to five mindful breaths. You don’t have to strain to concentrate on your breathing, but rather just pay attention to it.

Mindful breathing also has other benefits. It reminds us of what we’re trying to accomplish through our meditation practice, and it brings us back to the present moment, which is where reality is always taking place. You may want to post a reminder note somewhere you’ll see it throughout the day because it’s easy to forget.

Mindful Walking

Practicing mindful walking is also very easy. Most of us do a great deal of walking through our daily activities: at home, work, school, or when tending to our family’s needs. These are all wonderful opportunities to practice mindfulness, instead of allowing ourselves to get lost in our thoughts, many of which are either worrying or simply rehashing the same thoughts repeatedly.

When doing mindful walking, we generally walk more slowly than usual. Make your walking a smooth and continuous movement, while being mindful of each step. This can have a tremendous calming effect because it forces your mind to slow down.

As with mindful breathing, simply pay attention to your walking. With each mindful step, observe the sensation on your feet, the contraction of the muscles in your legs, or even the sensations of your clothes against your skin. Not only will this calm your mind, but it will also help you return to the present moment.

One of the best opportunities to practice mindful walking is to and from our vehicles. This is usually a time when we let our minds drift, or we get on our cell phones. Instead, why not use that time to practice mindful walking? You can even do a walking meditation session for a few minutes in a park or another quiet place.


An agitated mind can make it extremely difficult to sit and meditate for any length of time. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions. Once we become aware of the sources of our agitation, we can take measures to eliminate them. The main sources of mental agitation are: too many commitments, background noise, painful memories, and worrying.

To reduce some of the activities that are over-stimulating your mind, you can make a list of them and prioritize them according to how much they truly contribute to your and your family’s happiness and well-being. Then eliminate those activities that have low priority. Remember that your presence is important to your loved ones’ happiness, and you cannot be fully present if your mind is agitated.

When you incorporate mindful breathing and mindful walking into your daily routine, it will be a major step toward taking control of your mind by improving your ability to concentrate and staying in the present moment. There are also some powerful relaxation techniques to help your mind relax even further. Your life will become much more enjoyable because you will stop the mental agitation that is robbing you of your peace and serenity, and the harmony in your relationships.

Article written by Charles A Francis on Mindfulness Meditation Institute

Book: Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding True Inner Peace


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Guest Post: 7 Routines for Bipolar Disorder by Sibple

Building healthy routines is a cornerstone to maintaining stability in bipolar disorder. The right routines can help to reduce episodes of mania and depression. Routines help build structure to your day, reduce stress, and help you to remember things like taking medications on time. Creating new routines is a way to integrate new healthy habits and utilize coping skills in your day to day life. There is even a type of therapy geared toward identifying and building the right routines for you, it’s called Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy.


Sleep is one of the big ones. Sleep disturbance is even in the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder. Episodes of mania are marked with need for little to no sleep, whereas in depression many patients sleep excessively. Sleep deprivation can trigger a manic episode. Lack of sleep affects emotional regulation. Oversleeping can make depression worse.  Having an evening routine that is conducive to sleeping well will help create and maintain good sleep hygiene.



Not taking medication as prescribed can lead to a relapse of symptoms, hospitalization, withdrawal symptoms, and general chaos. There are many reasons that bipolar patients don’t adhere to taking their medication, either not at all, or skipping pills. Having a set time to take meds can help in remembering to take them, and to take them on schedule. A pill box is especially helpful. If you can’t afford your medication there are programs to help, you can find these online or your doctor may have information for you. If you are hesitating to take your medication due to side effects discuss this with your doctor. Never discontinue or alter dosage of medication without the approval and supervision of your mental health provider.


Not eating regularly can affect your mental and physical health. Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar, difficulty concentrating and eventual overeating. Many of us are already fighting weight gain as a side effect of medication and skipping meals doesn’t help because it messes with your metabolism. Eating on schedule helps to keep the hangry at bay.


Not drinking enough water can lead to headaches, low energy, lowered metabolism, overeating, dizziness and disorientation. Getting in the habit of drinking enough water on a regular basis is good for both mind and body.


Exercise helps reduce depression, has numerous physical benefits, and can help ease chronic pain. Regular exercise can also help reduce stress and promote restful sleep. Working exercise into to your daily routine can make it an automatic part of your day. Be careful not to overdo it, especially when manic.


Social support and interaction is vital to mental health.  Making socializing part of your routine makes it a habit that your more likely to stick to even when you don’t feel like it. Fighting that urge to isolate is a lot easier if that phone call or that lunch date is part of your regular routine.


It’s hard work to manage bipolar disorder. Remember to take time to do things you love, something you look forward to. Hobbies can give you a sense of accomplishment. During times of apathetic depression, it will be easier to try to push yourself to try to do things you normally enjoy if that activity has been built in to your daily routine.

It’s hard to stick to healthy habits during an episode. The more ingrained and automated those habits are, the easier it will be to keep them up when things get hard. When you slip up, don’t beat yourself up. 

These are tips for helping to control symptoms and do not serve as treatment. It is important to speak to a mental health provider to establish the proper treatment plan for you.




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March Madness when it comes to Politics and Mental Health

For the most part, the colleges get along when playing basketball and most of them play with good sportsmanship. Very rarely do you see them attacking them about their beliefs, religion, and character. In fact, if they were to openly do that, they would not be able to play.

However, our politicians/candidates are allowed to do anything they want without many consequences. Well, of course there are consequences. Just like a college team can lose, a candidate can lose an election or be part of a scandal ruining their career.

It is time to start rallying around the team you want to support and the one you think can win the championship. Just like basketball, it is time to start seriously consider who you want to win.  Many times the teams you have chosen to win the championship are not included in your brackets. However, that point  you still need to cheer for someone.  Just like basketball, when it comes to politics, you might not be in favor of any candidates in the upcoming elections, but you should do your civic duty and pick someone.

If that is the case, you need to put all the crap that they will be slinging at each other and choose the candidate who can best help America the best. In order to pick one, you must know where they stand on certain issues and what they are going to do about them. Politicians like to promise different things, but how much can you believe them?

As voters, we need to make a decision not based on who can call the other person the most names or point out all the things their opponent has done wrong. We need to make a choice as to who we think will run the country like we would want them to.  We should want proof that they care about certain issues and have devised a plan to fix the problems that face America.

One such issue is the mental health issue.  I pose this question to all the candidates/politicians: What will you do to help with the mental health system?  Will you at least talk about it so that the people with mental illnesses don’t feel discriminated and forgotten? Will you promise to do something about the stigma, the overcrowding of hospitals, the lack of quality care, the mistreatment of psychiatric patients, the homeless who end up there because they can’t get adequate care for their mental illness, and stop having revolving doors in psychiatric wards and prisons.  Prove to 25% of your voters (those afflicted with mental illness in America) that you do care.  We are Americans and we will vote and we could just make a difference as to if you win or not.

We owe it to the victims of all the recent shootings to do something about it.

March Madness usually refers to college football. I think this year it can refer to the upcoming elections and how the candidates will best help the broken mental health system.

Did you miss the debate? Mental Illness Was Not Discussed

Candidates-Do you care about the 25% of Americans who have a mental Illness? PROVE IT!

Mental Health Should be a Priority

40 Million Voters Ignored

Why June 3rd Is an Important Day in the US, Who is Invited, and What is the Agenda?

Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses Need to Unite

What can a mental health advocate do to help people with mental illnesses?

What is required to be a Mental Health Care Advocate?

Encouragement from a Political Mental Health Advocate and News Channel

Mental Health Awareness Day & Thanks to Some Governors

Appeal to the media and politicians: Does anyone care that it is Mental Illness Awareness Week in America?

Major Overhaul Needed Re: Mental Health System




March Madness usually refers to college football. I think this year it can refer to the upcoming elections and how the candidates will best help the broken mental health system.





















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Guest Post: 9 Myths about Bipolar Disorder by Kristy

9 mythsAbout Kristy

Every time someone casually says something like “Oh I’m so bipolar today” I cringe a little inside. Not because I’m offended, but because I know that so many people have no idea about the reality of bipolar disorder. Here is a list of some of the most common myths I’ve heard.

Myths About Bipolar Disorder

Myth 1. People suffering from bipolar disorder are just moody.

Being moody is more like being a little down because you didn’t lose that last few pounds before your beach vacation. Or being grouchy about the fact that it’s raining on the only day you could go to the pool this month. Being moody is not the same as being fine and functional one day and so depressed you can’t even drag yourself out of bed to eat or shower.

If you’re so depressed you can’t even think straight or focus well enough to do your job, then you’re not “moody”. If you had to drop out of school because you couldn’t concentrate enough to retain the information you were studying, then you’re not “moody”.

You’re not moody if you’ve ever gotten a huge burst of energy and felt so hyper you felt like you could literally jump out of your own skin. And yet, you can’t actually focus any of that energy to do something productive.

Bipolar disorder is caused by actual chemical imbalances in the brain. It’s true that sometimes certain things and events can “trigger” a manic or depressive episode. But often there is no trigger at all. I’ve gone from being perfectly fine to feeling so tired that I needed to sleep 16 hours a day. And then I would STILL be tired. I’ve had to quit jobs because my medications suddenly stopped working (which is actually pretty common with a lot of psychiatric disorders). I’ve been so depressed that someone could be talking to me and I would hear their words fine. But I didn’t have the mental energy to process what they were actually saying and formulate an appropriate answer.

Does that sound like being moody?

Myth 2. Bipolar People Switch From Depression To Mania Often

There are some people that switch faster and more often than others but the idea that people just switch from mania to depression on the turn of a dime is a myth. If you know a bipolar person well enough, you can usually pick up on subtle signs that a transition into depression or mania might be coming on.

Having more energy than usual, talking fast or “pressured speech”, and being more creative than usual can all be signs of impending mania. (For some reason there is a link between creative people and bipolar disorder. In fact, a lot of artists and musicians have the disorder.)

Requiring more sleep, losing interest in hobbies, and social withdraw can be signs that someone is starting to become depressed. (On a side note, I always hate it when people ask if I’ve “lost interest” in my activities. I never actually lose interest. I just don’t have the mental energy required to do the things I like when I’m depressed.)


Myth 3. Mania Is A Good Thing

Being manic is a good thing! It means you’re getting happy. Not necessarily. Some bipolar people do feel happy while experiencing mania. But it isn’t simply a matter of feeling happier.

Even if you feel happier than normal, you’re probably going to have a bunch of other horrible symptoms too. Some symptoms include “racing thoughts”, talking faster than usual (which gets on people’s nerves), and a lack of sleep. When I’ve been hypomanic (a less severe version of mania) I’ve been known to stay awake for 48 hours straight. Why? I just didn’t feel tired.

You’ll probably want to do a million things at once (like signing up for too many college classes AND doing volunteer work AND taking up 10 new hobbies). You feel like you can do anything you put your mind to. But you’ll probably be really irritable and you might find yourself snapping at friends and family for no reason.

So being manic is not normal and it doesn’t mean you’re getting happier or better.

Myth 4. Only Medication Can Help Bipolar Disorder

For most of us, taking medication properly is key to managing bipolar disorder. But there are other important things you can do to help prevent an episode.

  • One of the most important things for treating bipolar disorder is maintaining a normal sleeping schedule. When I’m doing well I need about 7 hours of sleep but some people might need less or more. You have to stick to this schedule every night.
  • About an hour before sleeping, turn off your computer and TV. Also, put the smartphone away. Electronic devices emit a type of blue light that signals to your brain that it’s daytime. This makes it harder for the body to produce melatonin. You need to send the message to your brain that it’s time to go to bed.
  • Eat healthily. Studies have shown there is a link between diets that have high levels of omega 3 fatty acids and lower levels of depression. You should also make sure you don’t eat too many carbohydrates. Sugar has been linked to all kinds of illnesses and an excess of it in the body causes inflammation.
  • Exercise. Studies have shown that regular physical activity relieves stress. I try to walk at least 30 minutes every day. When I’m able to stick to it I feel much better.
  • Pay attention to yourself and learn your own warning signs. When you know an episode is trying to come on you can take note of that and tell your doctor. Your psychiatrist may decide to change your medication or increase the dose.

Myth 5. Bipolar Disorder Only Affects Mood

I wish! If it only affected your mood it would be easier to deal with. When you’re sad you can usually continue to function. Unfortunately, this disorder causes cognitive and physical symptoms too.

It can make it hard to concentrate on anything. Imagine being in college and doing well enough to have the highest grade in the program. You even make Dean’s List. And then you find yourself declining to the point that you read a paragraph and can’t remember or process what it said. You try again, reading it over and over but you are so fatigued all you can think about is going back to sleep. And then the next day is the same thing. And the next day.

Bipolar disorder also causes random body aches and pains, changes in eating patterns, psychomotor agitation (pacing, finger tapping, and other “restless” motions). It can also cause psychomotor retardation which is a slowing down of both physical activity and thought. You end up missing appointments, forgetting to do things at work, etc.

Myth 6. ALL Bipolar People Self Medicate

There are some people that self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, but not everyone does. The closest I’ve ever come to self-mediating is taking over the counter sleeping pills when I can’t sleep. And it’s important to note that drugs and alcohol DO NOT cause this illness but they can definitely exacerbate symptoms.

Myth 7. All People With Bipolar Disorder Are Abusive

Some abusive people have bipolar disorder, but not all bipolar people are abusive. I’m listing this myth because I’ve seen a lot of people say their exes are bipolar because they were cruel. I understand a lot of times a victim of abuse is desperately trying to find some kind of logical reason for they were treated like crap. But the truth is if someone is abusing you it’s being they’re a horrible person. Plain and simple. Remember, there is a line where the disorder ends and the real person begins. Some people are just jerks.

Myth 8. People With Bipolar Disorder Can’t Have Normal Lives

This isn’t true. There are many people with this illness that work or manage busy households successfully. With proper treatment over 75% of people go on to live normal lives. Chances are actually pretty good that you know someone with bipolar disorder and don’t even know it. Anyone from lawyers and doctors to fast food employees and anyone in between can have this disorder.

Myth 9. People With Bipolar Disorder Had Bad Childhoods

Experts believe that it’s caused by a combination of environment and genes. So, in other words, you can have certain genes that predispose you to bipolar disorder. But it’s your environment that helps turn those genes on, so to speak. But this doesn’t mean that abuse is the only environmental thing that can affect you. There are other types of stresses that someone can experience. I read a case about a woman that developed bipolar disorder after a head injury.

References: WebMD    Every Day Health

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Author, Speaker, Advocate: Natasha Tracy Explained

natasha tracy

Natasha Tracy, author of “Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar” talks about some things you might not know about her. For example, her thoughts on whether there will be a cure for bipolar disorder in her lifetime and the secret to her red hair. Read on for more about  Natasha Tracy

How old were you when you felt that you were different? It’s really hard to say when I knew I was “different” because I think I always was and always felt that way. But, then again, many people feel that way and it may not have been to do with mental illness. Looking back, though, I can see the signs of mental illness even when I was a child.

When were you diagnosed with bipolar disorder? I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 20, but, obviously, that was incorrect. I knew it was wrong, but my doctor at the time wouldn’t listen to me. I got a formal diagnosis of bipolar disorder from a new doctor about a year-and-a-half later.

Describe stigma: Stigma is a hard thing to describe. I’ve experienced discrimination on a personal level and that’s where I have found the most misconceptions. People sometimes think being in a relationship with me is somehow dangerous. Of course, I have never hurt a fly. And as far as emotional concerns, of course, that is completely reasonable and I understand that my needs are not necessarily like everyone else’s. Nevertheless, I believe I am worthy of friendships and personal relationships. And the loved ones I do have would agree.

Since you were diagnosed, what percentage of the days have you felt yourself? This is hard to say. I think it’s hard to “feel like yourself” when you have a brain illness. It’s also really hard when you’ve been experiencing symptoms for years before diagnosis and treatment. I think what I strive for is peace, contentment and happiness. And as for how many days I’ve felt that and free of bipolar symptoms, it is very low.

Since you were diagnosed, what are your best accomplishments? I’ve done a lot since diagnosis including become a skydiving coach, paragliding with the Eagles in Venezuela, working for a major tech company and writing a well-received book on depression and bipolar. I’m not sure what is “best” per se, but I like to think many accomplishments have their virtues.

You are admired by many and known as a mental health advocate and have many speaking engagements and ways to speak to the mental health community. What are the things you always try and point out when talking to people? My talks are different for different audiences. I think the one major thing I want to leave the audience with is hope. I want audiences to see the positive in my story. I want people to know that no matter how hard things are today, tomorrow is a new chance for things to change and be better. I want audiences to walk away having laughed, cried and then finally, smiled.

Do you think there will be a cure for bipolar disorder in your lifetime? I hope so, but I don’t think so. I think the brain is so complicated and our understanding of it so lacking, that it’s unreasonable to think this is a puzzle that will be solved in the next 50 years.

Why is your hair red?  It’s pretty simple, I just love it.

Natasha Tracy’s Website

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Author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar

natasha tracy book

Find Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar on Amazon   



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Using Mania: Don’t Freak Out

freak outI had a psychiatrist who would tell me I was not manic when I knew I was and my family knew I was.  This was frustrating because I felt like he didn’t believe me and therefore was not helping me.

I now have a very new psychiatrist who I think believes me, but does not want me to get admitted to a psychiatric hospital when I get manic.  This has always been a back up plan when I get into serious trouble.  Therefore, I am now left with “what now?”

I think I am learning is to not freak out when I am manic.  I need to take on responsibilities myself and can’t rely on doctors, medications, and the hospitals.

This is not something totally new to me, but something I need to start remembering.  I should use my manic energy, but be smart about it.

Blogs I have written in the past that I need to remember and use to heed my own advice:

8 Tips If You Feel like You are getting Manic

Beware I am Manic

When Using Your Manic Energy Can Go Too Far

Helpful Things You Can Do When you are Manic

I need to pace myself and remember all the things I need to do when I am manic.  I am really bad about knowing things that work and not doing them. This includes depression. I spend months depressed so severe that I don’t leave the house or even bed many days.  I can’t or more likely don’t use the techniques I have written about. It is an unhealthy choice I am making and I need to get off this roller coaster.  I so have a choice more than I think I do during the difficult times. It is just hard to push myself to do them.  No more excuses!

Going back to not freaking out when I manic,  I need to do all the things that I would be doing in the hospital at home and follow my action plan to the tee.  I will be all right and I will get through this.



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