I had the amazing experience of being calm and stable for a few days. What a joy. That is my mountain top and I plan to work all day to get back there soon! I can deal with what bipolar disorder gives me in most areas. The work issues continue to challenge me. I will not give up. I don’t want you to give up either!
Bipolar disorder is a daily illness- at least the type I have comes up daily. There are many forms of course. Some people go months without episodes. I had a few years where I was very stable. This means it can happen again. Going with the flow helps. Not being hard on myself helps and doing my best at all times is the best I can do. I support you!
When I’m not doing well, I use the ideas in my books to get myself into a different space. When my issues are with work, I picture the 50 strategies in Get it Done When You’re Depressed and just start using them until I am working again.
I often look at pictures to remind myself that life is GOOD and I simply have an illness. Look at the pictures below. Which ones speak to you? I would love to know! Please add your own pictures- ones you fell will help others affected by bipolar disorder feel better!
PS: I felt much better after I did this post! You can feel better too.
Hello, My coaching practice is currently full, but the information in this article can still be helpful. I’m holding a group coaching call for parents soon and will post the information on this blog as soon as a date is confirmed. Julie
Do you love someone with bipolar disorder? This newsletter talks a bit more about my coaching pracice for family members and partners of people with bipolar disroder and other undisgnosed mental health disorders.
Julie, who do you coach in your family and partner coaching? Do you ever work with people who have bipolar disorder?
I hear these questions a lot. First of all, I do not coach people with bipolar disorder. I recommend my books for those with bipolar disorder and encourage people to get a strong health care team. I LOVE writing books for, speaking with and talking to people who have bipolar disorder, but in order to keep the situation stable, it’s a good policy for me to only work with those on the outside looking in.
My family and partner coaching has changed a lot over the years. I have a system I use with all clients where they learn how to recognize symptoms very quickly and then change how they interact with the person who is ill. We have very, very quick results once my system is in place. I do a lot of crisis work where the loved one is not doing well and is often in danger and/or harming others. I like court cases, working with judges and DAs, custody cases, guardianship hearings and helping a family get a child into the appropriate treatment. The more chaotic the situation is when we start, the more I enjoy unraveling what I call the tangled ball of string.
My work is about my clients and their path regarding the illness of a loved one. I believe that parents and partners can only help once they are clear on a diagnosis, what medical treatment works and is needed and ultimately how to help the person manage an illness on a daily basis. I use my books with all of my clients and we learn how I manage the illness. They can then pass this on to a loved one. It works. All of my clients receive copies of my books and we use The Health Cards to create a family plan that works.
I recommend Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder for family members and Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder for partners to start. Most people read both.
1. The person with the illness doesn’t have a correct diagnosis. Using my charts and a system I learned from my coauthor Dr. John Preston, I help my clients get a complete picture of what is happening. This leads to a diagnosis suggestion they then take to a health care professional. It’s 99% accurate. I especially like to help in this area with children. I do a lot of work with anger, psychotic and personality disorders along with mood disorders.
2. People with more than one diagnosis. I do a lot of work pulling apart symptoms so that we can really assess what is happening. I find that psychosis is the symptom that hides the most- once it is figured out, lives can change dramatically. I also work with clients where the child has excessive and out of control anger, often from a young age.
3. Pot use. Over 50% of my client situations now involve pot. I help families and partners educate a loved one about pot and how it might affect the mood- we then come up with a plan to modify the pot smoking and if possible, get the person off completely if it’s obvious the pot is the problem. I do this a LOT.
4. Boundaries. This is my biggest success areas. Relationships get into very unstable patterns when a person in the relationship has an untreated mental health disorder. When my clients take back their lives and have strong and safe boundaries, this is where I see the most change. Yelling, fighting, throwing things, suicidal threats, aggressiveness, stealing, lying, manipulation and lack of empathy behaviors can all get better with the right use of boundaries by a family member or partner.
I’m not a therapist. I’m not a doctor. I do train therapists and doctors in my methods and my books are used around the world. My coaching is unique. If you are a family member or partner who would like to learn more, please visit my coaching page. I am getting over my own social anxiety issues and marketing myself more often so that I can help more people. We can all grow and change! I try to be an example of what I teach.
Please visit my family and partner coaching page to sign up for a complimentary intake session where I can answer your family member and partner questions.
Please visit my BipolarHappens Blog for the latest posts on how I manage bipolar disorder.
My website www.JulieFast.com has the latest information on my speaking and coaching events as well as any recent media work.
Find me on Twitter @JulieBipolar
Find me on Facebook at Julie A. Fast and Julie A. Fast Books
My bipolar psychosis started at age 19. I consistently had hallucinations of seeing myself killed and thought it was normal! I eventually learned to manage my psychosis, but it sure would have helped if the health care professionals in my life had explained the symptoms of psychosis and that it was a normal part of the bipolar disorder diagnosis!
I just received the following question from Mario on the topic:
Julie, I thought that people w/ Bipolar II don’t get psychotic? Or did you have a psychotic depression?
Believe it or not, I’m writing an article on psychosis right now. People with bipolar II can definitely get psychotic. I’ve had psychotic symptoms since age 19. Mine are always with depression – as it’s rare for someone with bipolar II to have psychosis with hypomania. One reason I can identify with so many forms of bipolar disorder is the psychosis. I have hallucinations and as I got older, delusions!
The difference for those with bipolar two who have psychosis is in intensity- people with bipolar I have full blown psychosis – usually with mania. In fact, 70% of people with full blown mania have full blown psychosis at the same time. This is when most people with bipolar I have to go to the hospital and often have to be committed by a family member.
If you have bipolar disorder or care about someone with the illness, it’s essential that you learn about the signs of psychosis. I have a psychosis Health Card (my treatment plan) and am especially careful to look for paranoia (a psychotic delusion) when I’m speaking in public!
Thanks for writing!
PS: Here is an explanation of the difference between bipolar i and bipolar II. If you are new to bipolar disorder terms, I think you will find this helpful.
The majority of my bipolar disorder coaching practice involves a crisis situation where I help family members and partners get a loved on into treatment. In over 50% of the situations, the person with the illness is a heavy pot smoker which fuels the episode.
I have a plan I use and it WORKS, until we run into law enforcement that simply have no idea what they are up against when they go to the door of someone who has a mental illness.
In the past three days, I’ve worked with clients to locate the loved one who is ill so that we can send help. In every situation, the police arrive and the person with the illness 100% talks them out of this help. I have faith that law enforcement can change where needed. There is training out there!
One parent wrote me recently and said that the police officer who was sent to help his suicidal son who is aggressive and disruptive to the family called the father back and said- “This looks like a family problem, why won’t you help him?”
Can you even imagine a doctor saying this if we called for help for someone who is having a stroke or heart attack?
“Indeed, Bynes was released from the psychiatric facility following a mandatory hearing that occurred three days after a judge ruled she needed to spend at least another month in treatment.
But her release doesn’t mean her mental illness is in check. Says family coach Julie A. Fast, who’s written several books on mental health, including Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: “Somebody with psychosis can be raging, screaming and threatening to kill you, but in front of an authority figure they can completely calm down.”
There is good news- my goal is to get someone into treatment and I do help families and partners make it happen. Sometimes we get help from the police and most often we do it on our own. It is possible! I wish Amanda’s parents would call me!
PS: We are in a marijuana crisis that is growing daily. Pot and bipolar disorder don’t mix. Ever.
Click here to read more about my family and partner coaching. I am here to help.
When you have bipolar disorder, doing your best means doing what you can within the parameters set by the illness. This isn’t being negative or hopeless, it’s being realistic.
I HATE IT! yuck! Ick!
But it’s my life. When you love to work as much as I do, learning what you can and can’t do in order to stay stable is essential for success. It’s not a situation that has an end point. I wish I could just climb a mountain and reach a summit that says-
Julie, you now know exactly what you can and can’t do!
It’s not fixed this way. Every week I learn more about myself and am more accepting of what I do accomplish instead of always thinking I could do so much more if I were just able to work like a ‘regular’ person. Bipolar disorder affects me daily as it probably affects you or someone you care about- it affects EVERYTHING. Learning to live with this fact has helped me stay stable and productive.
It’s a daily process to be kinder to myself for having bipolar disorder.
A quick explanation on why I believe bipolar disorder and pot smoking don’t mix.
I have bipolar disorder. I work as a coach for parents and partners of children with bipolar disorder. Here are my experiences:
1. For over three years now, at least 50% of the coaching situations I experience involve POT smoking that leads to mania and abnormal amounts of psychosis in the person with bipolar disorder. In my experience, people who continue to smoke pot that causes bipolar disorder symptoms do not get better. At this time, three of the six clients I’m working with have children who are either in the hospital or are about to go into the hospital because of pot induced bipolar psychosis. It’s not a joke and I hope it can be addressed rationally and reasonably without causing us to take sides.
2. I broke my back and dislocated my hip in an biking accident three years ago. After two months of medical marijuana use where I carefully watched my THC intake, I had the WORST MANIA of my life. It lasted for four months after I stopped all pot use. I will never put pot in my body again. The following is an article about my experiences as a coach and as a person with bipolar disorder who experienced pot induced mania and psychosis. I’m not staying in the closet about this- we are about to hit epidemic proportions in the mental health world as more and more states legalize this drug that has little to do with the ‘mellow shit’ we used to smoke in the 80s. Let’s educate ourselves and grow up and see the facts. It can be dangerous if we are not informed.
With all due respect, this is not a forum for people to tell me how great pot smoking is and how it calms them and I don’t know what I’m talking about. My only goal is helping people with bipolar disorder and those who care about them get better. Please share pro pot comments on another page, not this one. Thank you. I am not anti pot and do believe that cannabis can be a GREAT help in many areas. I’m talking about THC here and the focus is specifically on people who have bipolar disorder or a genetic predisposition for the illness.
The New Psychotic Pot: Is High THC Marijuana Dangerous for People with Bipolar Disorder?
I’ve seen a very disturbing trend in the bipolar disorder world over the past five years and I’m very concerned for the health of people with bipolar disorder. I see a large amount of pot smoking in our community that leads to obvious and serious psychotic symptoms that are being missed because people don’t have the information needed to make informed decisions about the pot that is on today’s market. We are smoking, supporting and ultimately legalizing a strain of marijuana that presents a very high risk of psychotic symptoms for people with bipolar disorder due to an abnormally high THC content in the pot as a result of intense genetic modification. (THC is the hallucinogenic component of marijuana.) When I first voiced my concerns about the psychosis I saw that was caused by pot smoking, many told me I was crazy. “Pot is for relaxation Julie! The pot now is no different than the pot you used to smoke in the 80s! Pot helps people calm down!”
I originally wrote about this topic for my Bp Magazine blog over three years ago where I called this marijuana the New PSYCHOTIC POT. The responses were off the charts in terms of the DON’T TOUCH MY RIGHT TO SMOKE POT! comments I received. Years later, the research is out. The pot on the market today has little to do with the pot from even ten years ago. The pot today is ridiculously strong due to THC levels that are over ten times higher than found in more cannabinoid intense (the relaxing component of marijuana) and traditional ‘mellow out’ pot.
This high THC marijuana can cause psychotic symptoms that mimic full blown psychotic bipolar disorder episodes after just one hit of the pipe. Please, if you are someone who doesn’t think this is possible, please keep reading as I share my story about my personal experiences with THC induced psychosis. I am also seeing personality disorder type symptoms from this high THC pot and will certainly write about it in future blogs.
In my opinion, this psychotic pot (especially where the THC level is higher than 10%) is often too strong for people with bipolar disorder. Pot has always caused a bit of paranoia, but it was the kind that made you glance over your shoulder and spook yourself for fun. Not anymore. This pot with its high THC content causes psychosis that rivals the worst bipolar disorder episodes.
I’ll let Ozzy Osbourn from his book, Trust Me, I’m Dr. Ozzy explain it more eloquently: “When I used to smoke pot, it was happy stuff: you’d get the munchies, have a laugh and go to sleep. These days, when you have a joint, you end up having to hold on to your drawers and hoping you don’t go insane. They f#@% around with marijuana now, creating all of these genetically altered mutant varieties. In the old day, a joint’s THC content- the chemical that gets you high basically- used to be something like 4%. Today, you hear of it being 20 percent or 40 percent.”
He continues, “It’s a bit like walking into a bar one day and being given a Bud Light, and the next being given something that looks exactly like a Bud Light, and it tastes exactly like a Bud Light, but which has the same effect on you as four bottles of vodka.”
I respect Ozzy as he is so open about the hell he went through due to his drug use. I naively smoked this psychotic pot once about five years ago when I was trying to get help for stomach problems due to my medications and I remember thinking, “What is this stuff? This is nuclear compared to the weed I smoked in college in the 80s! What is it doing to my brain? Why am I thinking all of these thoughts, but I can’t actually speak? Why can’t I move my body! What the hell is going on?”
I’m not out to tell you that pot is the boogeyman and that I want you to stop smoking because I have some control complex. I honestly don’t care if you smoke pot or not as it’s a personal choice. My goal is to educate people with bipolar disorder about the dangers of High THC POT so that they can make informed decisions that protect the brain.
The argument that smoking pot is safe if you have bipolar disorder is an argument based off of a pot that no longer exists. The conversation about pot smoking and bipolar disorder must be re-examined in the context of the pot that’s being sold on the market today.
Yes, many people smoke this high THC pot and don’t have psychotic symptoms, but they don’t have bipolar disorder and aren’t my concern! People with bipolar disorder are my concern. People with bipolar disorder have brains that are more susceptible to the THC in today’s pot and we need to get the word out that comparing what used to be on the market to what is on the market today can be deadly.
Why do I know so much about this New Psychotic Pot?
I broke my back and dislocated my hip in a biking accident in 2012 and have lived with severe chronic pain ever since. I very, very reluctantly tried medical marijuana once I found out I could 100% control the amount of THC I would put into my body. I charted my moods from the first time I tried the medical marijuana by asking for a low level THC. The THC in the medical marijuana strain I chose was the lowest level possible- well under 10% and I felt ok using it as part of my pain management plan. That was at the beginning. Months later, after a lot of unexpected and unexplained mania, I had to face the fact that even the lowest dose of THC marijuana was making me ill.
Dispensaries Don’t Always Know the Risks
Even more worrisome was the lack of information in the dispensary. One day the regular medical marijuana I get from the dispensary was out and I very stupidly didn’t do my research and tried a strain that had a slightly higher THC. Even though the THC level was considered low at 19% as compared to what the majority of recreational pot smokers use, I had a full on psychotic episode that lasted six hours and scared me to death. My main memory is being awake while being asleep and seeing people come out of my dreams into my living room while my body was rooted to the spot and unable to move. My chronic bipolar psychosis has been under control for years and ONE experience with pot that had a higher THC count sent me over the edge. I will never let that happen again. I respect my brain too much to put anything in my body that will cause bipolar disorder symptoms.
I worry about what this pot is doing to people with bipolar disorder who smoke it every day. I work as a coach for family members who regularly deal with pot induced psychosis in their loved ones who have bipolar disorder. This is how I was originally introduced to the problem. We can’t be ignorant on this topic anymore. For years, this new psychotic pot was underground and wasn’t as accessible as it is today. Now it’s sold like candy. Literally.
I want us to be open about the risks posed by THC for those with mental health disorders. If you are someone who wants to smoke pot to calm down or deal with anxiety, please avoid pot with a THC level over 5% just to be safe. This is simply an opinion.
I’m not for the legalization of marijuana in its current form as I believe easy access to the drug without highlighting the very real mental health dangers of THC is going to cause an epidemic of psychosis unlike anything we have ever seen in the mental health world. I believe in labeling. A friend of mine has an opposite view- he believes that legalizing pot means people can see the THC content in what they are buying and as a result will make more informed choices. Maybe this is true. I’m not naive. People are going to do drugs. It’s part of being human. Much of this comes down to minimizing risk. If you or someone you love has bipolar disorder and smokes pot, keep the THC low and stay safe. Otherwise, it’s a psychotic brain time bomb waiting to go off.
Click here to read a study with the apt title Pot Smoking Boosts Mental Illness Risk Fivefold. Here are two quotes from the study:
“Compared with those who had never tried cannabis, users of high potency skunk-like cannabis had a threefold increase in risk of psychosis,” she said.
“The risk to those who use every day was even higher — a fivefold increase compared to people who never use,” she added in a statement.
I ask that all of us in the bipolar disorder community talk openly about the inherent risks of such easy access to marijuana. Let’s not confuse the old pot with this new and highly dangerous psychotic pot.
Can High THC Marijuana Use be Dangerous for People with Bipolar Disorder? The answer is yes.
This is not about politics, big pharma or the legalization argument. I simply want people with bipolar disorder to know the very real dangers of what they are putting in their brains.
Update: I would like to stress that the bipolar disorder and pot issue has many positives- unlike other drugs that can alter the course of a person’s bipolar disorder permanently, such as cocaine and meth accelerating a person’s mania, the psychosis (and mania) caused by pot smoking can end once the person stops smoking the pot. And from what I have seen so far, it doesn’t come back unless the person starts smoking again. People with bipolar disorder often use substances to feel better- my issue is sugar, so I certainly understand the problem with self medicating. Once we decide the substance is not working for us and we want to change, it’s essential that we have a healthy replacement for what we stop doing. For example, if a person just stops smoking pot cold turkey and doesn’t replace it with a positive alternative, the pot remains inviting and the person will start smoking again. This is a complicated problem, but one that CAN be solved.
Here are more links to current articles and research:
I will add more articles as they come online.
Education is power.
The health information contained herein is provided for general education purposes only.
This site should not be seen as a substitute for an official diagnosis or for professional health care.
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