Tips to Talk with Kids about Bipolar Disorder and Life in General

david julie selfie 2014Here’s a pic from last summer. I’m lying on the hammock with the greatest person I have ever met in my life- my nephew David.

He has taught me so much.

He turned 13 this year and the inevitable changes are happening in our relationship. When he turned 11, I started talking with him about the changes he would experience as he became a teenager so that I could prepare myself for when nights at home with Auntie Wee  would not be a priority.

I believe we can talk to kids from a very young age about emotions and behaviors so that they can learn empathy, compassion, self belief and personal strength as they get older. I started teaching David about bipolar disorder when he was four. I wanted him to understand his Auntie Wee even if he could not intellectually express what he was seeing- I knew the emotions were there and that he would need to know why there were some days where I talked like a Tasmania devil and on others I had trouble getting out of bed.

He tells me now that all of the talk about my illness helped.

We were in Starbucks last week and had the following conversation:

Julie (also known as Auntie Wee): David, have you noticed that you don’t want to spend as much time with me as you used to?

David: (Looks at me a bit surprised) Yes! I have!

Julie: Did you know that’s normal. It has a lot to do with testosterone and getting older. You’re more interested in being with your guy friends and doing role playing and use your nerf guns. You probably don’t want to hang out with your mom and grandma as much either.

David: (Looking even more surprised) Yes! Is that why I want to spend a lot more time with my dad?

Julie: Of course- you want to do guy stuff. Are you more interested in girls?

David: I am.

Julie: That is completely natural too. I am fine with spending less time with you. Let’s figure out what you can do with your dad this summer so that you can spend more time together.

David: Cool.

I then did a little jig at the counter to embarrass him. HAHa.

The next week, we talked with his dad about doing jujitsu together and David signed up and my brother took him to his first class!

Learning to talk with kids takes practice. I have experimented using all of my coaching skills with younger kids and teens- and it’s working.

If you have bipolar disorder, I believe it’s important to let the kids know what you are going through in an intellectual way- being overly emotional is not helpful in my option. Explaining what is happening and how kids can help- even kids as young as four can make a huge difference in THEIR future. They are allowed to grow and have their own lives even when you might be struggling.


Can Depression Get Better? Yes, depression can get better.

man depressionThe following is a blog post from two years ago. Now that my depression is better, I’m looking back on life to see where I came from. I was depressed for 30 years off and on. I have a plan that works now. It IS possible to get better. Julie

Will This Depression Ever End and Can Anyone Help Me?

When I’m seriously depressed every single minute feels like I’m living in hell and I am just closer and closer to death.

 I sometimes get so depressed that I can’t move my head or have a conversation. I still make myself get out and do things. I cry and I feel I can’t go on, but I do. I feel better for having done something. Every minute when I’m well is filled with possibility because I can choose what to feel and what to do. People take this for granted. They take for granted that they can decide not to be mad about something or not to let others bother them.

 Bipolar disorder is not about fixing problems. I can fix my problems. I have a choice with that. The main problem I have is that I can’t always fix bipolar disorder. I can manage it, but I can’t fix something that is so broken. I feel this will last forever and that nothing will change for the future. I will be alone and old and have no purpose. What is the point of my life?

** Back to the present!

Over one year ago, I found medical help that I now use along with my existing management skills.


Never give up. Keep trying new meds- new methods- reread my books- get help, but never give up.



A Bipolar Disorder Blast from the Past.. it’s always something!

Getting_Better_-_The_Beatles_(sheet_music)This is a blog post from 2009. I’m sharing it today because it shows how far I have come and how far you can come when you get a management plan that works. I read this and realized that these work and depression episodes don’t happen to me anymore. My depression, mania, anxiety and psychosis are always lurking, but they are under control. I have tools for the situations I describe below. I write about them in my books. I NEVER thought I would have the life I have now, but I do. I’m happy, stable and I CAN WORK! 

From 2009

I always know I’m depressed if I wake up and suddenly hear an avalanche of negative thoughts.  Sometimes I wake up and think- hmm, what fun things do I have to do today? Those are miracle days where I just get out of bed and look forward to the hours ahead.

I had extreme trouble sleeping last night. True insomnia- it’s so different from mania sleep issues. I had to take two ativan (A benzodiazepine/anti anxiety med) – two ativan means I will get really tired this afternoon. I usually stick to one. But at least I finally got to sleep around 2:30 AM.

This means I lost the hours of work I was going to do this morning. What can I do but just get on with it! I’m lucky I didn’t have a deadline this morning.

I’d rather be tired than depressed. I made a list of my plans for the day. I made one last night before I went to sleep as well. This helps if I wake up depressed!

Have you ever thought that IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHING WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER! and it always helps to get out of bed before the thoughts take over. I did that this morning and vacuumed my room. I’ve been upset with myself for weeks because I didn’t vacuum my room. It takes more time to worry than to DO.



2015 update: We can get better! I lived with this kind of depression for way too long. There is a way out. It doesn’t have to be like this and life can be good.


What Does Bipolar Disorder Mania Look Like?

manic pic

My number one tip for managing bipolar disorder? Know what your mood swings look like from the minute they start. The very first thought of mania for example often tells you all you need to know. “The colors are so gorgeous today!” is a thought I get when I start hypomania. I don’t think this way normally.  When I’m in an average mood, I will notice colors, but I don’t FEEL THEM PHYSICALLY like I do when manic. I now know that having this simple thought-

‘The colors are GORGEOUSSSSSSS today’

is a sign that I’m not stable. I go into action and make sure I manage the bipolar instead of running around buying 25 new Sharpies, a set of paints and some watercolor paper so that I can capture the moment! Ha!

Here’s a picture I use when I train health care professionals and want to show them what my hypomania looks like. This is hilarious because it’s literally made of Sharpies, watercolors and watercolor paper. All bought while hypomanic.I never, ever draw this way when I”m stable. I actually can’t!  I control my mania as best I can and usually succeed! Thank you Health Cards!


Accepting New Family Member and Partner Coaching Clients

b father

Over five years ago, I started coaching partners and family members of people with bipolar disorder as an addition to my writing career.

I never thought I would find work that I enjoy as much as I enjoy coaching. I feel at home with the parents and partners as I have been where they are- and I remain calm during the crises that many of my clients are going through while we are working together. Bipolar disorder is like a puzzle. It’s not always easy to find the right pieces on your own. It helps to have a coach as a guide.

My coaching practice has room for new clients. I take new clients about once a month-and then help them as best I can. It’s a partnership that saves relationships and often lives.

Coaching is not for everyone, but if you are concerned about your relationship with a person with bipolar disorder, it may be a good fit for you. The following link will tell you more. I look forward to talking.

Julie Fast Family and Partner Coaching


The New Psychotic Pot: Is High THC Marijuana Dangerous for People with Bipolar Disorder?


Why #Bipolar 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 two facts: 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. People who continue to smoke pot 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 it has to be addressed.

We are about to face something so big we will decimate our already shaky mental health system here in the United States.

2. I broke my back and dislocated my hip in an biking accident. 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. Here is my original 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’s dangerous.  **

The article below was originally a blog post for the wonderful Bp Magazine that had to be taken down because of the pro pot internet troll movement. They will not silence me. Don’t let them silence you!

PS: 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 your pro pot comments on another page, not this one. Thank you. I’m serious here guys. We have to do something NOW. Julie


The New Psychotic Pot: Is 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 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.

In my opinion, this psychotic pot (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.

ozzyI’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?”

Before anyone gets upset and wants to make sure I don’t forget the fact that marijuana is legal in some states and soon to be legal in even more- including my state of Oregon, I want to stress that 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 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 and made sure I had ZERO mood changes due to the pot. I was fine. 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. 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. Many of the comments I receive when I write about this obviously sensitive topic tend to assume I don’t have direct experience with pot induced psychosis. Please know I’ve done my research and now actually help medical marijuana dispensaries learn about the dangers of high THC in clients who have bipolar disorder.

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.  And why would those of us with bipolar disorder want to put something in our bodies that causes psychosis? It’s about education. 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.

Facts are facts- high THC levels in pot can cause psychosis in people with bipolar disorder. Here’s a link to some of the latest research.  Please know that this is not from big pharma and there is no money making agenda- it’s just a study about pot smoking and psychosis.

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 10% just to be safe. 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.  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 under 10% and stay safe. Otherwise, it’s a psychotic brain time bomb waiting to go off.

You don’t have to take my word for it.  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.

Let’s talk about this openly in the mental health community and 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 THC.




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 caused by pot smoking can end very quickly 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.  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.


Update: I really can’t explain how people read this post  and then made connections between myself, big pharma and bipolar disorder treatment in general. It’s as though they were looking for something that wasn’t there, but went ahead and acted as if it were there and then accused me of being in the pocket of the big pharma. I’m so SICK AND TIRED of people harming other people with their words and as many of you know, I have a Just Say No to Trolls policy for all of my websites. Also, it was very clear that many of the abusive posts were from people who had not read the article. I spent a few hours answering extremely technical questions about the actual THC numbers in pot today.  Please know that I know my stuff and can answer any technical question you have as long as you read the FULL post and comment from a true spirit of discussion and education.  Especially considering that I now TRAIN health care professionals on this topic-  Thank you!!!!

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