Very Good Job! Good for You Julie!

Before I created The Health Cards- I used to be terrifically hard on myself. I don’t think I praised myself for years- except when I was manic of course and then the praise was a bit grandiose. ;)

I now praise myself each time I accomplish something. Always. It’s automatic now- even when I’m depressed. When I finish something, I have the thought- Good for you Julie!

Do you do this? It took me a while to master the technique, but I’m glad I did. It’s a lot better than what my mind used to say.


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!


Just Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder? I know what you’re going through!

I remember how it feels. 

When I was finally diagnosed in 1995 (after a slightly manic trip to China!), I was very relieved to have an explanation for why I had been so odd for so long. Many questions were answered.

If you were diagnosed, you may be very scared, worried or even incredulous. What? I have a serious mental illness! No way! Then you read all of the symptoms and it makes sense.

If you love someone with the illness, you are probably scared and worried

Here are some facts about bipolar disorder:

- People with bipolar disorder can absolutely get better after a diagnosis! Most do.

- Bipolar disorder medications work. They have side effects and they can make you fat and upset, tired and cranky, but they work. They save lives in many ways. I tried 22 meds until I found the right medications. My meds changed recently as my depression increased- this is normal- and I am now on Lithium, Lamictal, Zoloft (this is safe if used with a mood stabilizer), Ritalin (safe if used with a mood stabilizer) and Ativan. I am doing the best I have done in many, many years.

I have always had a love affair with Lamictal.  It’s a medication I feel that everyone with bipolar disorder should try.

Some people do fine with just a few medications.  Everyone is different.

If you have bipolar disorder, keep trying until you find the right medication.   It’s 100% worth it.

Medications take care of half of the illness, the other half is management.

- If you care about someone with the illness, you need to be just as educated as the person with the diagnosis. Bipolar disorder affects everyone. There are no exceptions. If you love someone with the illness, you are affected in some way. That is why you are on this blog getting information. Information is POWER and you can definitely learn to help the person with bipolar disorder. My mother and eventually my father have learned how to help me. it took time, but it happened.

- Bipolar disorder is genetic. You have done nothing wrong. Not as a person with the illness or as a parent. It’s genetic.

- There is a good chance that if you or someone you love has bipolar, someone in your family has either depression or bipolar. This is often masked as anxiety.  Bipolar disorder is genetic and runs deeply in families.

-  Bipolar disorder comes in two major forms:  Bipolar I (one) and Bipolar II (two). This blog has a lot of information on the differences between the two. It’s estimated that 4-6% of the population has bipolar disorder. If you read a lower number, it’s not up to date research and may just reflect bipolar I diagnoses.

- It takes work to manage the illness. A lot of work for some, not as much for others.  A management plan is essential. This includes medications, trigger management and a lot of lifestyle changes.

So, if you’re just diagnosed, it’s going to be OK. If you love someone who was just diagnosed, you can learn to help and to take care of yourself at the same time.

It’s an illness. It can be treated.

The category list on the  menu to the right has valuable information on bipolar disorder.  The first couple of months are the hardest, but it gets better.  The blogs can help.




Advice for a tough night….

yoda bipolar

Bipolar Disorder Poll: What Symptom is the Hardest for Your Family and Friends to Understand?

Over 200 readers have voted. I want to put this poll up again to see if the mood has changed in the past few years.  What is your answer? If you care about someone with bipolar disorder, please give your opinion as well. I’m actually surprised at the results. I thought that the highest vote would be mania! Let’s see what it’s like in 2014! Julie


What is the Difference between Bipolar Disorder and Schizoaffective Disorder?

Sherry goes sane book cover small

It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between bipolar disorder and schizo affective disorder once you know what to look for.

Bipolar disorder is an episodic disorder that has two main mood swings: MANIA and DEPRESSION.  A person with bipolar disorder can also have psychosis.  Statistically, 70% of people with bipolar disorder one will have psychosis when they are in a full blown manic episode.   This means that most people with bipolar disorder one have psychosis. People with bipolar disorder two can also have psychosis- I do- but it rarely comes with hypomania which is the type of mania you see in bipolar disorder two. This means that SOME people with bipolar disorder two will have psychosis, but it will almost always be associated with depression.

Here is the important point to remember:

Bipolar disorder psychosis is ALWAYS attached to either a manic or depressive mood swing. It doesn’t exist on its own.

If a person has bipolar disorder and experiences psychosis when they are NOT manic or depressed, this is considered schizo-affective disorder.   The word schizo is used to describe the psychosis and affective simply means mood. So we could translate this as Psychotic-Mood disorder.

Please note that schizo affective disorder DOES NOT mean that a person has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Here is the definition of schizoaffective disorder:

When a person who has bipolar disorder has psychosis that is separate from either a manic or depressive mood swing, they receive the schizoaffective disorder diagnosis.  Schizophrenia comes with many, many more symptoms than psychosis that a person with schizoaffective disorder may or may not have. It is possible to have a type of schizophrenia such as paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and still get the schizoaffective disorder diagnosis, but in general, the schizoaffective diagnosis simply means psychosis outside of mania and depression.

Sherry Joiner, the author of Sherry Goes Sane: Living a Life with Schizoaffective Disorder notes: It’s possible for a person with the kind of schizoaffective disorder that I have to switch back and forth between an actual schizophrenia episode and then a bipolar disorder episode. They can be separate. During schizo-affective disorder you have mania and depression with psychosis going on all of the time. I manage mine with medications, seeing my health care team, painting, working with people in the psych ward, giving speeches for NAMI’s In Our Own Voice, maintaining my relationships, writing on my blog and using what I call Sherry’s Master Plan to manage the illness daily. It’s all in my book! With my schizo affective disorder, I have episodes of depression and mania, but my psychosis is continual. That is the difference! 

I love learning about all types of mental health disorders. It helps with my coaching and it definitely makes me a better writer!


PS: Click here to read more about Sherry’s latest book contest where you can win one of her original paintings! If you have any questions for Sherry about schizoaffective disorder, please leave them in the comments section and I will pass them on to her!

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