Getting Through the Family Holiday Dinner When You Have Bipolar Disorder

funny familly Going home to visit my family during the holidays used to be a joy when I was a child. Bipolar disorder changed this for many years. I saw family gatherings as a place that highlighted my shortcomings, my medication weight gain and how behind I was in life because of this illness.  

It’s Easter tomorrow and for those who celebrate the day with a big family dinner, planning ahead for the inevitable feelings that come up for people with bipolar disorder is essential.

Now that my bipolar disorder is under control and I’m more able to accept myself for who I am, I enjoy dinners with family and friends. I still have the illness.  I still struggle with my weight and I still get stressed when there are too many people around, but wow, life is so much better when you learn how to exist in your environment no matter where you are! You can do it!

Lets Face Facts: Family dinners aren’t always the best place to be when you have bipolar disorder. This is especially true if you only see your family during big occasions and past resentments, worries and personal slights come to the surface no matter how hard you fight to stay stable.

Here are four tips to make it through the FAMILY DINNER!

1. Refuse to compare yourself to people who don’t have bipolar disorder. This leads nowhere and makes you feel inferior. 

2. Don’t take the bait. For example, if you’re with people of a different political persuasion, force yourself to be SILENT unless it’s so egregious you have to stick up for someone. If your family has a pattern of political strife during dinner, check out of the conversation and play with the kids and the animals.

3. Be the solution, not the cause. Don’t let YOUR bipolar disorder make you into the person creating the stress around the table. Work on stability. Take care of yourself and treat bipolar disorder first so that you are one of the people who brings pleasure and not pain to the event.

4. If you take medications, don’t forget them! If you’re flying somewhere, keeps meds in separate bags.

I just traveled to Atlanta, Georgia for work and visited my family in Alabama. I was nervous. I’m not thin. I’m not perfect. I used to feel inferior to my accomplished family.  I now know that when people love you, they accept you. I felt accepted and loved when I was with my family. This made the trip wonderful instead of stressful.



It’s World Bipolar Day… Let’s Celebrate!

world transtorno dayThe International Bipolar Foundation did all of the hard work for us. It’s not easy to create a day just for those of us with bipolar disorder, but they have done it!  Since today is the day, the best way to show your support is to post on Twitter and facebook using the hashtag


Tell your story! Share some encouragement and most of all, let’s help people all over the world feel safe enough to say they have bipolar disorder.  Stigma ends when the numbers get so high they can no longer be ignored.

I’m not ashamed to have bipolar disorder. It’s simply an illness. Nothing more.

There is strength in numbers and wow, there are a lot of us with bipolar disorder.



Julie Fast WBD 2015

world bipolar day

Write Your Bipolar Disorder Self Help Book!

Tips for writing a book to help others manage bipolar disorder:

Want to get your wit, tips and wisdom on the page? Here is my strategy for writers who want to create self help books that stay in print for decades:

1. Here’s who I am.

2. Here’s what I’ve been through.

3. Here’s the problem.

4. Here’s how I solved it.

5. Here’s how I’m going to help you do the same.

This is a great way to start a self help book. One of my writing secrets is that I outline my books as I write. I have a structure in place before I start the content of the book.  You can use these five sections as an outline and start filling in the sections with your ideas. The book will create itself. All of my self help books including The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder, Get it Done When You’re Depressed, Bipolar Happens!, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder and Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder used this process.

Good luck with your writing.

I know you can do it!


Click here to read an article from the Renegade Writer blog about my writing process. It’s from quite a few years ago, but my system hasn’t changed. One thing that has changed? I’m not depressed like I used to be. We CAN get better.

Can Energy Drinks Lead to Bipolar Disorder Mania?

 (This is one of my top ten posts. Let me know what you think! Julie)

I’ve written many books on bipolar disorder and they all discuss mania extensively- but they don’t discuss energy drinks and how they might affect mania. The reason is that the explosion of these drinks on the market is so new that it wasn’t even a topic of concern a few years ago.  

How did so many products get on the market so quickly? I think it was the success of Red Bull and it moved on from there.  I have to ask:  Are we really that tired?  Or do we just like feeling buzzed?  Who knows?  But I do know it’s a potential problem.

Can these energy drinks lead to mania or exacerbate mania?


But it might not be in the way you think.

It’s not that the energy drinks are bad for you because they directly cause mania. They don’t.  They are not like drugs that go into your system and potentially cause a manic episode such as meth, cocaine, ADHD stimulants or anti depressants.

 Instead, the problem is that energy drinks significantly affect  sleep. Consistent research shows that one of the top triggers of bipolar disorder is a change in sleep patterns.  Thus, there is a link with the energy drinks and how they can rev you up to the point that sleep is significantly impaired or impossible. This is a fire-starter for mania. (Is there a drink called Fire Starter? It wouldn’t surprise me!)  People without bipolar disorder can drink all they want.  I know someone who drinks Rock Star all day and jumps around like a rabbit- but it is her choice.  She doesn’t  have a brain that gets manic.  You or someone you care about probably does get manic.  That is the difference. It’s why you have to make choices that consider bipolar disorder. Yes, it’s a bother and not fair, but it’s reality.  Who thought a little can could cause so much trouble!  The other night I was watching UFC  (mixed martial arts) with my brother at a bar.  The woman next to me ordered her second can of Red Bull. I thought- there is no way you could get me to drink that. I’d fly through the roof!  Here is what she said when it arrived:It’s not alcohol, but it gets me plenty high!

Another example:  I go to karaoke regularly and see people order a Red Bull and Guinness.  I am no prude and have had way, way too much to drink in my lifetime to judge, but this just sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.  And very few people stop at just one.

To be honest, having one energy drink early in the day may not affect your sleep.  You will have to experiment. Problems start when you drink them at night, all day or have more than enough at a bar and then can’t sleep.  Please think about it.

Energy drinks may be over the counter- but so are cigarettes. If you have trouble with mania (or anxiety), energy drinks are not your friend.

It’s as though the energy drinks lull people into thinking they are not really a problem as they are sweet and a pretty color in a vibrant can. But beware!


- For more information, click here to read an excellent article called Are Energy Drinks Safe?

- If you’re a parent of a child who feels that energy drinks are no problem- feel free to pass this on.

- My books that best explain mania the best are Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder  and  The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder.

- Information on my family coaching can be found here 

Note: I just received this excellent question:  What about coffee?   The first difference is the amount of caffeine. Some of the drinks have the same caffeine as a cup of coffee.  Some have quadruple. Another difference is sugar content (one has almost the double of a Coke) as well as other ‘natural’ stimulants used in the drink.  (Sugar free versions are available, but their stimulant content stays the same.) And finally, it’s simply rare for someone to drink espresso all day or all night. Can you imagine seeing someone with a big coffee mug of espresso and drinking it even while singing karaoke? Whew!



Guest Blogger Tom Wootton on The Ecstasy of Depression

tom woottonAuthor and deep thinker Tom Wootton challenges me every time I read his work.  We have chosen different paths on our journey with bipolar disorder, but we both believe that extreme self evaluation and reflection are an important part of learning to manage this illness.  He sent me the link to his thought provoking and view shifting article from Psychology Today with these words:


I value depression as much as any state. Have you seen my article about finding ecstasy in depression? Perhaps my most radical article.


Click here to read Tom’s Article How I Found Ecstasy in Depression  from Psychology Today

I believe there are a myriad of ways to manage bipolar disorder.  Tom offers a path that might help you if you have not yet found work that resonates with how you or a loved one experience bipolar disorder.  Think of what you need- explore what is out there and then find what works for you! 

You can read more about Tom’s work, including his books at



Bipolar Disorder Check in…

The mood swings over the past few weeks aaa plane 75have been intense, but they are now calmed down.

Managing bipolar disorder is a daily task.

I don’t get a break. Is it that way for you? I’m not saying I’m miserable or in a mood swing all of the time. I am saying that in order to stay as stable as possible, I treat bipolar disorder first in all things that I do. I’m speaking in Atlanta, Georgia on the 18th.  I started planing for the trip last week in terms of getting my sleep on the same time schedule and packing ahead of time. If I don’t do this- and believe me I don’t want to!- it will affect my performance!


Here I am in the tulip fields in Seattle, Washington and traveling in China in 1995. I was hypomanic when I went to China…by myself! I then got psychotic and depressed in Hong Kong and was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder a month after these pictures were taken. Wow, so long ago!

china one

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