Ten FACTS I’ve Learned from Coaching Family Members and Partners of People with Bipolar Disorder

b fatherI’ve been a coach for family members and partners of people with bipolar disorder for over five years. I’ve learned a LOT in this time that I rarely see in books or online. I’d like to share this with you. It’s not completely scientific as it’s from my own research.  I’ve talked with thousands of family members and partners since starting BipolarHappens.com in 2002, so the pool of information is very large.

1. People with bipolar disorder go to college at a much higher rate than the national average.

2. The pot, marijuana, weed, etc on the market today is much, much higher in THC than in the past and can cause psychosis in people with bipolar disorder.  People are talking about this now- I didn’t learn about it until working with a family whose son had a lot of psychosis and was diagnosed with a mental health disorder and it turned out to be pot use. This was many years ago and even I was skeptical at the time. Not any more! This pot is dangerous to the bipolar brain.

3. More people are diagnosed while in college than at any other time.

4. Childhood bipolar disorder  (under the age of 13) is real, but it’s rare. The symptoms are different, especially in terms of sleep, anger and school.

5.  ALL people with bipolar disorder have trouble with work.

6.  Dysphoric mania is the hardest- by far the hardest mood swing on couples.

7. Cutting is not a big part of bipolar disorder symptoms.

8.  About 10% of the people I work with who have a loved one diagnosed with bipolar disorder are actually dealing with schizo affective disorder.

9. People with bipolar disorder can have borderline personality disorder traits without actually having a borderline personality disorder diagnosis. The two illnesses are VERY different.

10.  Bipolar disorder that exists with a personality disorder such as narcissism or anti social personality disorder is easy to spot if you know what to look for.  Narcissism and or anti social personality disorder and bipolar disorder are the MOST difficult combinations to treat.

11. Here’s a bonus FACT.

Bipolar disorder can be treated and managed successfully if you have a plan.



Bipolar Happens! is in the Top Ten of Bipolar Disorder Books on the Kindle!

BHenhanced  65Bipolar Happens: 35 Tips and Tricks to Manage Bipolar Disorder is in the top ten of Bipolar Disorder books on the Kindle!

That’s exciting. I went to the Kindle store to see how my books Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder and Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder were doing on the bipolar disorder page. These books are in the top ten ranking- and then I saw that Bipolar Happens! was up there as well.

Fantastic! Bipolar Happens! is an enjoyable book about a serious topic.

Guess what- it’s only $.99 I want it to be available to everyone.

Yes, I think this is a great deal and a good way to get helpful information about bipolar disorder at minimum cost. Bipolar Happens! was my first book. I knew I wanted to talk about how I manage the illness, but I also wanted to tell stories about how it affects my life daily.

There are stories about anger, manic spending, anxiety at a baseball game and what it feels like to be psychotic! It’s a book that family members love too. I love it myself. It’s hopeful.

Click here to go to amazon.com. You can read part of the book and then add it to your Kindle. Wow, $.99!


PS: If you’re new to my work, this is a great way to experience my writing style and the quality of my information. If you like it, you can come back for more.

Accepting New Family Member and Partner Coaching Clients

b fatherWriting books on bipolar disorder has been my career for over ten years. I enjoy writing and plan to do a lot more. (It can be a challenge when the mood swings are paying a visit, that’s for sure.)

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

I never, ever 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


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.




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