I Am Heidi and I Am Bipolar (this time I made it)


The other day I was out to dinner with some colleagues of mine. We were talking about nothing really. One of them asked me how I was doing. I knew exactly what she was asking. Her concern was very authentic but for a mili-second in my mind I paused. Could I tell her how I really was? Could I trust these women that I was munching casually on chips and salsa with the heaviness of my truth?

As with most things in my life I took a “I-won’t-know-until-I-do-it” attitude and decided to just put it out there. I’m pretty good at diverting attention and changing the subject if the conversation got too uncomfortable for any of us. So I told her I was doing much better, but that the summer had been a rough one.

Thinking this would suffice and we’d move on talking about better things than my mental health like making money, who said the dumbest thing on Facebook this week or even sex but no, she wanted to know more. She asked, “What happened?” Again, I know her concern was genuine. The past summer as far as anyone could see I had pulled back on work and relationships and pretty much went into hiding so I know that her asking me that question was valid. I had decided long ago that I would not be embarrassed or held back by my mental health diagnosis. My mission in this area to bring awareness so that other people, especially women, can feel comfortable being who they are and not resent this one part of themselves.

It’s been almost 19 years since I was first given the diagnosis of bipolar disorder II. I’ve had ups and downs over the years. I’ve been in and out of therapy, on and off meds and through numerous changes in the cocktails of medications over the years. I know the prognosis of my condition. I know that most people with bipolar disorder must be medicated their entire lives just to live a seemingly normal life (and sometimes that isn’t even possible). I also know that bipolar depression is a contributing factor in many suicides. I know these things; I live them daily.

For most of these past 19 years I’ve been stable with minor mood fluctuations. Most people would have no idea that I carried a mental illness diagnosis. I’ve held jobs, advanced in my career, raised children, sustained relationships and paid bills. Nothing on the outside would have hinted towards what I was fighting (and winning) everyday.

But this summer a shift happened. I remember feeling physical symptoms of the manic mood, but I didn’t put it together. When you’re living it, it just feels like it’s a part of who I am. It’s not like some kind of monster separate from myself. It’s not something that has “taken over” When I had headaches and my heart raced I never even thought about how those symptoms could be a manifestation of the bipolar.

I often joke that when you go crazy it’s not like a switch gets flipped. You don’t hear it. It’s not an alarm and there are no red flags being waved. No one is there at the threshold between normal and out of you fucking mind saying, “you have now crossed over.” It’s slow and progressive. I didn’t realize I was manic until much later and only once I leveled out.

Have I gone mad-

What I did feel was when the bottom fell out. I did know that I was spiraling down a deep dark abyss of which I’d never be able to get out of on my own. I didn’t hear the sudden swish of the rug being pulled out from under me as my feet flipped up over my head. I didn’t feel as I tried to grasp onto anything that would hold me up. I gasped for air; I begged to keep my head up. I fell and I never landed, I just kept falling.

I became frightened of where my thoughts would lead me and what they might make me do. I didn’t want to die. The thought of it made me shudder. I couldn’t imagine leaving my family alone to deal with the hurt that would cause. I however, didn’t trust that in an irrational haze my unpredictable chemically imbalanced mind wouldn’t take over and convince me to kill myself. You don’t know when your having crazy thoughts, that’s what makes them crazy.

During a more lucid time I told my husband and doctor what was happening and about my fears. She decided to put me on what she called “home hospitalization”. Someone was to be with me 24/7 in case the irrationality took over. I was not supposed to work or have any stress in my life. Then my grandma died.

I couldn’t talk to anyone except my husband. Literally, I didn’t answer the phone or make any calls. I stayed in bed and only felt safe when Bob was home. I didn’t eat and barely slept. I had completely lost who I was. Like when you’re in an airplane in the fog. You have no concept of where you are in space. That’s how I felt. With gray space all around me and no way to know if I was right side up or upside down. I had to trust Bob to tell me if I was okay or not.

Meanwhile my doctor changed my meds and slowly but surely they started working. The fog got thinner and thinner, I started to see my way out. Eventually, it thinned out to the point where it was a few clouds here and there. And that’s about where I am now.

So that’s what happened. It’s not the first or the worst and it won’t be the last. After I told my story one of the other women said, “You’re such a bad ass. You’re just so authentic and open about your bipolar. And you keep going, you don’t let it hold you back.” I appreciated her words but this is me. I’m not special. I fall down and get back up; it’s all I know. I take one day at a time, and on this day I choose to live. I am Heidi and I am bipolar.

Please Forgive Me

Forgive me


How do you move past a dark mark in your life? A time you were so hurt or betrayed or abandoned that you feel like the person you were is no longer there. The old you has changed as a result of what you went through. How do you get past it or do you?

I was talking with a friend a while back about forgiveness. What is it actually? What does it mean to forgive someone? And is it necessary? And if so, how the hell do you go about doing it? We didn’t come up with all of the answers but I did learn a few things. As I thought about our conversation I realized a few things.

1) Forgiveness has absolutely NOTHING to do with the person that hurt you, nothing. If it did the other person would have to know that you had forgiven them for it to be “real” but they don’t need to know. It’s a personal decision you make with yourself. It’s the last thing you can do and have complete control over to end the relationship once and for all. It’s closure. It’s sticking a fork in it. It’s done and over. And none of it is for them or about them; this decision is all about you.

2) Forgiving someone else is one of two simultaneous actions the other being- forgiving yourself. To be able to forgive someone else you have to forgive yourself for the part you played in the situation.

I had something terrible happen to me, it was an injustice that I worried I would never get past. I beat myself up over it; no, actually, I ripped myself apart. How did I not know better, how did I not see it coming, how did I let it happen, how could I be so stupid and naive? I started to believe and act the exact way I was accused of being and acting. Ugh!

I realized for me to go on, I had to stop talking like that to me. I wouldn’t allow anyone else to talk to me (or anyone I loved) that way, why was I letting myself do it? I started to recognize that I am human, and as a human I am imperfect. I will make mistakes and make bad decisions but ultimately I am a good person with good intentions and a huge heart. I don’t deserve to be exposed to such mistreatment especially from myself.

3) Forgiveness isn’t a one-time thing, it is a process. Yuck, sometimes I just want something over and done. I don’t always want to have to “go through a process”. The thing about it is that it sort of happens in layers, or levels sort of like Kubler-Ross’ stages of death and dying. But this is more like the stages of freedom and liberation!

First, I had to get to a place where I could wrap my mind around what had happened. This was probably the hardest part for me. I was so stunned and astonished that another human could treat someone in the way I had been treated it took some time to admit it had actually taken place.

I had to do damage control. Next, I sought out help from those I trusted and who had my best interest in mind. After that, I sat with the thoughts of how things had been before and what I wanted to go back and what had to change for good.

I sorted through and picked up the pieces as I began to forgive myself. I started to understand that to get to that place where I no longer thought about what happened I had to forgive the people that had done this. Otherwise, they were just taking up real estate in my head, and they did not deserve any of my time or energy.

4) Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. It also doesn’t mean you welcome the person or people back in to your life. You have to decide what is best for you, and know that just because you forgave them doesn’t mean they won’t do it again. Remember- forgiveness has nothing to do with them.

5) Practicing gratitude helps to forgive. Find the things that you are thankful for, and focus on them. Soon enough they will become larger and more important than the person or people you are trying to forgive. What you focus on expands. If you believe this, you understand that focusing on gratitude will make those things in your life bigger and better. And all the time you are spending on being grateful is time you are not spending thinking about the shitty thing that happened to you.

6) Forgiveness gets easier the more you do it. Become a person that easily forgives. You can practice it and practice makes perfect, right? Forgive the person that cut you off on the highway, forgive the mom for going backwards in the school pick up line, forgive your spouse for being snarky, forgive your kid for forgetting her backpack, forgive your neighbor for making ruts in your newly manicured lawn. Forgive! It feels good to not be harboring ill feelings towards anyone.

Along with this is being the person that is not easily offended. You can choose to see the good in people, and assume that their intentions are not malicious. Everyone is going through something, and everyone has shit that they carry with him or her every day. You may have come across them at a bad time, but that doesn’t mean that they are a bad person. Don’t allow your self to be offended, then you don’t’ have to work on forgiveness quite as much.

None of this is easy and I am far from perfect on any of it. I am real woman dealing with real issues and these are some of my observations and things that have helped me. I am working on forgiving others and myself every day. I try to practice what I preach but I don’t always do such a good job. I fall way short of where I’d like to be most of the time. Please forgive me.