How To Break-Up With Depression

Have you ever had a friend who was in a relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend that did their best to try to control them or change them or tell them, “You will never be…….I am the best you will ever have”?

Have you ever had a friend who was in a relationship with someone who did not want them to be around their family and friends or do any of their interests and wanted to keep them all to themselves?

Have you ever friend who was in a relationship with someone who did not want them to be happy, period, EVER?

If you were in this relationship, would you want to break-up as soon as possible?

This description is the relationship people have with Depression.

Depression is the unhealthy relationship who wants to control you.  Depression wants to change you in ways that will serve it’s purpose. Depression tells you, “You will never be……I am all there is.”  Depression wants to isolate you from all of your friends and family.  Depression wants to steal any pleasure and interest you have in your life.

Why is it so hard to break-up with Depression?

Just like in an unhealthy relationship, Depression convinces you that the problem is “YOU”.  Depression convinces “There’s something wrong with you.” “You are bad.”  “You are worthless.” “You don’t deserve to be happy.”  “No one cares.” “You can’t be…” “You will never feel happiness again.”

By believing this it causes you to own it.  It is like marrying Depression.  When you believe the fear that Depression feeds you, you are making a commitment to it.

How to break-up with Depression

[Note: these ideas will not be effective with all forms of depression.  Severe depression requires medical help and the monitoring of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic professionals.]

Breaking-up with Depression is a lot like ending an unhealthy relationship.  HARD!

  • Recognize and Identify Depression in Your Life.

Just like in the first step of ending an unhealthy relationship, you have to recognize that you are in a relationship with Depression, that the relationship is unhealthy and that it is not what you want for yourself and who you choose to be.

In order to identify Depression in your life, you have to be able to recognize what is YOU and what is NOT YOU.  For instance, is it YOU who doesn’t care about anything and chooses to stay in bed all day or is it Depression?  Is it you that finds no pleasure in things that are normally pleasurable or is it Depression?

This is the hardest part of the break-up with Depression and an unhealthy relationship. 

People struggle the most with this because Depression has them convinced that they are the problem and has them believe that they are Depression.

Once you are able to see that Depression is not who you are, it is separate from you, you can learn how it works.

  • Understand What Depression Needs to Thrive.

Depression may be a chemical imbalance in our brains, yet it behaves just like every other living organism.

Depression needs energy to survive.  And just like every other living organism on this planet, it needs to receive energy from someone or something else that is living.

Depression gets it’s energy by consuming energy from the people it inhabits.  Depression has a lot in common with a parasite, virus or bacteria that need a living host in order to survive.

As human beings, we generate and use the most energy by being active.  We do the most activity doing things that bring us pleasure, interest or reward.  Because we are human, we also receive energy by being connected to other people.

Therefore, it makes sense that Depression would consume our energy by inhibiting people from experiencing pleasure and interest…and by keeping people isolated.

  • Interrupt and Shut Down Depression’s Control.

Like an unhealthy relationship, Depression needs to be in control.  An unhealthy relationship needs to control your self-esteem and self-worth, so does Depression.  An unhealthy relationship controls what you do and keeps you isolated, so does depression.

Take a stand!  Depression does not want you to be active, find a way to be active anyway! Even if it is as simple as taking a shower and getting dressed.  It does not matter how big or little you do.  Simply do something.

Depression wants you to be alone.  Connect with people or pets!  I know this is hard to do.  Being around people when you are experiencing depression can make you feel worse, especially if they are trying to make you feel better.  However, if you don’t want to talk, don’t talk.  Ask a loved one to just sit beside you and hold your hand.  You don’t need words to connect and you don’t need to feel better.  You simply need to connect.

Don’t expect to feel pleasure during this stage of the break up with depression.  All of the actions you do during this time are  a part of the break up process.

  • Consistently Be Active and Stay Connected

Now that you know what Depression needs and how it is getting it, stop giving it to Depression as best you can.

This is difficult to do because depression has consumed your energy and made you feeling tired, sore and/or achy.  Nonetheless, your body still works, it can do more than Depression wants you to believe it can.   It is very difficult to not let your body stop you and Depression knows this and uses this knowledge against you.

I know it is hard.  Nevertheless, breaking up with depression means that you have to go against what your own body wants.   This is very similar to when you are in love and you have to force your heart to let go.

By no means is breaking up with Depression easy.  It is hard, yet it sounds simple “do something and connect”.  Breaking up with Depression and moving on is worth your effort.


How to experience mania without it becoming a full on manic episode

This is a dangerous topic if misused that should be explored with caution and should not be attempted without the support and accessibility of psychiatric professionals.

By no means do I encourage any person living with bipolar disorder discontinue taking their medication or change their dosage in order to experience self-management (especially if you have not been medically treated and stable for several years).  To suddenly discontinue medication has the potential to be life threatening.

However, it is important that people living with bipolar disorder (and those treating it) know that contained mania can be a gift in a person’s life and permit them to continue to feel like they have not lost themselves.

There are some psychiatrists who prescribe so much medication that the experience of genuine emotion is not possible for a person. I take a stand against over-medication.

I have been stable with bipolar disorder for fifteen years and am in the process of becoming a licensed psychotherapist, what follows is how I experience mania without it becoming a manic episode.

Step 1: The Trigger

You must know your triggers.  You learn what they are by paying close attention to your episodes. Not all triggers will be able to be controlled and contained.

I have three types of triggers:

  1. Stress: that I’ve broken down to be defined as anything that I don’t have the interpersonal resources or ability to handle at the moment.  The lack of a plan of action.
  2. Excitement: Stress with a specific goal, yet I still don’t know what I’m doing, but it is so much fun figuring out how I will reach the goal and having the burst of excited energy.
  3. Urgency: When I feel the pressure to have or be something right now.

When either trigger combines with URGENCY that is a dangerous mania that I must contain as soon as possible. This form of mania could exacerbate rapidly into an out of control mania that could lead to full-blown mania if I am not paying attention.

The safest trigger for me hands down is EXCITEMENT. However, it’s a catch-22 because if I do not pay attention and respond carefully to the excitement, URGENCY will get involved and then I am in the danger zone.

My least favorite trigger is STRESS because I have no clear goal and no plan of action. I simply don’t know what I’m doing so I’m completely overwhelmed.

URGENCY is so dangerous because it causes us to ACT and those actions can change our lives permanently.  URGENCY also causes us to lose control on every level and mania takes over.

I cannot stress this enough.  The key is to pay attention. Keep an eye out for URGENCY.

Step 2: The Mania

I only allow myself to experience mania that comes from excitement.  Any form of mania that comes with URGENCY is dangerous to me and must be contained right away (see below).

My Actions of Mania:

I think about, research or work on a project or goal for several hours straight (significantly beyond 9 hours a day).  I become so obsessed on my goal that I can think about nothing else.  Key: I am unable to stop thinking about my project or goal and I cannot stop working towards my goal. I am obsessed.

How do I know when I am in trouble:

I am not able to sleep.  I stay up all night with both ruminating thoughts and new ideas.  I sneak out of bed to do research or keep working.  I do not disclose to people about what I’ve been doing all day because I don’t want them to know how obsessed I am.

How I keep URGENCY away:

Urgency is really hard to keep away.  It has taken me years of practice.  What it comes down to is throwing away the time-line for when my goal has to be achieved or the project I’m working on must be completed.  It requires the will and ability to put down and put away what ever it is that I am working on.

It was very easy to write those sentences, but very difficult to do in real life.  It takes me tremendous will power to prevent urgency.

Step 3: Containing Mania

I cannot say it enough how important learning how to pay attention is!

I allow myself usually only one day to experience mania because that is safest for me.  In the past I allowed myself a week and I really paid for it.  It took me months to recover and feel like myself again.

By giving myself only one day of mania, I notice that the recovery time only a few days and there are minimal consequences in my life.

Here is how I contain my mania:

  1. I get support.  I let everyone close to me in my life know that I am experiencing mania and ask for their support.
  2. I give myself permission to experience mania from when I wake up in the morning (which is really early since I was probably up all night being obsessed) until 5pm.
  3. I force myself to stop working on my goal in order to eat and shower.  This is not always easy to do.
  4. At 5pm, I have to completely remove myself from the situation.  I disconnect myself from whatever it is that was fueling my mania…the excitement. I do not give myself access to what excites me. If I am not able to do it, I ask for help from my support system.
  5. I eat dinner and usually with some form of prescribed sleeping aid, I take my lithium and go to sleep for about 10 hours.  Otherwise, my mind will not stop thinking.

When I wake up in the morning, often it is as though a reset button has been pushed; however, the manic energy is still somewhat present, but in a weakened form.

With the remaining mania, I do not allow myself to even get close to working on the goal that triggered the mania. Instead, I put it to work in some other productive way (like cleaning etc).

I spend the day doing self-care practices that include both exercise and repetition because it has a calming effect on me.

I continue my self-care practices until I notice that I am no longer triggered and that the fuel that fed the mania has been consumed.

I continue working on my project or goal once the excitement of it has worn off and it becomes “work” again.

This is my story for how to experience mania without it becoming a full on manic episode.  I hope this is useful to you.


Uncovering loving ways for doing an intervention

In my years of helping people develop their ability to thrive with bipolar disorder, I have heard horror stories about interventions that were done on them.  As a therapist, I help teach people loving ways for doing interventions.

Out of love and desperation, people often do some very hurtful things to get someone to get help.

INTERVENTIONS GONE WRONG: Words that hurt someone you love when trying to get them help.

“Something is wrong with you.”

“You scare me.”

“I am ashamed of you.”

“You embarrass me.”

“You are crazy.”

“You are bad.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“You are bipolar.”

It does not matter what words follow after these sentences.  The damage has already been done.

It is highly unlikely that a person will want to seek help, when the person trying to help them is hurting them.

Loving ways to do an intervention:

  1. Use “I” Statements.
  2. Focus on specific behaviors that you are concerned about.
  3. Asking your loved one to receive help.

“I” Statements:

“I am concerned that…”

“It hurts me when…”

“I get scared when…”

“When this (behavior) happens, I feel…”

“I don’t know what to do when…”

These types of “I” statements are effective because:

  • They do not blame or shame.
  • They do not judge a person.
  • They do not label a person.
  • The person sharing these statements is expressing how something affects them…they are owning it.

Focusing on specific behaviors:  (that are not normal for the person)


“When you don’t sleep at night, I fear that…”

“You’ve been speaking so fast lately that I can’t understand you.”

“The way you drove today, really scared me.  I felt we were going to get into a bad car accident.”

“When you purchased _________ on a whim, I didn’t feel we could afford it and I don’t know what to do about that.”

“Your emotions have been so powerful lately. It scares me and I don’t know how to respond.”

“You haven’t stopped working on ___________ (goal) in four days.  You haven’t eaten, showered, changed clothes, slept or left the house.  This is not how you normally are. I am concerned.”

What makes it effective:

  • You are separating the person from the problem = not shaming, blaming and judging your loved one.
  • You are expressing your response to their behavior without labeling or diagnosing the behavior.
  • Your concern is NOT that there is something wrong with your loved one, but that their behavior is significantly different from how they usually are.
  • You bring awareness to the behavior.

Asking your loved one to receive help

The goal here is to:

  • Not make yourself an expert or “know-it-all”.  You do not want your loved one to have to defend their behavior.  Therefore, you acknowledge that you don’t know what it’s like to experience what they are experiencing. (Unless you too are living with bipolar disorder…then it is different.)
  • Acknowledge that you believe that their behavior could be beyond their control; therefore, it is worthy of receiving help and not a reflection of who they are.
  • Ask them if they are willing to receive help.  If their behaviors do not put them at harm to themselves and others, it is best to willingly choose to receive help.


“I don’t know what it is like for you to not be able to sleep and to have such powerful emotions (or whatever behaviors you are noticing), but it appears that what is happening may be beyond your control.  Are you willing to receive help?”

When to have a professional intervention

If you are not able to communicate with your loved one in a structured and constructive way, it may be a good option to have a therapist or specialist participate in the intervention to structure and guide the communication process.

However the role of the interventionist is not to diagnose your loved one, their role is simply to contain and structure the communication so that your loved one can have an opportunity to choose to receive help.


Lessons learned from UNCERTAINTY in the workplace

Have you ever felt like everyone else, but you, was given a guide-book for proper etiquette in various  work and social circumstances?

Some people just intuitively pick up on social rules and know how to behave or have an inner critic that keeps them from saying or doing something inappropriate.

Well, I don’t have that guide-book and I often speak before I think and lack a strong inner critic that inhibits me from speaking my mind or doing what I feel is right.

This is very common for people living with bipolar disorder.  Our brains have a unique design.

Not having these qualities has the tendency to get me in trouble, especially at work.  Here’s some of what I’ve learned from the challenges of not having an intuitive guide and inner critic.

This is the beginning of a series to explore challenges people living with bipolar disorder my experience in the workplace.

Challenge: Uncertainty

What makes it a problem:

In my experience of living with bipolar disorder I have discovered that uncertainty is a key ingredient in inviting mania into my life. Uncertainty by itself will not trigger mania for me; however, uncertainty combined with the other ingredients of excitement and a sense of urgency…and I have the recipe for a manic episode.  (It does not guarantee a manic episode, but it makes me vulnerable to mania.)

Uncertainty is a problem in itself because it has the power to trigger my fear of being out of control within myself. The fear of being out of control within myself is rightfully my deepest fear because of my experiences of mania and depression.

This is not true for everyone.  Everyone experiences bipolar disorder differently.  This is solely my insight into my experience of it.

Here’s how I believe uncertainty gets it’s power:

The FEAR of uncertainty ( fear of what could happen) triggers insecurity.

Insecurity happily welcomes ruminating thoughts.

Ruminating thoughts partner up with strong emotional responses.

And poof…an emotional rollercoaster takes off at high-speed.

In my mind, my emotions were in control and taking me for a ride, even though nothing in my circumstances had changed.


How to recognize when the problem is uncertainty:

I worked in an environment that lacked structure and expectations for what I was supposed to be doing in order to be useful and effective.

All people benefit from having structure and clear expectations; however, for people living with bipolar disorder it is a MUST.

Because I did not know what I was supposed to be doing, when I started, I dove in, got creative and tried to participate in any and everything that I could.  I did this because I needed to create structure and expectations for myself, so that I could function effectively.  The alternative, an emotional rollercoaster,  is not beneficial for me or for business.

Unfortunately my effort to create my own structure and expectations was not appreciated by my colleagues and supervisors.  My efforts possibly appeared to be a lack of respect and arrogance on my part to come in and try to change their system to fit me.


What to do about uncertainty:

No one can make uncertainty go away.  We will all live life “not knowing” something.  However, how we respond to uncertainty is crucial in how it affects us.

My greatest lesson in regards to how to effectively respond to uncertainty for me, was learning how to sit with uncertainty.  It was hard for me to learn because I used to normally respond to uncertainty with impulsivity (which got me in trouble.)

Therefore, I had to try a different response, on that was not impulsive.  So I chose patience. Patience was a tough choice.  Patience was something that I really wasn’t all that good at.  I didn’t even know what patience really looked like.  To me it was like sitting on my hands in front of the cookie jar…that’s sort of being mean to myself.

Since that wasn’t working for me, I chose a new response…“observation”.  This time, when I experienced uncertainty, I took the following steps:


Observed my thoughts

I simply noticed what I was thinking.  I wouldn’t run with any of my thoughts (add emotion to them) or take action.  (That is impulsivity.)


Observed the situation and environment

This was easy, all I had to do was pay attention.  I didn’t get involved in anything happening, I simply watched the interactions taking place and tried to notice patterns and rhythms in how everything worked together.


Identified needs, roles, weaknesses and strengths and what I could do that would be valued.

This helped me to give myself a structure and create expectations for my role in work. It also empowered me to be able to anticipate needs and opportunities to be effective.


The funny thing about learning how to observe is that it taught me how to be patient.

In the next post, we will explore lessons learned from OFFICE POLITICS in the workplace.





Getting through “emotional rollercoasters” in relationships

It doesn’t matter what you call it “emotional _______”: “…tide”, “…highs and lows”, “…rollercoaster”, “…waves”, “…rubberbanding”, “…disruption”, “…overwhelm”….we all go up and down or in and out in some way (even people without bipolar disorder).

So what do you do when you are in a relationship with someone and they are experiencing an “emotional…”?

Here are some of my ideas…


Common reasons for “emotional ______”:

Physical / Biological:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Sleep changes
  • Dietary or digestion changes
  • Lack of exercise
  • Chemical imbalance
  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Trauma


  • Stress
  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
  • Not enough connection / intimacy
  • Too much connection / intimacy
  • Need for independence / to be alone
  • Need for connection
  • Identity challenges
  • Financial stress / loss of income
  • You upset them / hurt their feelings
  • Self-doubt
  • Pain / Past emotional wounds
  • Self-worth
  • Trauma

These are just some possibilities.  The reality is that if you ask any person who is experiencing “emotional…”, they probably won’t be able to express this as they are experiencing it.

Why asking them WHY? doesn’t always help:

  • They don’t know.
  • Asking people “why” causes them to have to defend themselves.
  • Asking people “why” causes people to have to search for a problem and find one…that may not even be the problem at all.
  • It makes them feel worse when they are already feeling bad, overwhelmed or confused.

Ways to respond to your partner’s “emotional ______”

When someone we love is pushing away, withdrawing or pulling away, it is uncomfortable, scary and sad. Of course it is a natural instinct to want to be close. When they pull away it feels like we’re losing them, that we’re losing our relationship. It really hurts. “Emotional…’s” can be painful and a loss.

Often a mistake we make is to do the opposite of what they want.  We often smother them, lovingly of course.

Things to do instead of smothering:

  • Give your partner the space to experience their “emotional…”.

If they are pulling away, let them, and do so lovingly. Let them know that it is okay and that you love them, instead of panicking and feeling like the sky is falling down.

I know that this is hard and it is not easy to do at all, but in every “emotional…” there is a gift.  They may not always find it, but the gift is their own to be found.  You cannot give them that gift.  It is something they get to find within themselves.

  • Develop your awareness of your partners pattern or cycle for “emotional…” (and your own).

Ask yourself, “Is this a pattern?  How did it happen before?  What was the outcome? What did I learn?”

If you are able to see a pattern of emotion and behavior, then it is possible that what your own emotions and instincts are fearing may not be actually happening and it is simply an “emotional…”.

  • Do not take an “emotional…” personally.

(See the reasons above…almost all of them have nothing to do with you.)

  • Take good care of yourself.

Now is the time to focus on YOU.

What makes YOU happy?

What do you enjoy doing by yourself or with others that you may have not done in awhile?

What is something you want to try?

Give yourself love…

Don’t wait for anyone to bring you flowers, grow your own.

  • Therapy.

Therapy is both a vehicle and the developer of your own and your relationship’s tools and resources to better build the relationship you desire to be in.



Getting back on the horse

Wonderful people have expressed concern for me because when I stopped writing, I shared that I was going though difficult circumstances.

Those circumstances are not in my life anymore and I’m doing fine…so why am I not back in my routine?

I didn’t really have an answer for that. Until now….

Writing this blog is very important and incredibly special to me.  But nothing I was doing was helping move in the direction to resume doing what’s so important to me. I had managed to get in my own way and couldn’t see it until now…I had a lot of excuses instead.

What I realize that what really kept me off my horse was this belief completely based on fear. The belief stole all inspiration and motivation from me. It set me up to fail and disappoint myself. The belief said, “After taking a long break from your routine, what you write needs to be profound…it needs to be brilliant…well, at least it has to better than anything else I’ve written thus far.”

The belief made me feel a sense of shame for not picking up my routine as soon as I was able to. It shamed me for not doing everything I can to be my best.

My response to the shame and pressure of this belief was to think, “Blog. What blog? oh, look at all that I’ve written. It’s like a book. Hmm…I’ll go watch TV now.”

In all my other writing, I simply did my best and hoped it was useful for my readers.

But this pressure put me between a rock and a hard place.

So I kept putting off these feelings until tomorrow.  A month passed and I still had nothing to say that was better than anything else I’ve written and I got good at ignoring shame.

I woke up thinking differently today.

Today I said to myself, “Write something.  It doesn’t even have to be good.”

Here are some ideas of how to get back on the horse:

Big Challenges:

  • We have to do something that we’re not doing right now in our lives.
  • We have to change.
  • Pressure to do it well or even better than before.
  • Hard work
  • Waking up earlier
  • Compromise or sacrifice
  • Lack of inspiration or motivation
  • Fear of failure or fear of success
  • Disappointing ourselves and/or others

Response to these challenges:

Do something.

Do anything.

It doesn’t even matter what you do.

It doesn’t even have to be good.

You just have to get back on the horse.

My invitation to everyone who reads this who is struggling with either starting or getting back into a routine is….DO SOMETHING…IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE GOOD, but it will get you on your horse.


5 Coping Strategies for loving someone experiencing depression

Suffering with depression is incredibly difficult and painful. However, the second most painful and difficult position is experienced by the person trying to love their partner, child, parent or best friend experiencing depression. In a way, it could be easier for the person who is suffering from depression, as they are able to seek out different methods that can help them to feel better. They can even go as far as trying something similar to the mataro blue strain to relieve some of their symptoms, even if it’s just for a while and until they can find a more permanent solution. Meanwhile, it can be harder for the family and loved ones of the person who is going through depression as they may not know how to handle the situation.

The rejection is heart-breaking. Feeling like your presence (doing anything in your ability to help) makes your partner worse or doesn’t matter at all really hurts.

In this blog we will explore strategies that will support you during the difficult times caused by depression.

Strategy #1: Do not take it personally

Nothing that is expressed or takes place during your loved one’s depression is personal.

When they reject you, and they will, IT IS NOT PERSONAL.

Rejection has nothing to do with you. Isolation is an instinctive response to suffering and depression.

Rejection can also be seen as an act of protection. Your loved one does not want to hurt you. The only thing depression can do is hurt you. Everything that is said is a reflection of the depression – the fear, the anxiety, the panic and the pain. It’s a very heavy load, if you take it personally, the load will become yours.

When someone is experiencing depression they experience the inability to be themselves and it feels permanent. When they can’t be themselves with you (ie. be loving with you) it hurts them more and makes the depression feel worse.

People often share with me that their loved one experiencing depression is able to talk with casual friends and acquaintances and that those people are helpful and it hurts.

My response to that is that partners, parents, children and best friends are different from casual friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Partners etc get to actually see the depression.

Casual friends, colleagues and acquaintances get to see your loved one’s “representative”. They get to see your loved one pretend to not be depressed. They get to distract your loved one. If your loved one does talk with them about their feelings, they’re not dragging them through the mud the way they do with you. Instead, they give their friends the “I’m struggling, but look how well I’m handling it” story.

Casual friends don’t know that when you’re loved one gets home that they can’t get off the couch and wish they were dead. Of course your loved one feels better when they get to pretend that they are okay.

Strategy #2: Accept that you cannot make your loved one be “not depressed” or feel good

This is a really hard thing for anyone to accept. Depression hurts not only the one experiencing it, but it also hurts the people who love them the most. Here is a metaphor that I share that has helped people develop acceptance of this statement:

When we come into life we are all given two things: a shovel and a bucket of shit.

It doesn’t matter in life that we have a bucket of shit. We all have it. We always will. It never goes away and no matter what you do the shit will always be there.

What matters is what we do with our shovel.

Some will use their shovel to take their own shit and put it in other people’s buckets. They never actually can get rid of their shit, they simply make other people feel like crap.

Some will use their shovel to stick in other people’s shit and then put other people’s shit in their own bucket.

Others will first use their shovel to cover their bucket from giving others shit and receiving other people’s shit and then figure out what they can grow with the shit that they have.

If you stick your shovel in your loved one’s shit who is experiencing depression, it doesn’t make the depression go away. It just puts the depression in your own bucket and adds to your shit.

You cannot make flowers grow in a bucket of shit that is not your own.

Instead of “making it better” take the pressure off yourself to fix it by:

Simply being with the person you love.

Sitting beside them.

Holding their hand.

Rubbing their head and their feet.

Validating their feelings. What they are experiencing is horrible.

Reminding them that what they are experiencing is temporary.

This won’t make the depression go away, but it will help them get through the suffering.

Strategy #3: Perspective: Depression is in a relationship with the person you love, not the person you love

Your loved one is not depressed. Depression is NOT who they are. Your loved one is experiencing depression.

They are in a relationship with depression that has them captured or held hostage. Its a bad relationship. A relationship that isn’t easy to get out of. However, depression affects them and when they have the strength they can affect depression.

It can help your loved one to hear that you know that this is not who they are and that you love them. It is also important for your loved one to know that you love them even though they are not themselves.

Of course they won’t respond the way you want them to…with love, affection and appreciation. However, deep down beneath all of the numbness, pain, anxiety, fear etc…your loved one is still there and need to be loved.

Strategy #4: Interpreting Rejection

When your loved one is in a depression rejecting you and pushing you away as best they can. They’re not saying, “I need you and want more of you.” It would be easy to allow their rejection to cause you to dive into a depression yourself and feel heart-broken.

Here’s an alternative interpretation to their rejection:

“I need to be alone.”

Interpretation: “I need to escape this by sleeping as much as possible. I can’t escape it as easily if you’re here talking with me about it. Why don’t you go do something you need to do for yourself.”

“I’d rather be with my friends [than you].”

Interpretation: “When I’m with my friends, it distracts me from how horrible I feel. My friends don’t ask me how I’m feeling. They don’t ask me if anything is wrong. If they see something is wrong, they wait until I share. If I don’t share, they don’t ask…they just keep talking about themselves.”

“I don’t know if I want our relationship.”

Interpretation: If your relationship was in good standing when your loved when went into the depression…”I’m not myself. I don’t like who I am being. This is not who I want to be. I don’t want to treat you this way. This feels permanent. If this is how I will always treat you. I don’t want to be with you.”

“You don’t make me feel better.”

Interpretation: “You can’t make me feel better even though you really try to. When I am with you, I still feel so depressed because I don’t get to pretend to be okay when I’m with you. When I’m with you I’m stuck feeling whatever I feel and there is nothing you can do to make me feel better.”

Strategy #5: Your Own Self-Care

When your loved one is experiencing depression, it is not your responsibility to make them feel better. You can’t. It is your responsibility to take care of yourself.

It is incredibly difficult to not be sucked in by the depression of your loved one because of how much you care. It is your responsibility to not be sucked in. It is your responsibility to take care of yourself.

Think about what soothes you, brings you joy, and nurtures you.

Here are some areas of self-care to explore:

Exercise / Movement

Being in nature / Being outside

Attitude of gratitude and appreciation


Connection with others

Being Creative / Artistic

Self-Expression / Journaling


Games / Playing

Cooking / Eating healthy

Conscious breathing

Meditation / Guided meditation / Yoga

Depression is incredibly hard on everyone involved. When you are loving someone with depression it is so important that you make the time to love yourself, to nurture yourself, and receive support in a way that is fulfilling to you.



People’s responses to how identity can be rebuilt after it crumbles away

So many people living with bipolar disorder have shared with me the pain of experiencing everything they know about themselves crumble away.

For some the crumbling happens in the experience of mania and depression.  For others the loss of identity occurs when medication begins to work.

Here are some questions that revealed lessons learned from identity crumbling away.  This is based on responses from people thriving with bipolar disorder:

What part(s) of yourself do you feel you lost?

  • “I no longer feel like myself.  I see myself as a stranger.”
  • “I lost things that I knew that were true about myself.  I am not who I believed myself to be.”
  • “My personality. My personality is different because of the medication. My personality is different because of mania. It is different because of depression.  I don’t know what my personality is anymore.”
  • “My profession. I can’t do what I love to do.”
  • “I don’t think and feel the way I used to be able to think and feel.”
  • “My dignity and integrity.”
  • “I am afraid of myself.”
  • “Trust for myself.”
  • “I’m not the person people expect me to be anymore.”
  • “I hurt people. I now know how deeply I can hurt.”

How did you initially respond to losing these parts of your identity?

  • “I gave up.  I didn’t have a reason to try.”
  • “I rejected the good things people said about me.”
  • “I was scared of myself and what I could be.”
  • “I was confused.  I didn’t believe anything about myself was real.”
  • “I didn’t trust anyone, including myself.”
  • “I got angry.  I felt powerless.”
  • “I didn’t want to be around anyone. I isolated myself.”
  • “I wanted off of medications.  I didn’t want to be “better”, I wanted to be comfortable.”

What insight or experience did you have that changed your response to this loss?

  • “My psychiatrist shared with me everything that I wouldn’t be able to be in life. He listed all of the professions and roles I would never be able to have because he said that I can’t handle stress. He said I wouldn’t be able to go to college, shouldn’t have children, and will find romantic relationships to be very difficult for me…..My response to all of this in my mind was “F*** YOU! I’ll prove you wrong.” That experience completely changed me.”  (This particular story is Robin Mohilner’s)
  • “I realized that I cared far more about what other people thought about me than caring about who I want to be.  When I put effort into who I want to be, it changed my life.”
  • “My family believed in me. They trusted me when I couldn’t trust myself. They forgave me for the hurt I caused them.  It gave me hope.”
  • “Just because my personality changed it doesn’t mean that my character changed.  It doesn’t mean how I treat people changed.  And just because I did some horrible things that I never thought were possible for me to do, it doesn’t erase all the years of good things about me.”

What helped you build your identity?

  • “I stopped trying to fit in and be like everyone else.  It was very clear to me that I was not what people traditionally call “normal”.  I couldn’t be normal no matter how hard I tried.  So I gave myself permission to not have to be that way.  I allowed myself to like myself anyways.”
  • “I tried to always do my best, to think my highest thoughts and separate drama from my feelings. Doing this gave me a place to stand.”
  • “Therapy.  My relationship with my therapist helped me and challenged me to trust myself.  I became aware of my own strengths, abilities, resources and limitations. I set reasonable goals and achieved them.  That helped me begin to trust myself.”
  • “I educated myself. I did not rely on my doctors or professionals to know everything there is to know about bipolar disorder. I learned any and everything I could about bipolar disorder from as many places as possible.”
  • “I defined what bipolar disorder would be in my life. I chose for it to be a gift.  I realized that it doesn’t have to define who I am, but it does affect me.  I learned about what makes me vulnerable to an episode and it gave me a sense of power because this knowledge gave me control.”
  • “My belief system. I focused on exploring values and beliefs and choosing which ones fit me.  It opened space for spirituality in my life.”

5 Actions to help someone who has lost touch with reality

When someone has lost touch with reality the words to describe this experience, “psychosis” and “psychotic” often scares people. One automatic response to those words that many people have is “crazy”.

Reality is simply created by people agreeing on shared sensory experiences.

Psychosis simply refers to someone experiencing things with their five senses that other people are not able to perceive.

The five senses:

  • Sight

Some people see people or things that others do not see.

Some people see sounds or smells represented by shapes and colors.

  • Sound

Some people hear sounds or voices that others do not hear.

Some people feel sounds with their body or taste sounds that other people cannot.

  • Touch

Some people feel sensations in or on their body that other people cannot feel.

Some people can touch something that others do not perceive.

  • Taste

Some people taste flavors and textures that others do not taste.

  • Smell

Some people smell pleasing and displeasing scents that others do not smell.

What most people do not understand is that the EXPERIENCE of these sensations is very real.

When other people do not agree or share in these sensory experiences it does not make it any less real for the person who does.

These sensory experiences are taking place in a person’s brain.

What MAY be happening during these sensory experiences is:

  • There could be a communication problem in the sensory centers of the brain
  • Communication error between the sensory centers of the brain and the cerebral cortex (thinking part of the brain).
  • The messages coming from the five senses may get jumbled by the time they reach the sensory centers.

When someone is having these experiences, the goal is not to “snap them out of it”.

Instead, goals are to help loved one’s by:

  • assessing their safety in regards to harm to self and/or others.
  • meeting and supporting them wherever they are in their experience
  • helping them regulate if they are willing.

Five actions you can take to help someone who has lost touch with reality.

1. Do not challenge or try to disprove their experience

Instead, BE CURIOUS.

Some ways of being curious:

  • Ask them to tell you what they are hearing or seeing etc.
  • Ask how it affects them – behavior, thoughts, feelings etc
  • Ask how they feel about it
  • Ask them if they believe it is a problem or if there are ever times when it is problematic.
  • Ask them how it helps them.

This assesses for safety and prevents agitation.

If what they are experiencing is causing them to want to do harm to themselves or others, hospitalization is necessary immediately.

It is not helpful to tell someone who is experiencing psychosis that what they are experiencing is not happening.  Doing so often causes agitation for the person and isolation.

2. Bring their attention to their body

There are several activities you can do to help someone bring their attention into their body.  However, when someone is experiencing psychosis, you do not want those activities to be based on imagination.  The activities should be physically based:

  • Breathing: have them notice their lungs filling.  Some people may not respond well to listening to their heart beating it could cause some to become agitated.
  • Wiggle the toes, rotate the ankles, raise and lower the legs, or massage their own legs. You can do the same with fingers, wrists, and arms.
  • Put feet flat on the floor, sit with good posture and breathe
  • Rotate neck clockwise and counterclockwise.  This can be done with the chest as well.

What these activities do is engage the sensory organs and sensory centers in the brain to the present moment in the body.  This may help someone regulate their brain by focusing on the physical senses.

3. Focus on breathing

Breathing is consistently important in everything we do.

Ask them to take at least seven deep breaths, into their belly, and slowly release them.

Breathing deeply helps regulate the brain.  Its like pressing the restart button.

4.  Redirect them to thinking about a time & place where they felt good

If they are agitated, ask them to tell you about a time and place where they felt good (or whatever emotional state they are needing).

Ask them about sensory things like what they saw, heard, touched, tasted, smelled etc.  This may help regulate the sensory areas of the brain.

5.  Containment

If your loved one is a willing participant to be close to you, ask them if you may hug them.  Ask them if you may give them a long tight hug.

This type of hug is not one in which you pat them on their back or rub their back.  This type of hug is one in which you hold them tightly, without squeezing, and simply breathe deeply together.

This form of containment and breathing is very calming and may also be a “reboot button” for the brain.


5 Ways to help someone who is manic or rapid cycling

Before we get started, I want to help everyone understand why in my writing I use the terms “we” and “us”. The key reason for doing this is because stigmatization, judgment and the fear people have of people living with bipolar disorder can be very isolating and create a great deal of self-shame and self-fear. I use “we” and us” to remove stigma, judgment and fear in order to create belonging and acceptance. I also use “we” and “us” so it is very clear that I am writing about an experience that I belong to as well.

This blog is in response to someone asking for help to better be able to help her loved one who is struggling with rapid cycling…and I’m broadening this to include both rapid cycling and mania.

#1 Thing you can do to help the one you love is by taking really good care of yourself – emotionally, mentally, physically, your health etc.

It is incredibly hard to help someone who is experiencing mania or rapid cycling. The reason why hospitalization exists, besides being at harm to ourselves and others, is to slow us down. Hospitalization removes whatever supports mania and medically slows us down and forces our bodies and mind to stop running a million miles a minute and rest.  Being forced to slow down can feel like death or simply horrible.

The goal of this blog is to help intervene before hospitalization is needed.

This blog is about how to help someone you love slow down and gain some control during mania or mixed episodes without hospitalization. It is not easy.

A gem I have gained from my experience from experiencing mania is how powerful the mind-body connection really is. When my mind and emotions are going a million miles a minute there is no rational way to THINK myself out of this process. However, my body can only go so fast.  I learned that if I can slow down my body and gain awareness and control in my body that it has a profound affect on my mind.

What I hope to share are some tools that can be helpful to the ones you love that I have learned from experience and professional education that have been successful in slowing down mania or cycling and building awareness and control.

Help loved ones gain control of their mind through their bodies by:

  • Shifting our attention to our breath.

    When we focus on our breathing it brings our attention away from what is taking place around us and in our minds. Our attention goes directly to expanding and contracting our lungs.  Our attention goes to breathing as deeply into our bodies as we can and releasing our breath.

    By focusing on our breathing we experience control. Our awareness decides how deeply we breathe. We have the power to control our breath which can either slow down our body or speed it up.

    GOAL: Breathe deeply and slow down the breath which will regulate the rest of the body and the mind.

    How you can help:

    Don’t judge, label or say things like “You’re out of control. You’re manic. You’re crazy etc”

    Instead say something like, “I’m feeling scared/sad/down/lost/frustrated etc, will you hold my hand (or sit beside me) and breathe with me?”

    • Creating a safe place for us to contain ourselves

    When we feel out of control in our bodies, a long tight hug really helps.  There is something incredibly containing about a hug that is grounding for a person who feels out of control.

    The hug not only helps us stand, but it also helps us to emotionally center ourselves. We feel emotionally connected, present and a hug is an act of love.

    GOAL: Hug your loved one until they let go, don’t let them go. By hugging them they feel safe, wanted and loved. This containment creates self-control in both their body and mind.

    How you can help:

    Simply say, “I want to hug you, may I give you a hug?”

    • With your words

    When we are manic or rapid cycling we don’t respond well at all to words, we are not able to be rational…especially when sentences start with the word “You…”.

    GOAL: To not make us feel bad about ourselves, when we are manic or rapidly cycling and are out of control…we already feel bad about ourselves.

    How you can help:

    Make “I” statements. Start your sentences with the word “I”. For example, “I feel scared when…” “It concerns me when…” “It’s problematic for me when…” etc.

    • Giving us space.

    When you can’t express how you are feeling, it is incredibly frustrating when someone keeps asking you “What’s wrong?”, “How are you feeling?”, “Are you okay?” etc.

    GOAL: Give us space so we can ride out the emotional rollercoaster.

    How you can help:

    Help your loved one create a space when they are okay that feels safe to them. This space will be where they go when they experience an emotional rollercoaster.

    • Forgiveness

    Mania, depression and mixed episodes cause us to express ourselves and emotion in ways that are very hurtful.  We often feel ashamed of what we do and say. We are often not kind in how we treat the people we love during these times of incredibly emotional rollercoastering. We are so disappointed in ourselves and feel so much pain for how we treat those we love during an episode.  Forgiveness is a gift that we need to receive.

    GOAL: Help us heal and recover by forgiving us for the pain we cause.

    How you can help:

    If you remind your loved one that you know that how they are behaving is not who they are…that it is the mania or depression. Let them know that you love them and that the mania or depression is hurting you.

    Don’t let bipolar disorder be an excuse for bad behavior. Help your loved one see the difference. Therapy can be very useful to build this awareness.