Tearing Down Stigma To Understand Diagnoses With Compassion

In this blog I hope to create a better understanding and compassion for people living with the diagnoses bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and borderline personality disorder.

Often times society sees people living with bipolar disorder as people to be feared and are seen as dangerous. Society has no clue as to what schizoaffective disorder is. And often when people think of borderline personality disorder there is so much judgment and rejection that it can feel incredibly hopeless to the person experiencing it.

It’s important that I acknowledge that I do not have personal experience living with schizoaffective disorder or borderline personality disorder. I DO live with bipolar disorder and have a much greater understanding of how it affects people. Nonetheless, I hold a tremendous amount of compassion for anyone living with diagnoses that are incredibly stigmatized and misunderstood.

What I hope to give you in this blog:

  1. Shine a light that empowers you to be proactive in how you choose to live with the challenges caused by whatever conditions and circumstances you are dealt.
  2. I hope to remove the judgment and stigma and instead invite you to have compassion and understanding for these experiences.
  3. An awareness that any diagnosis is NOT who we are. Diagnoses are something we live with, we are in relationship with it. This means that it has the power to affect us and we have the power to affect it.

When professionals make a diagnosis we look at the following criteria and to what degree it affects one’s life:

  • Mood (defined as a temporary state of mind or feeling)
  • Behavior (defined as the way one acts or conducts one’s self, especially towards others) / Changes in Needs and Interests
  • Changes or Patterns in Thought Process
  • Sense of Self

In today’s blog we will explore the diagnoses bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and borderline personality disorder from the criteria of Mood with compassion. Following blogs will cover the other criteria.


Bipolar Disorder:

It is important to note that bipolar disorder is defined by the presence of mania. The diagnosis is not dependent on the presence of depression. In this blog, we will only explore from the perspective of mania.

The mood component of mania is defined as a temporary state (at least a week or can be less) in which mood is:

  • Unusually elevated, euphoric or expansive

Experiencing these mood patterns can feel so incredibly good that it is hard to recognize that mania is present. They may be the superhero “I can fly” feelings that we dreamed about experiencing as children and now they are REAL feelings.

  • Unusually irritable

No one usually wants to take responsibility for their irritability. Irritability is one of those things that just doesn’t make sense. It’s not usually based on what’s happening right now. It’s based on what happened in the past. And it usually is from things we don’t address.

When irritability happens in the experience of mania in bipolar disorder it’s because bipolar disorder puts the pot of our emotions on a stove or in a pressure cooker. Our emotions boil over. Meanwhile, bipolar disorder is stirring the pot, mixing all of our emotions together without any regard to what’s taking place here and now. No matter what those emotions are, when this is happening to you, you’re going to be very irritable.

  • Often feels as though every possible human emotion is being expressed in the same time period.

To make sense of this from a brain perspective, see my blogs on the bipolar brain.

During this experience we are our most scared and at one of our most fragile times in which our life is at tremendous risk. This is a time when we feel completely out of control not only in our own minds, but also in our bodies. It is so hard to share that we are in danger with anyone because we are so afraid of what will happen to us. Often times its like we are having an out-of-body experience. We are watching ourselves be completely out of control, but there is nothing we can do about it. We know we are not crazy, but we are having a crazy experience and we can’t explain what’s happening and why.

  • Shifts in mood happen impulsively or swiftly with or without trigger

This is so painful because there are so many consequences. During these temporary times, our family and friends don’t know how to be around us and are scared of us. They are walking on egg shells. It’s hard to be a friend when people can’t feel safe with us. We feel so alone and so isolated. We don’t know how to repair what was broken when we were out of control. It is very easy for shame, blame and guilt to set in.

  • There is a loss of control in the mood shift, yet there is an awareness of the shift in mood

Often times people think that there is a lack of awareness when people are experiencing mania. I tend to disagree. I think people are so scared of what they are experiencing that there is an abundance of denial, fear and shame. I do not believe there is a lack of awareness. No one ever wants to feel completely out of control, let alone acknowledge it to other people who have no clue as to what its like.

I have found people living with bipolar disorder to have incredible sensitivity and self-awareness.

Note: If someone has lived with bipolar disorder untreated for a long time, it is possible for them to feel as though it is their personality. And maybe it is, I believe it is possible to have a manic personality and it is possible to have rapid and consistent temporary mood changes. Anything is possible.

Schizoaffective Disorder:

Same as bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder (depression without mania) or any other mood disorder.

The key difference between schizoaffective disorder and other mood disorders is that the delusions and hallucinations take place during times when mania or depression are not taking place. This means that psychosis occurs beyond mood disorder episodes as well as during them. If you are suffering from something similar, then it might be a good idea for you to seek help. You could always check out an inpatient facility like Honey Lake Clinic that can help support you through this disorder. However, the decision is up to you.

In my opinion, this may be the most difficult and painful mood disorder that people experience. I can only imagine how scary it would be to not only have to live with mania and depression, but to also experience delusions and hallucinations during the times when mania and depression are not present. Nonetheless, I am confident that there are gifts and beauty in every experience. I trust that we don’t get to hear about the goodness that comes through these experiences because as a society we silence that. (For example, prophetic wisdom and vision.)

Borderline Personality Disorder:

Here’s where people often get confused. It is quite confusing to recognize the difference between someone experiencing bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.

People living with bipolar disorder can also live with borderline personality disorder.

The reason why it is considered a personality disorder versus a mood disorder is because here mood shows up as character traits that are consistently unstable possibly on a daily basis that can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. It gets very confusing with rapid cycling bipolar disorder. So keep reading to better understand.

It is important to understand that borderline personality disorder appears to have a very strong nurture / environmental components that are often found to be passed on from one generation to another.

Research has shown that people experiencing borderline personality disorder often did not grow up in an environment / family that offered them stability and predictability.

Their environment may be one that lacked defined and consistent boundaries.

In fact, people nurtured in this way often grow up in an environment where they never really know if and when they will have their needs met. This is incredibly traumatic to a person.

A key component that people share with this diagnosis is the experience of emotional abandonment from their primary caregivers / parents. The response to these experiences are a persistent fear that they will be abandoned emotionally or physically in any relationship.

Anyone living in these nurture / environmental conditions would experience tremendous pain and fear. When your primary caregivers abandoned you emotionally and/or physically or you lived with the fear that they would, relationships may be so difficult and frightening. It makes sense of how someone could live with such a deep need to belong, to be loved and to have their needs met.

It has been described to me by a client in this way, “Its like going through life walking on glass and you get so used to it that it provides the comfort of a blanket.”

This does not mean that all people living in this type of environment will grow up to live with borderline personality disorder, it simply makes them vulnerable to having the following response in life.

These following MOOD characteristics are a response to growing up in this type of environment:

  • Intense dissatisfaction with life
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Intense anger and/or difficulty controlling anger
  • Intense fear of abandonment
  • Consistent idealizing and devaluing of others
  • May have consistent suicidal ideation

Note: We are only discussing characteristics of mood, this is not a complete diagnosis.

A key difference from bipolar disorder is that people living with borderline personality disorder do not experience elevated, euphoric and expansive mood. They don’t feel invincible and on top of the world.

In Part Two we will explore this from the perspective of Behavior and Changes in Needs and Interests.

Part Three will cover Thought Processes and Sense of Self


“To Thrive” or “To Struggle & Suffer” with Bipolar Disorder requires tremendous effort and energy

It takes just as much energy and effort to struggle and suffer with bipolar disorder as it does to thrive with bipolar disorder.

When I share this, often people’s first response is often disbelief.  They say to me, “Robin, how can that be, I don’t have to do anything to suffer and struggle with Bipolar Disorder. I’m not making the choice to struggle and suffer, it’s because of what happens to me everyday.”

When people share this with me it makes me sad. People do not know how much power they have. Nevertheless, they give it away to forces that cause them to struggle and suffer.

Our effort and energy is our power. What we do with them is the difference between thriving with bipolar disorder and struggling and suffering with it.

Here’s one perspective I like to share and explore in response to feeling they have no choice in struggling and suffering:

If we imagine a scale between 1-10 where 1 = no effort and energy at all and 10 = an exhausting amount of energy and effort…

  • How much effort and energy does it take to hide bipolar disorder and episodes from your family, friends and colleagues?
  • How much effort and energy does it take to try to control your mood and your feelings?
  • How much effort and energy does it take to resist how you are feeling?
  • How much effort and energy does it take to deny what you are feeling?
  • How much effort and energy does it take to try to break free from bipolar disorder?
  • How much effort and energy does it take to experience something beyond your control that is painful?

Hiding, controlling, resisting, denying, breaking free, and being in pain take tremendous amounts of effort and energy.

By investing our energy and effort into these ways of being, we maintain a lifestyle of suffering and struggling.

We don’t have the ability to control what happens to us or within us, but we do have the ability to choose how we respond.

We don’t have to hide bipolar disorder from our lives. That is a choice we make.

We don’t have to control our feelings and moods. We have the ability to invest in developing an awareness of our feelings and moods which enables us to choose how we respond to feelings and mood.

Just because we have a feeling does not mean that we have to believe it.

We do not have to find evidence to support or justify our feelings.

And we do not have to allow our feelings to control our thoughts.

We can simply acknowledge how and what we are feeling and let it go.

When we resist or deny how we are feeling, the feelings only become stronger.

The act of resisting gives what we don’t want more power.

Instead, if we acknowledge that we are experiencing something that we don’t want to experience, we get to develop our awareness of how it works and invest our effort and energy into intervening.

For example, if we are experiencing depression, we have to identify what depression wants from us / Where is it getting its power?

When you thrive with bipolar disorder you have the awareness:

  • Depression is…either simply like any other living thing trying to exist OR the consequence of mania in which the brain and body have exhausted itself of all resources.
  • Depression gets its power by isolating us so that it is the only voice we hear.
  • It gets its energy comes from the energy we give it by surrendering our interests, our appetite to eat, the will to shower, and ability to sleep well or sleep too much.
  • It develops strength by causing us to feel sadness, guilt, shame, blame, and any bad feelings about ourselves. It robs us of memories of happiness.

We give depression our effort and energy by suffering and struggling to not be depressed.

In the face of depression, we must use our energy and effort to not be isolated, be interested in something, eat, shower, and choose what and how we think and what we want to believe about ourselves, our lives and the world.


“You’re not bipolar enough…”

Never in my life, until the privilege of writing this blog, has anyone ever told me, “Robin, you’re not Bipolar enough. You’re just like everyone else.”

I took some time to explore what that means to me and came up with multiple perspectives that I’ll share with you. First, I noticed that it poked an old wound of mine. Growing up, I never felt like I belonged. I always felt different. So I gradually rejected the idea of being like everyone else in order to accept myself. Initially being told that I’m like everyone else or all the other psychotherapists/professionals didn’t feel good.

When I received that message it hit me that maybe this person feels that because I’m not struggling or suffering enough with bipolar disorder that I can’t understand them or I can’t help them.

I have so much empathy for these feelings. I too spent a lot of my life feeling that no one can understand me or help me, especially therapists. These are horrible feelings. When I had them, they made me feel so alone. These feelings make it so easy to give up.

This awareness makes me wonder if other people feel this way – that I can’t help them because I’m not suffering or struggling enough with bipolar disorder.  I invite you to share your feedback and ideas.

Another perspective that I explored is how bipolar disorder is so stigmatized that an unspoken identity and culture has developed around ideas of being “bipolar enough”.

For instance, you’re not “real” or “bipolar enough” unless you’re struggling, suffering and angry with bipolar disorder.

This way of thinking is bullshit.

It is disempowering. And it is ineffectively manipulative.

This way of thinking creates an identity that uses bipolar disorder as an excuse to place limitations on who you can be.  People will say or feel things like, “I can’t be / do….because I’m bipolar.” It is NOT true. You simply will have to work a lot harder for what you want, learn more than you ever knew you could and make sacrifices to achieve your goals.

I ask you to please not fall into this trap. This way of thinking devalues us as human beings. It supports beliefs that we are not worthy of being loved, contributing to the community, being productive, having healthy relationships etc.

There are people who are genuinely suffering and struggling with bipolar disorder. However, this is not who they desire to be. They desire to live their dreams and have healthy relationships. They want a good life. They do the best they can each day with the resources they’ve got. They don’t take pride in suffering and struggling.

You are enough.

May your identity be based on what you are able to be and do.

Thrive with bipolar disorder.


“Newly Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder Club” Topic #1: Complying & Coping With Medication

This blog series is dedicated to everyone Newly Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Welcome to the club!  You have unwillingly joined an elite club in which some of the members are among the most brilliant, creative and talented in history.

Unfortunately there is no manual that comes with our bipolar disorder diagnoses when becoming a member of this club.

This blog will be followed by a series of blogs called “Newly Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder Club”. Each blog will address issues that members have shared with me or issues I or clients I have worked with when newly diagnosed face.

Today’s topic is coping with medication and medication compliance.

Topics coming soon based on members’ request will include:

  • Building daily routine and structure
  • Developing sleep patterns

If you would like to make a request for this series, please contact me and I will be happy to address your concern.

Today”s Topic:

The #1 problem that people have when joining this club is coping with medication and medication compliance.

There are not many people in a club like ours where the medication completely changes your experience of yourself.

Our medications may change:

  • Our energy and exuberance level
  • Our ability to feel the rich emotion of emotion
  • How we think
  • How we express ourselves
  • Our creativity and innovation
  • Our memory
  • Our weight
  • Our ability to be super productive and goal-focused

*Note: Not all medications cause these effects, but all medications are mood stabilizers which function to reduce emotional extremes.

Nobody would want to take medication if it did changed who they are AND keeps them from feeling like themselves and maybe weird or slightly off at first.

This is why we, the members of this club, are so strong and courageous. Each one of us has a different reason for why we are willing to sacrifice the amount of some these of these things. I made this sacrifice because I was willing to do anything I possibly could to prevent myself from experiencing the peak of full-blown mania and feeling like I am dead in depression. Some of the people I’ve had the privilege of working with shared with me that they made this sacrifice because medication made their quality of life so much better. They got to experience stability for the first time. It improved their abilities to function at work and improved their quality of relationships.

Most often, the consequences of not making the sacrifice are far more painful than what there is to gain by taking medication.

It’s a hard choice to make, but something we remember by taking our medication every day at the same time.

Before continuing on to an activity, take a moment and ask yourself what has you committed to being on medication.

Now that we understand why we are committed to being on medication, let’s explore how to cope with the losses:

The loss you experience is a death because it is that significant of a loss therefore in order to cope, I invite you to mourn the loss for a specific set amount of time before taking actions to explore your new life.

Ways to take action and help mourn the loss of your manic and depressive self:

1.  Write down the qualities you miss.
Examples: creativity, exuberance, productivity, passion, emotion etc

2.  Write down what you miss about each quality.

3.  How did it affect your life?

4.  How did you feel when you experienced it?

5.  What did you tell yourself about yourself when you experienced it?

6.  What abilities did each quality give you?

7.  What qualities or parts of qualities did you get to keep?

8.  What new abilities do you have because of being on medication?

9.  What action are you willing to take to further develop these abilities?

* This is an activity that could be very useful done in therapy if it feels overwhelming to do on your own.

Here’s one example put in action from my life.

1.  Write down the qualities you miss.

I miss my exuberance that was expressed through passion and an energy that completely filled the room.

2.  Write down what you miss about each quality.

I miss the feeling I had when I walked into the room and the affect my presence had on people. I felt special. I felt wanted. It felt so good to make people smile. (I wasn’t aware of how uncomfortable it made some people until I was in graduate school.)

3.  How did it affect your life?

People relied on my presence to make them feel good. I relied on my presence as a way to not be vulnerable because I always had a smile on my face and was a burst of energy. It made it easy for me to meet people and engage groups of people.

4.  How did you feel when you experienced it?

Wanted. My presence made people’s day. I felt passionate and alive. I felt seen.  At times insecure because with age, I could feel that it made people uncomfortable.

5.  What did you tell yourself about yourself when you experienced it?

People like me. People want me around. My presence matters and makes a difference. I make people’s days better.

6.  What abilities did each quality give you?

The ability to be free and break social rules (which I didn’t inherently know what they were anyway).  I could get away with so much because I did everything with a smile on my face.

7.  What qualities or parts of qualities did you get to keep?

I still have my passion and exuberance, but it has changed form. Now I’m a light in the room, instead of completely filling the room. I am not overwhelming. My energy is more relaxed and channeled, yet still very passionate. My energy isn’t as anxious and manic, except when I go to the doctor.

8.  What new abilities do you have because of being on medication?

I am able to feel peace and centered. I don’t feel the need to be “on” or performing all the time. Instead, I feel more genuine because I don’t always have to have a permanent smile on my face.  I’m able to use the abilities I’ve always had with more ease. I could go on and on…it has been tremendous.

9.  What actions are you willing to take to further develop these abilities?

Focus on my breathing during to increase my feelings of peace and centered. Continue to be transparent about what I’m thinking and feeling and continue being honest when I’m not able to be what people expect from me.

If this is helpful, feel free to contact me with interests for future blogs.


Living With A Label: 5 ways to define the meaning of Bipolar Disorder

Labels only have the power we give them.

We have the choice to believe in the label that is placed on us and act accordingly…or be who we are.

When the label “bipolar disorder” was placed on me, I thought the world as I knew it was over for me.

Before receiving this label, I believed I had experienced the most wonderful experience of my life and then also the most terrible experience of my life.  Nonetheless it wasn’t good or bad, it was just awesome, passionate and beautiful and the most scary thing I’ve experienced EVER. But it was never wrong or bad.

When I received the label of “bipolar disorder”, it suddenly meant that who I am and what I experienced was WRONG and BAD. It meant that the most profound and significant experience I’ve ever had in my life was CRAZY. It robbed me of feeling the feelings of “this is meant to be, I am special!” As a result, I decided to discover how to get the specialness back.

Here are five ways to transform the label of “Bipolar Disorder”:

1. Identify the abilities, strengths and gifts you GET TO HAVE because of the experiences you’ve had. You may always live with bipolar disorder, nevertheless you get to define it’s meaning with either lack or abundance of gifts.

2. Give yourself a label that you would prefer to have instead, such as “Passionately Emotional” “Invincibly Creative” “Deeply Sensitive & Compassionate” “Ridiculously Productive” “Will to Make The World Better”etc

3. Notice what you have learned and the ways you are a better person because of the knowledge, strength, or courage you have gained from your struggle. And tell yourself and others those stories when you talk about bipolar disorder.

4. People will treat you how you treat yourself. If you tell yourself and people, “I am bipolar.” you lose your identity completely.  You’d never say, “I am cancer OR I am Alzheimers.”

You are living with bipolar disorder. You are affected by bipolar disorder. You are doing your best with bipolar disorder. You are having a rough day because of bipolar disorder. YOU ARE NOT BIPOLAR. (Sometimes I even make this mistake and I need to STOP IT.)

5. PROVE SOCIETY WRONG. Do great things with your life and it will change what it means to live with Bipolar Disorder.


The DO’s & DON’Ts for Responding to Trauma

The message I hope you take home after reading this:



It is believed that our response to trauma is an ignition for the inherited genes of Bipolar Disorder.

Earlier I shared with a Bipolar Disorder Awareness group that I had opened an old wound caused by trauma from my childhood these last few days. I’ve discovered that no matter how much I know, even though I’m a psychotherapist, that I’m human and get to live with wounds or holes that never fully heal and can’t be filled. So I’m doing my best to decorate my own wound/hole by giving it nurture and a home…instead of forcing it to not exist (which is so easy to want to do because wounds hurt.)

I share this because one common problem all human beings have is that starting at birth we are all completely vulnerable to trauma, we have no protection and nothing to defend us. So when we experience trauma it can easily leave a hole or a wound that doesn’t heal, but we’ll do anything we can, consciously or unconsciously, to heal.  We may not even have the awareness of how vulnerable and how hurt we have been by life until we are adults.

At least this is my story because I did a lot of the DON’Ts I will share with you about trauma.

I was a child, like many others, who didn’t always get what I needed from my parents.  My parents were great parents and did the best they could. They loved me with all they had to give, but there was no manual for raising children. Its so funny to me that we need a license for everything in life, but after childbirth, they let us walk out of the hospital if with a helpless child if you have a car seat.

For instance, my parents didn’t know that putting me in day care when I was three months old would be traumatic for me. They had no clue that it would be a loss for me that would leave a hole/wound that would affect me throughout times in my life. They did not know that deep down inside that trauma would make me feel that I am not wanted or that I am not wantable.  If  they had, they would not have done it, they might have found an alternative. Not every child who goes through this experience has this response, but I did.

In response to this trauma and a few others that came later, I told myself over and over again the “I’m not wantable story”. I made this story become true by choosing people to be in my life who weren’t available or ready to want me in the way I wanted them to. I used this as evidence to reinforce my “I’m not wantable story.”

Don’t do this to yourself! If you’re telling yourself this kind of story, STOP IT, RIGHT NOW!  Tell yourself a new story and go find evidence to support it.

I say this because the stories I told myself made the hole bigger and my pain greater. I re-lived my own trauma over and over again. I didn’t tell anyone about it (except for my mom once when I was five).  I kept it all bottled up inside until it exploded out in rage during mania. Deep down inside I was trying to find someone to want me so the wound would heal. But I never wanted the person who easily wanted me to want me. I wanted the person who didn’t want me YET or enough to really want me.

Unfortunately, all of my efforts for years were unproductive. Even when I earned someone’s “want” that I had to earn, it was never enough. It did not and would NOT heal the wound from my trauma. Even though I was wanted, they could not take me back in time and give me what I needed from my mom and dad when I was 3 months old.

So if you are stuck on this path of story telling, you can stop right now in your tracks and explore new responses and stories. You may need help to stop the story, but it is doable.

We do this often. We want to heal so badly. But this type of response to trauma, what I did, is not what heals. At least it never has for me. Instead, what I choose to invest my healing energy into is creating new stories to respond to the trauma and finding ways to live with holes and wounds that aren’t going to go away. Most of the time I’m not effected by wounds and holes that don’t go away, except when they hurt. That is why I nurture them and give them a home instead of trying to force them to not exist.

My genetic disposition and the flawed stories and types of response to various traumatic experiences in my life may be why I am living with bipolar disorder.

Before we can explore in more detail the mistakes I made with trauma, that so many other people make too. First we should understand what trauma is and how it works.

There are four parts to trauma:

1. The EXPERIENCE is deeply distressing or disturbing.

2. The EMOTIONAL RESPONSE to the experience.

3. What we do to MAKE MEANING of  the emotional response.  How we think about it.

4. How we ANTICIPATE our future based on how we responded.


DO: Acknowledge you are experiencing or experienced something that was deeply disturbing or distressing for you.

DON’T: Bury trauma under the rug as though it never happened. Don’t put a smile on your face and make everyone around you feel good when you feel trauma or pain.

DO: Ask for help.

DON’T: Feel you need to be strong and hold it all in. You’re not supporting anyone else if you can’t support yourself. In that case, everyone falls down.

DO: Allow yourself to feel all the emotions the experience causes you to feel…and actually share them preferably with someone who you can receive support from or in a journal so it can contain your feelings and your body and mind don’t have to.

DON’T: Seal all the emotions in a jar…that’s asking for mania with exploding emotions, at least it did for me.

DO: Make meaning of the experience with a mindset, attitude and language that empowers you. For example, “I did the best I could with the resources that I had.” “I survived a….” “I overcame the loss of my job and found one that I like.” “I am living with bipolar disorder.” “I can do….” “I found my strength by….experience.” “I learned….lesson from this experience.” “I am a better person for experiencing….”

DON’T: Make meaning of the experience with a mindset and language that goes against yourself or weakens you. For example, “I could have or should have done better, but I’m not….” “I almost died in a car accident.” “I will never find a new job.” “I am (something negative that you don’t want to be).” “I can’t do anything.” “I’m just weak, stupid etc.” “The experience taught me nothing, I refuse to learn anything.” “I have nothing to offer.”

DO: Anticipate that because of this experience and everything you learned and gained from it you will and can do better in the future.

DON’T: Anticipate that because of this one experience you will never be good at anything, no one will love you and want you and you will always be alone etc etc etc (all the mean and nasty things we could say to go against ourselves.)

DO: Get professional help if your trauma is bigger than what you and/or your support system can handle.

DON’T: Waste your time by (excuse my language) bullshitting your therapist the way I did. If you don’t feel your therapist gets you and can help you. Fire them and get a new therapist.


The Bipolar Brain-Part 2: The Fight For Domination…When the Right hemisphere is winning.

In our last post we explored that mania may be caused by the left hemisphere dominating the brain and specific areas of the brain being flooded with energy in the form of neurotransmitters or chemicals in the brain.

Now we will explore how depression may be caused by the right hemisphere dominating the brain. In this case,  specific areas of the brain may receive too much or not enough energy in the form of neurotransmitters or chemicals because the right hemisphere needs that energy to dominate the left.

An interesting theory to note is that the left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for more positive thoughts and emotions, which is why some stages of mania may be a very positive experience (except when the left hemisphere is fighting really hard).  Meanwhile, the right side of the brain is more responsible for negative or fear based thoughts and emotions. Keep this in mind as you read about the brain structures affected by the right hemisphere of the brain dominating the the left hemisphere.


Just like in mania, mood  appears to be caused by the Orbitofrontal Cortex. The orbitofrontal cortex is responsible for things like decision-making and is sensitive to reward and punishment.  When the right side of the brain dominates the left hemisphere it may use all of this energy to punish us because it is teamed up with the amygdala (see Emotion below).  Therefore, we may experience feeling very negative emotions and a loss of interests because our brain is flooded with negative chemicals carrying negative messages. At the same time, because of this battle our brain doesn’t have the resources from the left hemisphere that has more neurons that have chemicals that make us feel good and interested in things.


The seat of emotion and our brains response to fear is in the Amygdala. Some studies have found that the amygdala is larger in the right hemisphere and smaller in the left.  This means the right hemisphere is more receptive to fear based emotions. Therefore, during the battle when the right hemisphere is winning, the amygdala is producing huge amounts of negative fear-based emotions that flood our conscious mind in the pre-frontal cortex which we shall soon explore.


The Hippocampus may be highly inhibited or even not functioning when the right hemisphere takes over. The Hippocampus is responsible for forming, storing and retrieving memory. This part of the brain may be completely cut off from resources during the battle and may even break down because of it.

When are thoughts are moving so slow that we can’t even form sentences…or we can’t think at all…

The structure called the Pre-Frontal Cortex is being inhibited during the battle and lacks the energy and resources to function. The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for analytical thinking, problem solving and all other forms of rational thinking.

Hallucinations and Delusions

This may be very similar as to what takes place during mania. This may be the point where the battle between the hemispheres becomes so intense that it jumbles each message between the messengers called neurotransmitters. The message becomes so chaotic that they are not easy to decode. As a result, the brain can’t see what the eyes see or hear what the ears hear.

The Right Hemisphere can only dominate the left for so long…

If the left hemisphere has energy when it takes control of the right hemisphere in its final battle….we go shooting up into mania or usually hypomania (a milder version of mania.) Then the story of the left hemisphere dominating the right begins all over again.

When Neither Hemisphere is Dominant: Understanding Mixed Episodes

A mixed episode may be what we experience when the left hemisphere and right hemisphere are battling. In the moments the left hemisphere is dominant of energy/chemicals and resources we experience mania. As soon as the right hemisphere gains dominance of energy/chemicals and resources we experience depression. This may take place very rapidly in the brain until one side or the other gains full dominance.  Sometimes the dominance does not happen at all and we just experience the battle until the brain exhausts itself from the fight.


The Bipolar Brain: The Fight For Domination…when the left cerebral hemisphere is winning

One question I often get is, “What’s happening in the brain during a manic and depressive episode?”

The truth is that scientists don’t fully know. Scientists are finding common evidence, but the brain is so complex that nothing we know about it can not be considered fact that will apply to everyone.

Therefore, I am going to share with you my ideas that are based on both my current research and my own experience of my brain in action.

A Balanced Brain – (No brain is truly balance, but let’s pretend)

A balanced brain does its best to equally disperse resources. Therefore there is no competition for resources. Both hemispheres have what they need, the layers of cortex (where our higher functioning takes place) have what they need. The limbic system (the seat of our emotions) has what its needs. Everything is basically working together and there’s harmony.

Yeah right! No brain works like this most of the time.

Bipolar brains just happen to be extreme.

A bipolar brain is a highly competitive brain, which is why many of us are so intelligent, inventive and creative. Different structures and hemispheres of our brain compete for resources to be able to do extreme things that require a lot of energy and brain power.

During Mania – Reminder this is not fact it is my theory

During Mania the left hemisphere of the brain is dominating the right hemisphere. But the right hemisphere isn’t turning it’s cheek, it is fighting back with all it’s got.  This is how the peak of mania and mixed episodes may come to be.

Mood – Mood Swings

This may be do to a structure in our brain called the Orbitofrontal Cortex getting too much energy and not enough energy as it gets pushed and pulled back and forth during the battle between the hemispheres. The Orbitofrontal Cortex is responsible for things like decision making and is sensitive to reward and punishment which may be a large factor in mood.


The structure in the brain called the Hippocampus (that is responsible for forming, sorting and storing memory) appears to be significantly inhibited during mania and/or depression. My experience was that it was incredibly inhibited when the right hemisphere took over and I went into depression, but not inhibited at all during mania.

When we are able to consume analytical information faster and easier than ever before, when our thoughts are racing, when we have multiple thoughts at once and when these thoughts get jumbled up because we cannot keep up with them….

This may be our left hemisphere, particularly in a structure called our Pre-Frontal Cortex, that is consuming so much energy and power that it has taken by dominating the right hemisphere that we cannot keep up with our brain’s ability to function and we cannot express ourselves because we cannot get it out fast enough.

They say that the average human being uses 7-10% of their brain power, well that’s a joke to someone who is manic!

When we are impulsive and take tremendous risks…

This may mean that two specific structures called the Anterior Cingulate (responsible for social inhibition)and Posterior Cingulate (responsible for being sensitive to risk) have been shut down by the lack of resources in the battle between the hemispheres. Research shows that these structures are somewhat depleted in bipolar brains to begin with, so during mania they may not be functioning.

When we feel invincible…

The battle in our brain may be taking a huge toll on our Amygdalas. The amygdalas are both responsible for emotional responses as well as our response to fear.  According to some studies, bipolar brains may have smaller amygdala in the left hemisphere and larger in the right. Therefore, when the left hemisphere is taking over during mania, the little amygdala is overloaded and may be depleted of its resources to appropriately respond to fear.

When we have a heightened sense of spirituality or oneness with all life…basically when we feel we are a god, prophets, higher being, aliens etc…

There is a part of the left hemisphere, whose name I do not know, that has been identified as the seat of spirituality. Some people have it, other people do not. During mania when the left hemisphere is consuming all of the brain’s resources this part of the brain soaks it up and runs with the energy until it is all burned up.

When we experience hallucinations or delusions…

Hallucinations and Delusions may be where the true battle between the left and right brain taking place. This may be where the right brain starts to win at times. This is all my theory from experience.

I believe that as the left and right hemispheres of the brain are battling the messages that get passed from neuron to neuron get disrupted or convoluted causing the message to change so extremely because the message gets changed by each neuron in the neural pathway.

It is basically like playing the telephone game, gone out of control.

When this happens our brain no longer sees what our eyes see and no longer hears what our ears hear. We are no longer able to be in touch with the world outside our our brain. Our brain is battling and doesn’t have the resources that moment to focus on getting accurate messages through.

During the Peak of Mania or a Mixed Episode- when all emotions explode out

This is the last fight. Mania gives the battle everything it’s got by exploding out positive feelings and emotion. But the left hemisphere has been exhausted by the right and doesn’t have many energy left.

The right hemisphere dominates with the power it has and explodes negative, ugly, nasty, horrible feelings and emotions. It does this until it exhausts itself.

During Depression – The Exhaustion

Both left and right hemispheres are depleted. They are done. Finished. And gave up the battle. Neither has any energy left to give.

Hence this is why we feel our brain is dead.

To learn about my theory about how the right brain dominates during depression, I welcome you to come back for more.


SPECIAL FOR MOTHER’S DAY: My Own Story of Depression Coming After Full-Blown Mania

This is dedicated to my mom who loved me and stood beside me when I was horrible to her. I will never be able to thank her enough for how she has been there for me and believed in me. I love you, Mom.

This is my personal story of experiencing severe depression after full blown mania at the age of sixteen.

For two weeks straight every emotion I ever had, came exploding out of my body. I was the full emotional spectrum all at once. And no one ever knew what they were going to get and much of it was aimed at my mom. My family was playing Russian roulette with a ticking time bomb made of their own flesh and blood. After multiple explosions, I finally depleted myself. And it was over. It was as though the lights went out and the mania that I had grown to love, before it got really nasty and ugly, was over.

The transition between mania and depression happened in my sleep during a nine hour car ride home from what was supposed to be a vacation.

I remember being like Satan’s spawn in the beginning of the car ride, wanting to buy a vicious dog so I could have it sick my mom. But by the time we arrived home. I was weak and quiet. Something put out my raging fire and I knew that what came next was not going to be good.

I went to sleep that night and woke up feeling like I was unable to move, but my body still worked good enough.  All the emotion I had was gone. I felt nothing. Feeling nothing is the most horrible feeling ever.

It kept getting worse. I couldn’t think enough words to put a thought together, let alone express myself. It was like my brain was dead. However, I had the awareness of what was happening to me. It was like I was floating over myself, watching myself go through this but unable to do anything about it.  If I could have hope, I probably would have hoped for someone to pull the plug or shoot me.

I believe two weeks went by in this state until Zooloft kicked in and my lithium was starting to work, maybe.

As Zooloft began working, I began to feel the fear and pain of depression.

I felt tremendous guilt for how I treated my family, particularly my mom, during my mania.  I was horrible to her and wanted to hurt her badly. I feared that they would not love me anymore.

Then more shame and guilt hit me like a brick by blaming myself for  grandmother’s death that occurred when I was thirteen because the night she had her final stroke, I resented her and wished she would go away so I could have my bedroom back. And I felt horrible for running away when my mom had cancer (at the same time my grandma died), when she needed me the most. All these feelings of powerlessness flooded me. I was swallowed by shame and guilt as I was coming out of this deep depression that was worse than death. Now that I could think, I couldn’t even think of reasons why I should live.

At that time I had forgotten about all the things that I did during my mania to my friends, teachers and in front of my peers at school that I could be held accountable for. I was lucky, people treated me with curiosity and kindness. I lost some close friends, but my best friend stood by my side (even though during mania I told him he needed to get me pregnant because our child would be the messiah….but that’s for another time and that story is on my websites).

Nonetheless, the medication started to work and I was able to get off the couch little by little. I didn’t admit this to my mom until I was an adult, but what saved me from this depression was her forcing me to go to summer school to take a creative writing class. I loved creative writing, but had no desire to do anything at the time.

I sat in that class with my cheek glued to the desk writing beautiful poetry about the ocean and doodling. When people asked me what’s wrong, I announced to the class, “I am crazy.”. No one knew how to respond to that, so they just gave me my space.

As the days passed, my face became less glued to the desk. I moved onto resting my face on my fists and eventually as my medication lithium fully kicked in I was able to sit up and participate in class.

This is quite embarrassing to admit, especially when I feel comfortable sharing a lot of stuff openly. Of all things, a multi-level marketing opportunity selling long-distance phone service deeply excited me and triggered me into a mild hypomanic state that lifted me completely out of the depression and stabilized me in that state.  As the consequence of investing myself for a few years into a get rich scheme (that I will never do again), I began the process of re-building myself by immersing myself in personal growth books (I refused therapy because I hated therapy…even though I am a therapist now)  (I’ll share more about these experiences in another blog down the line.)

Too this day, I will do anything I possibly can to prevent a manic episode, even though I can’t even put words to how amazing my full blown manic episode was….the depression was so bad, that the most beautiful experience I have had in life (not the nasty part of mania) is not worth it.

I hope sharing my own story of living with Bipolar Disorder is useful.

With Love,



How depression knocks on your door…And how not to let it in.

Do you ever hear the doorbell, and feel the rush of anticipation feeling that it’s a friend surprising you. Then when you open the door…it’s a salesman, trying to sell you something you don’t need. That salesman is just like depression. But when it knocks, it is carrying all of your “baggage” and it will do anything it can to sell it to you and get you into bed.

Our goal today is to explore how it does this and ways to not answer the door. But if we do because depression is very sneaky, our goal is to not let it stay in bed with you long.

In order for depression to come into your life, there are things it needs to take from you.

Like mania, depression needs to either prevent you from sleeping OR cause you to sleep too much. Hence, why the first place it wants to get you is into bed…it MUST do this before it can even sell you its crap.

It does this because it knows sleep is very vulnerable. You cannot force yourself to sleep, so depression goes after sleep first. Sleep is best target because it regulates your brain and body. Without sleep you cannot function. Not being able to function is exactly what depression needs in order to come into your life and for it to survive.

To prevent depression or mania from having easy access to your sleep here are some actions to take:

  • Be consistent in your sleep pattern – go to bed and wake up daily at the same time.
  • Do not work on anything past a specific hour you set that is a few hours before bed time. (This is the hardest one especially if you are manic or having mixed episodes.)
  • Have a relaxation routine that you start an hour before bed. Ex. Turn the lights low, listen to relaxing music, take a warm bath, burn a candle. If you are tempted to try a natural approach to getting to sleep, you might even find that using a cannabis strain such as blue dream weed can help you to relax and unwind. Never smoked cannabis before? If so, you might want to consider using a mini bong. You can learn more about mini bongs here: https://fatbuddhaglass.com/collections/mini-bongs.
  • Keep a notepad by your bed so that when ideas wake you up in the middle of the night you can write them down and go back to sleep.
  • Don’t use alcohol to sleep. It will only let depression in more.
  • Talk with your doctor and request a non-addictive sleep aid.

Depression’s next easiest tool for plowing down your door is FEAR.

Fear is depression’s most highly developed and effective tool. This tool affects your life on many levels including: how you think, what you feel, what you do and how you do it – your body’s heightened stress response.

How You Think:

In order for depression to be in your life, it needs to manipulate and control your thoughts. In order to do so it will persistently tell you things like, “You will ALWAYS be (insert negative statement here)….You will NEVER (insert positive statement here)….You CAN’T…” And it plays these ugly messages to you like a tape recorder in an authoritative voice (sometimes your own, or maybe your mother and father’s etc).

This is how depression gains your trust….


When depression comes into your life after mania or hits you like a ton of bricks, it controls your thoughts differently. Because it didn’t knock on your door at all, it keeps you depressed by making you incapable of thinking and feeling PERIOD. (But this will be discussed another time.)

How You Feel:

When depression knocks on your door it needs you to feel bad. So bad that you hurt. It can’t exist unless you feel so much guilt, shame, blame, doubt, sadness, loss, pain etc…that you are willing to not resist the feelings and own them.

This is why it tells you, “Everything is your fault….” “You aren’t worthy of…” “No one will love you.” “No one wants you.” “No one will believe you.” etc.

Depression’s goal is hurt you until you go numb and can’t feel anything because it needs you to not be willing and able to do anything about it.

Depression does NOT want you to care. It needs you to not care in order for it to survive. This process often invites suicide.

What You Do:

Depression needs you to do absolutely NOTHING. In order for it to survive and make itself at home with you, it steals your energy, interests, your ability to focus, your ability to experience pleasure.

Depression needs your strength, resources and abilities in order to live.

How you do it – Your Bodies Heightened Stress Response:

The best way for depression to make you believe the thoughts and feelings that it feeds you is by making you feel it in your body.

It does this through agitation, anxiety and panic attacks.

Depression needs you to feel out of control in your body so that it can control you.

To not answer the door when depression tries to control how you think, feel, and respond in your body:

  • Acknowledge that the thoughts and feelings you are having are depression, NOT YOU.
  • See depression for what it is: Like all other living creatures it wants to survive. In order to survive it must manipulate and control you so you give it your resources. It is like a parasite.
  • Do not believe the tape recorded lies depression tells you about yourself and your life. Don’t buy what the salesman is trying to sell you. If you have to curse at him, “F*** You Depression!” It just feels good.
  • When you feel negative feelings in your body, PAUSE, breathe deeply and slowly, and ask yourself is this F.E.A.R. “False Evidence Appearing Real”.
  • When depression is stealing your interests from you, find at least one thing and keep doing it no matter what…even if its just getting out of bed.
  • Exercise – your body needs to release the stress hormones and exercise is how your body does it.
  • Focus on the “Here and Now”. You will find that when you are in the moment, depression can’t exist. Depression gets to you by focusing your attention on the past (what happened or what could have been) and the future (what might happen or “what if…”)…but never the present (what is, right now). Right now, there is no problem. The present lacks FEAR.

Doing these actions can be challenging. For help overcoming these obstacles and taking action, feel free to set up a consultation with me if you are in the Los Angeles area OR seek out a psychotherapist in your area:


I will be writing a blog on what to look for that will make a therapist a good fit.