Welcome to my big fat bipolar life. I know what you are thinking. That is the dumbest name you have ever heard for a blog. Yes, it is. And, no, it is not. But we’ll get back to that later.
If you are here, you probably have your own bipolar disorder diagnosis, or someone you love does. Or maybe you feel called to better understand and help those who do.
My name is Andrea, and I am here to leverage my 25 years of real-life experience navigating bipolar disorder to help others who have bipolar live a fuller, more balanced life filled with faith, courage, and hope.
Second only to proper medication, faith has been the single most important factor in surviving my bipolar diagnosis. When I am in the trenches, fighting unrelenting symptoms, it has always been my faith in Jesus Christ that has helped me hold on when I was ready to give up.
My Diagnosis Story
Twenty-five years ago, I had routine dental work to extract my wisdom teeth. Two pain pills and several weeks later…and BOOM! I was smack dab in the middle of my first full-blown manic episode with a side of psychosis. Lucky me.
I was in a psychiatric hospital for 12 days while my psychiatrist wrestled my brain back down to earth. The verdict was in: Bipolar 1 Disorder.
My response to the diagnosis was as mixed as my mood. I knew something was “wrong” with me, but surely bipolar disorder was not my brand of crazy. I had battled depression, but I was the voice of reason in my family. I was the sane one. The smart one. The one who did everything right.
But there were cracks in my perfect facade. As I dug deeper, habits I thought were character defects fit neatly into the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
I didn’t like my diagnosis, but I didn’t have to. I am a rule follower who craves order, so I did what I do. I followed my doctor’s directions to the letter, and I got better. And I lived happily ever after, and all my dreams came true…NOT!
Here’s a dirty little secret about bipolar disorder. You can do everything right, take your medication, go to therapy, and it still goes all wrong.
For many years, I blamed my small life on bipolar disorder. Every time I tried to do something of significance, bipolar swatted me down.
But here is the hard truth. Bipolar may have knocked me down, but I am the one who didn’t get back up. Bipolar didn’t quit. I did.
Those were the “I AM bipolar” years. Bipolar was the center of my world. All my energy was focused on micromanaging every aspect of my life, so I wouldn’t get sick. Guess what? I got sick anyway! A lot.
It has been an uphill battle, but I have transitioned into the “I HAVE bipolar” years. My diagnosis no longer defines me.
Big Fat Bipolar Disorder Expert
I know what you are thinking. That’s a great story, but how does it apply to me?
I don’t know about you, but it would have been useful to have an expert to show me the ropes, encourage me and give me actionable strategies to apply to my bipolar journey.
When I say I am a bipolar disorder expert, I don’t mean I am a stodgy psychiatrist on a mountaintop talking down at you spouting facts and platitudes about living with bipolar disorder, although I will share facts with you. The facts are important.
I am not a mental health care professional. I am not qualified to diagnose and treat bipolar disorder. I will NEVER shove a certain cocktail of medications or treatment protocols down your throat.
Although I don’t have mental health care credentials, I am a graduate of the Bipolar Disorder School of Hard Knocks.
What I do have is something unique to offer you: 25 years of real-life experience navigating bipolar disorder.
When I say I am a bipolar disorder expert, I mean I am a person just like you, down in trenches fighting for stability every single day.
The only difference is that I’ve been navigating bipolar for a quarter of a century (That makes me sound really old, right?!), and I do it better than most.
Now, don’t read this and think I’ve got this whole bipolar thing under control, and I never get sick. That is simply not true.
There are still some days that I think I have it all figured out and then there are other days that I can barely get out of bed. That is just the price of doing business when you live with bipolar disorder.
Big Fat Christian (Gasp) Bipolar Disorder Expert
Here’s the other thing that differentiates me from most bipolar disorder experts. I am a Christian.
Did I hear a gasp?
Let me stop you right there before you get the wrong idea. You are wondering if I am one of them. You know the “them” I mean. The Christians who think that mental illness is a spiritual shortcoming that can be prayed away.
Let me put your fears to rest immediately. I. AM. NOT. THAT. CHRISTIAN.
I am actually the opposite of that Christian. Let me dust off my soapbox because I have a sermon to preach.
I believe that mental illness—including bipolar disorder—is a medical condition, not a spiritual shortcoming. Your faith will not heal you. (DISCLAIMER: God can and will heal whoever He wants. The above statement is my personal belief. I would never take the chance of stopping my treatment because I heard a voice in my head that said my bipolar disorder was healed. The voices I hear from psychosis sound just like the still, small voice I hear from God. I am just keeping it real here.)
I believe that God created doctors, science, and medicine, so we should embrace every treatment available to us.
It is only with a healthy mind that we can do kingdom work and fulfill God’s good and perfect will for our lives.
You may be wondering if that is what I believe, then where exactly does God fit in my bipolar journey?
Here’s what I know for sure: I may not believe that you can pray away bipolar disorder, but God provides comfort, peace and hope that defies understanding. If I did not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I would not still be here. Period.
How I Can Help You
Now that we have cleared that up. Let me explain how I will help you.
Here are four ways I will help you live a fuller, more balanced life as you navigate the ups and downs of bipolar disorder:
1. I will leverage my 25 years of real-life experience navigating bipolar disorder to help you live a fuller, more balanced life.
Like so many things in life, living well with bipolar disorder is a matter of trial and error. Many times, you take two steps forward and three steps back.
If you choose to take this journey with me, you will have the unique opportunity to apply my 25 years of real-life experience with bipolar disorder to your life and find what works for you.
I will combine my personal journey with the facts about various bipolar-related issues and provide my tried-and-true strategies for living a fuller, more balanced life.
2. I will apply scripture and biblical principles to show you how to harness the courage, peace, and hope found in Jesus Christ alone.
Have you heard the quote, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers?” For me, that is where my faith intersects with bipolar journey.
Jesus Christ is at the center of my life, so there will be a lot of Jesus in this blog. I will share with you the scriptures and biblical principles that have carried me through my darkest moments.
I will show you how to harness the courage, peace, and hope found in Jesus Christ alone to help you live well with bipolar disorder. Although our hope and peace may fail, His never does.
3. I will share stories with you about the personal experience of others who live with bipolar disorder, so you can reap the benefits of their successes and avoid the pitfalls they encountered.
When you live with bipolar disorder, there is a danger of believing that you are all alone in the battle for your sanity. In your darkest moments, you may believe that that you are the only person with symptoms so severe.
I will share the stories of others who live with bipolar disorder so that you will feel less alone. Although no two bipolar journeys are identical, you will see commonalities between your story and the ones you read.
You will have the opportunity to emulate their successes and avoid the pitfalls they encountered.
4. I will share useful books and resources that will aid you on your journey to wellness.
If you do a simple Google search on bipolar disorder, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the abundance of information and resources available at your fingertips. It is hard to know which resources are credible and which ones are not.
That is where I come in. I will sift through the pile of books and resources available and share with you the ones that will most benefit your wellness journey.
Some of the books and resources will be hot off the presses, and others will be classics that have stood the test of time.
My. Big. Fat. Bipolar. Life.
So now that I’ve told you my story and how I can help you, let’s come back to the cumbersome title of my blog, My Big Fat Bipolar Life.
God gave me the title, My Big Fat Bipolar Life, about 15 years ago when I was navigating the worst decade of my bipolar disorder journey. It popped into my head one day, and I had no idea what it meant.
What I know now is that it was God’s promise of what was to come for me. He was positioning me to rise up and use my personal experience with bipolar disorder to help others just like me live a fuller, more balanced life.
So what does the name, My Big Fat Bipolar Life, mean to me. Let me explain…
My…There is only one me. No one else is qualified to fill the position. I will show up and do what only I can do.
Big…I will take John Keating’s advice in Dead Poets Society, and I will seize the day and suck the marrow out of life.
Fat…If my life is a box, I want it bursting at the seams with experiences, kindness, love, and light.
Bipolar…Everyone has a bipolar life filled with highs and lows. I will embrace the roller coaster ride and hold on but not so tight that I miss out on the journey along the way. There is value in the journey, even the hard parts.
Life…I only have one life to live. I will live it while I am alive, even when my defective brain chemistry tells me I’d be better off dead.
Live Your Own Big Fat Bipolar Life
God did not create you simply to exist. Life is more than taking your medication and making sure you are never too tired, stressed, or hungry. Those strategies will help you manage bipolar disorder, but that is not a life.
Scripture clearly illustrates God’s desire for our lives: “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” (John 10:10 AMPC).
Living with bipolar is hard. It is complicated, but it can also be beautiful. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my 25 years of navigating bipolar disorder is that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.
Are you ready to dive in and find out how to live your own big fat bipolar life? Pull up a chair, and let’s get started.
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Love that you have such a strong sense of purpose behind your blog and that you are sharing honest thoughts that will help normalize the experiences of others! Bravo!
Laura, thank you for taking the time to read my post, and thank you for the kind words.
Wow! What a great mission you have and vision for this blog. Like you said, there’s no shame in mental illness.
Looking forward to more of your posts. I feel your passion come through in your writing.
Alicia-Joy, thank you for your kind words. I actually wrote this post when I launched in February. You should check out some of my other posts sometime.
Heidi, I am so glad you enjoyed it.
Beth Elkassih says
Andrea, it takes courage to come online and share your powerful story and message about your condition. I am so very familiar with Bi-polar disease as my Father had Stage 4 with schizophrenia included. I myself suffer from acute postpartum depression and 72 hours of psychosis. It took 20 years before I came out of the closet in sharing my story.
Beth, thank you for the kind words. I launched my blog to create an ongoing dialogue about mental illness, so that all of us who struggle with mental illness have a safe space to share our stories.
Thank you, for the chance to really read about bipolar. That helped me understand myself more.
Kathryn Schultz says
Andrea, I just read about your blog today when I finished reading Autumn Macarthur’s new novel, _Stand by Me_. It is inspiring to see how God is using you to help others using what you have learned from your difficult experience, just as II Corinthians 1:3-4 says.
Kathryn, thank you so much for your kind words!
Elijah Paul says
I read your article and found it very interesting. Thanks for the write up.
I am so glad you found it interesting!