Computer Consultant; President of the International Vegan Association
Living with bipolar disorder

Eric self-diagnosed his bipolar disorder in 2004, but it was five years before he met with a psychiatrist who made the diagnosis official and started him on the path to managing it. Today, he’s living life to its fullest: “I feel like I have a more stable platform now to thrive as a person, and my relationships are stronger than ever.”

Eric’s Story

How did you self-diagnose your condition?

I’d had a few depressive episodes from the time I was a teenager, but it wasn’t so many that I thought I had depression, and so I never sought help for it. I just rode them out. But my behavior had been growing more reckless and intense, causing trouble for me and my wife. I did some Googling and realized that the patterns were consistent with the criteria for bipolar disorder. However, I didn’t have insurance to see a doctor at that time, partly due to my inability to hold down a steady job, and the idea that I had bipolar disorder was forgotten despite my behavior getting more out of control over the next five years.

Then a friend with a psych background told me over coffee one day that some of what I’d been describing to her reminded her of her partner, who had bipolar disorder. She was able to recommend some books and that I consult a psychiatrist for a proper diagnosis.

What was your most difficult time?

Almost losing my marriage.  Working to come back from that and to rebuild trust has been key to my stability.

What is your life like now?

I feel like I have a more stable platform now to thrive as a person. I get much more regular sleep, I’ve been able to perform at a high level at full time jobs for a number of years, including one with a boss who I was able to tell about my condition and communicate openly about how I’m doing. I’ve enjoyed more activities outside of work, too, though when my son was born a lot of that got put on hold so I could focus on being the best dad I possibly could be. Though having a baby is a challenge to my temperament, I’ve learned even more about myself and become more patient and resilient.

What strategies helped you to get well and move to stability? 

Immersing myself in books about the condition and how to manage it were eye-opening and gave me a head start when I began treatment. Actually going to a psychiatrist was key. From there I settled on a medication regimen, which has been critical to keeping any notable upswings away for nearly a decade now. Downswings have been much more of a challenge, with medication failing at every turn, but mindfulness-based therapy (MCBT) has been some help, as has my openness about the condition, working through difficult times with my wife, therapist, and those close to me. Therapy also helped me learn how to tease out my “normal” behavior from my symptomatic behavior. It gave me perspective.

How do you manage your condition and stay healthy?

I see my psychiatrist and therapist on a regular basis, take my medication, deploy mindfulness and self-care techniques, communicate clearly with the people around me who know about my disorder. I try to stay organized and assess on a rolling basis when I’m putting too much on my plate, as I start to feel time pressure and experience other triggers, then I dial it back and focus on self care, assured that everything else can wait.

What words of encouragement would you give to someone struggling with a condition similar to yours?

If you don’t think you need treatment, at least talk to someone about your life. You may discover patterns that help you realize it’s worth seeking additional help. If you’re being treated, stay on your medications. This is a regime, not a fix. Develop routines. Learn what causes your stress levels to go up and mitigate those stressors through coping skills, avoidance, or simply slowing down and not trying to do everything. You don’t have to live up to any expectations you have of yourself or that you believe other have of you. You just need to find peace with yourself and get through each new moment, one at a time, as all things do pass with time.