Retired Professor and Innovation Ergonographer
Living with bipolar 2 disorder and anxiety

William (Bill) Kaghan was first hospitalized for bipolar 2 and anxiety 40 years ago. Notwithstanding the two years following that hospitalization feeling “unbearable,” he has since built a full life that includes being happily married for nearly 40 years, raising two well-adjusted Millennial children, earning a PhD, traveling widely, teaching, researching, writing, and consulting. Bill wants you to know that it took him 15 years to find a medication that worked really well for him, so if you’re facing a similar challenge, do not give up.

Bill’s Story

How has your condition impacted your life? 

My condition is chronic. I have been subject to significant mood swings—both low and high—and periods of anxiety for my entire adult life. (I will be 69 in 2021.) My condition has colored the level of comfort that I have felt engaging in routine life activities and remaining relatively guarded in sharing my periods of discomfort.

When were you first aware of your condition and what was your most difficult time?

I was first diagnosed in 1981 when I was hospitalized with severe depression for several weeks; however, I am certain that I began experiencing symptoms in the late 1960s and through the 1970s. My most difficult period was the two years (1981 – 1983) after my first hospitalization. I could feel deep despair throughout my whole body and had difficulty getting myself out of bed for over 600 days (though I did get out of bed every day.)

What does success and living well look like for you?

Since I was first hospitalized, I have achieved many of my goals. I have been happily married for 37 years and have two well-adjusted Millennial children. I have earned a PhD in Technology Entrepreneurship and the Management of Innovation. I have had the opportunity to travel widely and have taught, conducted, and published scholarly research, and consulted. Though I have experienced two very brief hospitalizations over the span of 38 years, I have stayed comfortably in the stable zone the vast majority of this time.  I have also learned a lot about medications, therapy, and myself that has helped me earn a living and live a successful adult life.  Most importantly, there have been more than a few sprinkles of genuine joy mixed into the rough and tumble of everyday life.

What help or specific strategies helped you to get well and move to stability? 

It took me 15 years before I found a medication that worked really well.  More recently, I retired and had the opportunity to reflect on my life, get away from the daily stress of the workplace, adjust to retired life, and improve my tennis game. I was also diagnosed with early- stage Parkinson’s Disease and have been stably adjusting to that condition as well.

What do you do to manage your condition and stay healthy on an ongoing basis?

I regularly take my medication and go to “check-in” therapy four to six times a year, as needed.  I journal, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.

Are there positives that have come from having a mental health condition?

Having a mental health condition helped me recognize potential mental health difficulties in my family and friends, and to offer them a patient ear, and hopefully, a little guidance in their own challenges.

How has your condition impacted your work and your career?

I have had to learn to manage my hypomanic states which—while they are occurring—can feel very invigorating but would often result in negative outcomes in my work life and my career. I have also learned to selectively share my condition with others in my workplaces.

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

The most important thing that I can tell someone is to not give up. The two years after my first hospitalization were “unbearable,” but, somehow, I was able to bear them and to move past them. Many wonderful things have happened for me since then despite the ever-present challenges.

What motivated you to join The Stability Network?

I heard the founder of the Stability Network, Katherine Switz, do an interview on the local NPR station, KUOW Seattle, in 2015. Her story was the first one that I had heard outside a hospital or therapist’s office that really resonated with me. I contacted Katherine based on that interview and have been involved with The Stability Network ever since.