An interview with a blogger helping moms parent with BIPOLAR.
I stumbled upon Michelle Reittinger from My Upside of Down on Instagram a few months ago. In the first reel I watched, Michelle shared her struggle with bipolar disorder and the steps she takes to stay positive. I was hooked and have been a loyal follower since.
After months of following Michelle, I knew my readers needed to know more about her. I invited Michelle to share a guest post, Finding Joy in Motherhood with Bipolar Disorder, and spent a little time getting to know her on Zoom.
All I can say is Michelle is awesome and an inspiration to moms everywhere. What follows is my interview with her.
Q: Michelle, tell us a little about your mental health history.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1998, a month before I graduated from college. I had been suspicious for a few years that there was something wrong, but I kept feeling like it was just a moral failure on my part and I was trying to make excuses for myself. The months leading up to my diagnosis, however, I was spending weeks severely depressed, not attending class and not speaking to anyone, and then I would get manic and stay up several nights in a row, writing papers and acing my tests. I finally agreed to go to a psychiatrist and after an initial misdiagnosis was finally diagnosed with bipolar 2.
I was diligent about taking all the medications prescribed to me by my doctors, but I continued to struggle and get worse until finally in 2008 I had a breakdown and was hospitalized in three different hospitals in two different states. I felt helpless and hopeless. But my desire to do what was best for my children ultimately caused me to keep fighting to find a way to live well.
Over the past 14 years I finally found what my brain needed to be balanced and learned the tools necessary to live a healthy, balanced, productive life with bipolar disorder.
Q: Why did you start the My Upside of Down blog?
I started my blog in December of 2020 with a desire to help mothers with bipolar disorder learn how to live well with it. It took me so long to figure it out and I wanted to shorten the learning curve for others. Everything that I teach is really applicable to anyone with bipolar, but I have focused on reaching out to mothers specifically because I understand how isolating and hopeless it can feel to be a mother with bipolar.
Q: Do you feel like creating a blog is your purpose?
I feel like it is one of my main purposes. I felt for years like I wasn’t going to accomplish much in my life because so much of my effort was trying to take care of myself and my family. But when I started my blog I started to recognize that there was value and purpose in my suffering and struggle. It feels like a mission now, to help others learn how to live well with bipolar.
Q: What are your favorite three posts, and why do you love them?
I spent so many years feeling like I was broken and had no value because I was comparing myself to others. I realized that I needed to stop comparing myself to others and focus on becoming the best version of me. This shift in my mindset has helped me to find incredible joy and fulfillment in my life.
One of the hardest things for me was grieving the loss of who I thought I was and who I thought I should be in my life. It hindered my progress towards wellness because I struggled to accept my diagnosis. Understanding that what I was going through was the grief cycle helped me to process the loss and move towards healing and acceptance. This was a critical mindset shift on my path to wellness with bipolar.
I used to think that with my bipolar disorder I was sick and trying to get better. I thought of it like climbing a mountain. The problem with this mindset was that each time I would experience a mood cycle it felt like I was failing and that I had fallen all the way down to the bottom of the mountain again. I finally learned that wellness with bipolar disorder actually looks like the addiction recovery cycle. This post explains how that works and how that mindset shift helps you really learn how to live well with bipolar disorder.
Q: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about mental illness?
That having a mental illness is just like having a physical illness. It is not a moral failing, it is a disorder that affects your mind. One doctor compared having bipolar disorder to having diabetes and it was such a helpful comparison for me. I understand diabetes and accept it as a real, tangible disorder that is caused by your body missing some essential pieces to function in a healthy way. I also understand that if someone with diabetes doesn’t do the work to learn how to manage their disorder and then apply what they know they will get very sick and possibly die.
Having a mental illness is similar. You can learn to live well with it if you learn and apply the tools necessary to live a healthy, balanced life. If you don’t do the work, you will get sick and possibly even die. You can live well with bipolar!
Q: What is the best experience you’ve had since starting your blog?
I was invited to speak to a women’s group and afterwards several women came up to me and told me how much what I said meant to them. One woman told me that she was going to start back to therapy, another shared how she had a child suffering from bipolar and the things I shared helped her have compassion and understand how to help. I love hearing that others are helped by what I am sharing. It makes me feel like the years of suffering I endured have value and purpose.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
I recently launched a membership program that I’m really excited about. It has taken over a year to create it. The program teaches others the process I went through to learn how to live well with bipolar disorder. I am also launching a YouTube channel in the fall of 2022, a podcast in January of 2023 and I am writing a book in 2023.
Until next time, keep fighting.
Michelle’s Social & Product Links
Blog: My Upside of Down
Instagram: My Upside of Down
Facebook Page: My Upside of Down
FREE guide to create a Mental Health Emergency Response Plan: Emergency Response Plan : My Upside of Down
The Upsiders’ Tribe Membership: The Upsiders Tribe : My Upside of Down