Surviving Bipolar & Sharing My Story: The Journey Begins (Part 1)

Surviving Bipolar is a series about how bipolar has steered my life.

A hand writing ‘Start Here’ on a chalk board. | Graphic made by author with Canva.

Trigger Warning: suicide

Do you want to go on a journey? Today, you are invited to go on one that involves surviving bipolar disorder. It’s hard to say how long the journey will be because it’s still going.

You need to understand a harsh reality from the beginning. Some journeys are never complete. Some journeys go on long after the traveler is exhausted. Occasionally, a journey feels like an endless loop.

Bipolar disorder is one such journey, but it is one you can survive. I am living proof.

Note: I am not a mental health professional. The Speaking Bipolar blog and Surviving Bipolar Series are about my personal experiences with bipolar 1 disorder. If you or a loved one is experiencing mental illness, please get the appropriate help you need today.

Who am I?

My name is Scott, and I am the man behind the curtain on the Speaking Bipolar blog. I’m also the editor of the Speaking Bipolar on Medium Publication. For a fun background, you can read my origin story told as a fairy tale here.

I’m in my early fifties and work as a bookkeeper and tax preparer. After my 9–5, I love to work in my garden, go hiking, and cook new and exciting dishes. I also care for my aging parents.

Mental illness is part of my daily life. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the spring of 1995. Looking back, bipolar has colored nearly every day of my life, including my childhood.

I also have a physical chronic illness: Familial Mediterranean Fever.

I’m no superhero and don’t believe I have all the answers. Often, I feel like I’m failing in my journey, but I’m still in the fight.

With lots of practice, I’ve built a little skill at stringing words together. My hope is that some of those words will help you.

This is me. | Photo rights owned by author.

Why Share My Story of Surviving Bipolar

For many years, I lived in the bipolar closet. 

My family and closest friends knew of my diagnosis, but outside of that circle, I rarely spoke of it. I ordered those who knew not to say anything.

I can’t say if that was the right choice or the wrong choice to hide my illness, but it’s the path I felt was right at the time.

Life has a way of changing us, whether we live with mental illness or not. Watching my own changes and those of the people around me made me realize it was time to speak up.

A few years ago, a friend of mine committed suicide. Let’s call him Jim. He was not the first person I lost to self-harm, and sadly, not the last. There are fifteen friends and family members now on that list. 

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Haunting Thoughts

Jim’s death, though, was different. It haunts me day and night, even years later.

For a long time, I knew Jim was fighting some sort of mental illness. A few times I tried to broach the subject, but Jim refused to talk about it. I knew he was struggling, but I never forced the issue nor insisted he seek help.

I was struggling to survive my own mental illness. It felt like I hadn’t earned the right to try to help anyone else.

During the course of Jim’s last months, circumstances kept us apart. We had not spoken for months, but I was hoping we would be together again in the near future. 

I had no idea how bad things had gotten. Neither did his family.

One Call Changes Everything

It was another day at the office when I got the call. Jim’s brother had found him earlier that morning. Within hours, our whole circle of friends heard the horrible news, and many of us were grieving together.

My friend was gone, and there was nothing we could do to change that. 

The pain was terrible, especially as I thought about how I could have encouraged him to seek treatment.

I saw his mother a short time later. Not a young woman, the news destroyed her. Her health took a serious downturn, and within a couple of years, we lost her as well. 

I believe Jim’s mother willed herself to death. She suffered so much loss in her life, but losing her favorite son that way, was a pain that destroyed her.

Jim’s death consumed my mind night and day. I saw his face before me constantly and searched for answers. 

How could I not have known how low he’d gotten? Why wasn’t I the one who could have saved him?

Facing an Internal Truth about Surviving Bipolar

Another terrible truth tormented me. 

Thoughts of suicide were common for me. I’ll share more about this in future chapters, but I live with constant thoughts of killing myself. I always have a plan, though I hope I’ll never act on it.

Before you call a medical professional to have me committed, please understand I have no plans to act on hurting myself. I can’t ever imagine reaching a point where I would ever carry out my plan. But, in a strange way, there is some security and comfort in having a plan.

If you’ve never felt suicidal, it probably doesn’t make any sense.

Is surviving Bipolar possible? Yes! Read part one of a blogger's personal tale of his journey with the mental illness enemy. May his success inspire you. | #bipolar #mentalillness #awareness #patientstory #livingsuccessfully
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Our Dark Secret

I’ll let you in on a little secret. There is a lot of us, many with bipolar and many with other mental illnesses, that always have a plan. 

Thoughts of suicide have always filled our minds. Those horrible thoughts stick with us no matter how much fun we’re having or how big the smile on our face.

Most of us rarely discuss this truth. Many of us never talk about it at all. Those who do, only share their dark impulses with a small group of people, and usually only with those who also understand the unhealthy need.

For us, it’s part of surviving bipolar.

When my friend died, a twisted part of me was angry that he died and not me. 

My life is good, and for the most part, I’m happy. Even so, part of me was jealous his fight was over and I had to keep going with my battle.

I wrote this poem during one of my darkest times.
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Trying to Turn a Negative into a Positive

As the weeks and months went by, something new started to grow in my mind. I couldn’t go back and save my friend, no matter how hard I tried. I’m not a time lord, so that moment is gone forever.

Jim wasn’t the only one suffering in pain. The number of suicides by people I knew personally made that perfectly clear. 

When you add in the fact that for every successful suicide there might be dozens or more failed attempts, the number of people suffering is staggering. Then there are millions more who changed their mind at the last second or simply carry their pain with them every day.

I had to do something to help those people. I knew if I could help just one, my life would mean something. If even one person could be saved, maybe I could let go of the pain of losing yet another friend to such an insidious enemy.

A wooden path through the woods. | Graphic made by author with Canva.

A Blog Is Born

My life is very busy. I work full-time and volunteer in my community. Then I have a home to care for and older parents to help.

Bipolar creates enough struggles, but I also contend with Familial Mediterranean Fever, a condition that causes constant pain and fatigue.

Getting out on the streets to help people isn’t an option. I can’t start a foundation or a help line. There’s no cash in the bank ready to use to create a care center.

As time ticked by, though, it dawned on me how I could help others another way. Maybe, just maybe, by sharing my story of surviving bipolar, another man, woman, friend, or child would get help before it was too late.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, and the words usually come easy. The question was, would I be brave enough to share my story with the world? Could I live my bipolar life for all the world to see?

Stay tuned to find out.

Until next time, keep fighting.

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  1. I look forward to reading more of your story, Scott. Others benefit a lot from reading stories like yours. And I’m sure writing about it is important for you. Writing is a wonderful form of release. Release can often bring relief.

    My family lost my youngest nephew to bipolar depression. I’ll confess I prefer to put it that way than to use the word “suicide”. It’s my choice that feels right to me, also as a person with bipolar disorder.

    1. I’m so sorry about your nephew. I’ve lost a few people to bipolar, and I agree about the ‘s’ word.

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I kind of got away from telling my story, but it’s something I plan to come back to soon. I’ve been so busy creating positive posts for my Positivity Club that I’ve had to tell my story in little bites, but there’s still a lot to tell.

      1. Nothing wrong with telling your story in little bites. That’s how I did it. I created what I called various “story series”. Often I had three to four part groups of stories, with the groups similar periods or in some way related. But all of the multiple story series groups together would make a type of memoir, of sorts.

        I like that you have a Positivity Club. I’ll check that out. I consider myself to be a positive person by nature. It’s been beneficial throughout my life and the course of my bipolar disorder. I’m fortunate.

  2. Thanks for your blog Scott, I just found it. My dad was diagnosed bipolar a couple of years ago (we’ve always known, and tried to get him to see a doctor – it just took a long time to convince him) and I am struggling with knowing how to help him at times. Because he’ll call or text me that he wants to kill himself, and since I live a listen distance away it’s very scary. I appreciate you sharing what must be incredibly painful experiences to try to help other people. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts, especially now that I am on a journey to try to understand more about bipolar disorder, and trying to make peace with my lack of control to help another with this problem.

    1. Hi, Hilary! Thank you for your comment. I apologize for the delay, but I’m buried in tax season.

      I’m sorry to hear about your dad’s struggles, but it’s good he’s finally getting help. Please understand that even if he’s on the right medications, he’ll have some days that are too high or too low. Overall, though, he should be more stable.

      I really appreciate your taking the time to leave your experience and kind words. It means so much to me to get comments like this one.

  3. Excellent blog, Scott. It highlights the pain of losing someone to suicide and the journey we experience as a result. We are so vulnerable to suicide. This is helping raise awareness and helping people understand. Shared to my Twitter account.

    1. Thank you so much, Shirley. It’s a sad fact that so many of us live every day with suicide ideation, but it’s very encouraging to meet someone else who is determined to continue the fight. Thank you for sharing the content and for doing your part to help raise awareness. I just followed your blog as well.

      1. You are welcome, Scott. I am doing the best I can. I don’t write on My Bonkers Brain anymore, as I let it slip for a couple of years due to severe bipolar episodes. I have adopted Medium.com as my writing platform now. I think I have a better chance of raising awareness there instead of WordPress!

  4. I, too, am bipolar and it’s definitely a rollercoaster of emotions. I am stable thanks to Abilify but I still have my moments, as anyone who suffers from bipolar will understand. I have been told that I don’t have enough faith and that’s why I suffer. I’ve been told to “get over it.” It’s definitely a real struggle. But I trust in Jesus and know that He will get me through the rough patches.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I’m sorry your faith has been questioned. I know that pain because it’s happened to me many times. It’s great that you haven’t haven’t up. Keep fighting.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. It really resonated with me. I also had a friend (a true love) take his life 9 years ago. I never got over it and believe he suffered from bipolar. Years later I was diagnosed as well, experienced the constant suicidal thoughts, and suddenly understood why he did it. He was just sick and needed help. Thank you again 🙏

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that you lost him that way. I know it’s a pain that never fully goes away. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      This is actually only part one. I plan to share at least one new post each week. I’ve got the next one written but need to format it. Look for in the next couple days.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your story so far in such detail. I have no experience with bipolar but I have suffered severe anxiety for many years so I am within that little mental illness bubble which is oh so fun! I’m so sorry to hear about your friend too. Will be looking out for more of your posts – you have a great way of telling stories.


    1. I’m sorry you have to deal with anxiety. It can be quite a challenge at times. I appreciate that you took the time to leave a comment. Thank you for coming by. Keep fighting, and please come visit again.

  7. Thank you for speaking out and sharing your story. It makes me happy every time I hear that someone is fighting and winning. Your example can help offer hope especially to those who are just starting their journey. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  8. Thanks to you Scott for telling your story . I also have bipolar 2 depression I have had it for years. I understand were you are coming from. I used to think about that. I started looking at myself I come along way from thoses days I looked at the hope and straight I had inside myself . That I deserve a wonderful Life . I started looking for help about my bipolar that in are brain we have influence and that’s what is part of the reason for are depression why are medication doesn’t work as well . Also what we eat as well . Has now beginning to be looked at by doctor’s. They are doing study’s on it now. I . myself I am proud that I went to live and know matter how hard life changes I will be brave and strong and also educated myself about new ways to help myself get better . thanks you so much for letting me share my thoughts with very one .

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