Category: Bipolar


Stay well strategies for everyone

Stay well strategies:

  • sleep well
  • eat well
  • exercise
  • manage stress
  • spend quality time with family and friends
  • engage in the local community
  • get professional support
  • use alternative therapies
  • work in a supportive workplace
  • have a holiday



What is mental health?

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as a state of well-being in which someone:
– realises his or her own abilities
– can cope with the normal stresses of life
– can work fully and productively
– is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

A healthy person has a healthy mind and is able to:
– think clearly
– solve problems in life
– work productively
– enjoy good relationships with other people
– feel spiritually at ease
– make a contribution to the community.

Mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorder.


Looking for people who live successfully with bipolar disorder

Opera glassesWhen you have bipolar disorder, there is no such thing as a free ride. When life is good, really good, there is always a price to pay. After I published my book, I had the best time of my life. Ever. Then my doctor became concerned about my increasingly elevated mood. I had been going to bed at 3.00am and getting up at 6.00am and not feeling tired. What was I doing until 3.00am every night? Well, among other things, I was annotating a copy of my book with quotations about art and life. Lots of quotations. In tiny little writing. I thought I would give it to someone as a present – an example of the creativity of a bipolar mind. Great idea?  I thought so, but my doctor didn’t.

She looked at my annotated memoir and said it would be a very bad idea. She said I had to act swiftly because I was headed for an inevitable, unavoidable depression that she wouldn’t be able to pull me out of. I cried when she told me that. Buckets. She said my mood was very unstable. She said I shouldn’t go to work the next day, but I needed the money and I was paid as a casual. No work equals no pay. If I did go to work the following day, she said under NO circumstances was I to speak to anyone, especially not to the boss. I suppose I really shouldn’t have just done that recorded radio interview that was going to be on the radio the following Saturday. I didn’t tell her about that.

She prescribed Seroquel. Seroquel takes me to the death zone. The smallest crumb renders me seriously unconscious for 12 hours and the following day I can’t function. The decision to take it is not one I take lightly but I took it and I didn’t go to work the following day. The hypo mania put up a big fight.

Then I fell. It was a bad fall. A very bad fall.

But spring is here and I am back blogging. Things are looking up. I am fine. Well, I think I’m fine. I look fine. Perhaps I am  fine. I don’t know what ‘fine’ is any more. What I do know is that I am really, really proud of the things I have achieved. Sometimes the achievement has been getting out of bed or getting in to bed and staying asleep. Sometimes it has been living with anxiety. Sometimes it has been doing public speaking in spite of how awful I feel. I can always pull myself together to present about bipolar. It’s too important. Sometimes it has been doing something really nice for someone. Mostly it has been living with rapid cycling Bipolar 1 and anxiety, and trying to keep everything together. Which I (mostly ) do. I am very proud of that.

I have met plenty of people who struggle with bipolar just as I do. I want to meet people who have bipolar like me and live in harmony with it. I want to meet people who have stable relationships, untainted by mood swings. I want to meet people who have had trouble with bipolar in their past and now sail in calm(er) waters. Is it you? I am told that you’re out there, the experts insist that you are. I don’t believe them though. I don’t believe you exist. Do you? If you do, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.


Bipolar: one in ten

I spoke to a group of students a few weeks ago about mental health and mental illness. They were just regular students, with (I assume) no greater risk of having mental illnesses than anyone else. I know what the statistics are for various mental illnesses.

Anne Presenting at TAFEThe statistics according to the researchers are:

Bipolar: one in a hundred
Anxiety: one in ten

In this class of 20 there were two students with bipolar disorder and four who have experienced panic attacks.

The statistics in this particular class were:

Bipolar: one in ten
Anxiety: one in five

And they were just the ones who told me. Not scientific data, however, food for thought.

Presentation at TAFE #2Here’s the feedback from the teacher:

Subject: Guest Speaking
Date: 7 August 2013 11:45:19 AM AEST
To: “” <>

Dear Anne,

I wanted to firstly express my thanks to you for giving up your time last night to come and speak to the students. It was an invaluable opportunity for both the students learning and also for myself as the teacher. I will be able to draw on your presentation as we progress through the rest of the course.

I have never seen a class so focussed (apart from the one student who is having issues to sort out at the moment) and listening to every word and piece of wisdom you were able to share. The mix of activities: speaking, reading, video clips and group work were great.

I think we will be continuing to reflect back to what you have shared (remember when Anne said….) to assist us in linking theory to a real life example.

Thank you Anne for coming and sharing your experiences with us.

Best wishes.

Regards …


Advice to depressed people

‘It can be hard to sustain a sense of humour during an episode that is really not so funny. It is urgently necessary to do so. The most important thing to remember during a depression is this: you do not get the time back. It is not tacked on at the end of your life to make up for the disaster years. Whatever time is eaten by depression is gone forever. The minutes that are ticking by as you experience the illness are minutes you will not know again. No matter how bad you feel, you have to do everything you can to keep living, even if all you can do for the moment is to breathe, wait it out and occupy the time of waiting as fully as you possibly can. That’s my big piece of advice to depressed people. Hold on to time; don’t wish your life away. Even the minutes when you feel you are going to explode are minutes of your life, and you will never get those minutes again.’

Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon, p. 430


Canberra book launch and ABC Radio 666 interview with Alex Sloan

Simon Corbell, MLA, ACT Attorney General, launched my book in Canberra yesterday at Calvary Hospital. He gave the most wonderful speech and it was a very special day.

Thank you Simon, Ray Dennis (Calvary CEO) and Greg Bayliss (Communications Manager at Calvary).

Simon Corbell #1


ANne #2

Straight after the launch I was interviewed on ABC radio by Alex Sloan. That was awesome too.

Thanks also to Alex Sloan and Hannah Flannery.

I have got an an audio copy of the interview, but I don’t know how to embed it here. I will figure it out and post it when I can.

666 Radio interview 12 June 13


In the Lancet Journal

Chronicle #2

The Lancet is the leading general medical journal in the world, and I am in the Lancet. Well, technically, it’s not me, it’s one of my paintings. This one. The Professor (Gin Malhi), who launched my book, incorporated it into a research paper he wrote that is in the current Lancet Journal. My painting is called ‘Landscape of the mind’, and it pretty much reflects the state of my mind at the moment.

I have bipolar disorder, so too much of anything is never a good thing. Too much excitement and adrenalin is definitely not a good thing, and I have both in spades right now. I am having the time of my life and enjoying every minute of this part of the book publishing journey. The radio interviews, the newspaper articles, the planning and coordinating of launches, book signings and events are intense. I am totally wrapped in it all. It feels so much like hypomania, it’s not funny.


Art From Adversity book trailer

Here is the book trailer for my book.


I’ll stand by you

Sometimes it is really hard to stand by someone who has a mental illness. You want to help them, and you do help them. Time and time again. Again and again. You forgive them. Again and again. But how many times do you stand by them as they make one bad decision after another, expecting that someone will always be there to pick up the pieces?

Someone very close to me has bipolar disorder. I haven’t spoken to him since his Armenian mafia phone call to me in the middle of the night. I can’t talk to him at the moment. His mental health is too precarious and I think my book has the potential to tip him over the edge. When I am next talking to him, I will tell him this, ‘I will stand by you, I will always love and support you, but I have limits and there are boundaries. Don’t call me at 1.30 am again telling me that you should be in a psych ward, call the Mental Health Crisis Team. Don’t ask for my advice if you are not going to do anything about is. I really hope that the Armenian mafia don’t get you. I can’t always help you, but one thing is certain – it might be hard, but I’ll always stand by you.’

Have you got a brother like this? Or a husband? Or a child? It’s easy to say ‘I’ll stand by you’, but not so easy to do.


Life with bipolar is hard

I have just read an article written by Julie Fast in her newsletter. She talks about how hard it is to have bipolar disorder and she says that, even though we can be positive, life is not easy. Anyone who has bipolar knows this.

I have a family and I am (mostly) able to function, even though my priorities are no longer to be Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson. I am (mostly) able to cope with my two day a week job, but sometimes getting there is a challenge. I smile at the people I work with and the few I tell are genuinely shocked when I say I have bipolar disorder.

I don’t look sick and I do not want to see myself as a ‘sick’ person but bipolar affects me in big and small ways, and is with me every day. As Julie says, ‘It’s really hard’ and we need to be more honest about it.

Everyone has their own reality of bipolar disorder, and carers do as well. I do not want to identify myself primarily as a person with a mental illness, even though it is undeniable that I have one and that I and advocate for people who do. I am a writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother and friend who has bipolar, not a bipolar person who is a writer,artist etc. It is not just the rhetoric of political correctness to refer to myself this way. The distinction is really important to me.

I have  my own story and so does every other person with bipolar disorder. We need to tell our stories. That’s why I wrote my book.  To tell my story. My truth about bipolar.

Julie Fast is a real inspiration. Check her out.

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