If You Can Live Well With Bipolar, You Must Not Have Bipolar?

November 18, 2014 Natasha Tracy

I have someone peppering me with comments and emails right now claiming that if I’m living well, then I must not really have bipolar disorder. Moreover, this person claims that bipolar II isn’t actually real and that bipolar I is the only “real manic depression.” Naturally, I am not conversing with this person in spite of his threats to disparage me in an upcoming film. I do feel it’s important to say this though: it is entirely possible to have bipolar and disorder and live a full and successful life.

What is Living Well?

“Living well,” or “living a full and successful life,” is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. I’m not about to tell you what it means for you. It might be being in a loving relationship, having a family, having friends, keeping a job, living in a nice house or being fulfilled in other ways. Living well is something that all humans strive for and, let’s face it, many people have trouble achieving it at all times. We’re not really any different, in that respect.

Living Well with Bipolar

Again, this is a definition that is personal but if I had to give one, I would say that living well with bipolar disorder means having a full and fulfilling life with minimal bipolar symptoms. (No symptoms would be nice, but that’s not really a necessary condition for fulfillment and happiness for many.)

Can You Have Bipolar and Live Well?

Of course you can. People do it all the time. You neighbour might be bipolar and you don’t know because he’s living the same life you are. He’s living in the same kind of house, with the same kind of wife and the same kind of kids. Really. It happens all the time.

And really, he still has bipolar disorder.

Some people with bipolar disorder constantly struggle but some with bipolar disorder live well, average lives, but do these people really have bipolar?Treatments in modern day to allow for this. With the combination of medication and therapy, many people learn how to live a life where bipolar disorder has minimal or a manageable impact. It doesn’t mean these people don’t have a mental illness, it just means that treatment is effective. The idea that people with bipolar disorder have to have a certain kind of life is just stigma talking. People with bipolar disorder have many kinds of lives. We’re all different and bipolar affects us differently. That is normal. That’s not a confirmation of a lack of illness, it’s confirmation of brain complexity and humanity.

In short, the individual who is running around telling me (and I’m sure many others) that I am a victim of a psychiatric conspiracy, that I don’t really have a mental illness and that I’m spreading lies about bipolar is, well, judgemental and delusional. If I were a different kind of person he might make me feel bad about who I am and what I do. But I know these guys. I know the people who would attack others and make sweeping judgements. I know the guys who would spread the stigma of what mental illness is “supposed” to be.

And I know these guys are not to be listened to.

So if you run into this person, or a person like him, try to shrug it off. Judgements about your manifestation of bipolar disorder and your life with bipolar disorder are unfair, unfounded and false. You live your best life. And tell this guy to stick it. You know who you are. No justification needed.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2014, November 18). If You Can Live Well With Bipolar, You Must Not Have Bipolar?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

February, 11 2016 at 11:23 pm

When I was first diagnosed, I thought that man was right. I tried to kill myself. I thought life was over. I'm happy to report, nothing could be further from the truth.
I'm pretty open about my disorder. It's something all of my friends know about me. They love me. I trust them. I want them to have an eye on my if they notice in not okay before I do. In that openness is turns out I knew five, FIVE, people with BPD (including Bipolar I). All people I respect, admired, and who I wanted to immulate. ALL very successful people. Masters degrees, great parents, happily married, doing very
well in there careers, etc. One of those people (whom I'd know for eight years and had no idea he was BP) is a doctor.
I would consider myself "living well" with BPD these last few years since I was diagnosed. But the stigma is real. And that is why I am open about it. I was relieved to know I wasn't alone, it was more common than I realized, and it wasn't a death sentence. I had my own stigmas. I'm so glad I was wrong.

February, 11 2016 at 6:24 pm

Thank you so much for posting this. I struggle with thinking these things about myself, and the way you stated everything so plainly, how confident you are that managed bipolar is not no bipolar, it's just very comforting. Thank you again, seriously <3

February, 6 2016 at 5:18 pm

When my child age 6 visited doctor & told us my child is bipolar mood disorder and taking valpoate 600 mg & respridone 1mg per day.Recently another doctor misdigonestic ,he stop respridone and start attentenol. Almost 2 months detention from risperidone. When taking attententol suddenly serious mental problem was seen in my child.we consult again 1st doctor & he stop attentrol and continue valporate 800 mg & resperidone 1 mg per day.He is taking this medicine now how long it will take time to keep well mood.My child age is now 9 & feel hungry.Can anybody have idea pls kindly advise.

Clara Roseland
February, 11 2015 at 9:20 am

Thank you for your insight! I agree wholeheartedly.
Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder has nothing to do with how successful you are or aren’t. It has everything to do with the ups and downs we experience. The fact that there are so many functional people with the illness means that treatment works. That’s like saying you can’t have a good life if you have diabetes. Diabetes is a horrible illness, but there are ways to control it. There are also ways to control bipolar disorder.
I would describe living well as being happy and functional because when you are happy and functional you can feel more personally fulfilled and contribute more to society.
And the most important part of that is that it applies to EVERYONE, bipolar or not.

January, 8 2015 at 1:27 pm

I am NOT living well. It seems nothing works. I am mean, nasty and hateful and my world is falling apart. I just don't have the energy to keep trying to figure it out. I read articles like this and think yea doesn't last forever. So I remain a mess and hope for the best.

Michelle Cannon
December, 19 2014 at 4:11 pm

I don't have bipolar disorder, but my kids do. I write about the topic and have had a few comments from people like this. They like to hop on my posts and rant on about how there is no such thing as psychiatric anything. I just delete it and move on.

December, 6 2014 at 12:01 pm

Well Im living, I wouldnt call it well. I did manage to leave my abusive marriage many years ago and am raising my teen on my own, but being on disability for a disorder they cant fix isnt well in my book. I get by and try to stay positive, but when you cant work a regular job and make good money because you dont know how stable you will be and for how long, its not fun for me. And Im not even sure what I am as I have suffered from depression most my life. Im 51 and on Welbutrin XL becausee it seems I cant tolerate other drugs. Planning on having my therapist test me and see what exactly it is I supposedly have. No one seems to know...

Regina Morales
November, 30 2014 at 6:49 pm

I am BipolarII..
The struggle to live well is taking each day one day at a time..

November, 29 2014 at 5:26 pm

Thank you for all you do and say to represent the rest of us. I struggle between living well and barely living. When I am doing well, I'm just as sick as before. Things just happen to go well here and there and sometimes it's because I'm sticking to my health plan and other times it's just dumb luck I think. Sometimes I do all I'm supposed to and it doesn't help at all. All of us who struggle to live well, keep on keeping on!

November, 29 2014 at 5:23 pm

Thank you, Natasha, for being the voice of reason as usual. I agree with all the brave people who commented. I occasionally feel that people doubt my diagnosis and think my disability status is a fraud just because I can sometimes appear normal, am a home-owner, have certain talents etc. They can't see inside my head.
Surely BP is present from birth? My family seems to have the DNA for this disease. Lithium and weekly psychotherapy (25 years) certainly help, but I just have to look after myself. I live alone as I feel unable to share my chaotic life. I am intelligent and creative and usually sociable. Christianity has helped me too. I try to count my blessings, and Natasha is one of them! Before I discovered Healthy Place, I'd not "met" co-sufferers outside my family. Who can judge if I live "WELL"? Natasha's critic seems materialistic and lacking in empathy. Maybe he is jealous of her drive and her talent. Ignoramus!

November, 29 2014 at 2:46 pm

I once had a doctor explain to me that bipolar disorder runs along a spectrum; bipolar 1 is on one side and bipolar 2 on the other. In between there are different permutations and degrees. The person who does not believe bipolar 2 is 'real' is exhibiting primitive 'black or white' thinking. Another flaw in his thinking is assuming that he can tell how well someone is living. One of the curses I deal with is appearing 'fine' to others when I am actually suffering. Other times, I admit, I do not appear 'fine'!I have a wonderful husband and a home that I love but living day to day takes a tremendous amount of effort and I know that would surprise some people I know but am not close to.

November, 28 2014 at 7:41 pm

Natasha, I do not search for sites or articles on Bipolar anymore but saw your video series on a Health site. Your way with this illness is calming and accurate. It felt like you were reciting my life. I am stable after almost 30 yrs of treatments, meds, hospitalization and therapy when I need it. I cannot work anymore and sometimes wish I could. I am criticized by a family member but have learned my limitations. If I do not put my safety first there is no one that can help me. I know what you do is exhausting and rewarding. I was encouraged tonight by your sweet disposition and personal testimony. This illness is painful but gives us special gifts and incites that I wouldn't change. Still sometimes I wish life wasn't so overwhelming. Thank you!

November, 27 2014 at 4:08 pm

Natasha you are the voice of reason itself.
These kind of attitudes about bipolar spring from both organised groups and from individuals on their journey to acceptance. It's not easy to accept bipolar, and some people look for, or create elaborate alternatives. The difficult ones are the ones who 'project' onto others.
It's easy to get caught in the trap of bipolar denialism. Even though I've been dealing with it for years now I went to a therapist who was a denialist herself. She encouraged me to come down off my medication and I landed in hospital.

November, 22 2014 at 4:23 am

Oops... I meant I was originally diagnosed bipolar 2 but then years later bipolar 1 (I believe bipolar disorder is a progressive disease). Yes having bipolar disorder is hard (especially without medication) but I believe it has no bearing on whether I am successful in life or not (whether I have bipolar 1 or 2 or not) any more how the general public is in how they deal with their trials and tribulations

November, 22 2014 at 4:05 am

I have been working (since I was 18 years old) for the SAME organization for 33 years and I have Bipolar 1 disorder. Granted it took a long time to get diagnosed but once I was and then began a combination of medication (low doses) I am living a much more stable and contented life on the whole. I consider my life a success. Whether I have bipolar 2 (which I was originally diagnosed with) or bipolar 2 (after 3 breakdowns that resulted in hospitalization, BEFORE the diagnosis) should have no bearing on how successful Or not unsuccessful I am. Like beauty, success is in the eye of the beholder...

November, 22 2014 at 12:36 am

I have bipolar i have spent many times in hospital and live at home i have a wonderful mum and daughter who know wen im becoming ill i am on a lot of medication its also an illness you carnt see and people try there best i would not wish this illness on anyone so people should not comment you dont know my story because you havent walked in my shoes xx

Sarah Campbell
November, 20 2014 at 1:10 pm

It took a year of therapy before I finally decided that I needed medication to manage Bipolar II, like my therapist said "the reason you are in treatment is because Bipolar disorder is causing too much disfunction in your life, through proper treatment you should be able to get it back to a manageable place"
Since trying a handful of medications and hopefully settled on one now, with ongoing therapy my life is slowly becoming and functional behind the scene as I manage to make it look out in the open.
I usually manage to get out of the house twice a week dress with make up to go to my part time job, the other 5 days... not so good. These are the days I hide and this is why people find it hard to believe that I have something "wrong" with me at all, many of my family think perhaps I am being a show off. They can't see the self loathing in your head, they can't hear the repetitive nature of your thoughts, they don't see you on day 3, showerless, still in your pyjamas or signing up to goodness knows which volunteer group, online course and relentlessly googling every single little twinge in your body... people that don't believe in mental health conditions are lucky enough not to be affected by one!

Pam Isaac
November, 20 2014 at 11:21 am

Thank you for your letter about Living Well with Bipolar. Some days living well means I did not act up on the thought to commit suicide, some days living well means I spend a good day with my family, some days it means I worked in my yard, some days it means I dream of the days when I was an actively employed Social Worker and wish I could return to the work force.

November, 20 2014 at 8:38 am

As much as I agree that you shouldn't have to justify yourself to anyone, whether you have a mental health problem or not, personally speaking, it feels like living well is only ever temporary for me. However, I have not found the right treatment for me yet obviously, and I'm sure one out there exists, it just seems like, although medication I've taken helps me a great deal day-to-day, I have only ever taken meds that take more away from me and end up being not worth taking because some of them have left me unable to get out of bed. So as much as I understand that other people are currently living well with bipolar, and as much as I love that people are living well because it gives me hope, I am totally frustrated that I'm not there yet, and I wonder if the person or persons making such comments are in the same frustrated boat as I am. I feel like a weaker person because treatment is currently not working, and I try so hard everyday to live well.

November, 20 2014 at 8:36 am

For about a year now I have been living well with bipolar 1. It's hard, I still deal with symptoms and bipolar ups and downs, but that doesn't mean that I'm not still living well. I've learned what meds work and what don't, I have better coping skills and I still go to therapy regulary.

November, 20 2014 at 7:35 am

This infuriates me. I'd love to talk with this guy. I am living well, good marriage, successful children, home owner etc. It was a huge struggle to overcome mt disability to achieve these things and it was not a pretty path to walk. There are many things in my life, hopes and dreams that I had to forego due to this damned illness. I worked extremely hard to get where I am and it pisses me off no end that because my disability is not visible (most of the time) that it is belittled or ignored. We all deserve medals for being able to live well with this disorder. It isn't easy.

Russell Myers
November, 20 2014 at 6:25 am

Thank you so much. There seems to be a train of thought that suggests if you have bipolar you can't live a life. My psychiatrist questioned my diagnosis just the other day because I take minimum medication. It's taken a number of years to get to this point in my life where bipolar is part of me not the whole of me. Because I choose to self manage my condition I can't possibly be bipolar without being drugged up to the eyeballs. It's the low medication that allows me to monitor my moods and therefore live as best I can. Yes I have low and high periods but they're much more controlled now. So thank you for showing we are alive!!

November, 20 2014 at 6:19 am

I know that it is possible to live well with bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with Bipolar I when I was 19. Now I'm 44 and I have learned how to live well. It takes a lot of effort for me to live well, but I am doing it. I have been very ill in the past, and have been hospitalized many times, but through a combination of medication, therapy, and many lifestyle changes, I am living the life that I want to live and I'm happy.

November, 18 2014 at 11:31 am

THANK YOU so much for posting this, Natasha!!! Thankfully I have been living well with Bipolar for a little over 2 years now! I define living well as not having daily symptoms of the illness and doing much better when symptoms do occur. I also have a wife, dogs, and a great life, but the reason I am living well is because my treatment works and I have many limits that I must stay within to be living well. I don't work and some people think that I can and should to be living well. But I know that that's one of the many reasons why I'm doing well...I don't work. Anyway, thank you so much for your post!!!! :)

Sandy Riggs
November, 18 2014 at 11:07 am

You are my hero! Thank you so much for being a supportive friend when my BP2 messes with my life. Other people seem to think we can simply "cheer up" when we've become secluded or "no fun". They also don't understand that the hypomania is just as bad. The anger, the rudeness, the spending - oh God, my credit card bills! Oooops - there goes my marriage.
Yeah, folks, it's kinda like THAT.
Thank you again. Sandy

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