23 → Ontario, Canada → Student, Blogger & Activist → Bipolar → Medication, Yoga, Exercise, Communication.
R: Hi Linla, so, who are you?
L: Linla is my alias in the online world. By writing under an alias, I feel like I can speak freely and honestly without consequences in my real life. But to give you a general idea about who I am in the real world, I’m a 23 year old, university undergraduate student going into my final year this Fall. I identify as bisexual and am proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
“family, friends, and my dogs, colouring, listening to music/podcasts, watching YouTube, writing, as well as being outdoors (mountain biking, fishing, camping, hiking, etc.) and iced coffee from Tim Hortons makes me happy!”
I live back & forth between two cities in Ontario, Canada – depending on whether I’m in school or not. My family, friends, and my dogs, colouring, listening to music/podcasts, watching YouTube, writing, as well as being outdoors (mountain biking, fishing, camping, hiking, etc.) and iced coffee from Tim Hortons makes me happy!
R: How does Bipolar interfere with a normal day?
L: It depends. Sometimes I have normal days where I feel like… how I imagine someone without a mental illness might feel. On a normal day when I’m in my illness, every aspect of my life is affected – either negatively or positively. For example, my relationships with my family and friends, my motivation, the quality of my schoolwork, and whether I participate in things I enjoy, can all be profoundly impacted because of a normal day living with bipolar disorder.
“Bipolar causes a lot of of uncertainty in all aspects of my life, which makes everything a little more difficult to deal with.”
R: Has it got worse over time? or better?
— linla ✨ (@hellobipolar) July 10, 2016
R: How would you describe Bipolar in your own words?
L: Bipolar causes a lot of of uncertainty in all aspects of my life, which makes everything a little more difficult to deal with.
R: Have you found any positive aspects of Bipolar?
L: Not really.
R: Do you think your life would be different without Bipolar?
L: Yes, I think my life would be much easier.
R: If you had the option to lose your Bipolar would you?
L: Yes. It’s such a difficult illness to live with.
R: What was your inspiration for starting your Twitter and blog, “Hello Bipolar?”
L: I created my anonymous twitter account @hellobipolar in November 2015 as a space for me to vent about my day-to-day experiences with mental illness and life, and to try to connect with others living with mental illnesses to help me feel less alone. In the 5 years since my diagnosis, I had never met another person living with bipolar so I felt isolated, like I was weird, depressed and very alone.
“It’s scary putting yourself out there and giving people an inside look into your personal life.”
I started my blog recently to motivate myself to start writing again. I had kept a personal journal for years to help me vent about what was going on in my life but suddenly it didn’t feel helpful or fulfilling anymore so I stopped writing in it. My blog documents parts of my life – good and bad – that I would’ve written about in my personal journal if I had never stopped.
— linla ✨ (@hellobipolar) July 26, 2016
R: How does it feel to express the condition through words?
L: Fulfilling. Authentic. Scary. Rewarding.
R: Have you received any great feedback / response?
L: Yes, which is a relief. It’s scary putting yourself out there and giving people an inside look into your personal life.
— linla ✨ (@hellobipolar) July 10, 2016
R: Were you officially diagnosed by a health professional?
R: What made you see a doctor?
L: I was actually forced into seeing my family doctor by my stepmom when I was 17. Over the years, I knew on some level that something wasn’t right but was confused because sometimes I felt really good, while other times I felt terrible. I figured it was just your normal teenage mood swings. After the severe depressive episode that initially brought me in to see my family doctor, I learned that my mood swings were much different than those of a normal teenager. From there, I was referred to a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with bipolar II.
R: Did they prescribe medication? Do you / Did you take medication?
L: Yes, and I still take it.
R: Have you seen a therapist?
L: I’ve seen many therapists on and off over the years. I’m currently on a waitlist to see a new therapist.
R: How do you best manage Bipolar? (medication, meditation, yoga, alternative medicines or ?)
L: Medication. Doing things that make me feel fulfilled, like volunteering, writing, mountain biking, and yoga. Surrounding myself with good people. Connecting with others who have mental illnesses and understand the hardships that come along with trying to live a normal life while battle your brain every day. Feeling less alone gives me the strength to keep moving forward so that I can become the best version of myself.
R: Do you feel as if you’re in control now?
L: Not yet, but I’m working on it.
R: If you could go back and give yourself some advice on Bipolar, what would you say? What would you do differently?
L: I would tell my younger self that there’s no need to try to handle everything on your own. You have people who will love you, support you, and help you – you just have to start the conversation and ask for help when needed. Find people who share your struggles so that you don’t feel like you’re the only person dealing with these issues. You are sick not weak.
— linla ✨ (@hellobipolar) November 9, 2015
R: Do you tell friends, family and colleagues about Bipolar?
L: I only tell people whom I’m closest with and that’s only something I’ve just started doing. I’ve always been the type to keep everything to myself.
R: Do you know others with Bipolar?
L: Now I do! I’ve connected with many wonderful people who have bipolar, both online and in local peer support groups.
we all crave meaningful connection bc #mentalillnesses are so damn isolating. maintaining friendships is hard.
— linla ✨ (@hellobipolar) July 24, 2016
R: How do you educate yourself on Bipolar? Do you read specific blogs, magazines or news articles, follow YouTubers or other activists??
L: I educate myself on bipolar through formal education, my peers, watching videos, and by reading information online. The Mighty, and the International Bipolar Foundation post some helpful information about bipolar disorder.
Kati Morton is a YouTuber and a licensed therapist in California, who is very down to Earth and likeable. Her goal is to make mental health information accessible to as many people as possible and to help stop the stigma surrounding mental health issues. She has videos about bipolar disorder, but she also talks about other mental health topics and mental disorders. Kati answers questions from viewers all over the world; I find these videos helpful because I struggle with feeling alone or like I’m weird, and a lot of the time people ask questions about topics that I thought I was the only person who has thought or wondered about. I can’t say enough good things about her and her channel. I wish every therapist could be as awesome as she is! (Thanks Kati for all that you do!!) You can watch her videos here
Filming 5 new vids today! Marathon!!! pic.twitter.com/cEpQIkaeuV
— Kati Morton (@KatiMorton) June 18, 2016
R: Have you read any great books about Bipolar? Or seen any movies?
L: I’ve read many wonderful books about bipolar disorder, but my favourite is Welcome to the Jungle: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bipolar but Were Too Freaked Out to Ask by Hilary T. Smith. I bought this book when I was first diagnosed and it helped me so much. The author has bipolar disorder herself so it’s written from the perspective of a person with the illness. Her book is funny, while still providing seriously helpful information about the topic! I still refer to this book all the time, and recommend it to everyone in my peer support group.
Silver Linings Playbook is my favourite movie about mental illness because it provides the most accurate depiction of the lives of people living with mental illnesses – instead of the dramatic Hollywood depiction of these illnesses that we often see in the media. The main character has bipolar disorder and his co-star has depression, and they’re both dealing with traumatic grief. I love this movie so much that I actually got a quote from the movie tattooed on my arm!
R: Can you recommend any therapists / doctors / specialists / coaches / mentors / clinics / foundations?
L: The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario is doing amazing things for people with mood disorders. They offer information on mood disorders, community resources, peer support groups, support for families with loved ones experiencing a mood disorder, scholarships, and tons of other helpful things! If you’re living in Ontario and have a mood disorder, I’d highly recommend checking them out if you haven’t already.
Bell Let’s Talk is an awesome mental health initiative sponsored by Bell Canada that focuses on raising awareness about mental health, and encouraging people to start the conversation about mental health so that we can work towards a stigma-free Canada. They have a community fund that provides grants to organizations that are working towards improving access to programs and services that help support people living with mental illnesses.
#SickNotWeak is a mental health community that is also working towards ending the stigma around mental illness. This website provides an online peer support chat room, blogs, resources, and mental health information. The Bell Let’s Talk initiative was the inspiration for the #SickNotWeak initiative
R: What’s on your horizon for 2016?
L: Try to focus on self-care, getting back into therapy, blogging, and starting the final year of my undergrad degree in the Fall (yay!)
R: What next for your Bipolar?
L: Hopefully stability.
R: Anything else you’d like to add?
L: I love chatting so if anyone would like to connect with me, you can get in touch me through any of the ways listed below.
Also, I’d just like to thank you, Rodger, for giving me this opportunity to share a bit of my story!
R: Thank you!
Rodger Hoefel in conversation with Linla
Images supplied by Linla