12 Quotes That Describe What It's Like to Live with Bipolar Disorder

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It can be tough to live with bipolar disorder, which makes one prone to moods so incredibly varied, nuanced, and intense that most humans do not experience. Moods can be exhilarating and intoxicating, and yet also darkly devastating — sometimes all at once. This is why bipolar is somewhat of a misleading term — it implies that a person experiences two extremes of emotion, when the reality is that moods occur in different subtleties in their nature.

I like to think of emotions like a color palette — different colors can be mixed to create various shades and tones of mood. With bipolar, this ability is heightened so much so that moods themselves can be difficult to survive.

So what’s it like to live with bipolar disorder? Why is it associated with such a high rate of suicide? What are the struggles individuals with bipolar disorder face every day? What are some of the highs and lows and why is it so strongly associated with creativity?

Below are 12 quotes that describe different sides of bipolar disorder.

I have a chemical imbalance that, in its most extreme state, will lead me to a mental hospital… I outlasted my problems. I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on.
— Carrie Fisher
I was actually manic a lot of the times that I would take on workloads, and I would say, ‘Yes, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.’ I was conquering the world, but then it would all come crashing down and I would be more depressed than ever.
— Demi Lovato
When under the strain of bipolar’s strongest symptoms, we certainly can make selfish decisions, but that doesn’t make us selfish people. In fact, because we have struggled and known such depths of darkness, our compassion runs deeper.
— Lyss Trayers
There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you’re high it’s tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them until you find better and brighter ones. Shyness goes, the right words and gestures are suddenly there, the power to captivate others a felt certainty. There are interests found in uninteresting people. Sensuality is pervasive and the desire to seduce and be seduced irresistible. Feelings of ease, intensity, power, well-being, financial omnipotence, and euphoria pervade one’s marrow. But, somewhere, this changes. The fast ideas are far too fast, and there are far too many; overwhelming confusion replaces clarity. Memory goes. Humor and absorption on friends’ faces are replaced by fear and concern. Everything previously moving with the grain is now against— you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves its own reality.
— Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
Bipolar robs you of that which is you. It can take from you the very core of your being and replace it with something that is completely opposite of who and what you truly are. Because my bipolar went untreated for so long, I spent many years looking in the mirror and seeing a person I did not recognize or understand. Not only did bipolar rob me of my sanity, but it robbed me of my ability to see beyond the space it dictated me to look. I no longer could tell reality from fantasy, and I walked in a world no longer my own.
— Alyssa Reyans, Letters from a Bipolar Mother
Soon madness has worn you down. It’s easier to do what it says than argue. In this way, it takes over your mind. You no longer know where it ends and you begin. You believe anything it says. You do what it tells you, no matter how extreme or absurd. If it says you’re worthless, you agree. You plead for it to stop. You promise to behave. You are on your knees before it, and it laughs.
— Marya Hornbacher, Madness: A Bipolar Life
She was a free bird one minute: queen of the world and laughing. The next minute she would be in tears like a porcelain angel, about to teeter, fall and break. She never cried because she was afraid that something ‘would’ happen; she would cry because she feared something that could render the world more beautiful, ‘would not’ happen.
— Roman Payne, The Wanderess
Manic-depression distorts moods and thoughts, incites dreadful behaviors, destroys the basis of rational thought, and too often erodes the desire and will to live. It is an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels psychological in the experience of it, an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering and, not infrequently, suicide.
— Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
Compared to bipolar’s magic, reality seems a raw deal. It’s not just the boredom that makes recovery so difficult, it’s the slow dawning pain that comes with sanity - the realization of illnesss, the humiliating scenes, the blown money and friendships and confidence. Depression seems almost inevitable. The pendulum swings back from transcendence in shards, a bloody, dangerous mess. Crazy high is better than crazy low. So we gamble, dump the pills, and stick it to the control freaks and doctors. They don’t understand, we say. They just don’t get it. They’ll never be artists.
— David Lovelace, Scattershot: My Bipolar Family
I know the empathy borne of despair; I know the fluidity of thought, the expansive, even beautiful, mind that hypomania brings, and I know this is quicksilver and precious and often it’s poison. There has always existed a sort of psychic butcher who works the scales of transcendence, who weighs out the bloody cost of true art.
— David Lovelace, Scattershot: My Bipolar Family
I mean, that’s at least in part why I ingested chemical waste - it was a kind of desire to abbreviate myself. To present the CliffNotes of the emotional me, as opposed to the twelve-column read.

I used to refer to my drug use as putting the monster in the box. I wanted to be less, so I took more - simple as that. Anyway, I eventually decided that the reason Dr. Stone had told me I was hypomanic was that he wanted to put me on medication instead of actually treating me. So I did the only rational thing I could do in the face of such as insult - I stopped talking to Stone, flew back to New York, and married Paul Simon a week later.
— Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking
Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.
— Vincent van Gogh

The symptoms that go along with bipolar disorder can make it a very difficult illness to cope with. Not only can it be challenging for individuals, but for their loved ones as well. If you feel as if you may be experiencing symptoms, know that you are not alone and that help is out there. If you’re looking for ways to find a psychologist in your local area, check out my blog post on How to Find the Right Psychologist For You.


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Victoria Chialy Smith, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist providing individual therapy to children, teens, and adults. Our practice provides Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), mindfulness based therapies, and other premier evidence-based treatments, and serves the Falls Church, McLean, Great Falls, Vienna, Arlington, Alexandria, and the greater Washington DC region. Call, email, or schedule an appointment with us online today. We’re happy to help!