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How to Better Cope with Bipolar

Madeleine Kelly, author of "Bipolar and the Art of Roller Coaster Riding," discusses how to limit the damage bipolar disorder can cause to your life.

Madeleine Kelly, author of the ebook: "Bipolar and the Art of Roller-Coaster Riding" is our guest. She is joining us from her home in Australia. Ms. Kelly has been living with severe mood disturbances and bipolar disorder since the age of 16. She is very involved in being a mental health advocate and educator in Australia.

Natalie is the HealthyPlace.com moderator

The people in blue are audience members.


online conference transcript

Natalie: Good evening, everyone. I want to welcome everyone to the HealthyPlace.com website.

Our guest is joining us from her home in Australia. Madeleine Kelly has been living with severe mood disturbances and bipolar disorder since the age of 16. She is very involved in being a mental health advocate and educator in Australia. You can read more about her here, or visit her website at http://twotreesmedia.com/beatbipolar.htm.

Ms. Kelly says that at one point, "Bipolar ruined my life. Over and over I'd get sick and whammo - rugged to the eyeballs, couldn't finish university, no job, debts to high heaven, kicked out of home, not even allowed to see my baby."

We'll be talking about: how to make informed choices about your treatment techniques to limit the damage bipolar can cause to your life, how to develop confidence to get what you need and not suffer discrimination because you have bipolar disorder.

Madeleine Kelly, author of Bipolar and the Art of Roller Coaster Riding, discusses how to limit the damage bipolar disorder can cause to your life.Good evening Madeleine and welcome to our site. Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Madeleine Kelly: Hi Natalie and everyone. I'm in my mid-forties, and I live in a beautiful part of the world in the hills on a 5 acre property a couple of hours from Melbourne, Australia. I have a son who is 19 and studying at university, and a daughter in her second year at school. Both are happy and healthy. My partner and I are preparing our land to be planted with blueberries next year so we can be self-employed. In the meantime, he also works in disability services and I write and develop the website.

Natalie: The reason we invited you to our bipolar chat conference was because of your personal experience with bipolar disorder and how you have come to deal with having bipolar disorder. When did it start? How old were you?

Madeleine Kelly:Looking back, it started when I was about 7 or 8. I was diagnosed at the age of 26. I remember struggling to be happy for most of the time in my childhood and teenage years.

Natalie: What kind of symptoms were you noticing?

Madeleine Kelly:The symptoms of bipolar changed over the years. When I was about 8, we went to visit my aunt in the outback, and Mum told me later this aunt was horrified at how distressed and tearful I was every bedtime. We went to a family holiday to Europe when I was 17. I just could not enjoy it. No one, including me, had any idea what was going on. When I was about 20, I had headaches that couldn't be diagnosed. After that, I had stomach complaints, and apparently there was nothing wrong. The symptoms were mainly bleakness, a lack of enjoying anything. I was over-eating and oversleeping. Later I got very upset and agitated. I couldn't make friends. After the idea of depression was suggested to me by a family doctor, I started to realise that how I was feeling wasn't necessarily the 'real me'. That helped a little. I was eventually tried on antidepressants (this is 25 years ago, so you can imagine the side effects!). They sort of worked a bit.

Natalie: What was life like for you during the initial stages of the disease?

Madeleine Kelly:I just tried to keep on going. I was in medical school and I got good marks first year, so-so the second year, just passed third year and had to pull out in fourth year. I was so upset I couldn't even talk to the patient, and often couldn't stop crying. So I took the rest of the year off. I went to work in an insurance company, and couldn't stop crying at my desk. During my uni days I felt totally out of it, it was hard to make friends because it was like I was totally distracted and not 'with it' enough to have proper conversations or be witty. In second year I realised I was upsetting the rest of my family and to make matters worse, my mother agreed! So I moved out and spread bleakness through West Brunswick instead of Camberwell!

Natalie: As time went on, how was having bipolar disorder impacting your life through adulthood?

Madeleine Kelly:In my twenties, everything was in chaos. Eventually I got married but that didn't mean settling down. I would be so agitated each morning I'd thump the tiles in the shower. I'd utter phrases involuntarily, and often loudly, stuff like 'Why would you bother? Sometimes I just screamed. I cried buckets when I realised I would never be able to complete the medical course. So instead I tried to carve out an alternative career in human resources with the state government. I would always bounce back at work but I'd usually end up losing the job. So each new job in my resume represents a major episode! Partly because of my out of control mood state, my first marriage failed and my baby went to live with his father. He came back to me 4 years later. I didn't know it at the time but I was experiencing classic mixed states.

Natalie: So with this chaos and sense of failure, what was your self-esteem like?

Madeleine Kelly:I just chuckled then at this question! Pretty rotten. I was convinced I was an utter failure and waste of space. I nearly succeeded in a suicide attempt. Other times I felt ruined were the loss of custody of my first child which was because of discrimination to do with bipolar. Countless jobs lost; countless friendships burned or not made in the first place; countless friends who couldn't cope with my disorder; separation from my current partner; separation from my son later in his life; continuing grief over a lost career in medicine; constant self-blame that I have not done as much with my life as I should have; hospitalizations representing months in drug-induced delirium.

But you bounce back. You bounce back because this is your own life, here and now and if you've got a problem, you don't moan or blame anyone. You just fix it, get on with it. You only live once, they say.


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Last Updated: 31 March 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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