Writing Bipolar


I have Bipolar 1 Disorder and ADHD. I am not Bipolar 1 and ADHD.

There is a distinction.

I started experiencing depression in junior high. My family was having struggles with two of my siblings and since my sister and I (both adopted) were just two weeks apart we shared not only the same grade in school but many of the same classes. This closeness in age, but not the closeness with my sibling, took a toll.

By the time I was at University mania made its presence well known. Of course, I was clueless and had no idea of what was going on. I just thought I was weird and volatile, and oh so different. 

I am writing two memoirs about my experiences. (The delivery for these two memoirs is changing, so please subscribe to keep up).

The first (Currently called “Unraveling”) is about my life up until age forty, the second starts with my debilitating breakdown and moves through therapy, medications, and my search for stability and contentment. I arrive at my perfect life in San Miguel de Allende with the love of my life and a life I could only dream of. So, yes, eventually there is a very happy ending. But there was a long road to get to it.

Bipolar 1 Disorder is not mood swings of depression or a very happy outlook. It isn’t a day in bed during a gloomy afternoon. Or a “life of the party” excitement. Bipolar 1 affects every fiber of my being and can take over my mind and body with life-altering consequences. It is not something I can pull myself out of, or can “just hang in there” with.

Weeks in bed burrowed into my covers and hurt worse than any bad flu, a month of 1 hour sleep nights, and a beyond grandiose attitude was mixed with times of “normality.”

Bipolar Disorder seems to be the flavor of the month for writers. Sometimes a cloak or a teaser for writing. I am not saying all; Bipolar Disorder is very very real.

Many are glamorizing mental illness. With regard to their writing, I have read articles or fiction book blurbs where the author added this disorder to make a character more interesting or as a character flaw. If someone does not have this disorder they need to be very cautious about writing a character with it. 

I don’t think I could do an honest and realistic job in writing about Bipolar 1 unless I had experienced it firsthand. And, each person is different, each day is different so blanket statements can’t be made.

And a savior has to be oneself, learning to cope and create a life that is right for them. Not comparing themselves to others.

We cannot be cured, we don’t choose it and platitudes are just going to make us angry. Someone with Bipolar Disorder has to make changes and struggle to do the work to get to a point where they can first live, and then thrive with the disorder. It takes a lot of time, effort, and support.

I hope my writing will help move the dialog along. 

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  • Reply
    Jessica Nicely
    July 29, 2020 at 6:11 pm

    I saw your article on the writers of nonfiction Facebook group and I wanted to take a look at your blog. I do not personally have bipolar 1 disorder, but I do have major depressive disorder and PTSD and I have been given the “you need to snap out of it,” or “it’s just a feeling.” I really appreciate you writing openly about mental health on a blog and in your memoirs. I am thinking about writing a blog about PTSD. If you had any advice or would like to connect, you can find me on the Facebook group or email me.

    • Reply
      Ria Talken
      July 30, 2020 at 8:18 pm

      Hi Jessica, I am still in the floundering stage of writing my memoirs. Having the thoughts and actually applying them to essays are two different things. But I am committed to getting my story out there, and I think the more people who write authentically about their experiences with any kind of mental health challenge is beneficial for us all. It shows that we are not from cookie cutters. Everyone manifests differently. The more others realize that the better the conversation is. So, if you think you have a book in you, go for it. Always nice to communicate with others in the same boat.

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