Living with bipolar disorder can sometimes feel overwhelming. Realizing that others have gone through similar experiences may provide solace and hope.
Sometimes, when we’re trying to find a way to just keep going, hearing from others who’ve gone through similar emotions or events can make all the difference. Maybe someone else has meaningfully put words to the grief, pain, frustration, joy, or revelation that you’re experiencing.
At times, your moods may threaten the health of your relationships, your job security, or your physical well-being. Difficulty accessing, or maintaining, a consistent treatment regimen can make it hard to find the motivation you need to keep moving forward.
Collected here are quotes from writers, artists, thinkers, and celebrities that directly address the unique challenges or aspects of having bipolar disorder or speak broadly to mood-related mental health.
Remember: Bipolar disorder is highly treatable. You’re not alone, and it’s never too late to seek help!
Psych Central uses the conscious phrasing “bipolar disorder” instead of merely “bipolar.” However, many of the individuals quoted here are writing from the past or out of personal preference, so they might just use “bipolar” or the outdated term “manic depression.”
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.
― Alyssa Reyans, “Letters from a Bipolar Mother” (2012)
At least when I was an adult, I had a name for what was wrong with me: manic depression. It’s easier to make sense of things — even very disturbing things like sexual acting out and suicidality — when there’s a big, fat label slapped on top. But as a child, I knew nothing. I had no diagnosis. All I had was a vague and gnawing awareness that I was different from other children, and that different was not good. Different must be kept hidden.
― Terri Cheney, “The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing Up Bipolar” (2011)
Such “sensations” spread over my spine and head… such an exaggerated tiredness; such anguishes and despairs; and heavenly relief and rest; and then misery again. Never was anyone so tossed up and down by the body as I am, I think.
― Virginia Woolf, “A Writer’s Diary” (2003, written 1928)
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.
― Marya Hornbacher, “Madness: A Bipolar Life” (2008)
Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”
― C.S. Lewis, “The Problem of Pain” (2004, written 1940)
I could walk through fire if it meant making my dreams come true. That is the gift being bipolar gave me. It blessed me with a lofty imagination, an iron will, and an unbreakable belief in the impossible.
― AJ Mendez, “Silence Interrupted” blog post (2017)
At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.
― Carrie Fisher, “Wishful Drinking” (2009)
The biggest gift of being unambiguously mentally ill is the time I’ve saved myself trying to be normal.
― Mark Vonnegut, “Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So” (2010)
I long ago abandoned the notion of a life without storms… It is, at the end of the day, the individual moments of restlessness, of bleakness, of strong persuasions and maddened enthusiasms, that inform one’s life, change the nature and direction of one’s work, and give final meaning and color to one’s loves and friendships.”
― Kay Redfield Jamison, “An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness” (1996)
Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me.
― Vincent van Gogh, “Letter 218” (1997, written 1882)
You don’t have to struggle in silence. You can be un-silent. You can live well with a mental-health condition, as long as you open up to somebody about it, because it’s really important you share your experience with people so that you can get the help that you need.
― Demi Lovato, “The Cut” interview (2017)
It can be a long and difficult road, but mental illness is treatable. There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.
― John Green, “Turtles All the Way Down,” acknowledgements (2017)
The secret of successful treatment is not to become a perfect, shining star or to learn to be in complete control of your feelings… In contrast, when you accept yourself as an imperfect but eminently lovable human being, and you stop fighting your emotions so strenuously, your fear will often lose its grip over you.
― David Burns, “The Feeling Good Handbook” (1999)
I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone. It can be incredibly isolating. [Bipolar disorder] does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.
― Mariah Carey, People Magazine interview (2018)
Having once been so scared that I would lose my entire sense of self, what I discovered is that a stable life — a balanced life — actually feels like me.
― Ellen Forney, “Finding Balance in Bipolar” TED Talk (2019)
There’s a post-it on my wall here that says, “Allow yourself morning.” That was always my thing. Get to morning. Even if you have to stare at it from the wrong side, just get to morning, and everything will be okay. That’s how I survived the depression parts. Just get to morning, get to morning.
― Bassey Ikpi, interview for Nomadic Press (2015)
It isn’t under one’s control as to when the sun comes out, but come out it will. One day. It really is the same with one’s moods, I think. The wrong approach is to believe that they are illusions. They are real. Depression, anxiety, listlessness — these are as real as the weather — AND EQUALLY NOT UNDER ONE’S CONTROL. Not one’s fault. But they will pass: they really will.
― Stephen Fry, “Dear Crystal” letter (2006)
I’ve come to the conclusion that every day is different. I’m accepting that some days will be bad. But I have to remind myself that the next day can always be better. One of the biggest delusions of depression is that you’ve always felt this way and that you will always feel this way. It robs you of the insight that things can and will be different, better.
― Melody Moezzi, interview for Wesleyan University (2020)
Living with bipolar disorder isn’t about trying to always be happy. It’s about looking up into the sky during your darkest nights and seeing the stars shining down on you. The darker your world becomes, the brighter they shine. They are the hope inside that guides you until the sun rises once more. It is then that you have stolen victory from certain defeat.
― Bryce R. Hostetler, “Slip-Resistant Socks: My Journey with Bipolar Disorder” (2020)
You’ve got to work hard each day. There are no shortcuts to getting better. Or to anything in life. You absolutely have to work at it. Go to therapy. Take your meds. Take care of yourself. Don’t eat or drink alone in the dark. Live your life.
― Jenifer Lewis, interview with The Washington Post (2018)
To find the connections of these invisible threads that reach from past to present, I accept that no one perspective can make sense of it all. Being bipolar is being alive, just more, living in the moment. Too much more. But all of it — the mania, the energy, the agitation, the obsession, sadness, fear and hurt — are distortions or exaggerations of normal emotions. I’m still me in the end.
― Ahiddibah Tsinnie, “Yes, I Took My Meds” (2020)
It’s possible to live a happy and fulfilling life with bipolar disorder, even if you may not believe that right now. Treatment for bipolar disorder incorporates any combination of medication, therapy, diet and lifestyle adjustments, and other approaches.
If you think that you may have bipolar disorder, next steps could include further reading, and a discussion with your primary care doctor. Below are highly reputable online sources of information on bipolar disorder to guide you:
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) – Bipolar Disorder
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Bipolar Disorder
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
Our most powerful tools when it comes to effectively treating bipolar disorder are education and emotional support. Learning the facts about bipolar disorder can help you make sense of your condition, ask the right questions, and find the professional care you deserve.
An emotional support network — of family, friends, partners, mentors — is a central component to any treatment plan.
Seeking out the voices of others who have experienced bipolar disorder, whether through books, blogs, or films, can help you see a path forward when you’re feeling stuck, or provide validation for your feelings.
Ultimately, we hope the quotes and insights listed here can help remind you that the sun will come out, that your feelings do matter, and that bipolar disorder does not define you!