Interview with Natasha Tracy, author of Bipolar Burble by the Blahpolar
*passes Natasha a glass of water*
- How would you describe yourself, if you weren’t allowed to mention bipolar?
I would describe myself as a writer, speaker and social media consultant. I would also say I’m an ex-skydiver, techie geek and avid cook.
- What is your full diagnosis?
My diagnosis is bipolar type II but if I were to be a bit more accurate I would say bipolar type II ultradian with generalized anxiety
- When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed, initially, when I was 20 years old, but I was diagnosed, incorrectly, with minor depression. At the time, I knew the psychiatrist was wrong for two reasons. One, I had done a lot of research on bipolar disorder and was pretty sure that was the diagnosis; and two, I knew there was nothing “minor” about my depression considering I was acutely suicidal at the time.
- Is there any intersection for you, between homophobia and the stigma of bipolar disorder? Please tell us about it (or an anecdote) if so.
I’m bisexual and I have felt what homophobia (and sometimes biphobia, specifically) is like. I’m not sure there’s an intersection, per se, between the two but I think being rejected for something that you can’t change and that you didn’t ask for, be it bipolar or bisexuality does feel the same. Both rejections are painful, unfair and show ignorance and small-mindedness in the person who rejected you.
- What would you say is the worst consequence of bipolar disorder?
For me, the worst thing about bipolar disorder is the unrelenting depression that brings about fatigue, demotivation and incapacitating overwhelmedness. Those aspects of bipolar disorder are what stop me from living my life as I want to.
- Do you have any fears for the future, that are specific to your mental illness?
I fear that my bipolar disorder will get worse if a better treatment isn’t found. For me, I am very treatment resistant so this is a big concern. Additionally, I consider bipolar disorder to be a degenerative illness and I believe that when it is not properly controlled, it gets worse throughout the lifetime.
- Do you believe that there will ever be reliable medication for bipolar, or even a cure?
A doctor once told me that no treatment for bipolar would ever truly be effective until genetic manipulation was possible. I found this highly depressing. I believe that we will make incremental progress in the area of bipolar and that each decade will look better than the last. I admit, we seem to have stagnated at this time, but that doesn’t mean that progress won’t continue, but, perhaps, in fits and starts. I think if you’re looking for a cure, you’re looking for something that we can’t find for most illnesses, let alone illnesses of the brain, so you’ll be looking an awfully long time.
- Do you use any apps to help you with any aspects of the disorder?
There are three technological resources that I like to help with bipolar. One is the T2 Mood Tracker which is a mobile app to track moods (the best one to my knowledge) and also two sites that provide interactive tools for improving quality of life in bipolar disorder. (See links for more.)
- It’s estimated that 75% of South Africans with mental illnesses are untreated, do you have a message for those of them who are too scared to ask for help?
I think it’s completely normal for a person with mental illness to be scared – terrified even – and to allow that fear to rule him or her and prevent him or her from getting help. This is something that many, many people struggle with. I think the most important thing for these people to realize, though, is that they are not alone. The person sitting beside them on the bus might have an anxiety disorder, the person who rings up their groceries may have depression, and these are just normal people, just like them. Once a person seeks out the mental illness community, they will see that there aremillions of us standing strong with them and we can help them with the strength they need to be able to reach out for help. It’s important to know that acceptance of bipolar is a process that will happen once you start to receive treatment and reach out to others.
- Is there anything you’d like to say to our bipolar readers?
Additionally, I would like to say this to people who are struggling with bipolar: Bipolar disorder is a life-changer. There is no doubt about that. It is unlikely that your life will be the same after bipolar disorder as it was before. But just because that is true doesn’t mean that your life can’t be great. Remember, there are many life-changers that could happen to us. We could lose an arm or get cancer or lose our partner – all these things happen to people every day. But every day, people pick themselves up from them and continue on to achieve and to thrive and that is what we, with bipolar disorder, can do, too. Bipolar disorder may be a life sentence but it is not a death sentence.
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and social media consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She works to bring quality, insightful and trusted information on bipolar disorder and related illnesses to the public while engaging with the mental health community. Natasha is considered a subject matter expert in bipolar disorder and her thoughts on it have been sought by the media and academics.
We thank Natasha for her time and her ongoing efforts in bringing trusted information to the fore.
-Our Lived Experience Team