June 10, 2020

Bipolar Disorder with Sofia and Saralyn

Bipolar Disorder with Sofia and Saralyn

In episode 18, Bipolar Disorder, Elaina is joined by comedian and podcaster, Sofia Elkin, and certified health and wellness coach, Saralyn Salisbury-Jones, in a discussion about living and thriving with Bipolar Disorder.


“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

In episode 18, Bipolar Disorder, Elaina is joined by comedian and podcaster, Sofia Elkin, and certified health and wellness coach, Saralyn Salisbury-Jones, in a discussion about living and thriving with Bipolar Disorder. 

There are many misconceptions when it comes to Bipolar Disorder, formerly known as manic depression. Bipolar disorder is a mental impairment that causes unusual shifts in energy, moods, activity levels, and concentration. Some may experience manic episodes, which are often presented as long periods of high energy, loss of sleep due to the reduced need for sleep, and for some, a loss touch of reality. 

In this episode, Sofia and Saralyn their personal experiences and address the following:

  • What is Bipolar Disorder?
  • What does a manic episode resemble?
  • How do you thrive and not allow this mental illness to dictate your life?
  • How do you handle the stigma of mental illness?

Sofia Elkin

Saralyn Salisbury-Jones

Resources, Connect, and Subscribe

Transcript

Elaina: [00:00:00] Cope Queens Episode 18, Bipolar Disorder. There are many misconceptions regarding bipolar disorder. This mental impairment was previously known as manic depression, and it’s basically a mental impairment that causes unusual shifts in energy levels, mood, activity, levels, and concentration. Some people even experience what is considered a manic episode, which can present itself as long periods of high energy, a loss of sleep caused by the reduced need of sleep.

And others can even experience a loss touch of reality. In this episode, I discussed bipolar disorder type one and two with comedian and podcaster, Sophia Elkan and certified health and wellness coach, Saralyn Salisbury-Jones. So, with this episode, I share the conversation that I had with Sophia. First, and then after Sophia, I’m going to share the conversation between Saralyn and I.

I hope you all enjoy this episode. Make sure that you visit copequeens.com. If you want to send me a message and let me know other topics that you’d like to hear me cover, or if you want to be a guest, I would love to hear your journey. Thank you for listening today. And we’re going to just dive right in.

Intro: [00:01:16] You’re listening to the Cope Queens podcast, where every Wednesday hosts and Elena Jones challenges, mental health stigmas by normalizing the conversation through sharing personal experiences about how seemingly everyday life challenges impact us. This podcast is in no way, a replacement for mental health treatment to learn more, visit copequeens.com. Now without further ado, let’s cope together.

Sofia: [00:01:51] Hi, thank you so much for having me. First of all, it’s always great to be able to share my story because people have a conception of what someone who has bipolar disorder looks like what their life looks like, which is usually messy. And it’s nice to kind of come out with that and, and people don’t even expect it could be your friend, your neighbor, or anybody.

Bipolar one is when you actually have the manic episodes, they look different for everybody, I think overall you experienced like almost opposite of depression. So you have like a lot of energy and you’re not necessarily happy. Not everyone’s happy during manic episodes, but you are kind of on top of the world, which isn’t the same as happy, which is weird and hard to describe, but you’re kind of like, you feel like you’re untouchable.

Elaina: [00:02:33] So you’re on top of the world and you feel like you’re invincible to a point like you can do anything. You can conquer anything. Sky’s the limit and very enthusiastic. You can. Have one idea one day and then five minutes later, I have another idea that’s even better than that one. Is that what you mean there?

Sofia: [00:02:49] Yeah, I would agree with that.

Elaina: [00:02:50] How do you do that? How old were you when you were diagnosed?

Sofia: [00:02:53] So I was diagnosed with cyclothymia or psychodynamic disorder when I was.16, which has like very little like shifts of mood between depression and happiness. They don’t call it mania. But then when I was, I believe 18, I was diagnosed with bipolar type two, and I was not diagnosed with bipolar type one until I was 22, which is when I had my first full manic episode, which is around an age where a lot of people have their first manic episode

Elaina: [00:03:21] was there anything in particular that you think triggered that or was it just a matter of it was going to happen?

Sofia: [00:03:27] I think it was a combination of things. I had just moved to the U S with, this was 2015 and I moved here when I first moved here for like eight months. I wasn’t working or going to school or anything.

So, I really, really eight months was just hanging out and like kind of finding myself in like working out and all this. So, I was really happy. And so when it came out of nowhere, it kind of surprised me. It wasn’t like I was going through anything rough at the time, but I was not really taking medication at the time.

That’s a large part of it. I say that to say can kind of happen out of nowhere, unfortunately, but especially if you’re not seeing a therapist, you’re not taking medication, you’re not taking the proper self-care for bipolar disorder.

Elaina: [00:04:06] And then for those who may not understand what a manic episode is, what did that look like for you? What did you experience?

Sofia: [00:04:13] So for me, I didn’t notice I was having a manic episode for probably about the first month my sister noticed it before I did, because one of the things I had was that I was hypersexual. And my sister caught onto that pretty early on and was like this, you know, you’re acting different.

And then I started noticing it because one time I’m like, I’ve never in my life. And even until now, like I don’t drink and drive. I have never even had more than like one beer and gotten behind the wheel. But there was a day that I had like three drinks and I drove to my friend’s house. And after that, I was the day after I was like, not like me, but in that moment, I was like, I don’t care.

It was like really risky. And I was like, whatever. I was like a little tipsy. And I think after that, I started noticing like I was doing more risky behaviors and to some people that means like they spend a lot of money on things that they don’t need to, or they do drugs, stuff like that. For me, it thankfully never got too bad, but I was just overall kind of not, I was careless about my own safety in my own life.

So, for me, it looked a lot like just risky behaviors, carelessness. I wasn’t sleeping. I was sleeping about two hours a night. I was going to bed around seven, eight in the morning, every night and I just, I wasn’t tired. I didn’t feel like I needed to sleep. I was very productive, but I just wasn’t, wasn’t sleeping.

And so that long-term, after a few months of last, a few months, that’s just really bad for your body. And eventually even if you’re mania, you get depressed because of your body is so tired. I think I thought for a while that if I was too busy, I would get too stressed, which I mean, if anybody does, but I have found recently that if I have a very clear agenda, then I get into my thoughts and get to stay in bed and watch TV, and then that’s not productive for my mental health.

So like I watched a little bit of TV a day. That’s fine. But. I’ve found that getting busy. So just full time school was just not an, I mean, I was very busy, but it wasn’t enough, but then I started doing comedy and this was a way for me to fill in those gaps of free time when I like, okay, I don’t want to do homework right now.

So I’m just gonna lay in bed and scroll through Twitter. That’s not really great for my mental health. So now, like I have other like, side projects. So whether you’re working full-time or going to school full-time, but like having side projects, even if it’s just knitting a scarf, like anything you’re doing, that’s keeping you kind of busy and keep your mind busy. That has been so helpful.

Elaina: [00:06:30] Applause to your sister for noticing that something was off. And for her having the courage to say something, because I think a lot of times what happens is we notice things and we’re just like,

Oh, maybe it’s just a moment. But then when it’s repeated behaviors that are what we deem outside of character. For you at your age, someone could have said, Oh, she says being a young adult, 21, 22, living her life, having fun partying, and no one would have been the wiser.

Sofia: [00:06:57] And I’ve always been very big on getting, like going to therapy and getting medication and stuff. So I was able to start going to therapy again, and the medication, it took a few months to get the right cocktail of it because you have to try different things.

But once I did, which was July 2016,  until today. So what almost four years later have stayed on the same dose of the same three, take three medications. And that’s what I’ve been taking. And it’s, I’ve never had a manic episode again. And I think it’s because now I know what they look like. So, the moment that I start getting manic symptoms, I can recognize it and like attack it and tackle it from the beginning. Just getting diagnosed already like now I know what’s going on. So now I can recognize it.

Elaina: [00:07:39] What would you like people to know so that we can push past this stigma?

Sofia: [00:07:44] I think one of the most important things is that, and it sounds so cliché, but it’s, it’s going to be okay because even though something like bipolar disorder, it is chronic in the sense that I’m not going to just.

Get a cure for it. I’m not going to get a vaccine for it. I’m going to have bipolar disorder my whole life. But if you get the proper help, then it’s manageable and there’s even a chance that I will never, again, in my life. I don’t have another manic episode, which is amazing. So you can live with it and you can be fine, but if you don’t get to seek out help and get the proper treatment and help for it and take care of yourself like self-care, so important, then it’s going to be a lot harder to deal with.

So, I would say even if your family, for example, doesn’t support you in getting help, you gotta do it for your own mental peace of nothing else. People think that people with bipolar disorder are unstable emotionally and can’t for example, like have stable relationship, hold a job and things like that, and like commit to things.

And while sometimes there will be obstacles and like I do. I have no idea when I could get into a depressive episode or a manic episode in general, it is manageable and people have a Bipolar Disorder, can live perfectly regular lives and commit to things and have no issues. As long as other people are understanding of when we might need a few days to heal.

Elaina: [00:09:00] I want to thank Sophia again for coming on the podcast and sharing her story with us. And I will share details at the very end of the episode of how you can learn more about Sophia. Up next, we have Saralyn, a certified health coach who shares her journey with bipolar disorder.

Saralyn: [00:09:17] I’m so excited to be here and take any opportunity to share more about my journey, help reduce stigma and bring awareness on this topic. So thank you for having me. Not many people have heard that there are different kinds of bipolar. I think bipolar two used to be referred to as manic depression. And I think that some people still refer to it as that, it means that I never had a full on manic episode, but I’ve had what, what we call hypomania, which is presents itself a little differently than full on mania.

And because of that, bipolar two seems to be often underdiagnosed because hypomania can really just present itself as like they’re a go getter. Like they’re super ambitious and they’re super creative in those. All, all of those things are true, but it took me a while to get to that diagnosis. Because even though I was struggling with moods and shifting from highs and lows, all of the psychiatrists I had seen for a while were like, well, you’ve never been manic, so it’s not a mood disorder.

It wasn’t until I kind of saw someone else. And they were like, well, actually, there’s this other kind. That’s bipolar two. And this looks like what you have. So I think it’s one of those. That are often underdiagnosed, often misunderstood because it’s people are like, Oh, it’s like a lesser form of bipolar. And that’s not exactly it either. It’s just different.

Elaina: [00:10:39] When did you first sense that there was even a reason to see a psychiatrist?

Saralyn: [00:10:44] Yeah, well, I definitely, I started having mental health issues in college when I was in my early twenties. And that began presenting itself as panic attacks. I was a very type a person.

So when I was a perfectionist, I would have really horrible panic attacks. And for that period of time, it was like, okay, she has anxiety. She has generalized anxiety disorder. But then as I got into my later twenties, I started realizing that sometimes my moods would shift for no apparent reason. I would go through periods of extreme highs and feeling very happy, motivated, excited about life confident, and then I would, and then it would back swing really drastically into depression.

And so, I sort of observed this to myself. And at that point in time, I had been hospitalized once. For suicide ideation in 2015, and then in 2018 is kind of when I hit my hardest mental health crisis, I was struggling with severe suicidal ideation and I was hospitalized back to back and late 2018. And that’s when they were like, okay, we need to get you stabilized because the highs and the lows are very rapid.

Like, I, I guess. You would say rapid cycling bipolar too. And it was so disorienting because I had got to a place where I never could really trust my emotions, even when I was happy. I was like, is this real? Is this a symptom? And I felt so disoriented with the shifts for me. Like I was just, Oh, she’s super ambitious.

And for myself, I really, it was hard because some of the. There are a lot of advantages to feeling hypomanic and I would be very productive, and I would get a lot done. I didn’t require as much sleep. I had a lot of energy. I was happy. So, there were so many pros to being in those like hypomanic episodes.

But then I realized if I didn’t kind of manage those highs, the pendulum would swing back, and I would crash. Even now I’ve done a lot of therapy and the method of therapy that’s been a game changer for me is something called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. And it’s very skills based and it gives you lots of tools and really cultivates that self-awareness.

So now when I find myself feeling a little, my wife will say, are you feeling a little hypo? Like she can sort of tell I’ll be talking really fast. Or maybe I’m just like, kind of bouncing from project to project. I’ll be able to say, yeah, I am, maybe I need, I need to set some boundaries, make sure I’m getting enough sleep.

Make sure I’m managing that in a way that the backswing isn’t debilitating. You know, I’m fortunate in that none of my periods of hypomania have put me in like dangerous or potentially scary situations. It really was just me feeling like my potential and feeling super creative, but sometimes it wasn’t always effective.

Right. So I’m an entrepreneur. And it’s funny because there’s been studies on this, that people with bipolar two tend to be entrepreneurs because we’re very creative and we’re very, we’re go getters. Right. So, so for me, for hypomania would be like, Okay. I’m feeling super creative. I have an idea. I’m going to stay up for eight hours and just work on this idea.

I’m going to get on my website and make all these tweaks for hours because I’m feeling inspired and it can look like, oh wow, they’re very committed and excited. It can really become; it can be not effective because I’m not thinking clearly, I’m not taking breaks. I’m not getting up to like walk around.

I’m not sleeping. Like I should, there’s no balance. Right? So, it’s that very extreme tunnel vision. Hyper-focused and I kind of now I sort of have gotten to a place where I can capitalize a little bit on the benefits while tampering down the negatives, but it does get the best of me sometimes. And I am on a mood stabilizer. So that kind of keeps me more even, it’s not something I’m trying to cure, but it is something that I’ve learned how to manage.

Elaina: [00:14:51] In comparison, what were the lows that you experienced?

Saralyn: [00:14:55] When I had sort of a low mood, it would sometimes come out of nowhere, unexpectedly feelings and thoughts of worthlessness feeling in thoughts of, I can’t fulfill, like the potential that I know I have, it would go from being very high functioning to not functioning where the idea of just like taking a shower was overwhelming or just kind of moving through the day.

Questioning myself, self-doubt. And then at my lowest of lows, I was struggling with suicide ideation and I’m happy to say that I haven’t been in that dark of a place for at least a year because of all the therapy and works that I’ve done. But. But it’s like a very real thing for many people who live with this diagnosis.

My parents struggled with me, you know, kind of taking on this diagnosis and treatment because they’re kind of like, you’re not crazy. You’re just emotional or you’re not, you know, and I’m like, I didn’t say I was crazy, you know, cause they have their own about what it means to have this kind of diagnosis.

And they would say you’re just creative. You’re just, you know, and I’m like, that is true, but it’s also true that I have this mental health condition and then, you know, kind of getting to a place where I need to just do what’s right for me and not look to them because I’m a young woman. I’m 31. So even though I’m an adult, I still care about what my parents think.

And when I went through all of this, they, I think their generation, what are people gonna think? Especially because I talk openly about it and they’re like, why would people work with you if they know this about you? It’s a different world. People appreciate vulnerability nowadays. But they don’t know that.

Elaina: [00:16:51] People label those of us who have mental impairments as crazy. And I just want us to erase that word. What would you say to someone that looks at as like, oh, if you’re bipolar, then that means you’re crazy.

Saralyn: [00:17:05] Well, I would say, well for the person who maybe has that internal stigma that they think, oh, well, because I have this, it means I’m crazy. I would say that having this kind of diagnosis does present certain challenges kind of force you to do a lot of inner work that other people don’t necessarily have to do.

But with that becomes so much, so many gifts and so many opportunities to impact the world. Oftentimes it’s not so much we that need to be fixed. It’s the way society perceives us. That needs to be fixed.

Elaina: [00:17:42] Absolutely.

Saralyn: [00:17:43] When I’m talking to people who are struggling in similar situations, I had to really get to a place where it wasn’t just about managing anymore.

Now I’m really able to thrive. And so just to kind of have that message of hope that I didn’t want to be in and out of the hospital, the psych ward for the rest of my life. And I’m lucky that I was able to do this intensive Dialectical Behavioral Therapy program, where I got all of these amazing tools and resources.

But I’ve had to pay for that out of pocket. And most people can’t do that. I want to get to a place where everyone gets the resources and treatments that they need so that they can just not go from surviving, but they can go to thriving because you cannot just manage, you can thrive with this condition and.

I used to be a lawyer, but I’m not in the activism world anymore, but I think everyone needs, you know, access to the kind of treatments that I had because it was a game changer.

Elaina: [00:18:37] Yeah. I would definitely agree with you on the aspect of, we need to have more resources available and affordable because there are so many people in especially low-income neighborhoods and communities who can afford to get help. And I know that there are so many social workers trying to do the best they can to connect people with resources, mental health care, it’s expensive. And it’s unfortunate that there aren’t enough resources for everyone in the way that there needs to be.

Saralyn: [00:19:08] It took a lot of, a lot to get to this place where I am now. And it’s because I have the supportive wife and because I had the best treatment options and because I had people in my corner, but not everybody has that. So I think great that  you have this podcast and you’re really sharing, sharing about these stories and building awareness, because the more we can kind of reduce the stigma and show people, you know, you’re not alone and you can live and manage and then thrive with these conditions is really, really important.

Elaina: [00:19:39] What type of reaction do you normally get from others when you do share?

Saralyn: [00:19:44] By and large, most of the reaction has been positive. A blog I wrote that was, When I say a found healing, I’m not saying I found a cure. Here’s Why. And I talk about. I’m not trying to cure myself. I’m practicing, that acceptance and also cultivating change from a place of self-love. But I did come against some pushback, surprisingly in spiritual communities. I’m not religious. But I’m spiritual and I’m in a lot of these more like, I guess some people would say new age stuff.

There are a lot of people in those communities who think, oh, well just exercise and eat right, and you don’t need to take medication. And that’s, you know, big pharma is corrupting everyone. And they think that taking medicine and seeking traditional therapeutic options are not good. And they promote an alternative point of view.

And in my mind that can be extremely dangerous. Because if you’re telling people you shouldn’t be on meds, maybe they’ll take that to heart, go off their meds. And that’s how people die or end up back in the hospital.

Elaina: [00:20:46] Such a dangerous message to put out there because you don’t know who could hear that and take that to heart. And what happens when they pray and nothing changes?

Saralyn: [00:20:55] Right. And then you feel like you’ve, you’ve failed in some way or failed God in some way, or it’s a stay in your professional lane. If you’re not someone doctor do not tell them they shouldn’t take their medication, you’re not tell them don’t diagnose them or undiagnosed them.

And because I’m a, I’m a certified health coach, but there are many health coaches I’m using air quotes right now, you know, sell protein shakes or whatever. And they’re like, this is going to help you with this, this, and this. And it’s all fine and good to use essential oils and do all of these great things meditation I love, but you need to make sure that you are not, you’re not asserting yourself in and that people are actually getting professional help and you’re not their doctor. You’re not the expert. And helping someone is making sure they get the proper treatment.

Elaina: [00:21:43] All right, everyone. We’ve reached the end of another code Queen’s episode. So learn more about Sophia elk and you can check out her podcast. It’s called Your Ex is Here. It’s available on Spotify and several of the other platforms. And if you want to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram, you can find her by searching for Sofia Elkin Comedy. And to learn more about Saralyn, you can check out her websites, saralysalisburyjones.com. Or you can follow her on Instagram @Saralyn_strong.

And thank you again for listening. Take care, everybody.

Outro: [00:22:27] You’ve reached the end of another episode of Cope Queens. We hope you enjoyed this episode. Visit copequeens.com for additional information and resources. Thank you for coping with us today.

Saralyn Salisbury-Jones

Certified Health and Wellness Coach

Sofia Elkin

Comedian and Podcaster