Exploring the Ups and Downs of Bipolar Disorder: A Journey of Understanding and Empowerment by One Courageous Young Man

Every now and then I come across something truly meaningful and useful that I think will help others. Today a friend of mine shared these words with me by a close relative of hers. Like many of you , I know and love someone with bipolar disorder. I am hoping by sharing his story (which I have permission to do so), it will help you too.

_________’s Story … it may be yours

A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, previously referred to as manic depression. Never in my life would I have expected to be diagnosed with bipolar, yet at the same time it made so much sense to me and helped me to better understand myself, my past and my current emotions/actions on a deeper level.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that approximately 4.4 % of US adults have bipolar disorder. and 1% of Canadians meet the criteria for bipolar disorder. Knowing these stats may be helpful for some who feel alone.

Growing up I felt like there was a stigma around bipolar disorder, at least for me personally there was. I was no stranger to friends and family who struggled with depression, anxiety, ADHD and other mental illnesses. However, if you had asked the juvenile me to picture a person with bipolar disorder, I probably would have pictured a crazy person. A literal maniac, someone who would need to be permanently hospitalized or sheltered from society.

I consider myself to be a fairly high functioning individual. I am blessed to have attended an excellent high school and university, played sports in my youth. I have great career, lots of friends and a beautiful family.

Thus given my biased lack of understanding for the disorder and positive perception of myself, I never expected to be diagnosed with bipolar.

What is bipolar disorder? Here is what the Mood Disorders Society of Canada has to say about the symptoms.

Knowing I had some of these symptoms and have been diagnosed with bipolar, I thought I would share what a week in my life may look like, understanding full well yours may be different.

Here is a week in my life with bipolar disorder. I don’t pretend to know what it is like for everyone else who experiences bipolar, but here is what it is like for me.

Hypomania: One week I feel on top of the world. I am energized, extroverted, and may be overconfident. My creative juices are flowing. I have more ideas than I know what to do with. I may feel like I could go all day without eating or I feel I can work all night without sleep.

During this time, I am Mr. Social and in a networking mode. Lots of my friends come to mind and I feel the need to reach out to reconnect, call or catch up with them. I find myself multi-tasking and may be more prone to be distracted. Perhaps it feels like I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. That being said after getting distracted, I get back on task quickly and tend to be very productive. I find myself setting lots of ambitious goals in this energized state. I am more optimistic and decisive. I am less sensitive to spending money and may be more open to making purchases and investments. I find myself extra assertive and unfiltered in my communications. I may be more prone to agitation or being argumentative.

Depression: The following week I seem to crash from my high energy state into a state of depression. I feel lethargic. It’s tougher to get out of bed in the morning and I am more tired and calm throughout the day.

My confidence is gone and some imposter syndrome may begin to creep in. I am more timid and soft spoken. I withdraw from others and seek to be alone. It feels like I can only concentrate on one task at a time, yet I find myself getting lost within my own thoughts. I find myself thinking about the past and my mistakes. Life feels like it is moving in slow motion for me while everyone else is on double speed. I may feel socially awkward. I am introverted and tend to overthink things. I may be overly apologetic and am hypersensitive to the emotions of those around me. I worry about money/budget and find myself being ultra conservative when it comes to spending or investing.

The cycle repeats.

I am hoping some of you may relate to my experiences . Knowing each of us is unique, it is best to seek medical and psychological intervention when getting any diagnosis.

Coping skills are vital , so I’d like to share some that work for me.

  1. Sleep: 7-8 hours is the sweet spot for me. If I am not getting proper rest , all my other coping mechanisms seem to be in vain. Sometimes this means taking melatonin to help my mind relax and go to sleep. What works for you is between you and your health care professional.
  2. Medication /Psychiatric treatment: Meeting with a Psychiatrist on a regular basis to assess my mental/emotional health is important. Having them monitor my specific needs for medication as needed.
  3. Exercise:Exercise helps me relieve some of my excess energy when i am in a hypomanic state and to feel more accomplished . When i am in a depressed state it balances me out.
  4. Journaling: Putting my thoughts to paper helps me become more aware and mangae my well being.. Hypomania can be a great time to set goals for me. A minor depression can be a great time for reflection and cultivating humility.
  5. Counselling/ Psychology: Being open with my family members about my emotions and checking in with a professional counsellor can also be very helpful.
  6. Music: Wholesome positive music such as classical music can help me when i am depressed or calm me down when i am hypomanic.Positive music without words can also hel me when i need to study or work.
  7. Diet:I tend to be more balanced when i eat healthy. For example, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats , whole grains, nuts. legumes, fish. poultry. eggs and lots of water. many mental health professionals advise avoiding caffeine, sugar and junk food. It’s worthy asking your health care professional what is best for you.
  8. Outdoors:I find that I feel better when i get outdoors. Some fresh air , sunshine and blue sky seem to do wonders for my mental health and mood. The ocean and outdoor swimming are also a favourite of mine.
  9. Planning/goal setting: Planning and goal setting help me reel in my energy when i feel hypomanic. Executing on plans/goals even in the little things helps me to feel accomplished and stay motivated when i am depresssed.
  10. Routine/ Schedule. A regular routine is also very helpful for me. For example, waking up and going to bed at the same time each day, eating meals and exercising around the same time, consistent work hours, etc. a tidy/organized home and work environment also help me focus and be happy.
  11. Meditation / Prayer meditation and prayer help calm me and sleep better, especially when I am focused on gratitude and positivity.
  12. Recreation: A little recreation on a regular basis helps me to relax, enjoy life and be more happy.

I hope you find coping skills that work for you. It is my hope that someone is helped by my words and for those of you who don’t have a mental health disorder , that you will gain a clearer perspective while developing empathy and understanding.for others with a mental illness. At the end of the day, I am grateful for the experiences I have had with depression and bipolar. I am glad God made me the way I am and would not have things any other way. These experiences have been tough at times, but have also been interesting and have helped me have much more empathy and compassion for others.

As a psychologist I am privileged to listen to the story of others and this story is one that I believe could definitely help others, so I am thankful to ____ for allowing me to share.

For those of you in Calgary here are some resources that may assist you:

Mood Disorders Program

The organization for Bipolar Affective Disorder

Resources for those 18 plus in Calgary Mental Health resources and supports

If your safety or that of others is at stake please call 911 or go to your nearest urgent care centre or emergency room.

Call Distress Centre Calgary at 403-266-HELP (4357)

The Best Yet To Be

I was honoured to be asked to speak to a group of amazing women at Words of Wisdom this morning and you too can join in any Sunday. What personal wisdom if any I have is nothing new, but my experiences have helped shape me into who I am and how I became a person full of optimism and hope.

I started off my session with taking a few spins on these wheels, you may wish to take a few spins too here and here. It’s a fun way to escape the worries of the world.

Here are the slides from my presentation:

I hope you can see that around the bend . There is much to be grateful for and the best is yet to be. Had I not had a worldview that felt and believed in hope , I am not sure how my life would have turned out.

My wish for you is that you can see the best is yet to be.

Growing Up By The Sea

It gets harder and harder to leave a place I love, leaving behind so many friends and family for yet another year. Being near the water brings me such a sense of peace, except when there is an expected hurricane of course, but that doesn’t happen very often.

I loved growing up near the sea. I love being near, listening to the sounds of the water and just looking out and observing the ever changing Mira River. I am connected to the beauty and the people here and each year I need to let go and go west. The coming and the going like the flow of the ocean, is what I am meant to do.

As I head back west I look forward to that chapter as my family and friends there too. I am connected deeply to both places. Fortunately for me I had the joy of growing up near the sea and can keep coming back.

Maintaining connections with great friends although I moved so far away so long ago, has allowed me to feel like I belong.

Growing up near the sea will always be a part of me.


Taking Life For Granted

Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

Even though I sometimes say I don’t, I know I do take life for granted. Living through a pandemic makes you examine and reflect on your life. I know there are too many things that I have taken for granted. What about you?

Taking living life without a pandemic in it for granted. Now, listening to the sickness and deaths and tragedies of so many around the world and feeling powerless to stop it, but doing your part as best you can.

Not being able to see your best friend F2F.

The joys of inviting whoever you want for dinner.

Spending time with family and friends and not worrying how close you are to them or of they will get sick.

Walking around freely, not carrying the worries of the world on your shoulders.

Going to work, loving what you do without thinking that what you do could lead to someone being sick or worse.

Thinking your children have finally made it in the world, only now you worry about their security and what their future and the future of your potential grandchildren will look like.

Living life the best you know how, realizing you have reached retirement, but never imagining how the world would turn out in your lifetime.

The joys of having a girls weekend or a shopping trip or other small pleasure that you like doing..

The simple pleasures of going to a farmers market.

The small mundane things that are no longer mundane.

Life as you used to know it and so many other things that you still take for granted.

While these and many more things can be difficult , I choose to embrace every day and remember I can live life in the best way possible given some of the things I took or take for granted. I will seek out ways to enjoy what is, as it is for today.

Everyone Has A Story


Especially during this time everyone will have a story of how they got through Covid19 or what happened to them , a family member or friend.

Our role as helpers will be to listen and support, no matter the story. It won’t necessarily be easy as sometimes we may be triggered when listening to others. We are not perfect, I know I am not that’s for sure. I want to give myself an extra dose of compassion at this time as I too have had a range of emotions. Maybe you should too.

We are humans and our humanity makes us people who are often complex. Being the best person we can be is a lifetime venture, filled with many bumps along the way. Through this pandemic many will have gigantic bumps to deal with, my heart goes out to those that do.

As you and I both navigate this chapter in our lives may we do it with courage , grace , compassion and help others along the way that are struggling to the best of our ability, because everyone has a story that they may or may not be willing to share behind the smile..

We All Need A Mental Vacation

This year more than any other year we will all need to take a mental vacation. Maybe you will need to take one hourly , daily or weekly whatever works for you.

Turn on a YouTube video with calming music. You can find one here in my virtual calm room. Then lay back in a comfortable space. If you are doing this from home make sure your space is a positive place for you to feel comfortable in. You may want to spice your working space up a bit . Add flowers and visuals that bring you joy.

Then close your eyes and breathe using the box breathing method. Think about a place you love and that feels safe for you. Personally , I always go to the beach in my mind. It might have something to do with all the summers I spent on beaches. I love the smells and the sounds of water. I picture being on the beach and waving my arms around in complete joy with a big smile on my face, but you do what works for you.

Take that mental vacation whenever you need it and ask anyone you want to join you in that space or just be by yourself and feel all the feels that make sense in the moment.

Where are you going on your mental vacation?

Moments That Matter

Sometimes life changes from one moment to the next,that’s why it is so important to capture the moments and seize the day. I like getting up early and going to bed fairly early. That way I can catch the sunrise and the beautiful sunsets. Last night I captured this photo out on a kayak ride on the river, but it was just a moment in time until the sun went down.

This morning I caught the sunrise and took time to just breathe in the calm. Life especially during the pandemic is precarious , so when the moments come pay attention and enjoy them. I know I will.

Each Day A New Opportunity

@sspellmancann taken on my walk today

Each day we have a new opportunity to look at our life from a new perspective. We are never sure what life will bring us as is evident from this pandemic and all that happens to people we love and know. No one gets through life without bumps along the way. No matter what challenges we may encounter , how we perceive them is up to us.

As I walk, I notice the world around me and have time to reflect on how I will deal with life. Today is my opportunity to devour all the goodness that life has to offer and so I will.


After not having walked for 14 days , it has been great to get out the last couple of days. Two years ago I set a goal to walk every single day from July 1st to July 1st and I met my goal. Last year and this year I was unable to walk every single day due to unfortunate circumstances. I would have been very disappointed in not being able to reach my goal had I set that goal for this year. Sometimes goals are like that, things get in the way, but we need to keep moving forward. This year I made a goal of writing in my blog every single day. I just need to take each day and do the best I can. Really it’s just about leaving something behind that my children can hopefully read someday and tell our future grandchildren a bit about their grandmother.

I also write in this blog to help School Counsellors, but this year it’s going to be a bit more personal.

Walking is healing for me. I miss it I am unable to walk, so if you like to walk #walkalongwithme . I’ve been at this for awhile now and I have no intention of stopping.

Walking … I hope you will join me.