TEDxTerryTalks – Laura Bain – Living with Bipolar Type II

Translator: Angela W
Reviewer: Denise RQ I guess I should start by telling you
a little bit about who Laura is. She’s a very passionate person. And she loves science very much, and loves to talk about it all the time, much to her friends’ dismay. She’s also a sailor. She used to be the registrar
of the UBC Sailing Club. So, other things– she’s a daughter, she’s a sister
to three big brothers. She’s also an auntie
to the cutest little niece ever. She’s bipolar. Bipolar is a brain disorder
which causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy,
or ability to function. It’s unlike the normal ups and downs
that people go through. The symptoms of bipolar are more severe. In the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
for Mental Disorders,” it describes it in this way, “Bipolar is the presence or history of one or more major depressive episodes present during the same two-week period, and represent a change
from previous functioning. At least one of the symptoms
is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure. These symptoms can be depressed mood most of the day
nearly every day, markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities, significant weight, loss or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia
nearly every day, psycho-motor agitation
or retardation nearly every day; fatigue or loss of energy
nearly every day, feelings of worthlessness, or excessive, or inappropriate guilt
nearly every day; diminished ability to think,
or concentrate, or indecisiveness; recurrent thoughts of death
not just fear of dying; or suicide attempt
or a specific plan for committing suicide. There’s also the presence or history of at least one manic episode. Mania is a distinct period of abnormally
and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, and abnormally and persistently
increased activity or energy lasting at least four consecutive days, and present most of the day,
nearly every day. It can be described
as inflated self-esteem, or grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, more talkative than usual,
or pressure to keep talking. There can be flights of ideas,
or subjective experience that thoughts are racing. There’s distractibility, increase in goal-directed activity or psycho-motor agitation. There’s excessive involvement
in pleasurable activities that have a high potential
for painful consequences.” The DSM provides
a common language among professionals who treat patients with mental illnesses. By clearly defining
the criteria for a mental disorder, the DSM ensures that the diagnosis is both accurate and consistent. OK, enough of this bullshit. (Laughter) I’m going to be real with you. It’s pretty obvious
that I’m the crazy one here. My name is Laura,
and I am living with bipolar. So, I want to offer you today
a bit of my story. I want to go beyond
the traditional definitions and give you a bit more
of the lived experience. I must admit, sometimes,
it can be frustrating to explain bipolar
to those who are not experienced in the same mental skillfulness as I have. But I’m going to try. So… I also want to talk about language. It’s interesting
because before I was ever diagnosed, I had never read the DSM. I had no idea what criteria
I was falling under. All I knew was
that there were times where I was sad, and there were times where I was happy. And the times were
I was sad or in depression, it was kind of like this winter state. It was like things were darker or colder. And times of mania are more like summer. There’s high energy,
things are bright and fun. I was about 16,
when I first began to experience the inexplicable periods of sadness. There were no external reasons
for me to feel this way. My mind simply placed me there
in this depressed winter state. It wasn’t until later on
that I began to realize the manic summers,
which were interesting. And so, what I decided to do is I started to track my moods
on a calendar. Each day, depending on if I was feeling if I had
higher energy or lower energy, I would place an arrow on that day. I started to notice that there would be
persistent upward arrows indicating higher energy
for about two weeks. And then, there would be
a shift into downward arrows which would last for another two weeks. This was confusing for me. And it was unsettling for my mind, especially in the transition days, going from high to low. I felt out of control
in these cycles that I was tossed into. It’s scary, and I needed some relief. This is when I sought out a counselor
at [Langara] College. In weekly cognitive therapy sessions, I was able to work through
some of these ups and downs, and highs and lows,
and whatever was going on. And I learned some really helpful tools for how to find balance. As a scientist, I find it
very difficult to look at myself and not apply a formula. “If I do this, this, and this,
then I’ll be happy. “If I do this, this, and this, then I don’t have to be sad anymore.” But you know, I learned
that wellness is more like art. And you have to be able to see the gray, and there’s not always a right answer. I’m going to read to you
a bit from my journal, because after I saw
a counselor for a while, I also realized that medication
could be a helpful tool for me. And so, I went to see a psychiatrist. And it was kind of scary. You know, sitting there, wondering, “OK, am I going to come out with a Laura/ bipolar Laura/crazy person? I don’t know.” But it wasn’t totally that way. I started seeing
a psychiatrist, dah-dah-dah-dah. And then, I went for my second
psychiatric assessment at UBC. “A second opinion–
an hour bike ride, an hour wait, and over an hour talking about my moods and family history. It turns out that I am indeed
Bipolar Type II, rapid cycling. But whatever! I’m feeling much more comfortable with my mental things. Taking meds seems less scary
and more just something extra to do in my morning routine. I’m still quite private, though, and I don’t feel comfortable sharing about
my psychiatric appointments, my illness, or medication. It’s still new, and it can be
overwhelming at times. I’m working things through,
and I think it’s going to be OK. Well, I have some time to think
about it on my bike ride home. So, what’s it like to be manic? Well, it’s kind of like wearing
really gorgeous heels, like these. (Laughter) And you just walk around,
and you feel taller. There’s a confidence. There’s a direction to it. Just things are clear and easy. There are thoughts and ideas
that just come so naturally; ideas, ambitions, hopes. Anything is possible,
the world is limitless! But trouble comes
when these thoughts don’t stop, when it goes beyond control,
when you can’t will yourself to sleep because you can’t stop thinking of the creative project
that you want to do tomorrow, or the next trip that you want
to go on, or your new life plan. So, I have another journal entry
to share with you. All of my secrets. This one I titled “Zopiclone,” also known as “Little Blue Pills.” “My mental state: hypomanic. Bipolar season: summer. I didn’t fall asleep until 4 a.m. Too many thoughts, too many ideas, too much happening in my head. After three and a half hours
of willing myself to sleep, I made the healthy move, and I took one
of these little blue pills. A metallic taste lingers in my mouth. It feels disheartening
every time I have to take one, but I guess it’s OK. Even though I may have the tools, I sometimes lack the connection. In the end, I was glad for my humility. Sleep was good. I find that the struggle
is harnessing this energy for school purposes and holding off
on my social and creative ambitions. Then, there’s the other side of things. The depression side. Well, depression is more like slippers. Not the comfy, cozy
kind of slipper feeling. It’s more of the need
to feel safe and secure. That outside of these slippers,
it’s just not right. And it’s kind of awkward
walking around in slippers, giving a talk in front of 400 people, being depressed
amongst classmates, and family, and friends, and roommates. And with depression, there also comes
these kind of winter glasses, where things just seem darker. It’s out of focus. The lenses are distorted, and it’s difficult to see farther ahead. So, bipolar is kind of like wearing
the depressed slipper on one foot, and a hypomanic heel on the other. This is such a contrast. You know, on one foot
you’re walking around, just up on an adventure,
ready to go and see the world, and then you fall down, and just can barely get out of bed,
and just drag along. But, you know, I live like this. Somehow, each day, I live like this. It’s funny because when I first applied for the TerryTalk, I was definitely wearing the manic heel. (Laughter) And then, they accepted me,
and I was like, “Oh, crap!” (Laughter) And then, a week or so later,
I became depressed, and the thought of standing here
today in front of all of you, in my slippers, it was just impossible! So, how does this fit in relationships? As I said before, sometimes,
it can be frustrating to try to explain my moods to those who haven’t experienced this, who aren’t mentally skilled. And yet, I really do want to try. I really do want to start
talking about these things, because even in just
the title of this talk, you wouldn’t believe
how many conversations have been started
which never would’ve happened, and that’s a beautiful thing. Because when we start
talking about this stuff, it becomes OK. So, as I walk around campus – I’m a biology student in my fifth year – I’m just savoring
the last little bit that I got. I have classes over
in Buchanan, and in forestry, and all over campus. I see the slogan
that is everywhere which says that, “UBC is a place of mind.” It causes me to question,
“What kind of mind is this? Is it an open mind? Is it a healthy mind? Is this a place
where my mentally ill mind can be? I wonder, after this,
are you going to call me Laura? Or are you going to call me bipolar? Tell me; is this OK, or do I have to hide? Thank you. (Applause)

About the author


  1. Great minds have tides like the great ocean, and you have a wonderful great mind young woman, there nothing to hide about it , your illness doesn’t define who you are Laura, no do the shoes that you’re wearing.

  2. I find that the more we learn about these bipolar illnesses, the more it appears that those who have them are more intelligent than their peers. Oftentimes they are far more intelligent. I therefore believe that scientific classification of these illnesses as Genetic is a terrible mistake. It is as if scientists and doctors who have not the illness look down upon us who do as some sort of lower form of human being. I have felt this way often over decades of treatments even during my most successful years when I was performing more in a career, achieving more, making more money, doing so honestly, than those who were diagnosing me. I find that this illness is almost completely a cultural and societally caused illness, not just environmental either, but persists in societies of high work stress, societies with extreme thrill and scare venues, instances of child and spouse abuse, shame cultures of ones own minor sins, and in cultures which stifle creativity. If there is a cure, it is probably known–but it would put a lot of Pill manufacturers and psychiatric sedaters out of business quite promptly. It is best to stick with your Psychologist and take the minimum medicine necessary to protect one`s mind from short circuiting. That is my advice–a lower stress life, plenty of sleep, and good persons around you, few psychiatry, more psychology.

  3. Thank you so much for your bravery to talk about this illness. This helps those of us that do not have this illness to understand a little bit.

  4. The highs are absolutely fantastic (for me) as long as you’re not worrying about when the next crash is going to happen. It’s absolutely terrifying. Laura did a great job explaining Bipolar II. I couldn’t have explained it any better.

  5. I have Bipolar, Type 2 as well… but I can't relate to her at all. My hypomania is just functioning and I spend moooooost of my time in the depression — at least it feels that way.

  6. My earliest memory of my rage exploding for no reason was after I had my first child I sat in my closet where I had a lot of pictures of friends, good times and good memories and I got so angry I tore up all the pictures and just yelled and sobbed for hours. That pain has never left me, only progressed through the years . I function on society, I am a nurse. I love to help others, that is where I find my healing. I share my struggles with my pateints to let them know they are not alone. Some days I am too depressed to work but I move through the day , mimicking a normal person. My moods shift multiple times a day, its exhausting and I am always tired. My mind races at night and obsesses on how my disease effects everyone I love around me and wonder if someday I'll be completely alone. God, I know you're there. Take my hand and walk me through this. Amen.

  7. I always considered myself mentally stronger than usual, In full control with a brilliant flawless mind. I wasn´t even capable of imagining myself having some kind of mental illness or disorder. Today I am 30 years old, I´ve had more than a 100 different jobs many of them beeing promising career paths. I´ve moved at least 50 times during the last 12 years, about half of these "moves" were a "fresh start" where I intended to get everything right and could clearly visualize how easy it would be. New friends, new job, new hobbies, activities, everything. I´ve been in countless relationships, ranging from a week to years, more than 50. I´ve gotten to know and bonded with so many different people along my journey of life, establishing a deep connection and something that was looking to become a lifelong friendship. About a year ago, the love of my life left me, a person who made me feel complete and like I had everything I could ever ask for just by feeling her presence nearby.. First at that point, I started questioning if this is really how life is for other people, if they feel like I do, have the same up and downs, the same struggles…..I realized the description of someone with Bipolar Type II disorder describes me better than I would ever be able to do myself. I have also been suffering from Cataplexy attacks for the last 6-7 years and it´s very likely that I might suffer from Narcolepsy as well. One year has passed now since I started looking into my mental state and health, I have isolated myself, stopped seeing people, talking to people or participate in social activities. I can not take any more relations where I end up letting somebody down, I want to get myself sorted. Hoping that with the right treatment/medications/guidance I can one last time start a fresh chapter in my life, a new start where I can slowly build something I won´t destroy impulsively over a night. But this wait, the loneliness, the feeling of beeing powerless …. it gets the best of me and slowly but safely kills everything I like about myself. I´m not even sure why I am writing this or if I will even click the "comment" button at the end of it or simply remove it all and move on to another video before I go to sleep for the third time today, but watching this content, reading the comments and like Laura says it, "talking about it", does somehow make it feel more "ok" at the very least

  8. Horrible condition. Had crippling anxiety and depression for 20+ years. Recently I had a major manic period along with my first experience of psychosis. The whole experience felt "wonderful" until I calmed down and had to deal with the mess I made. I went to a doctor and was diagnosed with bipolar for the first time. During the highly manic/psychotic episode, my wife left me. (I was investing all our money thinking I was going to get rich and pay off all my friends and familys homes) I offended all my friends. I embarrassed and isolated myself for 3 months on social media. I gave away a vehicle. I spent all my money, took out a loan and spent that. It was like being possessed for 3 months while believing what was happening was just GREAT and I was fully in control… Only to wake up to a disaster of a life and then a major depression and anxious reality having to face what I've done. I'm in the low all lows now. Looking back I think I've been on this ride my whole life and didn't know it. I'm at a loss at what to do. Seeing professional help, bit I'm sick and tired of this game. I've been at the mercy of health professionals for 18 years with no solution … Freakin nightmare

  9. And I'm just crying and watching this cuase It's been a while I've found out that I am a bipolar too and as a bipolar, life is soooooo hard, you can't achieve any of your wishes or goals cause u choose them in summer and then when winter comes up you just feel down and u don't wanna think of any thing.some times happy sometimes sad, you cant even have real friends cause sometimes u like people and some other times u hate them! I'm going to see a counceler in hope to help me just be stable,just stable 🙁

  10. I suffer from this disturbance as best possible as possible for those who suffer. I lost many important things. Money Friends of everything has remained with me a few friends. I have many relationships with strangers and are happy with me, but once we continue to live with me, depression and sadness and curse away from me, I will be depressed, dead, dark, and end. But my real friends are going with me because they know I'm not like you. When I am happy, they wish me happiness and am happy with me. I appreciate this thing and am proud of it. I always try to recover what I have lost (by apology) but regret is not always acceptable.

  11. Man I need to get on disability for this. I keep losing job after job in life. It’s not fair can I be normal and patient/complacent like everyone else

    And will call u LAURA THE LEGEND..
    I know how tough it ia to fight with bipolar ..I personally suffer through this disorder since last 7 yrs,😣..
    And I feel that god has given all of us a curse which is thr with us for whole life…
    Mam this is my whatsapp no 9049777139 plzz help me to get out of this and become stable..

  13. Thank you so much, Laura. You explained what we go through with such raw emotional honesty. It nearly made me tear up. The shoe anology was so right on.

  14. I'm so happy to finally be diagnosed. I feel like o finally understand myself and I understand my moods and what's going on with myself a lot better.

  15. Btw manic episodes aren't always "highs" I experiences days where I feel super happy…but more often than not, when I don't feel depressed I feel irritable, and just angry for no reason.

  16. I think, by nature, human are bipolar. Dualism in human is innate. It's only when you don't have balance that's where it gets what the experts call, disorder. But I think, bipolar can be controled naturally and that's what experts should show people how to do and not prescribe drugs right away.

  17. So you have it? I 'm not familiar with any issues of mental illnesses. The opposite is more likely the truth. I am being scrutinised, though. Until
    The mean fall prey to their own tricks. I have a lovely British daughter. I am 'legless ' for the time being,due to a terrible hoax n crime. A surgery would be needed.

  18. I was just diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My family has a history of mental illness, most are labeled as depressed but there have been multiple suicides in my family. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that your not crazy and other people understand what your going through.

  19. I’m bipolar 1 and rapid cycle too. Listening to her, hit me so hard. It was like she was talking about me. Sometimes being bipolar makes me feel incredibly alone. Like no one else understands my broken brain. I have severe anxiety, insomnia, PTSD and mild ocd. Once some ppl know, they never treat me the same. I’m not going to snap, and I’ve never wanted to hurt anyone besides myself. I wish I could personally thank Laura for having the courage to get up on that stage to spread some awareness.

  20. Makes me feel less lonely. Aspie with bipolar 2 comorbidity here. This whole video made it feel terribly real. Thank you

  21. I love someone who struggles every day and all I can do is love her. I can't relate, imagine or pretend I understand, I just will be there for her. That seems silly to some but I love her.

  22. This made me cry today. Because you are me. After 35 years it now makes sense and I can talk and share through your words.
    But….as I’m manic today🤪😂 I am now a Ted Bi Polar speaker! 😂😂😂 but maybe tomorrow I’ll be that shivering new born that’s frightened of everything.?

  23. I connected with so many parts of your video. It’s made me realize everything I’ve been experiencing over the past years that I’ve been ignoring are real. Thank you.

  24. Laura, Laura, Laura… Holy moses, I identify so strongly and despite the struggles i try to convince me that this ride is normal and even in its deepest, darkest moments or days and weeks its still okay… I'm over 60yo one of my kids have been formally diagnosed, yet i'm not open enough to allow myself to look for other options. Sometimes i think i enjoy the downs as much as the ups.
    Thank you very much for this talk. ~Peace

  25. Do we have to hide?
    I hide it … or try to!
    I hide exactly how I am so I don’t make other people uncomfortable
    So they’ll still love me
    So they will see how hard I try and make compensations for me
    So that I don’t lose it altogether and embarrass myself AND them

  26. I hate having it. Live in isolation all the time. If you’re happy, you’re not talking your meds. If you feel sad, you’re not talking your meds.. you’re expected to act the way society says so. Spent almost my whole life to 30 being in relationships. I’ve been single the last 8 years since knowing I have it and doing the right thing and tell women 2-3 dates into anything… it’s their right to pick. Longest I saw someone was 6 weeks, why… because I didn’t say anything until 5.5 weeks. Didn’t realize it was anything more than fun, but told her on a Monday, next day dinner with her sister and boyfriend. Friday, came the let’s be friends with all the BS reasons. Told her I don’t need to hear her excuses, just actually say nothing. The lies are worse. So, you live in isolation, never can be just YOU.

  27. Meditation can increase or thicken grey matter, change neural pathways and help balance moods via brain placidity evolution – the key is choosing the right meditation for bipolar. I say focused attention (Zen; follow and count the breath) and loving (metta – to self heal through self-love and forgiveness to yourself others and all things) kindness are the best 2 for bipolar help, and will encourage a focused mind with balanced self acceptance. Avoid dualistic watching types (Vipassana etc) as the moods are already split, and you would not want to divide them anymore.

  28. Bipolar disorder is a huge spectrum and though most people are able to lead normal lives with it, if they have appropriate support, some people with severe bipolar are unable to, and often attempt . commit suicide.
    If you are one of those people truly struggling without support my heart goes out to you

  29. 2 weeks up and 2 weeks down she noticed consistency on the calendar. Sounds more like hormone imbalance to me. Just a thought..

  30. I am starting to believe I’m bipolar 2. I never really realize anything is wrong with me until my teen girls react towards my behavior. It catches my kids off guard all the time! 😔

  31. The ending statement hit so hard. I live with Bipolar Disorder type 2 and struggle everyday with my emotions. I've always felt the need to hide my diagnosis and disorder from the world, it took me 2 years to even open up to my family about my illness. The stigma needs to end and society needs to learn to accept and educate themselves on mental illness. I loved every second of your talk, Laura.

  32. I was just diagnosed a few months ago. I’ve had so much depression and anxiety my entire life. I think the first time I remember being depressed to the point of debilitation was in 4th grade. Growing up was strange… every summer my mom would get all of these ideas and goals and we would pack up and move. I was in a new school every single year. Understanding that she, and also I, are bipolar has helped because it’s shown me what to look for. It’s helped me understand the way my brain works. I would have never guessed that I’m bipolar because that’s not how I seen it from the inside. But as my doctor and friends and psychiatrists have helped me see the patterns it’s BLEW MY MIND. I’m probably the happiest now that I’ve ever been

  33. After this ted talk she is now homeless because nobody will hire her.
    I hate having this illness. You have to keep it a secret. Because has a very negative view of it.
    When I told an ex girlfriend her reaction was to ask if I was a phyco serial killer.

  34. I’m bipolar type I and it’s miserable. I am in a perpetual state of hopelessness and self-loathing. The only medication I take is Xanax and Klonopin when they switch me around. I’m exhausted. I have potential that is just wasting away. It’s disheartening and I’m probably going to just give up because aside from add (formally adhd) and bipolar with severe anxiety disorder, there’s also a lot of serious trauma in my past. I wish anyone struggling the best and I am sending you whatever bit of good energy I have left. It doesn’t have to be over for all of us. Be kind to one another as critical thinking is so scarce these days and our very humanity is evaporating and getting lost within the very toxic waste polluted air we breathe in day to day. Spread love…please.

  35. I'm still in denial but my manic episode made me get into dental hygiene school which has been my dream career for yrs. It's been challenging because I've had depression too but I'm 6 mths away from graduating. I'm still living without meds. I'm still in denial

  36. I never asked to be bullied….
    I was recently diagnosed with bipolar two/PTSD.
    Even my husband which we have been together 9years asked me "what happened to you?"
    I had allot happen in the past five years. Two years false accusations via CYS, neighbor problems, ect.

  37. Ive always thought the main character in Frozen has bipolar, schizophrenia or another condition. The magic is a metaphor.

  38. Relationships and bipolar: You attract one type of person when manic and they lose all respect for you when you cycle to a depressed state. Then you attract the complete opposite type of person (if you attract anyone at all) when depressed and they literally cannot stand you when you're manic. You have mostly hurt people and broken relationships.

  39. Im tired of relatable signs,symptoms, the emotions we go through, the highs the lows. Enough is enough. We need to focus on the positive side. Why we bipolar are reminded everytime we dont fit in. We should be motivated, inspired by the people. We the bipolar want to be successful. Live extraordinary lives! Why are we reminded of what we are born with! We should be taught how to do amaazing things! Make moves!

  40. I wonder after this, are you going to call me Laura or are you going to call me bipolar?
    Boy I had to watch that over and over because that line hit me some type of way. That's why I don't tell people I have bipolar disorder.

  41. One of the reasons I don't like watching Ted Talks is that it seems that so many of these folks are self-inflated elitists who make a point of beginning their discussions by pointing how smart, educated, creative, well-traveled, they happen to be. Please, just be human. Try a little modesty or humility.

  42. Large bodies of water are your friend feel how it moves with the pull of the moon or ground from streams from the mountain, align your emotions when necessary

  43. since 2017…depression manic depression, and finally I feel better now Im about to finish my college.. I'm late.. 2 years late! Many friends are graduated 2yrs ago, people think I'm a cry baby but yeah I am..

  44. "are you going to call me laura, or are you going to call me bipolar?
    tell me
    is this okay, or do i have to hide?"
    that's the most powerful thing i've ever heard in years. i feel so blessed for sharing this feeling with her. she's amazing.

  45. I've had bipolar disorder since I was 5 years old I was a extremely angery child when I was younger I would beat my mom and grandma I would refuse to take my meds and my mom would have to force them down my throat cops would have to come to the house to keep me from hurting me and my family but as I got older got on the right meds learned to control my self and learn to deal with the depression and anger and now I'm 15 and better than ever but there will always be hard times with the bipolar.

  46. I've experienced hypomania and several depressive episodes and since then I've been wondering if I could have bipolar II.. It's really hard to know for sure, but I've also heard it's hard to get diagnosed

  47. Wow she is so brave and she gave me courage as I am going from maniac to depression. Yesterday I wanted to die, today I studied 5 hours in a row, went out, played football, had fun, and now… I can hear the sadness knocking on my door. It will be a long night.

  48. Ciao Laura and thanks for your brave… Human are unstable since their existence start… The normality is an illusion and a danger belief. nobody can call himself normal… The only way to be normal is understanding that nobody it is…

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