Julie: Two Faces


My name is Julie and I am bipolar. I have two faces, the side most people see, and the other I hide except from my family and special friends. I always want to hide that I am bipolar, because that mental illness “stigma” leaves a small part of me uncertain and ashamed.

I hope telling my story will help me feel proud of who I am.

I love life. I am blessed with a wonderful husband, Chris; daughter, Amanda; granddaughter, Mia; sister, Jean; two Golden Retrievers, Kimi and Kallie; and kitten Kiefer. My family has always been there for me.

I am very creative. I quilt, play alto recorder, draw, and I am a dancer and choreographer. I am a former professor of modern dance at Kent State University and Artist-in-Education for children. I love expression and helping individuals to find their own voice through movement. When we moved to Cadillac, Michigan, I went back to school for employment as a Physical Therapist Assistant. I have worked really hard to stay stable and lead a “normal life.” I know I should be proud of myself, but I still wonder how can I be bipolar?

The first time I became sick I was 30 years old. I had no idea what was happening. I was on a wild roller coaster of ups and downs. Afterwards I found everything is typical of someone with bipolar illness, but that feeling of “flying” out of control is so frightening. Of course, I was hospitalized. Bipolar illness was genetic in my father’s family. Later I found that the doctors thought I was so ill I might never go home again. Fortunately, my family wouldn’t stand for that and everyone worked hard to help me return to reality.

I was on the long road to recovery – like a mirror had shattered and each little piece slowly put back into place. Who was that person in the mirror? I can remember feeling like a newborn learning about life, how to be with my family, and how to walk and dance again. My family was always there to help and dancing made me stronger and helped free my emotional anger at this illness. I challenged myself to stay healthy and fulfill my dreams of continuing my career and family. Gradually I was able to work more hours and we adopted our daughter when she was 11 years old. She was quite a handful but we made it!

I won’t say there hasn’t been tears, frustrations or fear of “flying” again. Life still has its ups and downs, especially as key people in my life have passed away, such as my mom. Along with my husband and sister, she was a strong influence on my life. Recently, my medications, especially lithium, have caused weight gain and affected my kidneys and I sleep a lot – frustrating complications.

Now the mirror image that was shattered is much clearer and the pieces are in place. God always seems to send angels along the way to help keep me on track when life might trigger another bipolar episode. I hope a time will come when I won’t need two faces. I am determined to stay well. For now, I feel very thankful for another quilt to be quilted, another dance to be created, a job that helps others, and, most of all, for my family and friends. I am very blessed.