Introduce yourself! Who are you?
I’m Adrianne. I share what it is like to live day to day with bipolar disorder. I hope to dismantle the stigma attached to bipolar disorder and mental illnesses in general. I feel compelled to share my story with others so that my path may later be a map for someone else to know they are not travelling the road alone.
Did you always know what you wanted to do as a career?
I have always loved to write, but I am an English teacher by day. I have always had dreams of becoming a teacher, and I absolutely love what I do. I am now exploring how writing can be a bigger and more resolute part of my life. Starting an Instagram profile dedicated to sharing my daily life as a person with bipolar has been a first step in cultivating that new part of my life.
Were you scared to start the process?
Deciding to make a public Instagram about my struggles and daily life with bipolar disorder was definitely a scary leap. I decided to do it anyway because I didn’t like walking through my life with, what felt like, this big secret. I brought an elephant into the room with me everywhere I went. Making the decision to come out, live freely and openly as a bipolar person, and to share my story widely with others was one of the most liberating choices I have ever made.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“What happened to you isn’t your fault, but it is your responsibility.”
What would you say to 16 year old you?
I would tell her: “The levels of sadness that you feel are not a normal part of being a teen. They are more and bigger and excessive. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to say how sad you really are. You don’t have to keep pretending you’re fine. It’s okay; your feelings are valid.”
Have you ever had anyone doubt you? How did that make you feel?
Many, many, many times. Before therapy, doubt or criticism from others would absolutely crush me and then become part of my own internal narrative. The opinions of others would guide my decisions, thoughts, and feelings. Ultimately, they were determining how I felt about myself. The liberating thing about therapy is learning that other people’s behavior is a reflection of them and their trauma. Once I was able to reframe doubt and criticism in that way, I was able to begin developing my own feelings about myself – the way I actually felt, not the way others were telling me to be.
What message do you think every woman should hear?
Take up space. Be loud. Say no, loudly. Say yes, enthusiastically (and only if you really mean it). Support all women and their experiences. Share your story. Speak your shame. Own who you are because you are a badass.
Have you always had confidence in yourself?
Oh boy, this is a question! I have always had the outward appearance of confidence, yes. I am sure, to others, I always looked (and continue to look) confident in whatever I was doing. But that’s the irony of deep seated insecurity, sometimes it can manifest as arrogance. In all those moments when I appeared cool and collected, I was actually terrified. Terrified of doing it wrong. Or what others thought of me. I was totally faking it. It is only recently that I have finally begun to uncover the true feeling of confidence in knowing that I am who I am, no matter where I am or what I’m doing.
What do you love most about yourself?
I am so fucking resilient. I think back on my life and the things I have struggled with and overcome and continue to work through and I wonder why I never gave up. There were times in my life where giving up was absolutely the easier path. Some things I have overcome, in those moments, have seemed absolutely insurmountable. But I just kept going for whatever reason. I think my competitive nature kept pushing me forward, telling me that there has to be a victory somewhere down this road and if I just keep going I’ll eventually get there.
Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity?
On my 30th birthday I got fired from a job I thought I really wanted. I was in one of the lowest and longest bipolar episodes I had ever been in my life. In the moment, I felt crushed. Getting let go felt like this final blow that was going to push me over the edge. How could I possibly take anymore? Two years later, it ended up being one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Someone else made a difficult decision for me that I wouldn’t have been able to make myself. Now, in all the time I have regained, I am able to dive into therapy, find myself again, and try new hobbies.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Just keep swimming. No matter what. Just keep going. Even if it’s tiny baby steps. Even if it means your major accomplishment for the day was getting out of bed and showering. Just keep going.
What motivates you most?
Just generally wanting to be better. In all aspects of my life: a better friend, a better partner, a better teacher. How can I continue to grow and learn and be a better human? Is what I’m doing right now contributing to my growth or my stagnation? Life is too short to not be the best version of myself.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
I believe that this is one of the biggest struggles for teachers. A few years ago, I decided to stop bringing assignments home to grade. Every day, I do as much as I can at school and then when I leave, I really leave. It will get done, and it will get done at school. But besides grading, lesson planning, and other paperwork type things, teachers also do an incredible amount of emotional labor on a day to day basis. Because I have a mental illness, the emotional labor can often fully drain me. This can be harder to manage, but one thing I’ve started doing is not being afraid to take a sick day even though I’m not physically ill. If I feel myself a little off kilter or on the edge of an episode, staying home to do reset activities (sleeping, showering, writing, meditating, quiet time) help me to be the best teacher I can be. Mental health is a part of overall health, and we should treat it the same as we do physical health.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
I try my best to just be generally mindful of what I’m doing. Am I present? Am I here? How can I apply what I’ve learned in therapy to this particular situation? I try not to just react. Bipolar disorder makes it difficult for me to manage my emotions. Impulsivity is a subsyndromal symptom of bipolar, so instead of reacting I try to really stop and think about what I’m doing and how it will affect me or others.
If you weren’t doing the job you have now, what would you be doing?
I would love to be a makeup artist/special effects artist on movie sets. I am creative, and quirky, and love makeup. Creating characters and bringing them to life sounds like an amazing job.
Who is your biggest role model? Why?
Carrie Fisher. She also had bipolar disorder and was very open about it, especially towards the end of her life. I also love that she is such a core and central figure in the Star Wars universe, which can be very male dominated in both characters and fan base. She was an absolute total badass.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in tiny, seemingly insignificant, everyday moments. A beautiful sunset, a breeze through the trees, a hug from a partner. I know it sounds so cheesy, but life as a whole is the sum of all these tiny moments, so we must enjoy them or we are not really enjoying life.
What are your biggest passions?
Living, I think. Living is my biggest passion because for many, many years of my life, I wasn’t.
Adrianne Moe is a mental health advocate, teacher, writer, lover of all animal friends, and creator of My Bipolar Life. She advocates for radical honesty and storytelling in order to dismantle the stigma surrounding mental illness. She also fiercely believes that women and girls can change the world.