An Interview with Daniel Bergner, Author of “The Mind and the Moon”

 

Daniel Bergner is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and the author of five previous books of award-winning nonfiction: the New York Times bestselling Sing for Your Life, What Do Women Want?, The Other Side of Desire, In the Land of Magic Soldiers, and God of the Rodeo. His writing has also appeared in the Atlantic, Granta, Harper’s Magazine, Mother Jones, Talk, and the New York Times Book Review.

After his brother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Bergner set out to understand the thinking behind modern psychiatry, discovering that many medications that have been commonly prescribed for the past 40 years have some harmful implications. He brings readers on a journey, from the stories of those diagnosed with mental illness to the top neuroscientist labs today – questioning why we are still so far behind in understanding the way the mind works, and how this affects modern treatment options.

In The Mind and the Moon, Bergner pushes readers to seek a deeper engagement with ourselves and one another—and how to find a better path toward caring for our minds. The book has received fantastic praise already, from People Magazine, Publishers Weekly, The New York Times and George Packer, who calls The Mind and the Moon a “troubling, exhilarating work of science and high art.”

His website is danielbergner.com

I recently interviewed Daniel Bergner, and he shared his story with me. 

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Personality or Bipolar?

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been used for everything from psychological assessment to career guidance. My mom is a psychotherapist who has access to the full Myers-Briggs personality test. When I was in high school, I begged her to let me take it. I was dying to find out who I was, and how I fit into the world. The instructions said to answer without analyzing or thinking too much, so I excitedly responded to each question based on my gut instinct of who I knew myself to be—at least at that point in my life. Once the score was tallied, I was designated ENFJ—short for extrovert, intuitive, feeling judging. I came out not just as an extrovert, but on the extreme end of the scale between I (introvert) and E. Of course, it made sense on paper. I had a lot of friends. I was a happy, fun-loving person who adored attention. I was one of those people who could walk up to strangers at a party and introduce myself. And—no joke—my first word wasn’t “mama” or “dada,” it was “hi.” The more time I spent around others, the more invigorated I felt. My personality test solidified my self-confidence.

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How Coping with Bipolar Disorder Prepared Me For Crisis

I’ll admit it, I’ve always worried I wouldn’t be able to handle crisis. Because I have bipolar disorder, I often see myself as an emotionally delicate creature easily overwhelmed by the slightest trigger. When the pandemic began, I thought I’d be hit harder than people who don’t live with mental illness. But I’ve actually surprised myself. I’ve realized I’m specially equipped to handle crisis precisely because of my bipolar disorder. I’ve had to overcome incredible odds to make it to where I am today, and my journey to recovery is what’s made me stronger.

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7 Ways I’m Protecting My Mental Health In These Challenging Times

DISCLAIMER: The information and opinions on this site are for educational purposes only. This site, and any content herein, should not be seen as a substitute for an official mental or physical diagnosis, or for professional health care.
This is just my personal opinion.

OK, I’m not going to lie. I’ve been feeling anxious with all the recent news about the COVID-19. I feel overwhelmed with the daily announcements about event cancellations, empty store shelves, and of course, the fatalities. Because I have bipolar disorder, I tend to be especially sensitive to routine changes, bad news, and just general external triggers. Even people who don’t have underlying mental illness or anxiety issues are experiencing extreme stress right now.

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Coming Out of the Bipolar Closet at Work

I have bipolar disorder. I also have a career. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s important to take care of myself, but I also need to work. Should I practice self-care and stigma-busting by disclosing my mental illness to my coworkers and, most importantly, my employer? Or should I play it safe and keep my diagnosis hidden? I’ve been struggling with this question for fourteen years, ever since I started working as a freelancer in the film industry. I’m still not sure I have an answer.

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5 Ways I Keep My Fall Hypomania in Check

I’ve always wondered if I have reverse seasonal affective disorder. Although spring and summer bring more light with longer days, I don’t struggle with the same hypomania many people with bipolar disorder experience during those seasons. I usually find myself less motivated to go out and socialize in the warmer months. Maybe it’s because I live in the south. I’ve always hated the heat and humidity that accompany summertime here. I just want to stay inside in the air conditioning until it’s over.

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Girl Talk Time! Menopause & Bipolar Disorder


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I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2002. I’ve had plenty of time to figure out my medications and my moods. Now, that’s not to say I don’t experience mood swings and I haven’t had episodes since my diagnosis, but I’ve worked very hard over the last 17 years to get my moods stable.

I went into early menopause. Early, like at age 42. And there’s nothing like a big hormone change to throw everything out-of-whack. And the imbalance that comes with menopause has really thrown a monkey wrench in my otherwise stable lifestyle. Even doctors agree, menopause can actually exacerbate bipolar disorder. Lovely. Isn’t it fun to be a woman sometimes? Ugh.

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Traveling with Bipolar Disorder

It’s summertime! This is usually the time of year everyone goes on vacation. I love to travel. The reason I work and earn money at all is so I can go new places and experience different cultures and vistas. Unfortunately, because I have bipolar disorder, I have to be careful when I go on vacation, because travel can trigger my mania.

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