Being diagnosed with bipolar.

It’s been around three months since I had a full time role at a company. I quit my job for a couple of reasons firstly, my dad was dying so I felt more time with him definitely outweighed a pay cheque and secondly I wasn’t in the mood to write or designs software anymore.

The months leading up to my resignation was quite emotionally turbulent, in that I hit a point where I just wanted to quit the Software industry all together as it had little or no excitement left in it (despite the advancing UX platform(s) of the future).  To the point where I found myself sitting in the Queensland Police force recruitment seminar and started to get excited about the idea of being a police officer, in that I’ve kinda always wanted to do this but they don’t get paid as much as a Software developer/designer – so it’s always held me back.

I was bedridden for two months

My dad died soon after I resigned and I found myself pretty much in bed most days watching countless TV/Movies day in day out. I wasn’t depressed, I was more indifferent to the world around me in that I had no desire to write anything or do anything other than just relax and live a stress free existence.

This went on for 2 months while I went to a few job interviews and even to the point where I was turning down job offers even though I went to the initial interview? (wasting peoples time basically).

It wasn’t until I got a small contract role (4 weeks) to do some UX prototyping (given finances were low) that I began to notice that not only was it time I stopped sitting on my lazy butt but get off it and do some work to ensure my family’s bills are paid (given we made a huge dent in the savings). I found something very odd happening within, in that despite the importance of getting the work done in order to get paid, i still found it a struggle to get motivated or concentrate.

My first initial thoughts were, maybe I’ve been lazy for to long and i need to just let the cob webs get out my way in order to get back to a developer/designer routine?

Two weeks pass and I’m not getting better in fact I’m being worse, in that I’d laze around during the day and then find myself coding/designing until 3am each night to make up for the lost hours.

The cycle began to get out of control and it worried not only my family but I myself started to get a bit concerned around why.

With this concern, I went into a local GP office and sat down and told her what was going on. She asked me a series of questions that related to emotions/moods etc and history of these events etc in the past. She then left the room and asked one of her colleagues who’s a psychiatrist to come in and ask a few more questions. Two hours later, they both looked at one another and then turned to me and said calmly “we think you are suffering from bipolar”.

I was silent, in somewhat disbelief as i’m not depressed, suicidal or any of those i’m just tired? how is being bipolar relevant here?

We then went on to discussing what it is, how it is likely to be the cause of a lot of issues within my career/life and so on.

Fast forward to today, and i’m taking Lithium as a medication in order to round out the highs/lows of my “mania” that comes with this disorder. At first I was afraid of it being a chemical lobotomy, as I didn’t want to lose my creative edge but at the same time my ability to finish what I start or concentrate for long periods has always been the failure in my career (amount of bridges I’ve burnt). It however is working, whether it’s a placebo or not is something I can’t answer  – but – I’m getting stuff done now and I’m able to concentrate for long periods without interruption (in 15 years of doing software development & design, it’s actually extremely rare to have me concentrate on one task for more than 1-2 hours at a time – yesterday I worked a full 6hours non-stop).

I don’t think its the miracle cure but I think calming my mind from being a virtual ping pong machine does help stabilize my ideas into work.

It’s embarrassing to say you have bipolar outloud.

I’ve tortured myself a little at posting this on my blog, given well it’s embarrassing to admit that i have this dark passenger (as dexter would say only minus the killing of course) within me. It’s not that I choose to have whatever this disorder is it’s simply I have to live with it now.

It’s something I’ve managed to work around for all my life, in that when I found myself in the lows/highs i’d look to other means to chip away at the problem and they varied from exercise (run/walk it out), drinking (beer helps hehe) or find an external outlet to clear the mind (dirtbike/moto-x riding, fishing, reading, PS3 etc).

To now have a label and medication to trump all of the above seems firstly cheating and lastly embarrassing. I have bipolar? will the kids at school make fun of me now? etc etc.

Why now, why is this an issue today?

I first started noticing some signs that my emotions) in general weren’t normal when I was working inside Microsoft. The environment within the company is toxic most of the time so if you’re suffering from a condition that has degrees of both paranoia and high/low emotions, then basically Microsoft can be like making an alcoholic work for a brewery.

One specific event comes to mind when i was trying to get the team to leave me alone in order to redo the Silverlight website(s). We hit a point where other members of the team who initially rejected the idea of its creation started to hijack that success I was having with it and thus it created this emotive response mixed with large amounts of paranoia. Long story short, I found myself yelling / swearing quite loud at three members of my team to the point where they had a look of fear on their face as if to say “this guy is losing it!”.

I to this day am utterly embarassed with this event as I did totally lose it, it was over something so small yet it was just the start to what I would call my last dark days of Microsoft. I spent the next 3-4 months just being a complete asshole to others in the team that I wasn’t friends with to the point where my ego was getting out of control. The day I quit was a welcome relief to my the group manager Brian, as I could tell he was shocked as to how I went from being “yes, hire this guy now” to being “what the hell just happened”.

My doctor(s) now tell me that I was probably simmering up until that meeting and from there it was just a downhill race to rock bottom and that had I not reached the point where I was three months ago it was likely that i’d repeat this eventually somewhere down the line.

The reason however this time I was just bedridden was simply the passing of my father, in that up until that point I’ve always kept a death grip on my hypomania but with his passing I just let go (giving grief can be a dark time).

Why post here about it?

What is my motivation to tell this story out loud. I’ve thought about this and the main reason is to apologise out loud to people I know and worked with over the years, as the more I think about this condition the more I now realise the difficulty that I may have put people in and lastly to thank those who despite my attitude still believed in my work and found ways to navigate around this.

Lastly, to get it out of the way, I have bipolar, it sucks but now I have a name for whatever the hell this is and with a steady stream of medication and/or programs that I can tap into now, then I feel as if I can now get back to what I’m good at – designing software.

The ability to have an idea and finish is a goal I’ve always had but never quite reached for almost 15 years. I’m looking forward to sitting down and writing something from start to finish now, and I’m hoping with treatment for this disorder it can happen again.

I have bipolar and it doesn’t bother me now.

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  • A very, very brave post sir.

    As a fellow sufferer of the Black Dog of depression, I know how difficult it is on your loved ones; your friends & how difficult it is to work with people in work.

    I would counter your ” The environment within the company is toxic” (in relation to Microsoft) as being the same in all organisations for people with depressive illnesses. As you found: the impact on other workers, but also the impact that small things in the machine can put us out of balance.

    I’ve had recent experience of this; and with good managers things turn out OK.

    Certainly, I forgave you a long time ago. Now there is a diagnosis.

    Good luck to you sir.

  • Thanks Nick 🙂

    I forgot that you were also in the same boat and I should clarify some managers with empathy will do good here but others I’d argue in the company would see this as a weakness but …i could be paranoid still lol…  Anyway looking back on the days I was in your team I now “get it” 🙂 .. only took a few years 😀

  • Stephen Kelly

    Great post !

  • Patricia Jonas

    This is a fantastic post. Not that yoj have BiPolar but that you have deen diagnosed, you are receiving treatment and you are not afraid to talk about it. There are so many people who ha e depressive disorders and who are unable or unwilling to talk about it. And I think 90% of them of men.
    I hope you continue to feel great and see the good things in life. The death of a parent causes pain beyons compare and I understand the all consuming grief.

    Good on you for speaking up xo

  • if you’re manic, orthomolecular approach to treating bipolar is pretty profound. this page has a lot packed in it. lemme know if you have any questions. be sure to control your stressors and balance our your brain. for me, it was when we about on edge of losing baby, to when my dad passed away from pneumonia suddenly. you’re certainly not alone and dare I say to be human is to err.

  • Glad you’ve been able to get to the root of it, and even better take positive steps to stop it interfering with your life.

    If it makes you feel any better one of the most amazing – creative and technically brilliant – bosses I have ever worked for had the same issue (and the same meds) and while you could occasionally see the manic glimmer in his eyes it never got out of control – he has a great balance between the stability and the creativity that I know you’ll harness and use to become even more of a pain in the arse that you already are 😉

  • It was good that you did this post. You let people have it (not saying they didn’t deserve it) but by posting this you keep things balanced.

  • I was diagnosed similarly a year and a half ago, I quit every job after 3 months, even those that paid huge amounts of money.  I havent worked in 9 months and not sure I can, the ups and downs are too hard now.  I dont want to repeat the same thing over and over its insanity.  Not on meds, probably should be.  Thanks for your honesty.

    Its a tough business these days, toxic, sad, and sometimes not worth it.  But mental illness only makes things worse.

  • Honesty and humanity; everything I like in a person.
    Good luck, mate.

  • Vic Klien

    Thanks for posting this.  You have my respect.

    Among books you might want to read on Bipolar Disorder is this one: that 20 out of 21 reviews gave the 2nd edition 5 stars.


  • Vic Klien

    That book link should be


  • Hey Scott – I salute your courage mate.

  • Liviu

    Best of luck to you, Scott! I salute the courage and dignity in your writing. Things are going to get better now. The first step (not necessarily the hardest to make but the hardest to find) was made..

  • Sana Johnson-Quijada MD

    keep on.  

  • Hey mate – courageous post!

  • Ian Smith

    Brave post, but don’t blame yourself too much for your “ego driven” or “paranoid” periods. It seems to be an increasing side-effect of this industry that more and more people are being classed as “bi-polar” and your story rings true for myself and many others in the industry. It’s a high stress environment.

    Like most industries, it’s full of charlatans and those too lazy to do the work for themselves. Don’t blame your honesty on being “bi-polar”. While the whole “Silverlight is dead” brou-ha may have been partly triggered by being bi-polar, it was clear to those that weren’t mindless shills that it had the ring of truth, and you’ve been proved correct on every point. The witch-burners calling “foul” and hating on you are the real charlatans. Continually insisting “Silverlight is not dead” while simultaneously taking their 30 pieces of silver from Microsoft partnerships AND spending all their time writing about and teaching JavaScript and HTML5

  • Brian Goldfarb

    I’m glad you are being treated. That’s great news for and your family long term. Hope things are well Scott.


  • Keith Harvey

    Hey Scott, even though I don’t know you personally – I thought at times that that this diagnosis might be the case by analyzing your writing and Twitter feeds. I have an intimate knowledge of Bipolar and I completely understand everything you wrote about.

    I would like to pass this along to you:

    Never let the badge of having bipolar “disorder” define you. Simply put, your brain is a bio-chemical computer with some funky code in the firmware. The meds will help patch that code, allowing you to crash less, have fewer memory leaks, and increase performance.

    Dude, this is the start of a new life for you. Grab it, and run like hell! Love your wife, hug your kids, design great software/UX, and make a huge impact on our industry (again)!

    I am a big fan of yours. And even in the “craziness” that you went through, you provided me with invaluable help that shaped the future of a huge global company.

    I’m here with you! Go man go!

  • Peter

    Scott, I’m just a reader but you have always seemed fairly rational to me.  As far as your blog, twitter, and videos are concerned if your bipolar condition had an impact on them I think it was largely limited to the vehemence with which you approach everything.  You are just naturally an intense person, and I like that.  I find a lot of truth in your writing and no amount of excitement or overreaction can change that.

    I hope you feel better and become happier in the future.

  • thanks brian! 🙂 and yeah, about those last months in the team.. woah.. intense 😀

  • Scott,

    I just wanted to say I have a lot of respect for you and your approach on this article. Many people would let this situation define them, but you are embracing the diagnosis by writing things like this. This community is small and you have a lot of people who you probably will never meet but do care about you. You have had so many things happen over the past few years. I have personally prayed for you during everything with your dad. So just know that despite never having met, that there are people on the other side of the world who you have influenced. 
    You are inspiration and an honest voice in a community who doesn’t mind speaking their mind. There are many “Yes” men in the Microsoft community and many who are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their MVP status. Maybe it is just the bipolar speaking, but I have appreciated an honest voice. 

    Keep going on and doing all that you have. You have my respect.

  • Apolon

    I hope things get better for you. Identifying a disease or a disorder does mean you can start doing things to manage it. Cold comfort while you’re suffering but its arguably better than not knowing and missing doing even the little things that could make life more bearable. All the best and I hope life gets a lot better.

  • Karen

    Not only talented, but extremely brave and courageous …. What a relief for you to finally know what was happening and what was going on within you . Here’s to your future and now a long and prosperous future.

  • Anonymous

    Very inspiring post. Brave and courageous. The first step in success is knowing what the problem is so that we may tackle it head on!

  • Anonymous for this one

    I have been in psychotherapy for 6 months now, and I still have several highs and lows that can kick in just a couple hours. Funnily, I just started a new job as developer and on the very first day I though “what am I doing here, I hate this place, fuck everyone I’m quitting”.

  • That’s great to hear, Scott. It’s important that people be aware of the prevalence and importance of these sort of disorders so good on you for being brave enough to post this. Of course, you’ve always been outspoken. 🙂
    Good luck and best wishes.

  • Good for you Scott, very brave and i think admirable and inspiring. Big hug for you and sending you and your family best wishes and warm fuzzy happy thoughts!