Q&A About

Bipolar Disorder

This page is for bipolars, psychologists, friends and family of either, and for anyone interested in a creative angle on a clinical condition.

It hails from a three-decade reflection on bipolar disorder as it has ravaged, transformed, and blessed the artist Porter Smith AKA P.S. Lutz.


Porter Smith / P.S. Lutz is a composer, author, and performer, a bipolar who lectures on bipolar disorder with a poetic perspective. More than a decade symptom-free, he is an artist who defends the cause of mental illness in his creative life, and, most importantly, within the creative work itself. His host of songs, his books - Bipolar Blessing and Endangered Bipolar - and his musical - Rainlight - are unabashed in their descriptive expression of the internal bipolar experience.

Porter's ideal is to inspire dialogue, to initiate a call for human understanding as he strives to continue to live a wondrously healthy and fruitful bipolar existence.


Conventional Bipolar 


Question: What are some examples of beliefs that might be standing in the way of one's liberation as a healthy bipolar?  What were they for you?

Answer: Beliefs are believed by most to be sacred, even when they are far from relevant, personally upholding, and inclined toward the highest mind.  The beliefs that many of us bipolars wrestle with, in respect to their usefulness within our aberrant lives, are beliefs that we inherited from others, namely our parents and elders.  Religion has its say in our…

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Question: Aside from medication, what have you found to be most helpful in coping with bipolar disorder?

Answer: Medication, more often than not, saves lives in the bipolar disorder realm.  Lithium is notably regarded as a suicide preventer by most mental health practitioners.  If something saves a life, does it then need to take up an active role in maintaining a life?  That is a question that many bipolars could ask themselves daily, for reasons ranging from the hope of ridding their lives of medication…

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Breakdown Blockade 


Question: If, by your description, careless young adult use of drink, drugs, sex, and cigarettes are the primary bipolar poisons, how is it that a wholesome teetotaler like you managed to have three breakdowns? 

Answer: Bipolar breakdowns are like lightning bolts to the bipolar, especially that first one.  One tends to discover his or her life limitations entirely by accident, certainly by surprise, when too much poison enters the bipolar consciousness.  To be clear about my sense of poisonous adult…

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Bipolar Acceptance 


Question: As parents, how do we handle bipolar behaviors...agitation, suicidal leanings, etc. while maintaining our own sanity?  

Answer: Bipolar behaviors need to be acknowledged, counseled, and managed all the time, if they are symptomatic behaviors.  If, however, the behaviors are natural human reactions to trauma, shame, a feeling of inferiority, then they need to be honored.  Parents have to be good judges of the difference between bipolar symptoms and the direct symptoms a bipolar child is likely…

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Normalizing Bipolar 


Question: What does the concept of normalizing bipolar disorder mean and, as parents, how do we get back to being as "normal" as possible?

Answer: The notion of normalization is difficult for everyone, bipolars included.  The best way for me to explain it is to put it into metaphor.  Symptomatic bipolars at their worst are stray, wild animals that must either be shot or placed in the circus.  They are initially put in cages, fed, studied and, hopefully, eventually, they are trained to become part of the…

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The Poison Rain 


Question: You often refer to the poisonous influences of the world that bring bipolars to their knees.  Can you tell me some specific instances from your own life of toxic influences that you were able to banish and how this contributed to your freedom?

Answer: The poison influence of the world is a constant rainfall and bipolars by nature have no raincoat, no hat, no umbrella, and no waterproof shoes.  When we are young the adult world of cocktails, cigarettes, and sexual tension, foul language, violent…

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Secrets of Bipolar Success 


Question: How do you maintain such a cool head in the face of all the objective pressures of the world?  So called "normal" individuals find day-to-day living in the current social system unbearable and unsustainable from an economic and emotional stand point.  It is to your enormous credit that you have survived and thrived, but how? 


Answer: There is no incantation or potion, or talisman for the warding off of worldly influences that threaten bipolar and non-bipolar stability - no mystery.  I am not…

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Bipolar on the Silver Screen 

Question: What do you consider to be examples of helpful/accurate representations of bipolar disorder in popular culture?

Answer: Kirk Douglas as Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life, a 1956 film by Vincente Minnelli, is a fleshy portrayal of the bipolar painter, a surprising, detailed approach to the passionate miscues that defined van Gogh's alienation from others, his distress and decline.  The performance is not delicate at all, yet so sincere, serving the story well, in my opinion, by demonstrating how…

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Bipolar Heresy 

Question: I wonder if you go too far in suggesting that medication should never be part of the bipolar disorder solution.  No doubt there are many like yourself for whom lifestyle change alone would be sufficient.  But might there not be others for whom a combination of lifestyle change and medication would be the necessary prescription?

I suppose what I am asking is: Do you think there is a danger that you are universalizing your own experience?

Answer: If you are fixing the proverbial boat at sea, then…

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Bipolar Church and State 

Question: How does faith in a good and powerful God come into play with the struggles of a bipolar?  Do you find you depend on God more or less?

Answer: When I was hospitalized in 1986, following my first breakdown, I had an orthodox Jewish roommate, whose father visited him regularly and heaped prayers and phylacteries upon his severely mentally ill son.  My roommate went through the ungainly rituals of his traditional role as a young man of Judaic faith, but did not serve his father's sense of God well in…

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