“If my armor breaks, I’ll fuse it back together”

It took me a month to find the words to write the latest chapter in the story of my life. I was on a flight back home to Istanbul after driving cross-country back to the east coast. 

My close friends and my therapist knew as soon as I did. Leading up to the assessment, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I honestly thought that there was nothing wrong with me and depression or GAD could answer everything I was struggling with. Once I passed the age that schizophrenia could present itself, I expected to be in the clear. 

Following the days of receiving a diagnosis like bipolar 2 is odd. I had to move forward with my day-to-day life while adjusting to this piece of the puzzle that had been unlocked. The day of my diagnosis wasn’t the day I began living with bipolar 2. It had been a part of me for the good part of two decades, a constant presence painting my entire existence.

I wrote about being bipolar strong a few months following my diagnosis. The most difficult aspect of having bipolar 2 and not bipolar disorder is the lack of community. Search social media for #bipolar2 and what you find is conversations and memes mostly around bipolar and borderline personality disorder. 

Being fully open about my diagnosis and living with bipolar 2 serves two purposes:

  • Owning my narrative and presenting myself fully, as I’ve always tried to do
  • Become a beacon for people like myself who have felt the same loneliness around our diagnosis

Turns out, there are a few people in my life who are living with bipolar 2 disorder, some of them having received their diagnosis in the past 5 years. 

That gives me hope.

But what does my life look like a year after beginning treatment?


This was the part that scared me the most. What if the medication didn’t work? What if I couldn’t actually tell the difference? What if I’m not self-aware enough to answer my doctor’s questions during our check-ins?

What if I forget to take my medication? 

Listen, remembering to do things like taking medication at the same time every day is not my strong suit. 

After explaining my diagnosis to me, the first thing the doctor asked me is whether I want treatment, because not everyone is ready for actual treatment when they receive their diagnosis.

I was ready. I wanted to take control of my life. I wanted to be armed going into battle every day.

She prescribed me 2 weeks’ worth of a small dose of lamotrigine, which is a mood stabilizer and anticonvulsant approved to treat bipolar and seizure disorders. Because side effects are common with introducing medication like this, I was feeling extra cautious. I also didn’t want to muddle the effects of the medication, so I stopped drinking alcohol for those two weeks.

Two weeks later, during our check-in, we decided I would continue with that medication. I didn’t actually suffer from side effects. I was getting ready to go to Istanbul for 2 months, so my doctor prescribed me enough medicine to last during my trip – but with the caveat that 2 weeks later I would double my dose, and then a month later, triple it to the dosage that would become my daily treatment.

The purpose of my trip to Istanbul was taking a literal mental health sabbatical that I had already planned prior to my diagnosis, so the timing turned out to be serendipitous. 

When I came back from Turkey, I had a new job. I was continuing the medication, went back to therapy, and had regular check-ins with my prescribing doctor. 

Adjusting to the new normal took time, but I recognized my triggers easier than I had before, especially when I could feel myself spiraling toward a hypomania episode.

Depression, however, was a different story. I found that while it evened out my hypomanic highs, my lows became lower. They were deeper and harder to get out of. I literally felt like I was suffocating.

We increased my lamotrigine dosage, but I felt like something was missing.

So, a few months later, during a regular check-in for renewing my prescription, I asked my doctor about antidepressants.

The fun thing about SSRIs when you have bipolar 2 disorder is that they can actually trigger anger and mania. 

My doctor sent me literature on the two antidepressants she would recommend for me and I talked them through with my therapist. We decided on Wellbutrin because it’s an NDRI. 

Unlike my good luck with lamotrigine, Wellbutrin’s side effects hit me hard, specifically nausea. I was working one morning and the next thing I knew, a wave of nausea washed over me. All I could do was lie down. The first few days were rough, but by the time I had my two-week check-in with my doctor, everything had stabilized. We moved forward with the lamotrigine and Wellbutrin combination.  

The 4-day nightmare

Around the time my next prescription renewal came up, the pharmacy fucked up, saying that they didn’t receive the call from my doctor, even though she had proof that it had been processed. But because it was a weekend, by the time everything was squared away, I ended up without medication for 4 days.

Turns out that my treatment is actually effective because those 4 days were like before times.

The highs and lows were intense. I felt like I was constantly losing control and just didn’t feel like myself. I couldn’t focus. There was nothing productive about my life during those 4 days.

And then I realized this is how my life had been for years. When I was in school, starting my freelance career, dealing with relationship problems, dealing with anger issues.

How did I ever actually get anything done living in a constant state of turmoil? How had I made it to my mid-30s as a functional adult?

When I could finally get back on my medication, it took a couple of days for my brain to remember how to process the meds and I felt armed for battle again.

My medication is my armor, but it’s not impenetrable. 

One year down, the rest of my life to go.

“The moon stays bright when it doesn’t avoid the light”

When I set out to clean my apartment this morning, I never imagined the kinds of breakthroughs I would have while picking crud out of my dishwasher filter with a toothpick. It wasn’t until I was on my stomach, cleaning the dust filter underneath my fridge that everything clicked together.

I know, what a visual, right?

2018 has been rough for me but if I’m being honest, I’ve been struggling for about a year now. There have been ups and downs, yes, but mostly, it’s been this weird limbo. I’ve felt like I’ve been walking around with that feeling of needing to pop my ears but never being able to, no matter how hard I blew my nose.

I’ve been stuck emotionally. Mentally. Professionally.

I’ve been stuck in a walk-in freezer, unable to push the handle while the words I need have been haunting me through the frosted window.

<Insert endless metaphors about feeling stuck and depressed here.>

A few weeks ago, I had another candid heart-to-heart with one of my best friends. Right before my 30th birthday, she had asked me if I was freaking out and at the time I wasn’t. My 30th came and went with the regular amount of fanfare and not too much freaking out. I was happy.

“I think my 30th freak out is hitting me now, 3 years later,” I confessed while crying into a glass of red wine. That night, I went home and sat down to write.  Read more “The moon stays bright when it doesn’t avoid the light”

My Very Grown-Up Birthday Wish List

On the eve of my 33rd birthday, I’ve been thinking a lot about presents, experiences, and the people in my life. One of my biggest goals over the past few years has been to focus on spending quality time with people in my life and creating memories. Flowers and chocolates will come and go but the laughter and tears you shared over a bottle (or three) of wine live on forever.

So, when it comes to birthdays and birthday presents, my only wish has been about experiences with friends. I have the annual Vegas trip with my girlfriends. In Seattle, I do my best to have dinner & a fun night where my friends can embarrass me (last year, it was a dueling piano bar). When it comes to things, the beauty of being an adult is being able to actually purchase what I want on my own terms. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate thoughtful personalized presents from friends that touch on inside jokes or my quirky obsessions that make me who I am.

This year, though, as I began thinking about my birthday, I realized that my wish list is very…grown-up. As I come to terms with that, and in my attempt to actually start writing more often, I figured it would make a good blog. Read more My Very Grown-Up Birthday Wish List

Hi, I’m Berrak and I get awkward crazy eyes when I meet celebrities

My very first comic con was in Seattle in 2013. I was struggling with adjusting to life in my new home, and I was beyond excited about comic con.

The most exciting part? Seeing Misha Collins in person. I knew that I wanted to do a photo-op with him, as well as an autograph session.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve met celebrities before – I love meeting my favorite comedians after their sets. Sure, I’m a little awkward, but I look normal in the pictures.

So when it came time to meet Misha, I was nervous and ecstatic, but I had no idea what was about to happen. I got in line for my photo-op and waited for two hours. Mind you, this was my first con experience, so I didn’t know what to expect.

If you’ve never done a photo-op with a celebrity at a convention, let me enlighten you: Read more Hi, I’m Berrak and I get awkward crazy eyes when I meet celebrities

The Tomboy Grows Up to Cultivate Strong Female Allies

Did you know you can now support me on Patreon? 

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2017 is feminism, which is fitting on a global level. As I reflect on my personal life, it’s pretty fitting on a smaller scale for me as well. I was driving back from lunch with one of my friends and could not help but reflect on the impact women have had in my life this year.

I have, admittedly, always been one of those girls who got along better with boys when I was growing up. A combination of my home life, my tomboy attitude, and being bullied from a young age, my aggressive behavior resonated better with boys.

I had trouble connecting with other girls and would always find myself drawn to only one other girl who I thought was on the same page. That person usually encouraged me to be a lesser version of myself to build herself up. Read more The Tomboy Grows Up to Cultivate Strong Female Allies

The Girl Who Thanks Too Much

“You do say thank you an awful lot,” one of my best friends joked the other night. While I’ve been working on trying to stop being the one apologizing too much, I didn’t notice my transformation into the girl who thanks too much.

My initial reaction was to get defensive, but then I started thinking about it on my drive home. What’s wrong with thanking too much? We live in an age where we’re rushing through humanity, showing recognition only with a double-click, or on dedicated days to jump on the trending hashtags.

I know, I sound a little grouchy but I’m part of the problem.

I’m fully aware of my contribution to this culture of instant gratification, which is why I don’t mind being accused of thanking “too much.” Read more The Girl Who Thanks Too Much

Breaking the Habit

I’m sick of the tension, sick of the hunger
Sick of you acting like I owe you this
Find another place to feed your greed
While I find a place to rest

I’m about to board a plane to Spain and this trip could not have come at a more pivotal point in my life.

I’m tired of being tired.

I say this to my friends – a lot.

Life has always been overwhelming but it feels like the past 6 months, the Universe keeps giving me the middle finger.

At least it feels like that.

The truth is, I want to get on this plane and as I cross the ocean, I want to start letting go.

I want to let go:

The constant disappointment I feel in people after giving them a second, third, eighth chance to let me down.

The grief.

The “what ifs” that have been holding me back for years.

The resentment.

The anger.

The doubt.

I want to let go so that I can finally start healing.

I’ve been looking forward to this trip for weeks but I also almost cancelled it the other day when all I wanted to do was scream. When all I could do was cry.

I’m going to let the Spanish air envelop me and I’m going to start to heal.

I’ll be surrounded by loved ones, friends I trust with my life, and opportunities to make new friends.

My support system here at home has been helping me keep my head (barely) above water and I am forever grateful to them.

I’m going to write. A lot.

I’m going to drink wine and eat cheese and watch sunsets (and probably sunrises).

I’ll be back with a lighter heart.

If I come back. (I kid. Kind of.)

I’ll probably be posting on SnapChat (BerrakDC) and Instagram (BerrakBiz) the most. 

The Snort Heard Around the World

You know the drill.

You’re standing in front of your classroom/office and you’re buck naked.

I never had that anxiety dream.

I also never pictured that I would stand on a stage in front of 3500 of my peers, mentors, and strangers at my favorite conference in the world.

I certainly didn’t picture myself SNORTING INTO THE MICROPHONE.

But alas.

It happened. Read more The Snort Heard Around the World

“I’m a little bit rusty, and I think my head is caving in”

Between panic attacks, hiding in my apartment, obsessively reading the news, and working, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the people in my life.

There have been a few great heart-wrenching conversations over the past few weeks.

I visited North Carolina to spend time with my best friend of 18 years.

One of my closest friends visited me in Seattle this past week, and even though we’ve only been friends for 3 years, I consider her family.

Another one of my best friends is someone who’s only been in my life for a little over a year.

18 years. 3 years. 1 year.

I’ve been a friend of convenience to many people in my life. The person they needed to boost themselves up before moving on to the next chapter. I’m fairly certain I’ve done that to others throughout life as well.

It’s just how we operate. Sometimes on purpose. Most of the time, subconsciously as we try to navigate this emotional maze of life.

I’ve let a lot of people down. And in some instances, I’m still making amends. I mean, I really am a bad friend.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about people is that we’re all fighting our demons, and we all make assumptions.

I certainly do.

A lot of tears have been shed over the past couple of weeks as I’ve finally broken down and said “I know I disappointed you. I know we’ve drifted, but this is a friendship I want to fight for. How can I make amends?”

It’s hard to quiet the noise in my head yelling at me about being unworthy, telling me that every single person in my life will leave eventually. It’s hard to think over the screams of doubt, to find the strength to sit down and write the words.

It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

Because people will come and go during my life. I firmly believe there are seasons of friendships, but when the dust settles, who do I want by my side?

Those are the connections I’m fighting for. Those are the connections I want to mend. Those are the threads that I’m holding on to for dear life.

I want those 18 years of memories to turn into 36. I want every moment I spend with my friends to count, even if all we’re doing is sitting on the couch and watching Will & Grace.

So, I’m fighting.

I’ll keep fighting but there are days when battles are lost, or cancelled because I can’t find the strength after fighting my own demons.

There are days I won’t make sense. Days I’ll be extra needy. Hours of crying. Moments of doubt where I’ll ask “No, but seriously, why are you friends with me?”

And sometimes, there will be those times when I am so worn out, so defeated, so scared, that I’ll get on the defensive.

The walls will come up and I’ll push the world away.

Real talk: That’s where I am now. I can feel the defenses going up. I can hear the walls being built. I can feel my fragile heart retreating to recover.

I honestly don’t know what it will take for me to feel secure again. I’ll keep fighting those battles when it’s necessary but right now?

Well, you’ll have to bring those battles to me.

“You Can’t Drink Water?” and Other Questions about Ramadan

Over the past few years, I’ve been getting the same questions about Ramadan.

You can’t drink water?

Wait, how long do you have to fast?

Why is it during the summer?

I don’t talk about my faith often, but those around me know that this is my favorite time of the year. It’s been a long time since I’ve addressed questions about my personal observance of my religion. As you can imagine, these days, I’m mostly in defense mode when talking about anything related to Islam.

I’m not the perfect person, nor am I the perfect Muslim. Most days, I don’t feel enough. I hold my faith close to my heart because I truly believe it’s a personal connection that I shouldn’t have to justify to anyone.

But you guys, Ramadan is beautiful. Its observance is something that’s been a cornerstone of my life since I was ten years old.

Full disclosure: I’m not a religious scholar. I don’t have all of the answers. I can only talk about my personal experience and observance. 

First things first: What is Ramadan? Read more “You Can’t Drink Water?” and Other Questions about Ramadan