The Bipolar Dilemma: The Back and Forth of Never Knowing Who You Are

Bipolar Identity

Having bipolar disorder can make you wonder who is the real you. Is it the manic you who is full of big ideas and energy? Or is it the depressed you who can barely crawl out of bed in the mornings? Anyone who suffers from this condition knows that dramatic mood swings can make you feel like a different person from day to day.

That’s how actress and singer Talia Jackson describes what having bipolar disorder feels like. Best known for her role in Netflix’s Family Reunion, Jackson says one of her biggest issues is “the back and forth of never knowing who I am.” In an episode of Scan My Brain with Dr. Julie Brush, a doctor of naturopathy at Amen Clinics, she says she also struggles with panic attacks, “horrible anxiety,” “awful frustration,” and anger. It’s a lot to cope with. Jackson wanted to have her brain scanned to gain a better understanding of herself and who she is.


Jackson is one of an estimated 4.4% of Americans who will experience bipolar disorder in their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This condition, which used to be called manic-depressive illness, is characterized by extreme changes in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out everyday tasks. With bipolar disorder, people often cycle from manic episodes to depressive episodes.

Manic episodes are associated with abnormally elevated mood, heightened energy, grandiose ideas, and in some people, delusions, and hallucinations. On the downside, depressive episodes come with persistent negativity, decreased energy, loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities, and in some cases, suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Researchers have noted that this can lead to issues with identity. In a 2020 issue of the Journal of Personality, researchers write: “These experiences confront people with bipolar disorder with a subtler and more chronic struggle related to self and identity.”


Along with the challenge to find an identity, people with bipolar disorder also have trouble with self-esteem. The 2020 study mentioned above shows that for those with the condition, self-worth is often linked to goal attainment. This leads to instability in terms of self-esteem, as it rises and falls with perceived successes and failures. A 2009 study in The British Journal of Psychiatry found that over the course of one week, daily self-esteem scores fluctuated more widely among those with bipolar depression compared with healthy controls.

A lack of clear self-identity has negative consequences. Findings in the journal Self and Identity show that inconsistencies in self-concept are associated with decreased life satisfaction and a lower sense of well-being. This is further evidenced by the fact that 20-60% of people with bipolar disorder (especially when it goes untreated) attempt suicide at least once in their lifetime, according to a 2019 review in Medicina.


Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder can spark an identity crisis. A diagnosis can make you feel like your life story has suddenly changed, causing you to reevaluate your sense of self. For some people, a diagnosis is a positive step that helps you understand who you are and find effective treatment. For others, it’s a label that invites shame and stigma.

Educating yourself about the condition and gaining an understanding that it is a brain-based disorder rather than a character flaw or personal weakness can be beneficial. The brain imaging work at Amen Clinics shows people with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues that their problems are medical, not moral. It also decreases shame and guilt and encourages understanding and forgiveness among family members. Most of all, it elevates hope and provides valuable information to help find the least toxic, most effective treatment plan.


With a targeted, comprehensive treatment plan, people with bipolar disorder can find more balance in their lives and a greater sense of self. That’s what Jackson is hoping for. Her SPECT scan, which can be seen in the video of her session at Amen Clinics, showed abnormal activity in various brain regions. Seeing her brain scan helped her understand that her issues have biological roots. “That is so relieving to me, because I know I’m not insane,” the actress says.

On the right treatment to improve blood flow and activity levels in the brain, better balance can be achieved. People with bipolar disorder can experience more stable moods, energy levels, and activity patterns, which help lead to a clearer sense of identity and greater self-esteem.

Bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. What supplements of yours do you recommend & can you discuss Cyclothymia ?

    Comment by Angela — November 5, 2021 @ 3:36 AM

  2. How much is a brain scan?

    Comment by Deborah coppersmith — November 5, 2021 @ 3:41 AM

  3. I love how you are helping to heal many people’s lives who are suffering from various brain issues and mental health issues!! Thank you!!

    Comment by Kristine Myslenski — November 5, 2021 @ 3:48 AM

  4. I think my daughter may be bipolar and I’d like to know I can help her get help without alienating her more?

    Comment by Brenda Craig — November 5, 2021 @ 4:11 AM

  5. There may also be a danger in being mis-diagnosed as bipolar, without having a better understanding of one’s self.

    After plenty of years of learning more about my own capabilities and capacities to function at any rate following any recent activities, such as cramming in an intense immersion course within a new and unfamiliar environment, such as traveling into a foreign country for a month during a series of Natural Disaster, crisis events; adjusting afterwards may require significant down-time for rest, relaxation and recovery.

    Take this to either extreme, either brief momentary events within just a few minutes OR incredibly demanding challenges for lengths of time from months to years, and one must account, in advance for an adjustable recovery time to allot in order to recover to get back to a normalized schedule, whatever that may be for that individual.

    Some folks fear not the extremities of challenges found when cresting the unknown. With experience facing such challenges, one can learn to adapt to become much more successful coping with such the demands.

    One must find their own comfortable middle ground, that stable point of balanced comfort, that fulcrum of the teeter-totter. Know that point, and realize that just might be the point to focus upon in order to rebalance.

    Comment by Alabama Brian — November 5, 2021 @ 5:17 AM

  6. This narrative has helped me understand this disease intelligently,I’m in the midst of many family members who don’t seem to understand their condition!I grew up with a bi polar mother who is now deseased and married a man with the same!We we’re divorced early in the marriage and it is difficult when both were in denial.Your presentation has been very helpful in my understanding of this crippling disease.It starts at an early age.

    Comment by Jacqueline Kimbrough — November 5, 2021 @ 6:23 AM

  7. Would like SPECT for Bipolar 2

    Comment by Sonya Kennedy — November 5, 2021 @ 6:33 AM

  8. Called to see if Medicare covered anything and of course no Medicare accepted. I have been back and forth to so many clinicians since 2006. Anxiety,depression, conversion disorder, lyme, bartonella, bipolar,. Need help but no money. So sad and aggravating. Everyone thinks I am losing it when in actuality my brain is “losing it”!

    Comment by Maureen Foley-Bolling — November 5, 2021 @ 6:50 AM


    Comment by Lisa Limoge — November 5, 2021 @ 7:07 AM

  10. I think I have bipolar disorder. I suffered from grandiose thinking and depression issues

    Comment by Daniel P. Rousseau — November 5, 2021 @ 8:26 AM

  11. Hi Deborah, thank you for reaching out. Amen Clinics offers consultations and different types of evaluations based on the needs of the patient. For information regarding pricing, insurance, and financing options, please contact our Care Coordinators:

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 5, 2021 @ 9:32 AM

  12. Hello Sonya, thank you for reaching out. Amen Clinics currently has 9 locations: For more information about scheduling, please contact our Care Coordinators:

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 5, 2021 @ 9:40 AM

  13. How does Neurofeedback increase blood flow to areas of the brain that have low blood flow?
    Do you offer Neurofeedback services along with supplements?

    Comment by Melanie Herrmann — November 5, 2021 @ 10:58 AM

  14. Hello Melanie, thank you for reaching out. Here is information on our website related to Neurofeedback: We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information about our services and supplements. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 5, 2021 @ 6:27 PM

  15. Hello Angela, thank you for reaching out. You can learn more about Dr. Amen’s recommended brain-directed supplements here:

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 5, 2021 @ 6:30 PM

  16. I was a prime candidate for Alzheimer’s or depression and I could not afford a scan but I could afford the Amen supplements for concussion.The most useful tool I found for my condition that would not break the bank was earthing
    (from it sounds like I am trying to sell something I am not! Also I go to my cranio-sacral chiropracter regularly and I study pictures from Google of the Cranium/skull and I suggest to him where adjustments are needed.
    Along with weekly Kundalini (Zoom)yoga classes and using earthing patches and bands at night I think I almost “out of the woods”.Of course your whole body needs chiropractic as well.You might need to shave your head too if you have had a concussion for the electrodes (patches) to make good contact.

    Comment by Fred Daugert — November 5, 2021 @ 10:27 PM

  17. Do you accept Medi-cal insurance?

    Comment by Denise — November 5, 2021 @ 10:50 PM

  18. I have been in contact previously and am ready to commit for brain help. My only concerns keeping me away are the virus and parking for my vehicle, crew cab ton pick up truck. If you folks can help me getting situated I will schedule. I have lymes and live to not revive this plague

    Comment by Kimberley S Wolfe — November 6, 2021 @ 6:02 AM

  19. Hello Denise, thank you for reaching out. For information regarding pricing, insurance, and financing options, please contact our Care Coordinators:

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 9, 2021 @ 3:57 PM

  20. Hello Kimberley, thank you for reaching out. We would be happy to contact you directly to help provide you more information regarding scheduling an appointment. We look forward to speaking with you soon

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 9, 2021 @ 4:03 PM

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