Sarah Woolf shares her poem "To live with bipolar" as part of our 80/20 arts project for young people affected by bipolar.

A new arts project from Bipolar UK for young people

I started to write this poem in the middle of the night when I was struggling to get to sleep. Initially it felt like there were far too many complex experiences to capture inside a logical layout of neat rhyming words. But I wanted to try to convey some of the daily feelings and moments that just seem to happen when you live with bipolar.

Although I consider myself a creative person, the fluctuating nature of bipolar usually makes this creativity hard to harness into something effective. When creative energy wants to burst out of me, like cola from a shaken bottle, I've got to be careful to catch it properly to avoid an out-of-control mess. However, suppressing a burst of creative energy is equally as risky as this can cause stagnation where everything loses its fizz and becomes flat.

I have had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder since 2013 following prolonged periods of depression whilst at university, subsequently spiralling into a hypomanic episode where I was hospitalised and sectioned. Since that chaotic time I have gradually became more stable and 'well' but I still struggle with daily struggles such as sleep routines.

I am a facilitator for an NHS Bipolar Psycho-Education Group. I regularly attend my local Bipolar UK monthly Support Group. I recently decided to run half a marathon, raising £600 for Bipolar UK. I have accepted that bipolar is a part of me - but it sure as hell doesn't define me!

"To live with bipolar"

by Sarah Woolf


Which brave face do I resort to today?

I lie with a 'yes'

To 'are you ok?'


How to explain something

I can't grasp for myself.



On my bathroom shelf.


Appointments and blood tests

Designed to protect.


All I feel is



To feel life so deeply 

And then to feel nothing at all.

Is the bipolar path

The rise and the fall.




It's not black and white.

Mixed episodes

Rapid cycling 

The fight and the flight.


It's tricky to articulate

The wall that I climb.

Why can't I express more than

'Yes thanks,

I'm fine.' 


Inspirational stories and quotes

Grab attention

Go viral.

I am just here

In this chaotic spiral.


My harshest critic

Won't detach from my thoughts.

It's an internal battle

A prison of sorts.


The highs are more of a double-edged sword.

It's exciting

I'm agitated

There's no boundaries

I'm a powerful Queen 

Or a grandiose Lord.


But escalating higher 

Means a harder crash down.

Vibrant, colourful "mania"

Becomes flat beige and brown.


To live with bipolar

Is to fight your own rival 

Sometimes, dealing with life

Can be a game of survival


But the more I experience 

The more I believe

I am in fact 

Strong and resilient 

I can