I was fiery and ferocious, capable of lighting up a room or just as easily burning it down.”
—Julie Kraft

At the age of 36, after decades of struggle with erratic mood swings—periods of mania followed by debilitating depression—and ample doses of anxiety and frustration, Julie Kraft, a mother of three, was finally diagnosed with bipolar II disorder in 2010.

Julie told PsyCom that the diagnosis was one of the best days of her life, “because I finally had an answer and a reason to explain my disturbing behavior.”

One question that her diagnosis answered was why, whenever she would drive on unfamiliar roads, she would experience severe anxiety, irrational fears, and emotional outbursts. She now understood the reaction to be symptoms of her bipolar disorder.

Caught on Tape

For a realistic look at a driving ‘episode’, watch the video below taken by one of Julie’s  daughters from the back seat (the car scene starts at 8:22):

Accepting her diagnosis took time and was difficult at first but today she says she is thriving thanks to the support of family, friends, daily medication, and becoming aware of her triggers. Julie wrote her memoir in order to share her struggle and give hope to others living with the challenges of coping with a serious mental illness. “I love my life and am not ashamed of my condition,” she says. “Managing bipolar day to day takes a lot of work—even with medication—but it’s absolutely possible to have a happy and fulfilling life.”

Audio Interview with Julie

Today, Julie lives in Canada with her husband of 22 years and their daughters ages 10, 17, and 20. Listen to our candid interview with Julie, below:


Read an excerpt from the section in her book titled, The Life I Was ‘Living’ here:

The Life I Was Living

My husband and children were always the innocent victims of my episodes. It was my train wreck, but they were caught in the wreckage with no escape. The ones I loved the very most always got my worst. My close friends weren’t immune to my dysfunctional ways either; they often found themselves leaving unreturned phone messages, being pushed away, or locked out altogether. And sadly, I didn’t have the strength to let them know that my “absence” and silence wasn’t a reflection of my love, or lack thereof, for them. I was utterly incapable of looking outside myself, of seeing the forest through the trees.

Even so, against all odds, I hoped everyone would keep doing what they were doing—calling me “Mom,” ringing my phone, and knocking on my door. I prayed they would be patient and wait for me to reappear.  Perhaps by then, I would have the courage to tell them it was my problem, not theirs. But could my relationships and marriage be salvaged, repaired, and restored? Eventually, the day came when I decided they couldn’t.

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I was risking everything with my volatile words and actions, playing Russian roulette with myself and others. But why? Why such insanity, desperation, and drama? What was going through my mind in the moments before, during, and after my episodes?

Damage and Destruction

I loved the attention and follow-up feelings my irrational indiscretions always brought. I loved having control and holding power, even if only for a few moments and for the worst reasons. There was always a rush of adrenaline. It was addictive. And I always wanted more. Just how far could I take my craziness? How risky could I be, yet still smooth things over with an apology, a romp in the sack, or some of my best behavior? Selfish, sinister, sick, and twisted? Very. But what had set my wrecking ball in motion? Had something or someone set me off? Or, had set myself off?

Often, feelings of unworthiness came from my inability to deal with the mundane─package deliveries, paying bills, school pickups, birthday parties, and even trick-or-treaters at my door. Shame and embarrassment would overwhelm me. Why were such simple things so stressful? Why couldn’t I cope? It all sent me spiraling into a state of self-hate; I would become angry, frustrated, and then lash out. My outbursts would manifest themselves as middle-of-the-night getaways, and verbal assaults.

In the seconds after my emotional explosions, my gut reaction was to run and hide ─ lock myself away in a bathroom, car, or closet. There was no denying who was to blame. It was all my fault. More than anything or anyone else, I was angry at myself, disgusted by what I had done. My thoughts ran wild and destructive self-talk raced. Every negative experience I’d ever had ─ being bullied, stumbling on sidewalks, failing spelling tests, brewing coffee onto kitchen counters ─ flooded my mind and blocked out any light at the end of the tunnel. It was a very dark place to be. I soon wanted to give up on everything and everyone ─ abandon all my interests and forget about friendships and family. I wanted to put an end to everything. Except, thank God, my life. …

So Much More than My Diagnosis

Life offers no guarantees. None, whatsoever. And surely, to the dismay of my parents and husband at times, it offers no return policies, either. It can only be faced head-on, day by day, and, at times, minute by minute.

Thankfully, my bipolarity is no longer a bombshell admission or headline story in my life. My initial feelings of shame and brokenness have faded, and I finally view my disorder through my friends’ eyes as something I have, not something I am. It doesn’t define my relationships or me. I am more than my mental illness. So much more. My disorder is an added bonus feature to the already complex, dramatic, passionate, square-pegged person I am. I choose to view my wild creativity and bursts of rocket-fuelled energy as gifts that can be tamed and harnessed to pursue my wildest dreams and accomplish amazing goals. The positive things in my life far outnumber the negatives; I need only remind myself which should hold the most weight. I’m making the most of my best parts and managing the worst. …