Meet Julie Fast
Julie A. Fast, author of Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder (Time/Warner 2006), Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner (New Harbinger Publications, February 2004), Get it Done When You’re Depressed (Penguin, 2008) and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder (2002) is a critically acclaimed author, national speaker, and sought after expert in the field of bipolar disorder and depression. She is regarded as a mental health pioneer for her groundbreaking, comprehensive approach to treating bipolar disorder and depression using both mainstream and proven alternative therapies. Julie’s work has helped thousands of people on medication as well as those who have difficulties tolerating medications find ways to successfully manage their condition and reclaim their lives.
Julie was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder II in 1995 at the age of thirty-one, after she had lived with the disorder for over fourteen challenging and chaotic years. In 1998, three years after the diagnosis and twenty-three medications later, she found herself at a life-or-death crossroads: The medications were not enough, the drugs were ruining her health, and the quality of her life had spiraled downward due to the drugs’ intolerable side effects. This experience became the inspiration behind her now-famous treatment plan.
Julie currently lives in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. and though she still struggles daily with bipolar disorder symptoms, she is finally living a full and active life.
Julie Fast grew up in a US military household, attending more than ten different schools before graduating from Punahou High School in Hawaii and the University of Washington in 1990. As a world traveler, she has lived in various exotic places such as Japan, China, and France. In other words she has had mood swings in some really great locations! Highly talented in the arts, and with an exceptional gift for singing, Julie always stood out as a radiant woman with high aspirations. Unfortunately, few of these goals were ever realized due to constant depression, psychosis and quite a few sneaky and devastating manic episodes.
A long time dream of Julie’s has been to be a novelist, screenwriter, and Broadway singer, but due to bipolar disorder, Julie’s life has taken a very different course and she has instead become a writer of self-care books and comprehensive health systems. Not unlike her last name, Julie has lived a fast life which has lead to intense self-discovery and constant health management, working relentlessly for balance in an otherwise rocky life.
At the age of seventeen, Julie experienced her first manic episode on a trip to Europe. The problem is that no one knew what it was and this started the constant refrain of WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU JULIE? that she would hear for the next 15 years.
For the next decade and a half she struggled with severe mood swings, not knowing why she had so much difficulty dealing with otherwise everyday conflicts such as maintaining stable relationships, completing academic programs (eight years and three colleges to get a simple degree), and keeping a job. Fiercely intelligent, her grades in school never suffered, but she was never able to devote herself to long-term career plans because of her emotional instability, and because stress seemed to overwhelm her more than the average person. Through the years, she carried a stop-and-go lifestyle with manic episodes of spontaneous travel and moves, experiencing great euphoric highs, followed by crashes of severe, immobilizing depression. She wondered what was wrong with her, why she couldn’t stay in one job, why she couldn’t maintain happy relationships, and why she had to keep moving to foreign countries when life became difficult.
In 1992, Julie met Ivan Kanis, a French native with whom she maintained a serious relationship for ten years. Despite its trials, she learned a lot about herself, as well as bipolar disorder, because Ivan was diagnosed with Bipolar I in 1994, just a year before Julie was diagnosed herself. The irony of it all still amazes her.
Julie was finally diagnosed with ultra, ultra rapid cycling bipolar II in 1995 after a rather spontaneous and traumatic (but exciting!) trip to China.
Once they were both diagnosed, Julie and Ivan tried numerous medications, Julie’s totaling over 24, including various antidepressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers, and anti-anxiety medications as well as medications to deal with side effects, only to find herself still unwell. Ivan responded much better and was able to find some stability with medications, though they did not take care of many of the chronic symptoms caused by bipolar disorder which is why he uses the Health Cards today to maintain stability.
In 1998, three years after her diagnosis, Julie was on a trip in Hawaii, driving to Waikiki beach when her life changed forever. While driving towards the beach, she looked out at the breathtaking landscape of the beautiful palm trees and sparkling blue water and began to sob in despair over the fact that she was in one of the most beautiful places in the world and yet was so sick that she couldn’t enjoy the beauty around her. When she stopped at a light at the intersection, she looked down and saw that both of her wrists were slit and blood was pouring out all over her arms. She looked up and thought, “I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally killed myself.” Moments later she looked back down to find that her skin was once again normal and that it had all been a hallucination. It was at this point that Julie decided she would have to find a way to manage bipolar disorder, once and for all or she would be dead.
Julie returned to Seattle, Washington and met with her new psychiatrist Dr. Steven Juergens, and asked him what her options were. He said, “There aren’t many options besides medications.” So Julie decided to create her own solution and told him she was going to try to treat the illness with very limited medications. He was supportive and agreed to monitor her while she tried to find help. This was the start of the Health Cards System for Bipolar Disorder.
Julie says of that time, “I wanted to take medications. They work so well for many people and I was pretty devastated that they didn’t work for me when I first tried them. I knew that there was no way I was the only person who couldn’t tolerate medications. So I spent the next year creating a treatment system for people like myself who need more help than the medications could give. And it worked. Within six months I cut my symptoms in half and finally started to live life as a well person who manages an illness instead of someone completely controlled by bipolar disorder mood swings. Over five years later I still use the Health Cards every day to stay well enough to live a normal life.”
Although Julie struggled for years with medications and side effects, she has now found a medication that works really well for her- Lamictal. She uses Lamictal along with her Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder to manage the illness on a daily basis and credits this combination for her ability to work, create and maintain healthy relationships.
Now that Julie has more control over her moods, she knows she has to continually make choices that help support her stability. She consciously surrounds herself with a large group of artists, entrepreneurs, and stable friendships, and is an avid karaoke singer, writer, and professional speaker. This new life takes a lot of work, but the results are worth it. She still struggles with bipolar disorder every single day, and couldn’t overcome her obstacles without the aid of her own comprehensive health treatment systems, but she is living again and enjoying her life.
Julie has one goal these days. To help people with bipolar disorder and depression manage their illness so effectively that they can live a life of joy and happiness. If she can do it, she knows other people can do it as well.