When Sarah first got diagnosed @ age 20 with Bipolar Type 2, the doctor didn’t explain it and she didn’t accept it. She did some research on her own, but no one was really talking about it that she could relate to. Catherine Zeta Jones was, but Zorro wasn’t her thing. “This couldn’t be my problem!”
As is common with Bipolar, Sarah’s symptoms would come and go, and so would her need for help. When she was desperate, she went to lots of doctors and walk-in clinics. She didn’t get a psychiatric assessment, and she would be put on wait lists. Shortly thereafter she would feel fine, and cancel her appointments. So went the cycle.
One of the biggest motivators for Sarah eventually became the disconnect between who she was as a person and what was happening in her life. Sarah is a kind, caring and generous person . . . but people in her life were leaving. ‘I can’t take it’, ‘You’re too much’, were becoming common occurrences in her life. As comedian Maria Bamford would say, “When you are bipolar, you are terribly hard to be friends with!”
About two or three years ago, Sarah ran across a book in a used book store entitled “Why Am I Still Depressed?” which was about Bipolar Type 2. She read it. It fit! Now she could begin moving forward. She went and saw a General Physician, who encouraged her to go to St. Paul’s Hospital. There she saw a Psychiatrist who recognized her symptoms, and then accepted her to their Outpatient Program.
Around that same time, Bipolar Disorder was also becoming more open in pop culture. Sarah found it easier to connect with the people and the situations that they were sharing. There is comedian Maria Bamford who was opening up, which now includes her Netflix show Lady Dynamite that premiered May 20th. Maria is known for her self-deprecating comedy about her dysfunctional family and her mental illnesses. Mary Lambert and Demi Lovato were also coming out with their life stories and challenges. Artists and creators were more tangible examples for Sarah, including punk band member Kristin Hersh from Throwing Muses. Hersh wrote a memoir entitled Rat Girl where she reconciled teenage parenthood, Bipolar disorder and punk-rock road-warrior existence. These people Sarah could relate to, which in turn helped her realize the value of speaking up herself.
Sarah grew up in the White Rock area and attended Earl Marriott Secondary. She took piano lessons since age five, and was a budding author as far back as age four, by dictating to her mom. As she was approaching grade eleven, she thought to herself “I know how to play piano; I know how to write; I can’t sing, but I will give it a try!” Her and her bestie, Molly, then decided to start a band called the Oh Wells. They were imaginative teenagers who wanted to be famous and live in France. Perhaps this would get them there?! They wrote songs, put them online, and people liked them. They had a good four year run, then went their separate ways.
By age nineteen, however, Sarah’s Bipolar symptoms were showing up, hallmarked by depression and suicidality. She was more driven as a musician and writing more songs than ever before, but they were no longer the silly cute things of the Oh Wells gone by. Now they were more about what she was going through.
Fast forward to today, Sarah is very grateful that she finally has a medication combination that keeps her more stable — even though the medication can make it harder at times to be creative. Treating Bipolar is often difficult, especially when combined with Anxiety, because the meds can often work against each other. Sarah found that anxiety and depression can often be medicated easily together, but without Mood Stabilizers, the meds can actually contribute to the rapid cycling that is commonly associated with Bipolar Type 2. Sarah also reported that going on meds for Bipolar was awful. She had to try some, eliminate some, add some new ones, and withstand a lot of side effects before she found a good combination for her.
Sarah comments about her latest album:
“When I Get Better (not a place, a journey) is ugly, cute, and everything in between. But it’s the most honest I’ve been. Now I’m ready to talk about it.”
When asked what keeps her going?
“People message me and thank me for my songs; they ask me to keep writing them. So I will. “
Advice for people with mental health problems:
- Reach out and tell people what is going on.
- There is a great service Vancouver Access and Assessment Centre that you can call (604-875-8289) or go to (711 West 12th Avenue) for mental health emergencies. Use it, because emergency rooms can be the worst place possible sometimes if you are suicidal, and the crisis lines are sometimes great and sometime not. AAC is professional and helpful.
- One of the most helpful things for managing mood swings and anxiety was the Mindfulness Group at the YMCA. It was free, and it was great.
Advice for musicians:
- Try to do things yourself. Don’t pay others to help you unless you are on your third or fourth album (i.e. you might be approached to do a demo for $500, etc.) Record in your basement, promote on social media using your own email, find contacts online, and play live a lot. Get your stuff out there.
- You have to REALLY REALLY want it. You are spending money and time, so make sure you really want it. I was knocked down so many times, and told no so many times, and it is soul crushing. Really wanting it can pull you through this.
To Do List:
- Check out Sarah’s website Sarah Jickling and her Good Bad Luck for more information about her, other ‘Human Beings of the Week’ and ‘Bipolar Babes’. It is very inspiring, just like she is 🙂
- Listen to Sarah’s song Valentine on her site or on Spotify. It is fantastic, just like she is 🙂
- Check out Reach Out Psychosis, an innovative program that goes into high schools and educates about mental illness. Sarah will be starting with them in the New Year and performing in high schools to increase awareness. A great resource, just like she is 🙂