‘You’re worth it’: Provo couple sheds light on living with bipolar disorder

Mar 30, 2024, 9:37 AM | Updated: 5:31 pm

March 30 is World Bipolar Day, a chance to raise awareness of a mental illness that affects nearly six million Americans and has the highest suicide rate of any disorder.
Emma Benson explains how to recognize the signs, and the tools one Utah family uses to navigate the disorder.

PROVO – Christian and Annalaura Solomon have been married for nearly 15 years and are proud parents to their nine-year-old son.

“We have a beautiful life,” Christian said.

But it hasn’t always been easy. “There are good days and bad days,” he said.

12 years ago, Annalaura’s mother passed away. That unexpected family death triggered Christian’s first bipolar episode.

“Swings are often triggered by life events,” Annalaura said. “Having a deadline can be a trigger. Having a baby, having someone get married, the death of a loved one.”

Christian started having uncontrollable highs and lows.

“It was substance abuse, I lost jobs, got kicked out of school. It was just really hard,” he said. “I’ve survived eight suicide attempts. You think your loved ones are better off without you.”

Dr. Paul Carlson, as associate professor of psychiatry at Huntsman Mental Health Institute, said bipolar disorder is a very serious condition. Up to 20% of people with bipolar disorder will die by suicide.

“Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that has dramatic effects on a person’s mood, their energy, and their thought processes,” Carlson, who has a family history of bipolar disorder, said.

The intense mood swings can range from depression to mania. Manic episodes are typically the opposite of depression – having a euphoric, elated mood with excess energy.

“Typically, with depression, their energy may be low, low motivation. It can include intense feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness,” Carlson said. “With mania, people can be much more impulsive, they may have much more reckless behavior than they would normally.”

Unlike just feeling “moody,” Dr. Carlson said bipolar disorder is charactered by more discrete episodes, which can last days, weeks, or months.

“Bipolar is like, your foot’s on the pedal in your car on the gas, and you’re going 90 miles an hour and the cops are behind you and you want to stop, but you can’t figure out how to take your foot off the gas,” Christian said.

Through trial and error, Christian and Annalaura have found ways to help them manage his bipolar disorder, including medication and electroconvulsive therapy, and implementing behavior and lifestyle changes.

“You cut out the triggers that you’re able to cut out and then you have more bandwidth for the triggers that you really can’t avoid,” Annalaura said. “We don’t go watch the newest, coolest action movie because that kind of hyperstimulation can be a trigger for Chris.”

They’ve found that creating a safe space to express feelings is crucial.

“In our family, there’s no such thing as using the word, ‘fine,'” Christian said.

“When you live in this kind of environment and when your actual survival depends on open communication, you are forced to be authentic all the time,” Annalaura said.

Though life hasn’t turned out the way they planned, the couple has learned to make adjustments, all while figuring out what works for them.

“The shoe that fits me is not going to fit you,” Christian said. “It’s trial and error. That gets tiring and it gets disheartening, and you want to give up. But don’t give up, because your shoe is out there. You’re going to find it.”

Christian hasn’t given up – he found his will to live.

“Find a person that you love and decide to fight for them. Fight for them that day, the next day, a week, a month, a year. Fight,” he said. “And then somewhere down the line, you’re going to wake up and realize you’re fighting for yourself and you’re worth it.”


If you or someone you know is struggling with bipolar disorder, help is available.

Huntsman Mental Health Institute, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and National Institute of Mental Health all have resources.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, you can call or text the 988 lifeline.

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‘You’re worth it’: Provo couple sheds light on living with bipolar disorder