5 Badass Barrier-Breaking Bipolar Women

In celebration of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d share with you 5 Badass Bipolar Women who not only lived with Bipolar Disorder, but thrived, and changed the rules of what you can and cannot do when “ill”.

Jane Pauley

Jane Pauley is a groundbreaking reporter and journalist who started her career in 1971 on a local Indianapolis TV news station.

Jane Pauley Speaks About Bipolar
Jane Pauley

Pauley broke into this extremely male-dominated industry when only 13-15% of reporters were female.

In 1976, after only 5 years in the industry, Jane Pauley had secured a place on national television, working as a correspondent on NBC’s Today Show.

She left the Today Show in 1989 and began work on the innovative Dateline series for which she won both an Emmy and an American Women in Radio and Television Award in 1995.

Since then, she has written 2 books, created 2 other shows, and contributed to countless others.

Thanks to her pioneering efforts and incredible talent, modern TV news can boast a nearly 50% female workforce.

Oh, and she’s Bipolar.

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf was a successful author, publisher, and entrepreneur. She completed her first novel, The Voyage Out, in 1915 at the age of 33, but her passion for writing predated that by quite a bit.

Virginia Woolf Was Bipolar
Virginia Woolf, 1927

Woolf submitted er first article to a weekly magazine at age 8, and while it was rejected, it was an early sign of her successes to come.

Throughout her career, Woolf would write 12+ novels and countless other works both under her own name, and anonymously. Many of these works focused on taboo issues such as PTSD in Mrs. Dalloway, sexual identity in Orlando: A Biography, and feminism in The Lighthouse. and A Room of One’s Own.

Woolf published most of the books herself. She began Hogarth Press at age 35, and used it to publish her innovative works as well as others

Woolf was one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century, and one of the mothers of modern day feminism. She popularized the lyrical, stream of consciousness writing that became common shortly after her death.

Oh, and I forgot, she likely had bipolar I with co-morbid psychosis.

Florence Nightingale

The so-called “Lady with the Lamp” is the founder of modern nursing. Florence Nightingale’s nickname came from her service in the British military during the Crimean War of the 1850s.

Women like Florence Nightingale had Bipolar Disorder
Florence Nightingale

During her service, Nightingale trained 38 inexperienced volunteer women to serve as nurses on the battlefield. When they arrived, Nightingale saw the poor conditions of the fort, and was horrified.

There were mass infections due to a complete lack of sanitation. The diet of the soldiers was poor, and the death rate was topping 42%.

Nightingale was not about to sit back and let that happen. She convinced the British government to build a new hospital for the care of the soldiers. Additionally, she imposed new standards of sanitation including implementing hand washing and other sanitary procedures.

Under her watch, the death rate from infection dropped from 42% to 2%. She would go on to use these principles to train nurses at the Nightingale Training School that she set up in 1860. Nightingale contributed immeasurably to the medical community’s understanding of infection and sanitation.

Oh, and she was known for bouts of “deep sadness” and “frantic restlessness”

Vivian Leigh

Two time Academy Award winner Vivian Leigh was an extremely prolific actress. She starred in both stage and screen in such classics as Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire.

Vivian Leigh
Vivian Leigh

She received her firs critical acclaim for the 1935, starring in the stage production of The Mask of Virtue. Soon, she catapulted into stardom.

Her performances were described as “Lightning Change”. She was raw and captivating. She began to get larger parts based on her emotive abilities, and was soon a leading lady.

In 1938, Leigh traveled to Los Angeles to convince the director of Gone with the Wind. After being told she was “too British” for the role of Scarlett O’Hara, she gave an impromptu audition, convincing him that her “delicate wildness” made her perfect for the part.

This role not only won her two Oscars, but showed her ferocity, and tenacity. She went on to win another Oscar and a Tony Award. Her incredible acting style has informed generations of actors since.

Leigh also had uncontrollable mood swings.

Carrie Fisher

Known primarily for her role in the unprecedented Star Wars franchise, Carrie Fisher was a writer, actor and comedian and a definite badass.

Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher

In addition to introducing the world to Princess Leia, she starred in many other films including The Burbs, Blues Brothers, and When Harry Met Sally.

She has also been a dominant force in the theater world with her one-woman show Wishful Drinking. and has garnered several awards for both her acting and writing work.

Additionally, she took on a role as a Mental Health advocate. Fisher spoke and wrote about experiences with Mental Illness and Addiction.

She wrote several autobiographical novels and was nominated for countless awards throughout her prolific career.

And I know she wouldn’t mind if you knew: She had bipolar disorder.

The next time someone says that you cannot do something because of your illness, or your gender, or any other meaningless attribution, show them this article. All of the amazing women above struggled with mental illness, but rose above it to succeed, and to change their world.

The title of this article isn’t quite right. If you don’t mind, I’d like to make a last minute change:

5 Badass Barrier-Breaking BipolarWomen

There, that’s better.

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