Episode 95: Luke Gilligan
By Cameron Suorsa
March 6, 2022
0:00 / 24:19
Mothers of Misfits00:01

Welcome to the Mothers of Misfits podcast. Join me for conversations about how to advocate for our kids in a one size fits all world. Be sure to subscribe, so you never miss an episode!

Emily Melious00:17

Welcome back to another episode of the Mothers of Misfits podcast. We are so glad you are here to join us. And you might recognize our guest today because he was on with us a couple of weeks back. And I am so glad that Luke is here with us again. If you didn't catch his episode on Navigating ADHD through College, you have got to go back and listen to it.

Don't tell the other guests, but that was probably one of my favorites. It's definitely on the short list. So go back and listen to it. Luke's amazing. He's so great. It's so candid about his experiences. And today we're going to talk about being bipolar through college and growing up. But in case you didn't catch that first episode, let me share with you a little bit about Luke, remind you who he is, and then we will dive in.

So Luke Gilligan is a sophomore. He's at Grove City College. He studies entrepreneurship and you'll hear in a minute why that's such a good fit because he is a long time creative, designing knitwear. He's a constant crafter, which has really helped with his ADHD, which he talked about. He's also founded multiple companies, not just one, but multiple, including a nonprofit called Huggable Happiness Corp, a consulting company Wool Enthusiast And he's currently working on a new startup called Resense. So Luke, I can't accuse you of not being ambitious enough. Welcome Back!

Luke Gilligan01:42

Thanks for having me.

Emily Melious01:43

Yeah. And now you can include on your list of, qualifications as being a repeat podcast guest.

Luke Gilligan01:50

Yeah, I'll add it to my LinkedIn.

Emily Melious01:52

Awesome. I love it! Well, we're so glad that you're choosing to come on Mothers of Misfits twice in a row, but let's just get right down to it. So as you shared last time, you have ADHD, but you also have a different diagnosis that we want to talk about today.

Being diagnosed with bipolar

So why don't you share with us a little bit more about your bipolar diagnosis?

Luke Gilligan02:11

Yeah. So on the last podcast, I talked about how I've had ADHD and, um, got formally diagnosed with it junior year of high school, but as most people with ADHD you've always had.

Um, and so I navigated that into college. And then in college I had more of a mental health episode and we started to realize that it might've been more than just ADHD.

And so throughout the first semester, last year, I figured out that we went through a couple of different things and we realize that I got diagnosed bipolar.

Which was very interesting and it was a shock, but it was honestly probably the best thing that's ever happened to me because now I understand what's going on.

And I can now like cope with it and treat it and, make my life better just surrounding around that topic. So if that makes sense.

Emily Melious03:02

It makes total sense and I love your attitude. I'm sure everybody listening, just commends you because it feels rare or unexpected for you to say, gosh, it was such a blessing to be diagnosed with bipolar because most people would not think of it that way.

But I love how you approach it as, Hey, it was the truth, it was there, getting the diagnosis didn't change anything except for giving me more empowerment and understanding to deal with it properly.

And I think that's a point that's worth making right now because, my family repeats the saying, "that all progress starts by telling the truth and the truth can be scary, or we can think that it's scary, but we can't really make progress with something until we really know what that truth is."

So pursuing a diagnosis or a diagnoses pursuing the right one is just so important because that's really where things start, in terms of progress and healing, but I'm curious, Luke

Knowing when there's something more than ADHD

How did you know there was something more than just the ADHD? Was that something you brought up? Did your parents bring it up?

Luke Gilligan04:06

Yeah. So, I will put this way. Ever since I was little and going into college, I've never had any depressive episodes or anxiety. And I know what it looks like. Um, my mother's in the mental health industry, so I've seen it, I've read about it, but I've never experienced it. And so going into college, it's a new environment, a new situation, seven hours away from home.

Uh, I thought it was just ADHD and changing meds. And like I talked about how that affects you. But starting going into the semester, I started to have depression and being depressed and not knowing why. And I'm the type of person that I mentally analyze everything. And so I was like, I know what this looks like, but I know this has never happened before.

So I kind of denied it, until it started to get really bad. And I started to be like, okay, I need to fix this because in order for me to be successful, I need to get over this and, or in a way that was my mindset. Probably not a good one, but that was what made me realize, okay, this is something, um, because it's never happened before, but I felt it.

And in a way, I mean, you can hear people or you read articles that some people with depression or bipolar sometimes feel like they don't even have it. They forget about it. Um, because there are those waves and that's the thing with me, is it came in waves.

So I would have a good week and then I'd be great, hanging out with friends. And then the next week it just hits me.

Um, and so that's why to me, I was like, oh, this is a mood, a mood swing something. Went on for a few months. And that's when I realized, okay, something's going on.

I had more of dissociative episodes and stuff like that, where I always like to say, I felt like I was playing a video game, but I wasn't doing the controls. I was just watching.

And so that's when I had to admit something and which is hard for me. And I went to my mom and I was like, Hey, this is going to be hard to talk about, but I don't think I'm doing okay. And I'd love your help.

Um, and then, so again, I did wait like two months and then, but after that, we started to like fully explore the idea of it.

I first got diagnosed with depression. Uh, and anxiety, which was good. And then they, and they put me on a med for that, um, realized that was not the case. It was bipolar. And which was interesting because that meant that they put me on, made bipolar worse. And so that's how they found out about my bipolar.

And then I got diagnosed in January of last year. So it's been a full year.

Emily Melious06:53

Wow, but this is still pretty recent.

Luke Gilligan06:55

It's very recent. But if you know me and my personality, I'm a full researcher and me and my mom, we found a full plan to figure out, let's figure this out because it's not something that I can cure and it's not something that's going to go away, but it's only something that I can like attack head on when it's coming.

But yeah, so that's kind of how I figured it out.

Emily Melious07:17

Yeah. And I want to circle back on that plan because I'm really interested to have you share with us and what are those coping mechanisms strategies that you're employing.

Because you're not just getting by in college. You're thriving. I mean, I'm hearing you have a full slate of credits. I think 19, you told me your TA for two classes, you've got these companies, you do consulting work.

So you're not just like bumping along the bottom. You're doing amazingly, even with some of these headwinds. So I want to circle back on that, but first, I totally commend you for going to your mom.

That is a hard conversation, even though I know you and your parents are close and this is your mom's field, but still. It's hard to admit that you're struggling with something that you're not sure what it is. it's a scary time.

But for the parents listening, who might suspect something's going on in their child's life, but their son or daughter is not forthcoming about it. They're not opening up to them.

How to start a conversation

From your perspective, how would you suggest parents start a conversation from their side of things? Like, how do you, I mean, this, this can be really tricky and I'm sure there's fear there to, have your child sort of turn away or to hurt the relationship. really like to hear your thoughts on that.

Luke Gilligan08:35

Oh, absolutely. It's a touchy topic. So I think what my parents did the best was I'm a very independent person. They raised me to know my knowledge and know my like opinions and run with them. Um, and so it was more of like my guilt for them that I didn't say anything. I felt bad that, oh, you're going to have a kid that has some mental health issues.

And that was like, why I didn't want to tell them, cause I didn't want to break their hearts. Um, but it was the conversation that my mom had with me that I think every parent should consider having is:

You don't mention it. Like don't or you mentioned like, Hey, I noticed you're not calling me as much, or you don't sound as happy.

And I just want to know, we love you and we're here for you. And if there's anything that you want to talk about or that you're going through, we'll always be here to listen. And that's the one conversation that made me go, okay. Like I do need to tell them because. If they love me, they should know this because then we can love each other more and better.

And so I think that's kind of the conversation as my mom didn't straight up go, Hey, cause she knows what's going on. Um, and she didn't go, Hey, I think you're depressed. She just goes, Hey, I know you're a little down lately or you're struggling and it is college. But if you ever want to talk wherever you want to call, I'm always here to listen.

And so the thing that kind of made me open up is when parents can be like lightly touch on it, but just remind them the kids worth, I guess.

And that's because to me it's the, or

As a child, I felt bad. I felt guilty that like, my parents gave me this great house, this like amazing life that a lot of kids don't have. And I still am like depressed and I have no reason to be. And so I was like, I don't want to tell them that because I feel bad about that, but I opened up and that was probably the best thing that ever happened.

Emily Melious10:40

Yeah. And that, again, I would, as a parent from this side of things, I never would have thought that would be your top fear is disappointing me as a mom. So, wow. That's really sitting with me because that, that is just not at all what I would have expected, but it's so profound to understand.

It also makes me think of the way I've defined or heard unconditional love defined is that there's nothing you can do to make me love you more. And there's nothing you can do to make me love you less.

And that I think goes hand in hand with what your mom shared with you, which is, Hey, we're always here. You can always talk. there's nothing you can do to make me love you more. There's nothing you can do to make me love you less.

And starting that conversation. Gosh, as early on as possible, I mean, this, we can start saying that in grade school, because when they're being bullied or maybe they're hanging around the wrong people, or, you know, when they're going to encounter other things, we wouldn't be the first people that they talk to.

And I get the teenage years. Yeah. Stuff happens. But when the serious stuff comes, we want them to know, Hey, open conversation. It's okay, come, let's talk about this. Let's work on this together.

Luke Gilligan11:50

And you want it on their terms.

I think that made our whole conversation and exploration down this 10 times better because it was my initiation of it. Instead of feeling like, oh, you're forced to go see a psychiatrist. You're forced to go to see a psychologist.

Now. It's like, it's me admitting that, Hey, I do need help. Can you come along and help me with it?

Because they're the do know how to go around that. And so it's just the kid that initiates it. And I think that makes the conversation go a lot easier too.

Emily Melious12:22

Another excellent point. Okay.

The difference between bipolar one and two

So let's talk about the difference between bipolar one two. And again, just to remind everybody you not giving any medical advice, we sure aren't doctors, but we're just doing our best from our experiences. So definitely of course, if this is something you're facing your child's facing, make sure to consult your pediatrician or doctor.

But from your understanding, Luke, what is the difference? Because you have bipolar one, correct?

Luke Gilligan12:47

I do. Yes. And from my understanding of it and the research that I've done... bipolar one is increased mania. So both of them can't have hypomania episodes, but bipolar one has like full blown, manic episodes. Um, and for that, to me, that looks One like a week ago or a couple of weeks ago, I stayed up for like six days straight without sleeping.

And you feel like you can conquer the world. You feel like you can do anything. I got so much work done, but that's not healthy. It's completely manic because then the next six days are as low as low can go. Um, and so that was a big part of it. And then for me, I think the main diagnosis with bipolar one was I had some sorts of hallucinations when I was before I was diagnosed and like grandiose dreams and ideas, like completely unrealistic.

And those were what were like, that's the mania side of it. Of like seeing things that aren't there, but also experiencing emotion out of such a extreme level and then the manic. But yeah, that's from what I've heard is just the bipolar two is less manic and that's really the main definition of it.

Of course, look it up if you're interested and you can read. There's tons of articles out there, but that's like the quick story.

Emily Melious14:17

I love it. And thankfully, nowadays, I mean the stigma around this, there's still a little bit, but I think we've made, I know we've made tremendous progress, so I'm glad that we can speak so openly about this. And gosh, you're taking us so far, even today in the right direction of just being open and honest about these things in your bravery is something I admire.

Uh, you mentioned medication. Are you currently taking medication to manage your bipolar?

Luke Gilligan14:43

Yes, I think that's with bipolar. That's really the only way you can. Um, because it is lifelong, but yeah, I'm on a good medication plan. That's, uh, they can be a little tense. And so again, just like ADHD is being aware of it and aware of the symptoms and so that when you're on or your doctor's changing meds being aware of, Hey, I don't think this is working or this is causing something else.

That's what I'm at the point. Now it's been a year and we just got to the point that I think I found my medication like cocktail.

Emily Melious15:16

that it took, it took you a couple of months up to a year to really fine that. So just being more constant communication with your medical team until you get it quite right. But it might not be in the first week, even first month, but it's good to know to manage expectations.

Luke Gilligan15:34

What people don't know is like, my medication could work for me, but not for you. And there's actually, we did, this is somebody funny and you can look it up or talk to your psychiatrist or doctor. There's genetic testing you can do for which medications will work for you and which won't. And that's what helped us a lot.

Emily Melious15:52

Whoa, I love that tip.


Because rather than you having to go through experimentation, yeah. Take advantage of that A shortcut. That's huge. Awesome. Okay. Well everybody go check that out. And I'm sure that applies to more then just medicating

disorders. There's probably other ways where you can take advantage of that genetic makeup.

Okay. So I promise we would get to those tips, tricks, strategies of managing being bipolar while going through school, going through life.

Tips for managing bipolar disorder

So can you share with us kind of the high level of your top strategies that work really well for you this

Luke Gilligan16:33

Similar to the ADHD episode. Um, exercise is one of the number one ways. Do that often when I'm this busy, I try. But that's like the one thing that I always recommend, because it does help me when I'm really manic or whatever, but, so I always try to do an exercise plan, but especially with bipolar since is like a mood disorder.

And you sometimes, like, I realize I'm manic until I'm three days in. Um, like to have a very laid out paper planner with my life in it. Cause that's just me managing, keeping track of everything with ADHD, making sure I actually go to meetings and do stuff, but I have a mood tracker on there with 14 different moods that I could have during the day.

And I have it for, um, basically every week and I can click off, oh, I felt this. I felt that. And you can see the trends. And so, I know which ones are when I'm. Oh, I'm excellent. Super happy, extremely happy, joyful. And that's the only ones I'm clicking. I was like, oh, I should probably think about that.

Um, sleep, making sure that you have a set sleep schedule, especially for bipolar is incredibly important because that's what sets your like rhythm off and your body's schedule.

That's at least what my doctor tells me and it works. Um, and then.

Emily Melious17:56

How do you know how you sleep, if you're not feeling sleepy?

Luke Gilligan17:59

Oh, that's when, that's how I, one way I know I'm manic or I need to figure out, call the doctor up my meds or something. Because when I'm manic, I can't sleep. But when I'm doing good and I'm stable, I can sleep. I can go throughout the day. I also probably should know. I have rapid cycle. bipolar, which means that usually people have episodes like five times a year, mine close to like every two weeks is getting longer now. So it's like every month. But yeah.

Emily Melious18:28

Yeah. So it feels quite a lot like a roller coaster. I also want to just go back a minute, that planner that you have, where you can check your different moods. Is that something you created? Can people go buy that on Amazon? For example, where do you get your hands on that.

Luke Gilligan18:43

I designed it actually. I mean, you can get tons of them but for me, I made my own. I'll happy send you a PDF link

Emily Melious18:50

Uh, yes. Okay. Everybody listening, we're going to share with you Luke's PDF to this planner, the way you can get it is make sure you're signed up for episode insiders, go to MothersOfMisfits.Com. Scroll to the bottom, just put in your email address. Boom. You're done.

That's how we get these awesome resources from our guests to you. So be sure to do that because I see that being great for all kids, all ages. I'm thinking for younger kids, cause I'm more in the elementary age, you could even get stickers of different emojis or you know, different expressions and have them choose a sticker for the day.

And yours is of course applicable to older kids, adults. But I love that. I, I just it's it. Even if you don't have a mood disorder, it promotes self-awareness.

It promotes mindfulness, reflection. It helps parents check in on how their kids are feeling without having to have a long conversation about it. So amazing.

Okay. So keep on going. So we have keep a clear schedule, sleep, exercise. What else?

Luke Gilligan19:52

Healthy eating. It's very interesting. If you look up certain foods actually help produce hormones and the different things that are lacking in the body. So almonds and magnisium. Um, this is, it's kinda funny. I also just try to eat healthy in general cause it makes, if your gut is healthy, your brain is healthy.

And then drinking water, especially if you are on meds, but people don't realize is you have to like drink 10 times more water than most people do. Um, and so that's again, But those are like my main things, especially since like throughout the day, especially now in college, I'm going from 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM at night.

And so I need these things just to be able to make sure I'm staying on track and all of that in that actually, in that planner group. I have like a water tracker on it too, and stuff like Moods, meds, exercise.

Emily Melious20:41

Awesome. I'm so glad. You're kind enough to share that with all of us. That's amazing. How do you tell your friends about this? I mean, obviously you're living in close quarters with other people, uh, and they're gonna see the ups and downs. Maybe you need their help in keeping you accountable to, Hey, have you, have you checked off your mood? You seem pretty happy lately, you know, I'm sure having those objective outside loving, uh, people who can give you feedback, but yeah, when you get to school or are you like, Hey, I'm bipolar. Hi.

Luke Gilligan21:13

No, actually, I don't. Um, me, can share it on here and I can share with people that are listening, just like that want to learn, but I still am like a little bit embarrassed by it and that's something I shouldn't be, but I'm just always afraid of how people would react and I don't want to be treated any differently or like thought I'm crazy or whatever.

I hate using that word, but that's what people think. Um, so I do share it with the people that are closest to me and that hang out with me the most, uh, because I do want them to be aware if something, if I go into a bad episode, which happened recently. I need someone to be able to say, Luke, you need just like, stay in your room and then like call my mom or something just to figure it out.

Cause sometimes I, especially with this, I'm unaware of what's happening. And so I could be completely paranoid about here's a funny story. Uh, last semester I thought I was, my room was bugged by the FBI for a while.

Emily Melious22:11

Oh No..

Luke Gilligan22:12

I can laugh about it now, but I had a friend that was like, Hey, you told me about this and I read about it.

And right now you probably should get some help or call your doctor. And so like being able, just to keep it plain, keep it blunt, keep it simple saying, Hey, just so I know I am bipolar is trying to change anything half the time. I forget I have it, but in case you see me be a completely different person sometimes... just let me know and help me because I'm unaware of it until someone tells me sometimes. So

Emily Melious22:42

Yeah, it absolutely does. And I don't think there's one right answer, but I like your approach of finding a few trusted friends. That, uh, the definition of a friend is someone who knows everything about you and likes you anyways. So the people that you feel comfortable sharing the goods, the bads, the uglies, and then they can, I mean, I mean, they're, they're important for your health and safety because they can help call your mom or, uh, you know, recognize something that you can or say, call your doctor.

I'm sure your mom and your dad and your family feel really encouraged that you have those people at school because they can't be there. So having some people that know the full, full picture and can help you when you need it and encourage you to get the help when you need it. Uh, has always, man, this is Luke such good conversation.

And I'll just say it like a broken record. Again, you are so brave. You are so amazing. You are. I know just by these few conversations, having tremendous impact. Uh, everybody listening is so grateful for you. Thanks for all you're doing. You have already changed the world. You will continue to change the world in huge, huge ways.

And I can't wait to see exactly how. So, thanks for coming on a second time, Luke.

Luke Gilligan23:59

Yeah, thanks for inviting me. I, I love this podcast and it's amazing. So thank you.

Mothers of Misfits24:05

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