I was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder in December 2012. I believe that I had been ill for ten years previously with this illness. As a teenager, I was very sullen, and my parents’ believed I was just being a teenager; quiet, unapproachable and moody. However these everyday moods of a teenager slowly manifested into a full blown mental illness. I started refusing to go to school and became a remote, isolated figure at home. I managed to see a child psychologist, who’s kind and approachable demeanour allowed me to open up and discuss my troubling thoughts. After six months, I was able to return to school full time and continue my education. Here are my thoughts on Why Mental Health Awareness should be taught in Schools
At sixteen years old and back at school my personality changed. The juxtaposition between my previous low mood and despairing thoughts to my then heightened excitement and confidence was more than obvious. I loved my new brazen self, and had a sense of belief in myself and my abilities I had never had before. This, looking back now, was my first cycle from depression to mania and what shocks me is how strikingly obvious my condition was, but no one saw it. My family and friends were happy that I was no longer ill, so it seemed, and that I was enjoying life.
Throughout my twenties I switched from severe depression to mania and back again. I didn’t know myself and never understood how and why my moods were so extreme. Was I an introvert or an extrovert? Was I short tempered or patient? Was my personality intense or relaxed? Did I have a positive or negative view of life? I seemed to be all of these things at one point or another. My life was full of extremes and reactionary; my moods governed my relationships, my education, my career choices. I could never plan what I wanted to do with my life because there was always the fear that my depression or manic, self destructive behaviour would scupper them. I started University bursting with creativity and hyperactivity. I barely slept, I barely ate. I was constantly partying, studying or working. It all came crashing down and I had to leave because of the severity of depression I found myself suffering from. This then became a pattern; I would recover from depression and switch to a hypomanic or manic state. I would achieve a great deal of things before the bubble would burst and I would be crippled by low mood. I came to believe I had a self destructive personality and that I was doomed to have to constantly reinvent myself and my life.
Numerous appointments were made with my GP, when I was in the throes of depression. I often felt suicidal and wanted to harm myself. I would take antidepressants and my mood would rocket upwards; the medication they were giving me made me feel invincible. I now know what I was being prescribed was wrong for me, and was triggering manic episodes. Manic episodes caused me to have terrible bouts of irritability and anger. I would lash out at my current partner and relationships would fall apart. After the mania had subsided, I would realise how alone and isolated I was and that I was the cause of relationships to break down.
After being diagnosed, I still continued to struggle. It took years to find the right combinations of medication to help me feel stable. Either the medications worked, but I couldn’t stand to live with the side effects, that left me feeling chronically tired, or the medication helped solve one extreme mood, but not the other. Depression would appear from nowhere and overwhelm me, causing me to have suicidal thoughts and to have auditory hallucinations. My Experiences of Mental Health Crises Care After nearly two years out of work because of the severity of my mood swings I returned to a less pressurised job and found myself in a stable, long term relationship, despite my struggles.
My advice to others who have an inkling that they may have Bipolar disorder or a similar mood disorder is to keep a mood diary. The main reason I wasn’t diagnosed for ten years is because I only went to see a doctor when I was severely depressed; not when I was manic. If you keep a mood diary and fill it in everyday, look back at it when you feel well and stable. Stability often shines a light on my manic episodes and having those extreme moods written down would have highlighted the problems for me. I would have had evidence written in front of me that my moods were not normal; that I wasn’t emotionally stable. Take your mood diary with you to a doctor’s appointment and rase your concerns with them. Be persistent. My experiences have shown me that you have to keep going to see a doctor again and again to be treated seriously or referred for therapy or a psychiatrist. Take a family or friend with you who know what you’re going through if it’s difficult to articulate how you’re feeling.
I’m currently going through a difficult stage of depression. and hope that this subsides. I know that Bipolar disorder is a long term illness and I have to be regimented in taking my medication and taking care of myself. A lack of sleep, high alcohol consumption and stress are all triggers for my depression and mania to flare up. I am much more open and honest about my condition now which has definitely helped me confront and accept my diagnoses. I see a psychiatrist regularly, and I am seeing a psychologist to help me deal with more ingrained thoughts I have that could have a negative impact on my illness.
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