Today is world bipolar day, a day to raise awareness of this complex and long term mental health condition. Here’s a few facts about bipolar disorder;
- More than 1 million people in the UK have bipolar.
- It can take on average 10.5 years to receive a correct diagnosis.
- People with bipolar are misdiagnosed on average 3.5 times.
Just think about that. Think about 10 years of your life or more not understanding your own behaviours. Believing there is something intrinsically flawed with you. Living constantly trapped in a cycle of extreme moods. Months of euphoria and elation, where you rarely sleep and hardly eat. But during those months that euphoric feeling is replaced with something ugly and vicious, an intense anger you can’t satiate. You begin to experience delusions that puts yourself and others in danger.
Think about experiencing a crash where you’re left physically and emotionally drained, that ultimately leads to a severe depression. The depression won’t lift no matter what you try. You can’t do anything but sleep and lie on the sofa staring blankly at the wall. You have changed so utterly and completely it bewilders friends and family. Some of them distance themselves from you, unable to deal with the duality of your moods. Suicide begins to feel like the only option left and you start to make plans.
Suddenly, you feel stable but, living in fear that the cycle will begin again at any moment. Living in fear that you’ll be alone forever as relationships break down. Living in denial over the psychosis you’ve experienced, though of course you don’t label it as that out of fear.
I first became ill at 14, and wasn’t diagnosed until I was 26. I spent 12 years living with a condition I didn’t know I had. I felt I’d missed out on so much from being constantly unwell. I was incredibly angry when I was diagnosed. Not because of the actual diagnosis, but because it had taken so long to get the help I had desperately needed.
I had been misdiagnosed so many times I’ve lost count. GP appointments always went the same way; you’re depressed, here’s a prescription, here’s a sick note for work and come back in 2 weeks if you’re not feeling any better. There was no dialogue between us about why I was depressed. Why did I keep coming back? Why was it always every 2 -3 months that I found myself depressed again? If just one doctor over those years had taken the time to ask one simple question,
“Do you ever feel elated and full of energy for long periods of time?”
I would have answered yes! That’s all it would’ve taken to start a new conversation. That’s what eventually happened when I was 26, and I will always be grateful to that GP who took the time to look at my (extensive) notes and question why I kept being mentally unwell. That maybe there was something else hidden beneath the surface of depression I was displaying.
Those of us with a diagnosis of bipolar have been through a long, difficult journey, much of it spent feeling alone and confused. Take some time to listen to our stories and learn more about this mental illness.