To raise awareness of World Bipolar Day later this month, our Digital Communications Officer Claire Robinson-Ayres shares her thoughts in this thought-provoking blog.
The end of this month sees World Bipolar Day celebrated. An awareness day for the estimated 1-2% of the population who have this disorder, myself included.
Life with bipolar is interesting, to say the leas,t but it’s more than possible to live a “normal” life, something I spent a long time thinking was way out of my reach.
I was a teen when I started showing symptoms, but I didn’t get a diagnosis until I was in my mid-twenties. It’s fair to say I struggled with “normal” for a long time, getting caught in destructive cycles which were damaging to me personally and professionally.
When I was manic I would:
Drink too much, turning up to work hungover or still drunk, cut myself and walk around in long sleeve tops even in the height of summer. I was paranoid about being alone and so I spent all my time partying to be with people, spending money I didn’t have to keep up a lifestyle I couldn’t afford.
When I was depressed I would:
Have big chunks of time off of work, not leave my bed for weeks at a time, not pay my bills, not eat or drink.
I spent years in this cycle until I started to realise I needed to pull myself out of it. I started reading about bipolar and getting an understanding of it and in turn an understanding of myself.
When I was eventually referred to Second Step’s Community Rehabilitation Service I was still not coping well, but I was determined. Determined not to stay as the mess I’d been. The team saw that determination in me and worked on various things with me to get me to a place where I was not just functioning but functioning “normally”.
It was nice to be treated as a person and not an illness, to be listened to and understood in a way I had never been before. It gave me a freedom I had never experienced before and I made the most of every second.
It is incredibly liberating to get on top of an illness like bipolar, to get to a point where you understand what is happening, why it’s happening and how it’s happening. To understand which medications help in which circumstances and to know the signs when something isn’t right. To be able to signpost your doctor so together we can fix them.
It’s incredibly satisfying knowing that for years you were controlled by this illness and now at long last you have the control.