Bipolar – it’s a crazy (if you excuse the pun) diagnosis. Sure celebs have it so you’re grand. That’s what I thought in my hypomanic state when I was first diagnosed. Fry Katona my mate called me. I took it all in my stride, I felt well equipped to deal with it. Then I told a friend whose face fell and it suddenly hit me that this wasn’t something to be laughed at.
The crippling depression followed where all motivation went out the window. Any shred of confidence and self-belief disappeared. I hid in my bed and considered it an achievement if I made it to the couch. My poor husband didn’t know what to do with me. I read all the books, I knew exercise and eating properly were crucial in my recovery but even thinking about those things was overwhelming. For people who have never experienced depression it must be baffling to comprehend. But your mind belittles every positive thought that manages to enter your head. You feel useless, worthless and begin to think people would be better off without you burdening them. Your mind lies to you and you see the world as dreary and grey. Hope of anything changing vanishes and you become convinced that this will be your permanent state.
And then one day, there’s momentary relief from the negative thoughts. And slowly, ever so slowly, without daring to hope, the clouds begin part. This can take time so you have to be patient. You slowly realise that you feel more capable, less sad than the day before. More willing to try things, to get in touch with people. Because that’s the worst thing about depression; the isolation. You don’t want to be around yourself so why would you burden your friends? Best to stay put under the covers where it’s safe. Friends offer advice to help you but you feel like a failure for not taking their words of wisdom on board. Which just confounds the fact that you are an utter waste of space. You know deep in your heart that doing anything rash is irreversible. But some days you think that’s the only way to end the pain. But it’s not, you HAVE to keep going. Each day is an opportunity. The light that cracks through the darkness gets bigger and soon the world seems a less scary place.
But then comes the hypomanic phase. Your mind floods with ideas. No one can keep up with you, nothing entertains you fast enough. Constant stimulation. Constantly on my phone. You tell everyone your latest plans and can’t understand why they don’t share your opinion that this is the best idea you’ve ever had. Who needs sleep? There’s too much to do!
And then gradually you become aware that this is not normal. People are worried for you. And you realise you are hyper and that this too will come to an end. Will there be a period of normality before the depression returns? How long will “normal” last? And the sad thing is you just don’t know.
But I’m slowly learning to manage my moods. I don’t allow myself on eBay anymore. I lost my life spending money I don’t have on it! I try to delay spending decisions when I’m hyper and I’m kind to myself when I’m depressed. I congratulate myself if I manage a shower and getting dressed. So for anyone that’s just been diagnosed I say this, be gentle with yourself “you are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars, YOU HAVE A RIGHT to be here.” And things will change, time doesn’t stand still. The good times will pass but so too will the bad times. Live in the present, breathe, be grateful for all you have, no matter how hard it is to appreciate it. Write down your feelings, it’s cathartic and helps you process your thoughts. Read other people’s experiences so you’ll understand you are not alone. Confide in close friends but tell them that rather than offering advice you just need someone to listen. If you can, go to a therapist. Being able to be completely free and open with another human without fear of recrimination can be liberating. Read about your condition but don’t let it consume you. You are more than your diagnosis. Us humans are wonderful complex beings and a mental health illness is just one tiny facet in what’s a fascinating thrilling adventure. When you feel normal you’ll see that life is a precious gift and that the future is bright. And no matter how you feel now there WILL be a period of normality.
Life is beautiful. You just need to allow yourself to believe it.