Being Bipolar: My mental health journey (part one)

In this blog, so far, I have spoken mainly about my anxiety disorder. Why is this so? I have always been encouraged to keep quiet about my main mental health condition for fear of stigma, judgement etc. However, I am open about it to close friends and family.

I was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder (formerly manic depression) when I was just 16 years old. This was diagnosed after a period of both depression and hypomania (a lower level manic episode characterised by a ridiculous amount of energy, disnhibition etc) spanning over a year. I was then hospitalised later that year in Christmas 2004 and spent several months on an adolescent psychiatric unit in London, while they put me on mood stabilising medication and got me well through individual talking and group therapies (including art, PE etc).

I met some amazing people in hospital that time. We were all just teenagers suffering from a wide variety of mental health issues including schizophrenia, bipolar, psychosis (some drug induced), eating disorders, self harm etc. I didnt keep in contact with the people I was in hospital with but I hope they are all well and I sometimes do think of them.

I was supported by a wonderful psychiatrist who managed to stabilised my depression  and psychosis, and I also had a team of nurses and therapists around me who would cheer me up, make me laugh and one even helped me put on my make up one day. They really were my angels.

Mum came to visit me every day. It must have been so traumatising for her to see her little girl so poorly. But thank g-d, after 4 months of being in hospital and slowly getting better I came home and it would be another ten years later that I would find myself in hospital again.

My illness is largely believed to be genetic as it runs in my family. Therefore for ten years I have taken constant mood stabilising medication and anti depressants to keep the chemical symptoms at bay. My hospitalisation last year was the culmination of my body changing as I became a woman and the medication (mood stabiliser) not working. I am now on the right medication.

Both times I have been ill, I have had people in my life who I call ‘angels’ because they have prayed for me, visited me in hospital when I have been at my worst, lit shabbat candles for me, put my name in the Western Wall in Jerusalem, sent me cards and flowers and letters, all of which I have kept. When I was 16, my school year even came together to present me with two homemade cards. I was so grateful and have them in my bedroom in the wardrobe to this day.

Bipolar affective disorder has two types. I am Bipolar One- meaning I can have more acute episodes of full blown mania and psychosis. Psychosis (delusional beliefs) is very scary but it can be treated by certain wonderful medications and I am happy to say it doesn’t affect me when I am on the right meds.

I will have this condition for the rest of my life. I know how best to manage it but there are still hard times. Either way, I will continue explaining it to people who ask… so that people can understand you can live a full and fulfilling life with this illness.

I will write more another time on my Bipolar. Thank you for reading and for the support.

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