An Oxfordshire Mind Expert by Experience, Molly, blogs about her Bipolar disorder and how she copes with it.
I am living with Bipolar. I’d been struggling with anxiety and depression for a few years, but there always seemed to be more to it, something more than ‘low mood’. So when I was finally diagnosed 5 years ago, it made sense, but woah – it was scary!
My childhood was pretty perfect. Other than never sleeping well and having some attachment difficulties, I was a normal, happy child. It all kicked off when my Aunty died when I was 10; we were so close. I started refusing school and wouldn’t leave my Mum’s side. Mental Health Services got involved, delivering CBT. Then, other than underlying anxiety, all seemed to be fine until the year before my GCSEs.
I started getting very low, self conscious and anxious; I was overwhelmed all too easily. I started seeing a very lovely doctor who referred me to CAMHS. Fluoxetine was the answer they gave, we hoped it would change things, it didn’t. I was self harming, my appetite disappeared, I wasn’t sleeping and I started experiencing bizarre feelings, like my brain was moving at a million miles an hour. I call these ‘headful feelings’, and they later turned out to be the beginnings of mania. Despite extremely low attendance, I managed to get my GCSEs. I got into the sixth form and thought I could move on. I couldn’t.
I struggle to remember my teenage years – why would I want to remember being so unhappy? What I do remember is that I made it halfway through year 12. Twice. My mental health was as bad as it had ever been; my attendance was low, my grades were dropping, and nothing was changing. At some point, CAMHS suggested Bipolar – they changed my meds to Quetiapine (an atypical antipsychotic) and waited. Quetiapine was a saga of my life I’m glad I’ve nearly forgotten; I was a zombie for 6 months, which obviously wasn’t good enough, so they introduced me to Aripiprazole.
At 18, I overdosed. My boyfriend went to university and I couldn’t handle the change. I’d hit rock bottom, so my doctor’s suggested that we try Lithium. I’d only ever heard scary things about Lithium, but it has been a crucial stepping stone – it has made me well enough to look after myself and start achieving my goals. I’m now able to notice my relapse signs and my triggers; I’ve become good at using techniques like exercise (yoga, walking, running), diet (eating little and often), sleep (not under or over sleeping) and mindfulness to regulate my mood. I notice a big change depending on whether I have been active. I will feel like everything is slipping, but actually it’s because I haven’t moved in a few days!
I’ve now managed to get my level 3 qualifications, and did very well indeed! Soon I will be starting a Psychology Degree. Ultimately, the leg up lithium gave me has allowed me to be happy. My journey with Bipolar has taught me many things:
Not to compare myself to others – be my own, unique and awesome human.
To be open about my difficulties, talking to friends and family, sharing my story with strangers and trying to educate people against the stigma of mental health.
To do things that bring me joy.
To be empathetic towards others and what they might be going through.
To do things in my own time – can one ever really be ‘behind’? ‘Behind’ what?!? Everyone’s journey is different.
The pathway life has taken me down has made me who I am; I have accepted that Bipolar will be something I deal with forever. I have learnt to be kind to and love myself. I still have low days and can be crippled with anxiety or manic thinking, but I am lucky to have some wonderful people in my life who help me through it all. I know I can deal with it now: I am living with Bipolar, but it’s really not that scary anymore.