Living with bipolar: recovery is not a fast-track road

Warning, this post may be triggering for some readers.

 

I hadn't left the house for days.Time to Change blogger Hayley talks about bipolar and recovery My attendance at college was 28% and from the dozens of answerphone messages on my phone, my absence had not gone unnoticed. I'd been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder a few months earlier during a manic episode, and although expected to take this as 'bad news', I'd reacted quite the opposite. Firstly, I was finally free of the 'depression' label that had so carelessly been thrown at me for years. There was something more going on, why couldn't anybody hear what I was saying? And secondly, because of said episode and it's accompanying feelings of grandiosity, I took this diagnosis as confirmation that I was 'special'.

It was only a few months later, during my weeks of depression that this diagnosis made me feel isolated and different from my peers. The problem with feeling isolated, is that you respond by isolating yourself even more. If you can't understand yourself, how can you expect others to understand you?

I wasn't living, I was barely existing

I hadn't told my friends about my illness nor had I told my colleagues at my part-time job. My numerous days off sick were masked by detailed lies ranging from food poisoning to thyroid problems. Whichever feigned illness bought me the most time to shut out the world and put off having to face people. I ignored friends who contacted me, screamed at my mum when she asked why I'd been in bed all day and spent my days either starving myself or eating so much I'd be in pain. I wasn't living, I was barely existing. After one particular stint of solitude, I was persuaded by friends to go out on a Saturday night. I wanted so desperately to be 'normal' after seeing my peers on social networking sites with hundreds of photos documenting their alcohol-fuelled, exciting weekends. So I drank and kept on drinking. I was 19 and no stranger to alcohol, but never before had I used it to 'block out' my thoughts, to escape the constant whirl in my mind but here I was, drinking with the sole intention to hit some sort of blackness.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't remember much from that night because although I wish that was true, it's not. I came home by myself, sobbing hysterically to my panicked mum, so intoxicated I was unable to speak coherently. Eventually I got into bed, pretended to be asleep and after my mum went back to her room I purposely overdosed. I spent the next day in hospital, having blood tests and undergoing psychological evaluation. The fear and sadness in my Mother and Brother's faces was the moment I realised I needed help.

I cannot believe the difference 365 days can make

It's now nearly a year from the day that I tried to take my own life and I cannot believe the difference 365 days can make. I still have days when the thought of getting out of bed and leaving the house makes me feel like a frightened child, sometimes I manage to get up and sometimes I don't. But that's okay because recovery is not a fast-track road, it's learning how to love yourself enough to look after yourself and seek the help you deserve. Although 2013 was one of my most difficult and challenging years, I will remember it as the time I turned things around, the year I persevered through adversity.

Nothing to be ashamed of

Four months after I attempted to complete suicide, I spontaneously travelled to Cambodia alone to volunteer to teach English for a month. While I was there, I received an email to say I'd passed my A-levels and had been accepted into my first choice university. Had you told the girl lying in a hospital bed that those things would happen, she'd have called you a liar. But then she got help, she stuck to her medication and attended her counselling sessions. She confided in her family and her three closest friends and was shocked when they listened without judgement. She realised she had nothing to be ashamed of and she didn't have to deal with this alone.

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Comments

wrapped up in Bipolar.

Hiya Haley, After reading this article, well after allowing time for my vision to clear from the tears! I felt I had to ask you a question. How do you get to the stage where you feel 'normal'? Or are able to live an everyday life? I was diagnosed as bipolar just over a year ago. I had been treated for depression for 12 years beforehand! I feel so wrapped up in being bipolar I feel like a mummy! I have pushed all my friends, family and former colleagues away. I still have my son (21) and daughter (27) but feel such guilt for putting all this on them I fear I will lose them also. I am not able to function, I spend longer and longer periods on my own locked in the house. On occasions, mostly on high, I can get some food in and attempt appointments. I just so want to be at a stage where maybe I can work, do a night class or anything to be honest without thinking I can't because I'm bipolar, if I start something I will end up ruining it all because I will hit a down time! How do I break the cycle and try to move forward?

This is overwhelmingly similar.

I'm so sorry that you've had such an awful time with your mental health, I'm so glad you've written this though. Your story and mine are almost exactly the same. I got drunk and overdosed and after 6 hours of chasing after me my boyfriend finally phoned the police who forced me to go to hospital. I was diagnosed as bi-polar after I described my life to them. 2014 has been the year of learning how to cope and LOVE life. Knowing triggers is the most important part of recovery and it's really scary to read a blog by someone who has had an identical experience. Keep smiling Hayley :)

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