Most people start adulthood, looking to the future, at a world of possibility. The transition from teenage life to adulthood was marked by when I diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder type II at 20. After several years of low and high mood swings as a teenager, and my condition being undetected at school - passed off for adolescence and not having a clear enough direction for my future - I ended up at medical school, deeply unhappy, unfulfilled and with no desire to complete my course.
I had by now realised I was LGBTQ. After many years of being repressed and in the closet, things finally came to a head. Before I knew it, I had dropped out, had a breakdown, come out and restarted a degree that I actually wanted to study - and not because of family and cultural pressure. Coupled with this was that I come from a family of medical professionals and a South Asian background. None of these overlapping identities were easy.
Now, 12 years later, much has changed in my life and yet much has not in terms of the stigma and discrimination I have experienced, due to my condition. The perception of the condition, in part thanks to the work of people like Stephen Fry, has meant manic depression has become demystified somewhat.
Yet my experience of the disorder is as different to that of someone else, as two fish swimming in the same ocean with distinctly different colours of their scales. Bipolar is my best friend and my worst enemy; like a rain shower in a drought or an avalanche on a mountainside village. It can be refreshing and bring with it a range of creativity but also be destructive and hard to rebuild from in the wake of its damage.
In the time since I was diagnosed, I have worked abroad in several different countries and experienced both direct and first-hand intolerance and misunderstanding. I have experienced the struggle of living with the condition at work, at home, in my relationships and with my family. It has lost me jobs, damaged my friendships, challenged my romantic relationships and affected the well-being of my family.
Even today in the UK, with the Equality Act (2010) and Disability Rights enshrined in legislation, it is easier to say ‘I have a bad back’ than ‘I have bipolar’, as it can risk you losing a job, not being hired, being misunderstood and being made to be a social pariah. I am one of the lucky ones, living in a society where the law and charities such as Mind and Time to Change work to end the problems people with the condition face.
I don’t regret the condition - only the damage it has done to my nearest and dearest. Ultimately it is my cross to bear. I wait for a day when a person with bipolar is looked at, judged and supported in the same way as someone with a physical ailment. When the brain and mind are treated as if they were any part of the human body.