January 22, 2014

MarkPeople often say that little things can make a big difference. It’s a bit of a cliché .But I don’t think there is anywhere where this is truer than in talking about mental health.

My bipolar disorder hasn’t always been an easy ride, but talking about it has made a huge difference. During a particularly nasty episode of depression, I had a conversation that completely changed the way I viewed both myself and my disorder.

I was locked away in my own cocoon of misery and self-loathing

It was probably the worst depression I’ve ever had. I was hardly going out, I wasn’t seeing friends and I was starting to fall behind with my uni work. Put simply, I wasn’t doing anything. I was just locked away in my own cocoon of misery and self-loathing.

A mate texted me asking me to go round to his place. I said no. It wasn’t the first time – I just couldn’t bear to be around people. People who were happy, people who were living life. People who were normal. And anyway, what good would I be with my sad face? I’d just bring everyone else down with me.

My mate wouldn’t take no for an answer

My mate wouldn’t take no for an answer. I relented, but only because the stress of turning someone down again was making me feel even worse. I told him that I wasn’t feeling very sociable, so he’d better not expect me to be laughing and joking. “That’s ok,” he said. “I’m just going to be doing some work. Bring some of yours.”

So I did. I picked up some homework that I’d been putting for ages and dragged myself round to his place. We did some work, chatted about the mundane and had some laddish banter. I even managed to crack a smile and have a laugh.

I opened up a bit about my mental health. I asked why anyone would want to be friends with a lunatic. I just didn’t understand it. “It’s the spice of life,” he replied. What did this mean? Did this mean I was like an exhibit at a freak show, that people liked to gawp at?

No! It meant that we’re all different. We all have our good points and bad points. We all have our own highs and lows. Yes, I am bipolar. But I am a lot of other things as well. If other people could see that, why couldn’t I?

That conversation got me out of that rut

I wouldn’t say that that day – that conversation – got me out of the depression I was in. But, without doubt, it got me out of that rut – that cocoon. I started to go out a bit more and take control of my life. Eventually, the dark clouds went away and the depression lifted. But more importantly, that conversation got rid of the stigma that I attached to myself and helped me feel comfortable with who I am. It made a massive difference.

So, next time someone says that small things can make a big difference, they’re not just parroting a tired old cliché. They’re probably right.

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