When I was 18, my life was a mess. I had a great job, but I was struggling to make the most of it because of my mental state.
I had an unsettled childhood, and at home I could be downright unpleasant to my family. As I got older, instead of growing out of the ‘naughty’ phase, things got worse. My grades at school were good, and although I never went to university I landed myself a good job in the Civil Service at only 17. I was academic, I made my family proud. But at home, things were different. I began to resent my mother for the upheaval in my childhood, and I felt like an outsider in my own home. My three younger sisters have always been close to each other and I struggled to form that bond with them. I had always had difficulties with my mood, although at the time I thought I just felt sad and it was normal. I would cut off friends for the smallest reasons, and found it hard to maintain relationships with friends and family.
When I was 18, things got worse. My ‘low’ periods would last weeks, sometimes months. I began self-harming and was plagued with suicidal thoughts and I couldn’t get myself out of bed in the morning. And then, all of a sudden, I was fine. I was bright, bubbly, the life of the party. I was constantly dissatisfied, wondering why nobody could keep up with me. I wanted change, big change in my life. I would drink until I couldn’t stand. But nothing was good enough. I always wanted something more. This mania, as I now know it, could last anywhere from a day to a week. Never as long as my lows, but in some ways they were more dangerous. My behaviour became reckless, and I had no regard for anybody but myself. Sometimes not even myself.
On my mother’s advice, I went to my GP to ask her what everybody had long suspected – ‘do I have bipolar?’. I didn’t even get to begin to explain my symptoms before the doctor became irritated. No, I didn’t. I was a teenager and all teenagers feel this way, she told me. I believed her and it took another year to go back and ask again.
On my 19th birthday, I hit a low. I had hosted a house party and at the start I was having a great time – dancing, drinking, my friends cringing as my behaviour became more and more outrageous. My best friend found me in the bathroom later that night, crying and covered in blood. I was ashamed of what I had done to myself, and as the ambulance was called, I realised I needed help. It was a turning point.
It took a few more months, but I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. I got the help I needed, and I was prescribed medication to help regulate my mood. It took longer than it should have because the area I was living in was heavily oversubscribed for mental health services.
There are still days where I struggle. I don’t want to take my medication because I feel ‘fine’. I pick fights with my boyfriend for no real reason. It flares up in times of stress and I’m still learning to deal with it. I have good people around me, and I’m lucky to have had the love and support my friends and family have provided.
Mental health is a difficult journey. Nobody should be discounted or stereotyped because of them. Awareness is very important – it’s taken a long time for me to be open about my condition for fear of being seen differently because of it.
I always call myself the crazy one, but I’m not. I’m just as normal as everyone else. It’s important to remember that.