, October 10, 2016

“Mental health problems are a difficult journey. Nobody should be discounted or stereotyped because of them."

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.

Read more personal stories >

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.