August 23, 2012

Time to Change bloggerI've been brought up to never talk about mental health, if you can't see it, it doesn’t exist.

I’ve been brought up to think that mental health problems are a sign of weakness in a place where words such as 'loony' and 'psycho' are appropriate for anyone suffering from a serious mental health condition.

This is why I think it is important to share and as I start on my journey with bipolar I want to write about both the positive and negative responses I have to this illness.

I worry that my early experiences have made me reluctant to disclose my illness and I am expecting the stigma. I worry as I’m sure many do that I will become my condition and everything else I can do or am will pale into comparison.

Last week I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder

Last week I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I didn't see it coming. I knew something wasn't right but I wasn't sure what it was. Again, my own preconceived prejudices flew to the surface. I don't want this thing, I don't want to worry about medication, mental health teams and mood swings. But my biggest question was in fact, how the hell do I tell other people? I have a psychiatrist appointment on Tuesday where my journey with medication starts. I feel ashamed, annoyed and weak which I assumed is how those around me would see me and react.

Last year I relocated for my job. The people I live near, socialise with and work with are not my closest friends. They have known me less than a year so if they turn their backs on me I can start again and it wouldn’t be the end. However, what if i lose my job because of this thing?

I started by telling a few colleagues at work

I started by telling a few colleagues at work who I have also formed a friendship with and was overwhelmed by their response. They are trying to understand the condition and are being so supportive. They have made me feel like I have people around me to support me whilst I try to come to terms with and deal with this. They have given me strength to feel that I am not completely alone and have challenged every misconceived preconception I have. However, talking to my employer was a different story.

Since I disclosed my condition to my employer last week, I realise that I have scared my manager with my illness. She doesn’t understand it and I worry about what will happen next. I am mortified that I have frightened anybody and struggle to see how I will get her to understand.

This means if the medication doesn’t help I will be out of a job

Over the last 6 months she has constantly reprimanded me for mood swings when they occur, I was hoping that this would at least start to explain it. I also thought the fact I am trying to get help would show for something. This was not the case. The day after my diagnosis my performance contract was set and the first thing stated was that she needs to see more 'stable behaviour'. This means if the medication doesn’t help I will be out of a job because I will be not performing due to the mood swings of bipolar.

I also work in a retailer which has a pharmacy and healthcare department. This week she has asked me to 'stay away' from these departments as it is not fair on her. I am devastated that she thinks I would hurt somebody. If I had known she would react like this would I have chosen not to disclose? Possibly yes but I don’t know what this medication will do.

Reading other people’s blogs has helped me feel less alone

I commend people, like those on the Time to Change website who disclose their illness to others. I feel it is the right thing to do to open up about this. Reading other people’s blogs has helped me feel less alone and I hope that my blog will reach other people in the same way.

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