April 22, 2014

For as long as I can remember I have always had my own style and way of looking at the world and reading people. I had always been described as a child ‘with highs and lows and a tendency to angry outbursts’. When I was in high school I suffered from a period of depression where I began self-harming and monitoring exactly what I ate and when.

I found talking difficult, but I finally talked to my family and got the help I needed

At the time my younger sister had just been diagnosed with Dyslexia and my parents were focussing all their attention on her. I felt alone and over looked and didn’t understand why I felt the way I did and found ways to control my feelings and make sense of it all myself. I found talking difficult and never knew how to describe what I felt and often convinced myself it was nothing and that no one would believe me. It wasn’t until years later that I finally talked to my family and got the help I needed to begin to recover and manage my illness, this is still on-going.

An experience with stigmatisation left me terrified of letting anyone else about my illness

I started University in 2007 moved away from home, the first two years were brilliant however in my third year of University I experienced a depressed episode and was put on anti-depressants which triggered my first manic episode. I avoided telling my family and friends as I didn’t think they would understand and had also convinced myself it would pass and I didn’t see any harm in what I was doing, I was just happy.

My best friends (who were also my house mates) at University didn’t understand what had happened, they posted statuses on Facebook about me and told people on the course that I was ‘a psycho’ and ‘crazy’ this caused me to feel isolated and alone on my return home, where I ended up sectioned and in hospital again. Due to this experience I was terrified of letting anyone know about my illness (I had been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and traits of emotional instability) and did not want to talk about it at all for fear of not being understood or being labelled as ‘crazy’.

With the help of my family, friends and partner, I have learnt to trust people

5 years on, I have learnt with the help of my family, friends and partner to trust people and discuss my illness. I returned to university after a year at home and achieved a 2:1 in Chemistry and then stayed on to complete a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate of Education) year and NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) year in the same area.

During my PGCE year teaching secondary Science, the school I was placed in offered me a job for the following year. I didn’t know whether to disclose my illness and decided not for fear of it affecting my job. During the year I became ill and had to have time off work in hospital, on return I opened up to my line manager and disclosed. I felt terrified for days before hand I kept putting it off reading up on the internet how to broach the subject and discussing options with my care coordinator.

Small things my school colleagues did help pull me out of the darkness 

On disclosing the staff were so supportive and kind, I felt instantly at ease. Especially the school's science technician she helped me far more than I think she will ever know and managed to help me stay stable for most of the year. The small things pulled me out of the darkness, remembering that angel cake was my favourite dessert and buying it for lunch times, lifts home to shorten my commute (by train) when it was dark and wet and talking with me about any concerns I had. If I left work looking upset whether it was due to a bad lesson or any reason at all they would text and ask if I was ok and those that knew would ask me how my mood was. I never found this intrusive and they helped me open up and realise that I could be a teacher and be bipolar and that it really is the small things that can pull someone out of a dark place.

I am slowly beginning to realise I am a 25 year old woman who has bipolar NOT a Bipolar 25 year old women and there is a huge difference.

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