I'm Happy. And It Feels Wrong.


Shortly after I was released from psychiatric hospital for the third time, I rang my husband from a railway platform. I'd been out for the day, and I knew he'd be curious about how I was.

"I'm happy," I told him, adding: "But not too happy."

We both knew what I meant. My second hospitalisation occurred after a toe-curling bout of mania in which I didn't need to be taken to hospital - I asked to go. Not because I thought I needed it. Having been in before, I believed I was the ideal person to set the place to rights.

There is no certainty like a manic-depressive on a mission.

I was happy. I was confident. I was full of energy, and creative ideas. I was also given to extreme irritability and, most worrying in retrospect, a terrifying tendency to "blank out". Some of the things I did whilst manic I'm only aware of because people I trust have told me about them.

Fast forward several years and one hospitalisation later and, once again, I'm happy. And it feels wrong.

I'm reasonably stable. Sure, I sometimes experience intense worry and paranoia, but I can live with that. I've even managed to drop my medication to a level where I can buy a packet of chocolate biscuits and not eat the whole thing. Well, not all at once.

So, what's wrong with feeling happy?

As someone who has survived one episode of full-blown mania, several of hypomania, well, I'm scared.

Scared that I'm living a bipolar dream, and really am hypomanic.

Scared that any moment now I'm going to drop off some metaphorical cliff into That Big Horrid Doom World that typically engulfs me twice a year.

Scared that I'm going to mess up – again.

And yet …surely happiness is a frequent, if often fleeting, human state of mind? Aren't normal people happy from time to time?

Ah. “Normal”. That word often crops up when speaking to other people with mental health problems.

“I just want to be normal again,” people say. Sometimes I'll reply: “What's normal?”

What indeed is normal? One “Time to Change” champion wrote an excellent blog on being bipolar and trying to separate themselves from their mental health problems.

Can this be done? Should I even try? I was in my mid-40s when I was diagnosed, which means most of my life was spent as a 'normal' person. (Well, sort of normal, if you count having one major bout of depression every decade from my 20s through to my 40s as 'normal'.)

Where does an individual end, and their mental illness pick up? Or can a mental health condition colour someone's life, no more and no less than someone with, say, diabetes, or a serious heart condition? All of these – including mental illness – can mean a life cut short, and one which is miserable whilst it lasts.

But it doesn't have to. For now, despite the various troubles in my life, mental and otherwise, I'm choosing to be happy. Even if it does feel wrong.

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Really inspiring, can really

Really inspiring, can really relate to the biscuit thing! keep blogging and look after yourself!

Demi's comment

Cheers, Demi. You made me smile when I read 'the biscuit thing'. You look after yourself, too.

I love this post! It's so

I love this post! It's so full of FEELING! What comes out loud and clear from your writing is just HOW normal you are... Indeed, you hit it on the nail: a mental health condition CAN colour one's life! My feeling is you are doing the right thing. Oh! And thank you for this beautiful - and inspiring - post.

I Can Relate

Hi. I can really identify with what you say about happiness feeling wrong. I, too, share the same trepidation about the genuine nature of my mood. I don't really care if it's hypomania - it's better than what I'm in now - the beguiling comforts of depression. Do you blog elsewhere about mental health? I would love to read more (I have read your Time to Change posts).If you're interested you can skim through my musings on mental health in my blog www.puncturerepairkit.wordpress.com - search for 'tarmac'which is where bi polar disorder 2 (mixed symptoms) entered my life. Keep writing about your eperiences;I want to readmore about them.

Hi Nicholas, really, really

Hi Nicholas, really, really late reply to your comment! I am following your blog, and enjoy it. I am blogging now too, think you're following the blog.

I enjoyed this post

I really loved how you said that mental health conditions can colour someone's life, I find myself terrified of my uncontrollable moods as I am still in the trial of being diagnosed. Although have diagnosed as BPD and cyclothymia. The problem I have is my 'manic' becomes a mixed episode quite quickly because of dellusions and BPD causing extreme emotions. I hope one day I will be able to choose to be happy as I feel I am losing my life to my mental health when really I should try to use it to my advantage.

The 'not too happy' bit

The 'not too happy' bit really struck a chord with me. I constantly have to say this to myself, especially in the summer when things are normally better, well somehow better managed in a way... Being only 20, my worst fear is my mum thinking I'm in any way unwell. And having to convince her that I'm generally happy -in a GOOD way- rather than racing thoughts, rapid speech, is still frustrating. Agh such an aggravation that there is some sort of 'proof' still needed to establish to others whether we are 'well' at any present moment. Surely I know my mind better than anyone? Though I know most are trying to help, sometimes it just feels condescending...

"too happy" I can relate to that

Dear Sheila, Thank you so much for echoing what I have been going through since my diagnosis in 2012, (at 29). Convincing my partner and family and friends that i'm happy (but not too happy) in a good way, its just a whole new way of "fake it to make it" for me. Happiness just has this whole other meaning these days...not to say that I'm pleased to know what has been going on with me for a long time...just thought it was me. Thanks again, stay well. Mary

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