November 2, 2016

During my final year at university, I was aged 20, and finally asked for help from my GP. In the words of my younger brother, I’ve always been a bit ‘quirky’. I have a hard time processing emotion sometimes, and I’ve plummeted from inescapable lows to strange highs in a matter of days since my teenage years. I’d spend hours obsessing over the idea that people were laughing at me, worrying about my weight, my appearance, feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. But I remember continuously telling myself, this is how every teenager feels, right? Turns out, not everyone does. I assumed my erratic emotions were the norm, and that my deep, dark moods were simply ‘hormones’ figuring themselves out.

University gave me highs and lows much like in my previous years at home, but my final year it all became too much. I received differing opinions from GPs and mental health, where words like depression, bipolar, anxiety were all being thrown in the mix. This should have made me feel relieved, and at first it did, until I realised what that meant in the eyes of friends. I had and still have a hugely supportive group of friends, close friends that surround me. However, not everybody reacts well to a friend or housemate getting a diagnosis of a mental health condition.

Whilst trying to come to terms with my own mental health, a few close members of my friendship group too struggled with coming to grips with my new diagnosis and where it fit into their own lives. Living with me concerned them, confused a few of them, and ultimately led to irreparable differences. They used words such as ‘dangerous’, and convinced me that self harm was the first step to being able to harm somebody else. Whether they truly believed this or really just didn’t like me very much is something I’ll never really figure out, but a year later I still struggle with the stigma they attached to me that month in my final year, where everything seemed to be spiralling. This eventually lead to me ending up in a hospital bed, plagued with guilt explaining to my family how and why my mind had lead me to such dark places.

Stigma and discrimination for mental health is subtle in many places in the UK, but it is there, lingering and can be really damaging when perhaps a person need’s is support and guidance. Now, I know myself not to be a dangerous person, but it took me a long time to distinguish where my mental illness ended and where I, the person began. Now I have come to realise it is a part of me, and it isn’t going away any time soon. But that’s okay. What isn’t okay, is that both men and women being diagnosed with mental health issues are being spoken to as they are in some way less of a person, less of a productive citizen because of illnesses they can’t control, or don’t know how to. My biggest advice to anybody with a friend or family member with a mental health problem is just listen.

Student environments full of gossip, deadlines and social pressures can be really tough, let alone with a mental illness chucked into the mix. I am now just taking life day by day, am currently off medication and working constantly to keep an optimistic mind-set. I know firsthand how much a reassuring support system can do on those particularly dark and confusing days. I hope to one day be able to take openly about my mental illness with others without worrying about how their image of me will change, but for now, a blog will do just fine.

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Friends reactions

A very positive blog, describiing a difficult time, thanks for sharing it. All the best. Jack

Thanks for sharing

Thank you for sharing your story, it is really brave of you to speak out. It sounds like it was a very tough time to go through and I am glad to hear that you have got some supportive friends. One of my sisters also struggled with reactions from housemates/friends when she disclosed her mental health problems whilst she was at university. She also had similar experience, some people were really understanding, accepting and supportive, whilst others also found it difficult to accept her different needs and teased her and made fun of her because she had to take medication and chose to live a healthy lifestyle so that she could better manage her condition. It really highlights the importance of having supportive university policies, understanding GP's, and understanding friends and family - and also the staggering bravery of students who are open about dealing with mental health problems away from home as uni can be hard enough without them. I wish you all the best for the future and really thank you for sharing your story, you can be proud of yourself - you are not alone and you are probably inspiring lots of people right now by sharing your experiences. :) x


Hello, I saw your blog on mental disorders, I suffer from bipolar disorder and have since age 19. My son recently set up a blog. I am not a tech savvy person. It is basically a diary for me to get my thoughts out. Can you offer any advice on getting more viewers, I feel that if people knew the day to day struggles a person goes through with this disorder they might not be so judgmental, or scared of us. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you, Kara


Hey Kara, thanks for your comment! I think your blog sounds like a really great idea, if you send over a link I'm more than happy to share it. In terms of getting more viewers, you could always write a Time to Change blog just like this one, and then share your blog site at the end of it, just to let people know you write regular entries. Glad to hear you have an outlet for getting your thoughts out, it can be a really helpful way to cope with the millions of thoughts that regularly race through our minds. Look forward to reading your blog, - Jodie

The WORST reaction a friend or spouse can have.

The very worst thing that people will do is to attempt a home-cure for someone suffering from bipolar disorder. This usually involves shaming and some sort of motivation. Shaming won’t work because the person with bipolar has no more control over his state than you do. If the sufferer could return himself to a non-depressed state DON’T YOU THINK THAT HE WOULD? Why would anyone choose to isolate in a dark corner in the middle of spring? Why would anyone cease to function when his circumstances are outwardly wonderful? Why would anyone cease to perform even the most pleasurable of actions? Once the perpetrator goes down this path it is difficult to turn back. The perpetrator (PERPETRATOR IS THE CORRECT TERM) may attempt to PUBLICLY shame the sufferer into action. The perpetrator may attempt to create an artificial emergency to jolt the sufferer into action. If the depression continues long enough the perpetrator may begin to create REAL emergencies, the perpetrator may resort to ACTUAL TORTURE! If torture and shame would lift the depression I ASSURE YOU THAT I WOULD TORTURE AND SHAME MYSELF! If the sufferer actually recovers in the midst of torture and shaming it is all the worse! The behavior of the perpetrator is reinforced! The perpetrator will confuse causation with correlation and the behaviour will surely be repeated with ever increasing amplitude during future depressions. This behaviour is TORTURE and it will eventually escalate to a criminal level. These torturers will almost never be prosecuted as a truly depressed person makes a very bad witness. A truly depressed person is somewhat oblivious to what is happening around him and to him. A deeply depressed person makes the perfect victim. Even decent people will become torturers through a combination of ignorance and desperation. Bad people will immediately enjoy the torture.

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