For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the loud, overdramatic one. But it wasn’t seen as something wrong with me, that’s just how I was, even when I was told off for dancing and singing in the middle of a lesson at school one day and spending all day in bed crying the next. It got more extreme as I got older. I never knew what to expect when I woke up on a morning. Who would I be today? The confident, outrageous girl who loved drama and got into arguments with strangers for standing up for what she believed in, or the practically mute girl full of self-hatred who couldn’t leave her room without having a panic attack? I saw my school grades bounce between A*s and Ds depending on how my moods were going. I argued with my family constantly, ran away, lost friends. I would spend four days at a time with no sleep, and then other times I’d nap constantly throughout the day. I’d hate myself and believe I’d never achieve anything or believe that I was definitely going to become a celebrity sometime soon, or that I was going to move abroad, or write the next bestselling novel. My life was a string of chaotic events.
It took about four years for doctors to decide that these conflicting parts of me were actual things that were wrong. They called them hypomania and depression, and I pictured them as the two different sides of me, battling over who would get to be in control for that month, and who would be in charge the next.
It should have made things easier to finally find out what was wrong with me but it didn’t. Putting a name to the demons I was fighting didn’t make them go away, it just made me realise that they were most likely going to be there forever. There’s a whole summer that’s a complete blur to me, which I just spent laid in bed, staring at walls, wondering how I was supposed to carry on with life when these horrible things were always going to take hold at unexpected times. That was the worst part for me – the unpredictability of it all. I could wake up one morning feeling as happy as can be, make plans to meet my friends, get ready, go out, then a couple of hours later the fog of the depression would come over me like a wave and I could do nothing to stop it but to cancel my plans, go home, lay in bed waiting for it to pass, and try and ignore the fact that my lovely friends just didn’t understand and would think I couldn’t be bothered with them.
I won’t say I’m cured now – but I’m better than I was. The first thing that has helped me didn’t come in the form of a pill or a therapy. Simply being open with people about my illness has made my life so much easier. My friends know that if I have to cancel on them, it’s not that I can’t be bothered. They know that if I start doing stupid things in public and acting manic that I’m not just being annoying. They understand and support me when I’m going through hard times, even if all I want them to do is leave me alone, I always know they’re there if I need them.
The second thing that helped me was setting a clear goal for myself. I knew there was a city I wanted to move to and a course I wanted to get a degree in, and having something to work towards has helped me loads. Whatever my moods are doing, whether I’m on top of the world or not leaving my room I know that I have to carry on if I want to achieve my goal. This has worked pretty well for me as I am actually moving to university in September, and I’ll be taking my demons with me. I’ve learned to accept that they’ll always be part of me and I can try to see them in a positive light – my hypomania makes me creative and helps me get things done, and my depression shows me when my body and mind need a break. I wouldn’t ever say I’m cured but I’m definitely a thousand times better than I was this time last year – and that’s good enough for me.