“You have bipolar? I don’t even know what that is”.
It was at this second that I knew I needed to spread the word about bipolar.
I was diagnosed with bipolar in July 2018 and when I realised there was a lack of understanding specifically around bipolar as an illness, I wanted to share my day to day experiences with anyone who was interested to show the ups and downs of having it.
I was so scared about telling people. I was worried that people wouldn’t believe me and I was worried that people would think that I am being an attention seeker. At the time I had concerns about telling my family that I had to take medication to help with my condition as I didn’t want to be judged or talked about, even though I knew it would support me with controlling my moods more. My family actually supported me with every aspect of my diagnosis and wanted to learn how to help me, so my thoughts were completely wrong and it was the paranoia that made me feel this way.
I decided to set up an Instagram page and I said to myself that I would be completely open with my feelings; my highs, my lows and everything in between. I didn’t ever expect the reaction that I have received purely for being so honest about my life.
Not only has it had a huge impact on my life, people have reached out to me to tell me how I’ve helped them normalise their feelings which in turn helped them not feel alone.
Once I started receiving positive messages online, I decided to be more open at work within my team. This was probably one of the best things I ever did. I feel my colleagues now have an understanding that there could be mornings that I come into work even though I don’t feel like I can face the day. The support I get from them is incredible; not only does it make me feel that I’m in a safe environment in my workplace, I know that no matter how I’m feeling I will never be judged.
There are people in my life who understand when I am having a depressive episode but there are also people in my life who doesn’t understand mental illnesses and have told me to ‘cheer up’. That was actually really hard to process and also made me question whether I should be feeling how I did. I am however very fortunate that one of my closest friends is a Samaritan and always reassures me that my feelings are valid. My other best friends have never judged any part of my mental illness, have never let me give up when I’ve wanted to and are there day and night when I need them.
In general, I would say now there have been more positives than negatives responses, as I am so open about having bipolar; the highs, the lows and everything in between. I speak to people about my triggers and how I deal with them and will ask for my friends’ and family’s opinions on how I could change my reactions moving forward.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been times where my happy mood has been misinterpreted as a hyper manic episode, but I work with such a great bunch of people that when I explain what a hyper manic episode is for me specifically, it helps them understand that not all high or low episodes are the same and that bipolar is different for each individual.
People have told me that I have inspired them by telling my story. I don’t think I’ll ever understand that as I am just being me, the real me.
If I hadn’t decided to speak openly about my mental illness I wouldn’t be being honest with who I really am.
I’d worry about how people would view my moods and maybe assume I was just being ‘grumpy’ rather than having a depressive episode and I wouldn’t have been able to help and support others who may be going through a tough time too.
Talking openly about having bipolar has truly been a blessing in my life and I have not once regretted telling people my story.