I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder just before I turned 21.
It didn’t come as a surprise to me. I had been under the mental health services since I was 15, and my mother also has the illness.
Which meant that, as well as not having the shock-factor, it didn’t have the fear-factor either – for I had grown up around the symptoms for most of my life.
But it doesn’t mean that it has been any easier to cope with – nor does it mean I haven’t learned a thing or two.
For instance, I’ve found that the common misconception that people who have bipolar disorder are either ‘up’ or ‘down’ is wrong.
Yes, you can be manic or depressed – hence the old-school name Manic depression. But mania doesn’t mean you’re running around feeling like life is ecstasy, sky-high off of nothing but the earth, feeling everything is fantastic – or like you’re walking on a cloud.
While I’m sure someone at some point has felt this way – I certainly haven’t.
In actual fact, it often feels like I’m walking on the edge of a cliff – any moment waiting to come crashing down.
My mania comes in all forms, and I know that an episode is coming when all of these forms come together.
Excessive spending. Tattoos. Not sleeping. Night terrors. Waking around 4am/5am to start activities such as writing a book. And then writing another three chapters for other three books. Feeling agitated and angry. Being short-tempered and having an uncontrollable force of anger when pushed.
I hate it.
My mind constantly races, it refuses to give up. I have all of these ‘amazing’ ideas that (almost) never pan out and I treat my bank account like it’s going to miraculously recover itself. My body feels so tired but my mind won’t shut off, despite the medication they have me on.
And weeks, perhaps months later, I crash.
I crash so hard that I find myself crying everyday. I have complete breakdowns over things that for others, they’d simply shake their heads at. Again, I struggle to sleep without having nightmares and I feel worthless in myself.
I remember for around 6 weeks, I had suicidal thoughts repeatedly throughout every single day.
Sometimes, I have periods where I feel ‘normal’. And to be completely honest, I don’t know what to do with those feelings. I’m used to such erratic moods on such a contrasting spectrum that when I meet myself somewhere in the middle I simply feel lost, and, as odd as it sounds to admit… slightly bored.
Many of the ideas that have panned out have come from when I’m feeling manic. I feel more motivated when I’m manic and I get more done.
Of course, at the end of the day, bipolar disorder is an illness.
Nobody wants an illness. Just because it’s not visible, doesn’t mean it’s not there. It doesn’t mean it’s any less debilitating or dangerous.
And it’s important that people know that mental illness is just as valid and just as important as a physical illness. It’s there with you 24/7, clawing at your brain, tricking you into feeling all of sorts of things.
Adrenaline. Anxiety. Power. Agitation. Anger. Sadness. Depression. Mania.
That’s my mind summed up.
Words by Hattie Gladwell