As today is World Bipolar Day, I wanted to take the time to share my personal experience of living with bipolar disorder after being diagnosed at the age of 18. After nine years, it has been a journey filled with ups and downs, but I have learned a lot about myself and what it takes to manage this condition.

I never thought there was anything wrong with me until I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Looking back, there were definitely signs that something wasn’t quite right, but at the time, I didn’t know any better.

One of the biggest tells when I reflect now was the extreme highs and lows I experienced. I would have days where I felt like I was on top of the world, full of energy and ideas. During these times, I was incredibly productive, but I also had a lot of trouble sleeping and my thoughts would race so fast it was hard to keep up.

Then, just as suddenly, I would crash into a deep depression. During these periods, I could barely get out of bed, lost interest in the things I used to enjoy, and had a hard time finding any motivation at all. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or do anything, and I felt like I was just going through the motions of life.

At first, I thought this was just a normal part of being a sensitive person. But as time went on, the highs and lows became more extreme, and I started having rapid cycling episodes where my mood would shift multiple times in a day.

It was affecting my work, my relationships, and my overall quality of life. I knew I needed help, but I was scared to talk to anyone about it. Eventually, I got tired of this draining cycle. I worked up the courage to see a doctor, and after a series of tests and evaluations, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

At first, the diagnosis was overwhelming, even slightly devastating. I didn’t know much about the condition, and I was worried about what it meant for my future. I was scared, even embarrassed, to talk to my friends and family about it, and I felt like nobody would understand what I was going through. It was an isolating experience, one which filled me with a lot of shame, and I didn’t know where to turn for help.

Even after my diagnosis, one of the biggest challenges I faced was dealing with the extreme mood swings that come with bipolar disorder. From sadness, exhaustion and hopelessness, these mood swings can be disruptive to my daily life and can make it difficult to maintain relationships, hold down a job, or meet other responsibilities.

Another challenge I have faced is the stigma that surrounds mental illness. I have often felt ashamed or embarrassed about my condition and have been hesitant to seek help or talk to others about what I am going through. Initially this caused me to battle with feeling along regularly and would even prevent me from seeking the help I needed to manage it.

Treatment for bipolar disorder has also been challenging for me. It took time to find the right medication regimen, and I had to try several different medications before finding one that worked for me. Some medications also had side effects that were difficult for tolerate – this won’t be the case for everyone, and different people will find different methods and medications that work for them which is important to take into account. Therapy has been an important part of my treatment, but finding a therapist who was knowledgeable about the condition and who I felt comfortable working with was yet another element I had to face.

I also had to make some changes to my lifestyle. I started paying more attention to my sleep schedule, as lack of sleep can trigger manic episodes for me. I also started exercising regularly and eating a healthy(ish) diet, as both of these things have been shown to have a positive impact on my mental health.

But despite all these challenges, I have learned that bipolar is a manageable condition. With the right treatment and support, I can and do lead a fulfilling and stable life. For anyone who might be struggling, or possess the signs of bipolar, it’s so important to seek help and to work closely with your doctor and therapist to develop a treatment plan that works for you. Connecting with others who have the condition has also been helpful for me, as it has provided a sense of community and support. I joined a support group, and it was so helpful to talk to other people who understood what I was going through. I feel understood, and no longer battle with feelings of emptiness and like nobody understands me. It allowed me to see hope that I would be able to manage this disorder, and now I am committed to continuing to work on my mental health and wellbeing every day.

In truth, living with bipolar disorder is not easy, but with the right support and treatment, it is possible to lead a happy and uninterrupted life. It takes work and commitment, but it’s most definitely been worth it. I am so grateful for the support I have received, and I am thankful for days like today which shine light on what is often a very misunderstood disorder.

Looking back, I wish I had sought help sooner. But I’m grateful that I finally did and that I’m able to live a more balanced life now.

For practical, confidential suicide prevention help and advice please contact PAPYRUS HOPELINE247 on 0800 068 4141, text 88247 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org

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