Bang — Everything Stopped
I phoned a friend and told her I was going mad. I can’t remember anything apart from a web of confused feelings I couldn’t vocalize properly. My friends took me back to work the next day and I lied and said I needed time off for a family emergency. I had no idea what was ahead.
After receiving depression and eating disorder diagnoses, going through medication trials, rare anti-depressant reactions, and severe manic and depressive symptoms, the sick notes were endless. I was finally diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar.
It took a year of inpatient admissions before I could start my first stage of recovery. Unfortunately, after 18 months I had no choice but to accept medical retirement. I had a letter from my psychiatrist stating it would be highly unlikely I could ever return to a senior position like that again.
Needing a Purpose
Unfortunately, careers tend to define people in our society.
I would sit with friends, having completed only the most basic of tasks that day and the conversation would be a whirlwind of work stress, long hours, responsibility and predicaments. It used to scare me. However, there was also a pang of jealousy. They sounded important. They sounded like someone.
As my recovery progressed there was a need to have a purpose, too.
My therapy helped me to find things I enjoyed. We all know that a love for activities and completing tasks lifts moods and breaks through the seemingly invincible depressive bubble.
In creative writing I spent hours scribbling poetry. I never expected it to change my life. It encouraged me to write a book about my journey, which led to wanting to raise mental health awareness. It’s interesting how once a seed is planted, a tree grows and branches sprout unexpectedly.
Five years ago, I approached the mental health charity MIND in the United Kingdom. They gave me a volunteer opportunity to talk to different businesses to help people understand what it’s really like to live with a long-term mental illness. It built my confidence and I now lecture at universities in addition to writing for online magazines.
However, in depression I can hardly lift a finger to write, let alone shower and dress to smartly lecture to a group of students. It can be heart-breaking to agree to work but then pull out due to poor health, but I have learned that it’s normal and I have always received understanding and empathy from those I have had to say no to.
At the same time, it is invigorating to enter the early onset of mania when opportunities are vast. All the poetry, volunteering, writing and lecturing is suddenly possible and my creative ideas literally fly from my head.
I am studious, motivated, fearless and highly productive. Unfortunately, I have previously made the mistake of pushing myself to the point of crashing and then sat with a mess of commitments, spiralling into depression with all my ability robbed.
I have been educated about managing my workload when I am feeling slightly high or low. My therapist told me to be consistent and to keep to a few objectives a day. Pulling myself back in my manic moments has been the hardest thing to do due to my ambitious nature.
After seven years I no longer want to contribute to the trigger of another episode. The brutality of a crisis and my inpatient stays have been so traumatic that the short manic periods no longer feel worth it. Stability comes from routine and consistency, and we should all remember this in managing our mental health.
It’s important to note that my work structure is built on flexibility and has collapsed in periods of ill health. The positive thing is I have a purpose to come back to when I begin my recovery.