The Journey To A Bipolar Diagnosis



Today is world bipolar day, a day to raise awareness of this complex and long term mental health condition. Here’s a few facts about bipolar disorder;

  • More than 1 million people in the UK have bipolar.
  • It can take on average 10.5 years to receive a correct diagnosis.
  • People with bipolar are misdiagnosed on average 3.5 times.

Just think about that. Think about 10 years of your life or more not understanding your own behaviours. Believing there is something intrinsically flawed with you. Living constantly trapped in a cycle of extreme moods. Months of euphoria and elation, where you rarely sleep and hardly eat. But during those months that euphoric feeling is replaced with something ugly and vicious, an intense anger you can’t satiate. You begin to experience delusions that puts yourself and others in danger.

Think about experiencing a crash where you’re left physically and emotionally drained, that ultimately leads to a severe depression. The depression won’t lift no matter what you try. You can’t do anything but sleep and lie on the sofa staring blankly at the wall. You have changed so utterly and completely  it bewilders friends and family. Some of them distance themselves from you, unable to deal with the duality of your moods. Suicide begins to feel like the only option left and you start to make plans.

Suddenly, you feel stable but, living in fear that the cycle will begin again at any moment. Living in fear that you’ll be alone forever as relationships break down. Living in denial over the psychosis you’ve experienced, though of course you don’t label it as that out of fear.

I first became ill at 14, and wasn’t diagnosed until I was 26. I spent 12 years living with a condition I didn’t know I had. I felt I’d missed out on so much from being constantly unwell. I was incredibly angry when I was diagnosed. Not because of the actual diagnosis, but because it had taken so long to get the help I had desperately needed.

I had been misdiagnosed so many times I’ve lost count. GP appointments always went the same way; you’re depressed, here’s a prescription, here’s a sick note for work and come back in 2 weeks if you’re not feeling any better. There was no dialogue between us about why I was depressed. Why did I keep coming back? Why was it always every 2 -3 months that I found myself depressed again? If just one doctor over those years had taken the time to ask one simple question,

“Do you ever feel elated and full of energy for long periods of time?”

I would have answered yes! That’s all it would’ve taken to start a new conversation. That’s what eventually happened when I was 26, and I will always be grateful to that GP who took the time to look at my (extensive) notes and question why I kept being mentally unwell. That maybe there was something else hidden beneath the surface of depression I was displaying.

Those of us with a diagnosis of bipolar have been through a long, difficult journey, much of it spent feeling alone and confused. Take some time to listen to our stories and learn more about this mental illness.

Guest Post: How I Became an Alcoholic at 14 – by Charlotte Underwood

In this guest blog, Charlotte describes her experiences of alcoholism as a young person and how there is hope and a way to overcome.

When you think about an alcoholic, many may think of an adult who is either out partying every night or drinking home alone after work and passing out on the sofa.
This is just not the case, this is just a stigmatised version the media portrays, I know this because I was an alcoholic for a year, except I was only 14 years old, barely out of childhood.

I am not sure of the exact cause of why I started, it was a long time ago but I believe I had a lot of pent up anger that I did not know how to let out, I was not informed of mental health so I did not understand why I was so different to everyone I met. Unfortunately, I also found that people preferred me when I was this confident, reckless teen and at that time, as I was bullied and unpopular, I would do anything to keep that attention.
It started off with just one sip of a cheap alco-pop that my older friend had given us when we went around his house, it tasted like pop but it gave me this little buzz and I couldn’t forget that, I remember that day because I walked home red faced and bumped into my crush, who found it hilarious!

I started to sneak into the fridge to steal my mother’s white wine, which was of very high percent! I would also steal her disaronao and then water it down, thinking she wouldn’t notice, though she actually did months later! Cheap larger was also a poison of choice, as my father would often buy a bunch for my brother who at this point was 17 and into the party scene. If all failed and there was nothing in the house, I would manipulate and persuade my older friends to steal from their parents or buy me, just so I wouldn’t go a day without that buzz, I would do anything.

No one really knew what was going on, I kept it pretty quiet, my friends just thought I drank a few times a month and my parents had no idea to start, yet there was not a day that went by that year where I did not drink, even if I was at school, I was hooked, I loved that floating feeling.

At one point, I invited all my friends over, I wanted to get wasted because I was trying to get an ex back and I needed the confidence, so we manage to sneak past my parents and get a £100 worth of booze into my room, as we had a gig to go to later, in a rush we hid it in my cupboard before we went, I was too drunk at this point to think straight. This mistake lead to my parents finding it, I do not know to this day why my mother was going through my room but she did find my stash and my parents were mad, not at my drinking but at my lying and lack of care for myself, that I was not safe; from this day I was forced to go cold turkey.

I still drank occasionally after this, I was just a teenager, not binge drinking but I was known to over drink when I was stressed or if a partner wanted to be intimate, as I was a victim of abuse, assault and rape, which I felt was my problem because ‘it was my duty’ to please my partner, which I could only do drunk. It is sad that I was no taught about mental health and the right to my own body at this age because I let my own self endure painful experiences due to feeling like I just needed to be quiet and take it, to avoid drama, it’s so important to remember you owe nothing to anyone.

But there is an upside, a fairy tale ending to this bitter story! I am now married and I live in my house with my dog and a cat (who loves my husband more than me), I do not work due to mental health but I do write often and spend a lot of time working on myself, so I am in a much better place, I am due to start therapy very soon.

I have not binge drank in a very long time, not since I met my husband, that is nearly 3 years. If I drink now I will barely finish a glass because frankly I just don’t like the taste of alcohol anymore. What helped me out of this was firstly removing myself from toxic people and situations but also due to being respected by my husband, he does not force me into anything and loves me for me, so I am nothing other than my true self nowadays. It is also worth mentioning how much talking about my mental health and writing about is has helped as I have learnt more about myself and how to manage my pain, as well as making peace with my past, it no longer defines me.

Alcoholism is a serious issue and it is very damaging to our body’s, sometimes causing long term damage both mentally and physically but I have found, most of the time, there is always a route cause and a reason for a person to drink heavily. There is such a bad stigma attached to people who drink, like teens and the homeless but we need to ask ourselves why they do it and find ways to help them, understanding saved me and maybe It can save others.