We Need to Stop Apologising for Being Ill



This is something I find myself doing often. I have lived with mental illness for over a decade and I still find myself uttering that one word; sorry. Sorry I let you down. Sorry I couldn’t make it. Sorry for being ill.

An example of this is my partner and I recently went on holiday. Due to a mix up, I was left without one of my medications, and in the end went for three days without it. Including the withdrawal symptoms I was experiencing, I also started to feel very low and tearful. We didn’t leave our lodge for two days because I was convinced I would break down or have a panic attack. The one thing I kept saying again and again was sorry. I felt I’d ruined our holiday and it was all my fault.

When it comes to my mental health It’s so ingrained in me to apologise that I do it without really noticing. I find myself saying it before I’ve realised what I’ve said, and what it implies. Apologising implies it’s your fault. Mental illness is not your fault, it isn’t anyone’s fault for being ill. We are blameless. We didn’t cause ourselves to be ill, and we certainly didn’t ask for it.

So why do we do it? I think the stigma that lives in our society is mostly to blame. Mental illness by many is seen as a sign of weakness.

The ‘just snap out of it’ and ‘cheer up’ brigade often think this way. We’re told by them we need to be stronger and to just get on with life.

By others it’s a character flaw. There is something wrong in how we think and live and that it can be easily fixed. We’re lazy, so exercising regularly and working hard will cure all our problems. If we’re constantly being told we’re weak, flawed and lazy, no wonder we’re always apologising.

Another major reason we find ourselves apologising is guilt. We often find ourselves feeling guilty for a multitude of reasons. Our room or our house is a mess, we can’t get out of bed, we cancel plans with family and friends. But is this guilt an ordinary part of mental health problems, or does the pressure of being happy and normal cause it? I think maybe the guilt is always there, but the demands put on us by society exacerbate this feeling.

Back to the holiday I took with my partner. I kept saying sorry. Through tears and sobs I was still apologising. However, my partner would say to me, until it finally made sense,

“Don’t apologise, you’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not angry or upset, you can’t help being ill.”

That’s the key to all of this; to surround yourself with accepting individuals. Keep hold of those friends that understand and really mean it when they tell you it’s ok. Ignore  those that demean your mental illness and cut them out of your life if necessary. Educate the rest.

It can feel very lonely living with a mental illness. We want others to love us and not to frighten them away. We fear that we have made them angry or upset. So we say sorry, hoping they will stay.

We need to show ourselves some compassion and to truly believe that we are not at fault for being ill. We shouldn’t apologise even if some people think we should. Even if we don’t always realise it, to go through what we do everyday, we are far stronger then them.

The Warning Signs of a Manic Episode


I’ve separated them into two sections, for mania and depression. This is in no way an exhaustive list for every person with Bipolar, as people have varying signs and symptoms. This is a list specific to me, and what I have become aware of over the last four and a half years.

  • Sleeping less than four hours a night, or not sleeping at all for more than three days in a row. I will simply not feel the urge to sleep, or feel tired. I will have too much to do, too much to focus on. Sleep becomes unimportant and low on my list of priorities.


  • Becoming more talkative, usually talking endlessly about everything and anything. I will often speak at a faster pace and my mind will rush ahead to my next point, so my speech can come across as frenzied, as I stumble over or miss out words. This leads to me sometimes speaking complete gibberish.


  • A surge in confidence. I will feel like I can do anything and no one can stop me. I will feel more important than everyone else and that my opinions and ideas are always right and any other opinion is wrong.


  • Impulsive behaviour. Buying ridiculous shoes that I’m never going to wear! My partner will notice random packages turning up filled with items I’m never going to use, or don’t need. I will start a new business and decide I want to leave my job, for instance.


  • Overspending. My spending habits will change and I will buy whatever I want, whether I can afford it or not. I’ll start buying things that are completely out of character that I would never dream of buying when I’m stable, like designer bags/shoes/clothes.


  • Starting new projects. This is a regular sign for me that a manic episode is imminent. It may be painting the entire house, being more active on social media, creating reams of artwork or notes for a book.


  • No appetite. I won’t feel the need to eat or feel hungry. I will eat for the sake of eating but not because I want to or need to.


  • Risk taking. In the past my driving has become more reckless and dangerous. I’ll think less about my own safety and not worry about the consequences of my actions.


  • More energy. I’ll wake up in the morning and I’m extremely awake, like someone has flicked a switch and I’m ready for anything. I’ll run around the house doing everything, go to the gym, but nothing dampens my energy.


  • Irritability. The little things in life will start to annoy me, like people eating loudly. I will snap at people and be generally grouchy.

It’s critical during these times to have people close to you who can spot the signs of a manic episode. Personally, I’m not always aware of changes to my behaviour and need someone to point them out to me. Share with them what the warning signs are for you, so they are better equipped to help you. Being made aware that your behaviour is showing signs of mania can help you to stop it in it’s tracks. If that’s not possible, it enables you to see a doctor before it becomes any worse.






A Family Perspective of Caring for Someone with Bipolar Disorder Part 1


I wanted to add something a bit different to the blog today.  I’m very close with my family and wanted to show their perspectives of my struggles living with Bipolar.

My Husband’s Perspective:

“I had been in the hills of Scotland on a mate’s stag do, and I’d had no signal since we had left behind the last town a couple of days before. We’d driven back towards civilisation to visit a nice looking pub we’d passed on the way. Looking forward to catching up with my girlfriend, I turned my phone on. It got signal, then the texts started to arrive. They started out asking how I was getting on, but then descended into ranting about I didn’t care and how she was sitting on the floor on her own drinking whiskey. The messaged said that if I cared I’d have messaged back by now. Uh-oh! I didn’t know at the time that this was a low. I didn’t understand what had gone wrong. I hadn’t warned that I’d be out of contact but hadn’t realised that I wouldn’t have signal where we were staying.

This sort of thing is fortunately kept in check by meds now, but I still have to bear it in mind. The main change that living with someone with bipolar has made to my life is that I need to make sure there is somebody nearby who can help on a crisis. If I go away, we plan who is going to be near to make sure there is someone to call if needed. Having caring family around helps a lot with this! The other side to this of course is coming back home to discover that it’s spotless because ENERGY! It make it more interesting; you don’t know exactly how each day’s going to pan out. Well OK, maybe that’s not a good thing. However, I think it makes us stronger too. If we can cope with this, we can cope with a lot more that life has to throw at us!

I suppose I’m well placed to have married someone with Bipolar, having already lived with a close friend who also has it. Living with someone before and after diagnosis also gives an interesting point of view. I like to think of it as a wave, like a sine wave in maths. The centre of the graph, the X axis, is where most people live their lives emotionally. The peaks and troughs are where I see people with Bipolar living – always in highs and lows.


The thing about a sine wave is that it always cancels out. The time spent below the line is the same as the time spent above the line. It’s just that following someone with Bipolar means that the lows are that much lower, and difficult to deal with. However, that means the highs are much more extreme (and potentially fun) to be around. I think what I’m trying to say is that although ‘normal’ people seem to live on a straight line, we all follow that up and down curve to an extent. It doesn’t matter whether we look like we’re on a straight line of a graph or a curve going up and down all the time, we all average out to ‘normal’ people. Although with pre and post diagnosis things are quite different, I wouldn’t change a thing about my friend or my wife. They’re just as important to me wherever they are on my graph, however high or low their peaks and troughs are.”

My Mum’s Perspective:

“You were always strong willed, determined, and sometimes a raving tyrant of anger! You were quiet at school, in primary and early secondary, but not shy. Always creative, especially with reading and writing. You were a tomboy who never wore dresses and a typical teenager; you wanted to shock everyone with your clothes. In your teenage years, you became reclusive and spent hours in your room. Then the next thing you wouldn’t stop talking and rant for hours. I noticed this when you started work, some nights it was like verbal diarrhoea! It was like someone had turned the on switch but there was no off switch.

It is hard, difficult to deal with. I didn’t want to accept anything was wrong with you. The year you moved out things became very difficult. You wouldn’t eat, you were very thin. Then you became very depressed. But you do have long periods when you’re stable; a normal young woman. You can go for long periods of time with just a few small dips and highs. But when you go down that’s really down, that’s it. I find the lows worse to deal with than the highs.”

After this chat I received this text message from my Mum:

“There are times when you are speaking to a friend who is struggling and to trying to encourage them and being normal and speaking to your dad and interacting with normal conversations. Then when I saw you tonight just phasing out during our meal and so focused. Your face and eyes it scared me and your mood has changed so dramatically it was as if you were no longer with us! I want to cry now. So poorly, so poorly I want to help so much what can I do as a mother it is heartbreaking. Do I let my daughter read this or am I being selfish and looking at my needs as well, but I love her so much and want to mend her but what do I do and how do I do it? I want to make the right decisions when she is poorly. What do you do? What is best? What do you say? I’m scared of saying something wrong. Scared of doing something that will make things worse it’s like a balancing act or walking on a tightrope.”

Our relationship has changed for the better since this conversation. Speaking to my Mum recently she had this to say:

“I don’t think like that anymore. It doesn’t help either of us for me to be walking on a tightrope with you. Now if you upset me, I tell you and treat you and talk to you the same as I do with your brothers’. I’ve learnt that there is not much I can do to help. Material things, taking you out doesn’t help you. What I need to do is listen to you and be there. I can do practical things like helping you clean the house and taking you food shopping. It’s taken me a long time to learn this, but I can’t change your illness or take it away.”


I am not Defined by Mental Illness


Mental illness plays a major part in my life. I talk about it often. I do this because I’m desperate to raise awareness and for funding to be increased for mental health services. Both of these issues drag behind those for physical health. It’s unfair and discriminatory, so I feel it’s my duty to speak out on behalf of those whom are unable to. This doesn’t mean I’m defined by the illness I suffer from. I admit, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about it; I have to, in order to stay stable and healthy.

I am so much more than my mental illness; I’m a geek, with a passion for video games, science fiction and anime. Currently I’m writing a novel and I love to create, whether it’s sculpting, sketching or painting. I’m a vegan and every time I see a picture of a polar bear I cry.  (I can’t help it!) I believe in a fairer society for all and voted Labour in the general election. I taught myself Mongolian throat singing.

When a friend or family member speaks out about a mental illness they are suffering from, they need to be treated as they were before they said anything. Their illness isn’t the only topic of conversation you can speak to them about from now on. They are a person with an identity, personality, hopes and dreams, hobbies and passions. They are not just ‘the poorly one’ or ‘the awkward one.’ or even ‘the weird one.’ or the one you stopped speaking to because you didn’t know what to say or how to deal.

I know it can be difficult for family and friends to acclimatise to the idea of a loved one with a mental illness. It takes time for everyone to adjust, not just the person with the illness. Here are a few ideas that have helped me and my loved ones:

Talk to one another: If you don’t understand the condition ask, don’t stay silent. It can feel like it’s never the right time to talk but it’s important to make time to do this. It doesn’t have to be serious or sombre. It’s more than likely the other person has been waiting to talk to you or ask you questions. Be the first to strike up a conversation. I have found my relationships have been able to move forward to a more positive place after talking.

Invite them to appointments: After talking to a family member, and you can see they’re still struggling to understand, invite them to your GP or Psychiatrist appointments. When I see my psychiatrist, I will have part of the session one on one. I invite my partner or family member in before the end of the appointment. It gives them a chance to hear about how I’m doing, and to ask any questions about my condition. My psychiatrist always asks me if there is anything I wish to keep private between us before bringing family into the room.

Find a support group: Most support groups welcome carers and supporters. These have been vital for me when I needed to connect with other people with Bipolar. The group I attend splits the session into two parts. The first, focuses on an aspect of Bipolar already picked by the group, or invites in a guest speaker. The second part is an open forum, to ask questions and share experiences with the group. For family that have attended, it has given them a real insight into the disorder.

Learning and educating yourself about a condition can be freeing. You realise it can be managed and that it doesn’t need to consume your life. You are more than your mental illness. When you invite others to share your knowledge it gives them an opportunity to see past the illness and see the real person behind it.