I’ve Written A Book! Writing ‘Living At The Speed Of Light’

I’ve wanted to write a book for years. More specifically, I’ve wanted to write a book about my experiences of mental illness. So about five years ago, I started putting together a memoir, of everything I’ve been through living with Bipolar disorder. When it was finished, I sent it to a few publishers….but it wasn’t what they were looking for. I shelved it, believing no one was interested in hearing my story. In early 2019 I told myself I’d send it out one last time, not with much hope or expectation of anything coming of it. This time though, the response was different. The publisher, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, were willing to work with me, if I made some changes. We discussed it over a couple of weeks and came to the decision that the book could work as part memoir, part guide to living with Bipolar disorder.

I put together a proposal of what the book would look like, and wrote a sample chapter. The answer; they liked it, and I had a book deal!

Now I just had to write it. I couldn’t use my original manuscript, I had to start from scratch. I had four months to get it as perfect as I could. It wasn’t an easy process. Writing a book is bloody hard work! Anyone that writes a blog, journals, or talks about their mental illness on social media knows that it’s draining. After a day spent writing about my experiences for the book, and sharing my insights and advice, I was emotionally exhausted. I had to look after myself during those four months and talk it through with people close to me, like my partner Jimi. Then I sent it to my publisher. I was so nervous to press send on that email! I didn’t need to be – there were changes I needed to make, but nothing stressful. Before I knew it, the editing process was complete.

Of course the book needed a name – and the one we finally decided on – Living At The Speed Of Light. I felt it really explained what life can be like sometimes living with bipolar, with changing extreme moods ruling your life.

Now the book is available to preorder! It’s out officially on 18th March 2021. It’s for anyone who lives with Bipolar, who feels they may have it or is newly diagnosed. It’s for those of you who have someone in your life with Bipolar, and you want to learn more about it, and ways you can help. It’s also for anyone that just wants to know more about Bipolar from someone who’s been through it, and lived with the condition for nearly 20 years.

I’m immensely proud of this book. I wrote it thinking about what I had needed when I was first diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. I needed someone who had been there, that had found their way through the maze of this ridiculously complex illness and had advice and knowledge to share. I would have wanted a story I could relate to, and tips for living and thriving that actually made sense. My goal is that Living At The Speed Of Light will help people with Bipolar disorder, and it will help others understand what it’s like to live with. If it helps one person, then it’s all been worth it.

Bipolar Myths Debunked

People with Bipolar disorder are just moody

There’s an idea that bipolar disorder is just mood swings – something everybody has, so isn’t a big deal. It is though, very different from everyday mood changes. The highs and lows are extreme and can feel like they come out of the blue, or there is no reason for you to be acting the way you are. These mood changes can last several days, weeks, or even months. The difference from bipolar mood changes to regular mood swings is huge. With bipolar, there are incredible, sometimes terrifying for the person living with it, changes in energy, activity, sleep and mood. I’ll give you an example of what bipolar isn’t; you wake up happy, in a good mood. Later on, you start to feel grumpy and irritable. It might be because of something that happened at work, you haven’t had enough coffee, or it may feel like just ‘one of those days.’ At the end of the day, you somehow find yourself happy again. These are normal mood changes – if you think about it, we rarely stay in the same mood all day!

Mania makes you productive, fun and generally in a good mood

Mania might start out as fun, and you’ll feel like the life of the party. It can make you articulate, quick thinking, and exude confidence. But it can quickly morph into an unrelenting monster. That good mood can quickly change into irritability and spontaneous bursts of anger. Spending can spiral out of control, and you could find yourself in serious debt. Impulses take over, and you may start taking more risks and become more reckless. It may result in a loss of control of your thoughts and actions and even losing touch with reality.

You will lose your creativity if you get treatment

I’m a creative person, I always have been. Instead of medication hindering my creativity, stability has enhanced it. I’m clearer of thought, more focused and less forgetful. I’ve even managed to secure a publishing deal during my longest period of stability. It’s a myth that can be damaging, and stop people from seeking treatment they desperately need.

You’re either manic or depressed if you have bipolar

This isn’t true. Bipolar is a complex condition. Many people with the disorder experience what’s called mixed episodes. This is when you feel highs and lows at the same time, or in very quick succession. Also, it’s possible for people to experience long periods when they feel stable, with balanced moods. It varies from person to person, but some can go years without having an episode of mania or depression.

There’s only one type of bipolar disorder

Bipolar I – Someone with this diagnosis will experience manic and depressive episodes.

Bipolar II – Is mostly categorised by mostly depressive episodes. Someone with bipolar II will have experienced at least one hypomanic episode..

Cyclothymia – This doesn’t meet the requirements for a diagnosis of Bipolar I or II, but still can seriously impact your life.

Bipolar disorder otherwise not specified – This is when someone has bipolar – like mood changes, but it doesn’t fit the same pattern of the above.

I hope this clears up some of the myths and misconceptions around bipolar disorder. If you have any questions, pop a comment below, or ask someone you know with the disorder. It’s always good to ask questions, and learn from people with lived experience!

How to help someone before and during a manic episode

Make a Plan. Before an episode of mania starts, make a plan together. First off, they’ll be more receptive to your ideas. They’ll be more in control and be able to look objectively at previous episodes of mania. Decide together what will help them, and what support and help they want when they are seriously ill. Write down your decisions, and keep them in a safe place for when you need them.

Focus on triggers. You could look at their work commitments and any other projects they have and offer your own opinion on them. It may be you feel they’ve taken on too much, which could lead to stress and burnout, that could then lead to an episode. Be calm and gentle with the suggestion, so they don’t feel you’re being overly protective or critical.

Stick to healthy routines. Again to keep them healthy, and during an episode, you could help them stick to a routine. Making sure they have regular meals and a sleep routine will either help to keep them well, or be in a healthier place when the hypomania/mania ends. 

Join in with their activities. During an episode you could do things together with them. If they are being creative, join in. It shows you’re interested in what they are up to, and means you can make boundaries on how long they spend on the activity. Again, don’t force them to stop, but remind them of other things they need to do that day, or that they need to eat, sleep and look after themselves.

Help with finances. You might have to manage their money when unwell. This can be organised beforehand. Doing things such as putting a site blocker on their phone or computer – that only you know the password to. It’ll stop them from spending money on websites you know they use often. You may need to take their cards from them, and have access to their bank account. If they need money for something, they will then have to ask you. It might feel like you’re infantilising them, but believe me, they will appreciate it when they are stable.  

Sometimes when someone is very ill, their behaviour can be challenging.  It’s difficult to understand and to deal with. Often when someone is manic/ hypomanic, they can be very disinhibited. Their behaviour could be embarrassing for you. It might be strange and they act oddly around you and others. It could even be upsetting or aggressive. It’s important that you talk about this, and don’t let it fester. It probably isn’t the best time to talk to them right there and then, because in a manic or hypomanic state they might not listen to reason. Actually, they almost definitely won’t. They won’t be able to see your point of view. So, its best to wait until they’re stable. Write down what you want to tell them, so you don’t forget what it was they said or did. Writing it down can help you cope with your own feelings, without reaching boiling point. Calmly discuss their behaviour, and how their words or actions made you feel. Try not to judge or be overly critical. Remember that they were ill at the time, and would not have been aware of how much they upset or concerned you. Tell them how their actions and words made you feel. Don’t accuse them of acting in a certain way or generalise; instead turn it around and explain how you felt at the time.

When someone is manic, they might lash out at the people closest to them. You’re allowed to be upset if they’re pushing you away or upsetting you. Remember why they’re acting that way; they are ill and dealing with difficult moods and emotions. When things start getting too difficult, it’s ok to take time out. If you’re worried what will happen if you need some time away, then talk to friends and family to help out. It could also help to talk to other people in a similar situation.