There are a lot of fear and myths about mental illness, probably because it results in behaviour that is difficult to rationalise.

Social stigmas associated with the condition can cause distress and discrimination for sufferers.

To help dispel  some of these myths, I am sharing my experience of living with bipolar disorder, or manic depression.

I am a scientist with a family and friends living a normal, fulfilled life. I work, lecture, play music in a local orchestra and pursue hobbies.

Attack prompted condition

But it hasn’t always been like this. In 2001, I was attacked in a carjacking and had my life threatened. This resulted in post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and intense mood swings.

I became obsessed with trying to help the police find the perpetrator, convinced that he would strike again, which he did, and that I was responsible for preventing this.

During manic and depressed phases, I tried to treat myself by drinking far too much alcohol. Eventually I couldn’t manage my chaotic life as a single parent on an emotional see-saw. 

The depression turned suicidal and I was referred to the mental health team for medication and psychological support. 

Therapy helped me

After some excellent therapy I stabilised, but life continued to be peppered with alternating periods of depression and excessive activity, or hypomania.

More recently I experienced another period of psychotic mania during which I was convinced that my new scientific theory was worthy of a Nobel Prize. Who knows, maybe it is?

This was followed by a sudden crash to a terrifying depression and I was referred back into the mental health services.

Focus on recovery

It had been than 10 years from my last major episode and I came across a different philosophy to care – one with a focus on recovery.

The change in the approach to mental health care is as a result of a national programme called Implementing Recovery through Organisational Change (ImRoc). 

It involves educating patients and their carers about their disorders and different approaches to improving and maintaining recovery.  Staff can use their experience and get different support groups to work together.

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Many healthcare providers have their own experiences of mental distress and fully understand how to help you to find your own recovery.

Image: posed by model