In the famous words of Will Smith, 'so here's a little story all about how my life got twist, turned upside down, and I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there, to tell you how'...I got diagnosed with bipolar and what it actually means. It's a complicated subject - it can mean different things for different people, it isn't talked about anywhere near enough, and there's often an overly simplified, one-sided portrayal of it in the media. If we're ever going to be able to defeat prejudice and make mental illness a less taboo subject, there's going to need to be a clearer understanding of it. Here's part three of my A-Z guide to the unifying aspects of the illness:
S - Suicide
There, I said it, the 's word'. This sadly is a reality we need to face - studies have shown that 25 - 50 percent of bipolar sufferers commit suicide, and more have suicidal thoughts. Most of us will have been there at one point or another, but there is of course a massive stigma around discussing it. All I can say on this matter is it's not how you might think it is. It's not a cry for attention, or a premeditated type of self-pity - it's something that springs up out of nowhere. You'll be in a low, trying to go about your daily life as best as possible, when all of a sudden you get a flash thought: 'jump under that train', 'take all the pills you can find in the flat', and sometimes more ridiculous thoughts like 'maybe I can make a noose out of my jumper'. I can't explain it, but I can tell you what it feels like: numb. Sometimes you feel nothing. Sometimes you feel like it's the best thing to do, that you're too heavy a burden on your loved ones and that they will genuinely be better off without you. What's important here is that people don't let it get to that stage of depression - try to fix things while you can in the earlier stages. Go see a doctor, talk to someone, take medication, do exercise, do anything, just don't let it get to that stage because you might not be as fortunate as I have been.
T - Therapy
So how do you solve a problem like bipolar? Therapy, medication, exercise, amongst other things. I can't vouch for medication and exercise ('cos I never do any), but therapy is wonderful...once you find the right therapist. I've seen about ten different therapists in my time, and only in the last year have I found the right one - but it made all the difference. Persevere; your therapy soulmate is somewhere out there.
U - Ups
Like the film Up, these are wonderful, happy, make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, colourful, and you feel like you've been lifted up by a bunch of balloons. Also, Up is a GREAT film.
V - Voluntary commitment
This is when you voluntarily commit yourself to a psychiatric hospital. Let's not dwell on this one too long, this is a very serious consequence of bipolar and one that is difficult to discuss without experience of it.
This is how the illness works. It comes in waves. Sometimes the tide is strong, sometimes it is calm. Imagine you're swimming in the sea, making your way back to shore, when suddenly a massive wave comes from nowhere and plunges you under water. You find yourself miles away from the shore, desperately trying to swim back. You get closer and closer, and more and more exhausted, but you're almost there, when suddenly another big wave comes and pulls you out. As you can imagine, this is pretty draining, and my feeling is that with each low that you get, you become a little less capable of dealing with it, it pulls you out a little deeper into the water and makes you a little weaker. This is what I find to be the toughest part of the illness: finding the strength to continue fighting.
X - X-ray vision
I'm kidding, we don't really have this, I just can't think of anything beginning with x. My bad.
Y - Yappy
I guess a person on a high might come across as quite annoying at times - you know, yappy. Talking incessantly, about anything and everything, super-fast and super irrationally.
Z - Zebras.
They're black and white, but bipolar is never that simple.
Need help? In the UK, call The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. For more support and advice, visit the website here.