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Hi everyone! My name is Stormy. I’m here to share my mental health journey in the hopes that you either learn something new, feel a little less alone, or feel better prepared to support someone with bipolar disorder.


Warning: This Weekly Wellbeing will touch on a variety of mental health concerns. It’s totally okay to not want to read on!


My bipolar journey

I think from when I was a teenager I started showing signs of bipolar. I remember feeling like my depression would ‘cycle’, that I’d be fine and enjoying life for a while, but then ‘always get sad again’. I remember being particularly depressed for the first half of year 10, isolating myself from all of my friends who were really worried about me.


When I was 20 I had my first real manic episode. I was able to get by just fine with very poor sleep, developed very goal-driven and unhealthy behaviour towards fitness and eating, started two new casual jobs and was working long shifts with no issues, all while studying full-time. Throughout the whole time I felt great- productive, on top of life, like everything was totally under control. However, other people could how strange I was acting, and that what I was doing was totally unsustainable and damaging.


After this, I sank into the worst depression of my life. I spoke to my doctor about my symptoms, and they gave me antidepressants. Unfortunately, antidepressants can trigger manic episodes in people with bipolar, which led to another cycle of highs and lows. 


One day, I saw the psychologist at university and noted how starting the new university year always led me to have a lot more drive to overcommit, less need to sleep and have over-the-top energy, and this had been a pattern pretty much every year. He ended up screening me for bipolar and found that it was a match. He suggested I see my GP, who referred me to a psychiatrist. This psychiatrist then interviewed me and my parents (with my consent) and diagnosed me with bipolar disorder.


I have bipolar I disorder, which essentially means that I have pronounced phases of mania which last for more than a week and can show real identifiable changes in my personality. I also experience hypomania and depression, which I will talk about now!

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What’s it like?

A lot of the time I exist in a ‘euthymic’ stage, being the phase between a manic or depressive episode where I’m able to manage my emotions. That feeling lasts until the symptoms come up. 


My depression feels heavy and painful. I can feel okay for a while when I see friends or do something nice, but it comes back. I might struggle to move when it’s really bad. I often overeat and oversleep.


Hypomania is like a happy rush. Sometimes it pushes me to make decisions I’ve been mulling about for ages and conquer my anxiety just briefly. I can also get a lot more done in a day and am bright and cheerful.


Mania is a step up from this. Though I don’t have psychotic episodes, it can make me feel way more connected to the universe and help me make revelations about myself. But it can also come with racing thoughts and an inability to keep my attention, becoming irrationally irritated at those around me, saying unusual things or being hard to follow, and making it difficult to sleep and too easy to wake up. Knowing that these episodes can lead me to do and say things outside of my personality, and possibly making decisions that I'll regret, makes it concerning even if it might feel good at the time.


I suppose an interesting thing about bipolar is that these phases never last forever. While I’m never sure how long an episode will last exactly, I know that using the right techniques to bring myself up or calm myself down will help bring me back to that stable euthymic state.

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Bipolar disorder and shame

Bipolar disorder does come with a lot of shame, and 6 years into my bipolar journey it’s hard for me to articulate what that’s like. While it was a relief to finally have a name to the things that I had experienced for so long, the reality of lifelong medication and treatment was hard to come to terms with. Despite society taking huge steps in de-stigmatising mental illness, bipolar still carries harmful assumptions which may range from others feeling threatened to feeling pity. I have also received a lot of shock that someone functional like me could have such a debilitating illness. 


I also went through a grieving process when I assumed that my mental health was too unstable to be able to follow in a lot of career paths I was hoping for. This wasn't necessarily true, but it took a long time to gain the confidence back to really pursue my dreams.


As someone who has presented my mental health journey in front of live audiences, I felt very on top of being open about my struggles and diagnosis. That is, until I presented my mental health story at a corporate event and someone in the audience came up to me afterwards and said they knew me from school. This made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and I had to debrief afterwards because it made me go back into those feelings of shame and judgement. I guess it shows that it can take a long time to come to terms with a diagnosis- it may not be something that ever quite sits right with me, but that’s okay.

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Bipolar and self-care

The main treatment for bipolar disorder is medication and therapy. Medication for bipolar may include mood stabilisers which help with depression or hypomania, antipsychotic medications which help with mania, and possibly antidepressants taken alongside these medications for anxiety or depression. Therapy might be things like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which helps individuals to look after themselves before their symptoms get too bad. Alongside this, healthy routines, a regular sleep schedule (this is a must), and reducing stressful realities like overcommitting can change your life for the better. There are a whole heap of strategies listed here which I agree with. 


Another part of bipolar is knowing your ‘triggers’. As I mentioned earlier, a trigger for me was starting university each year. If you find yourself feeling unstable but not knowing quite why, a helpful resource can be a mood chart. They allow you to map out your moods to find patterns across time. 


As life doesn’t always go as planned, it is also important to have a strong support system in place. This may include friends and family who can recognise your warning signs, having a regular psychologist or psychiatrist, knowing if you need to change your medication briefly, and knowing the ways to down-regulate or uplift your mood when necessary. It all sounds like a lot, but when you start integrating these into your daily life you’ll be amazed at how much easier things get! 

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Things you can do to help someone with bipolar disorder

We have a list of suggestions here for how to look after someone with bipolar disorder and yourself. I also wanted to give some suggestions from my own experience 🙂

  • Learn about the disorder. Read up from reputable websites, like right here at ReachOut!
  • Help them learn their triggers. Bipolar disorder is a very reactive illness, and is impacted by the things that happen around us. We often can’t tell where it starts and where it ends, especially in hypomanic phases where everything feels amazing but can turn into full-blown manic episodes. Being open and honest when things don’t seem right can be the wake-up call that allows us to change our situation before things get out of control. A key trigger is stress and big life changes, so this is a point where you may need to help someone with bipolar pull out of a slump or downregulate themselves.
  • Understand that it’s more than the person. Sometimes we’ll do or say things that we don’t really mean when we’re in an episode.
  • When things are bad, it’s not forever. The main support you can give is to help us get through these phases and come out the other side feeling positive and hopeful.
  • Encourage us to follow our treatment plan, check in with our health professionals regularly and avoid risky things like substance use.

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Thank you so much for reading all of this! I hope it gives you some insight into the life of someone with bipolar disorder 😊