To therapy and beyond!

Therapy. Just the word by itself is enough to bring forth a wealth of stigmatisations, beliefs passed from elder generations, whose mental health care was admittedly pretty abysmal. I myself have heard many a horror story about therapy, psychiatrists and the care offered to people with mental health issues, I even know of people who find it shameful to seek help for mental health problems. When I was first offered therapy I was not even convinced that it could help me at all; In fact, I was not even certain I needed it. But I had no idea just what therapy entailed and I doubt many other people do either.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is often offered to people with Bipolar disorder, it is apparently proven to be very affective in the management of the condition. After being told by my psychiatrist (who deals with diagnosis and medication – not therapy) I was on the waiting list for CBT I spent a lot of time researching it, as I do with most things, in this case however knowledge was not power, the therapy I received bore no comparison to the idea of CBT I had gleaned from my research and I would never have imagined just how it would affect me.

I was desperate to quit therapy in the beginning, I sought help in the form of a cure, a quick fix, a new me, new life and instead I discovered a lot of hard work, gruelling management and perhaps most importantly and harder to face, I found a little slice of me. It was all incredibly overwhelming, I went in believing I had depression and came out with a mood disorder, an anxiety disorder and a lot of medication!  It would have been so easy to give up in those first five or six weeks, my moods were more erratic than normal, I felt frighteningly out of control, I couldn’t fathom what I was getting out of sitting in a room for an hour once a week talking and filling out endless mood charts. It would have felt right to have walked away, I felt it was making me worse rather than better, I wouldn’t have blamed myself for quitting. I think perhaps the turn-around moment was when I finally accepted that there is no magic fix – I had two choices work hard and manage this illness or continue along the path of erratic moods and a life that was heading towards another psychotic break, which perhaps I would not come back from. I realised that for therapy to work, I had to work and I had to want to be better.

From the very start of my therapy I made a conscious decision to go in with as open a mind as possible and a loose tongue; I told the absolute truth, no matter how cringingly embarrassing it felt which was incredibly liberating. It had taken me a long time to get to the point of seeking so much help and so in my view it would have been a wasted effort if I had told her any less than absolutely everything whether relevant or not.

Now, I am coming to the end of my CBT and I will miss it terribly; it was a lifeline, it was like having a friend that knows all of your deep dark secrets and accepts you anyway, like having someone know you so thoroughly and just understanding, just getting it. It confronted the darkest parts of me and in some cases explained them; the more I learnt about my Bipolar the more my past, my life and my many mistakes made perfect sense. It was a jigsaw that only knowledge could complete and with knowledge came acceptance, eventually (still working on it!!). Therapy absolutely can’t solve your problems but it can, to some degree, explain how and why they have become problems in the first place.

Therapy can seem like such an abstract thing and so can Bipolar at times, it is an illness that can be so different from person to person that it is hard to say whether therapy would work as well for everyone as it has for me, all I can say is that it has helped me beat some pretty in-grained demons, it has helped me overcome some of my obstacles and the management techniques I have learned will help me continue to deal with my symptoms. I have learned so much about myself, the things I like, dislike, what makes me happy or sad; what triggers a certain mood, what I do within certain moods and why. Therapy has been invaluable to me.

Most importantly, therapy has given me the confidence (and shown me that I have the power) to manage my life. I do not need to live ruled by my illness but I do need to confront it, embrace it and be upfront about it.

 

Heavy words…

I meticulously research everything about my disease, knowledge is power and so before I take a new medication I learn all I can about it; before I started therapy I knew all I could about how cognitive behavioural therapy works and when I was given my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, I read and read and read… The hardest thing to read about my illness was its propensity to hurt and wear upon those who care for me. I know that I have the potential to hurt others, don’t we all, I have hurt many people in the past whilst lost and absorbed in my own selfish, screaming oblivion.

I realise how frustrating and soul-destroying it must be to care for and support a person with Bipolar disorder, it can be frustrating for me, the ups and the downs, the senselessness, anger, fear, irrationality and there is nothing you can do that will help me. There is no action to take that will aid me. Sure, there are mental health professionals, there is medication, you can stop me causing myself physical harm, you can lock me away, you can take me out, free me of some pressures… but you’ll never fix me, you’ll never fully understand. I can see why the advice to any carer is to distance yourself every now and then, to have other means of support for yourself… but it hurts. It hurts that I will never be that means of support for anyone, it hurts that I may be causing people pain without being aware of it and I have a great fear that one day, my support network may reach breaking point and leave in a bid of self-preservation, but what hurts the most is that I wouldn’t blame them for leaving for a second.

I am locked on this path; I need an outlet, I need to express these overwhelming emotions and fears. My disease lacks consistency, yesterdays Cheryl may be full of positivity and strength, a plan for the future and a dream in her heart but todays Cheryl will fall down a hole of negativity, swallowed in a dark abyss that only she can see, all she feels is hate and she cannot see a minute ahead let alone beyond the horizon of a dozen years. It is confusing and infuriating to others, I know it, but I am powerless to help it.

I started this blog in the hope that I could avoid burdening my friends and family with the spewings of my inner turmoil, avoid being seen as the embodiment of negativity and melancholy, drama and exaggeration as I have so often in the past; but, though it may just be my current mood playing tricks on me, I feel even more of a burden than before. I want to free them from the responsibility of supporting me but sometimes heavy words need to be spoken; though I fear my voice may be too heavy for the ears around me when I eventually find it again…

The abyss

Anxiety, Anxiety, Paranoia, Anxiety, Anxiety, Pressure, Pressure, Pressure!!!

I have fallen to into a low that seems doomed to consume me. Each movement is sluggish, like wading through a viscous liquid or forcing a path between thorny bushes. There is pain with no direction or cause. There are tears that I cannot still. I can see no end. Fear consumes me when I have to leave the house, they are all watching me; they all hate me – they are right to hate. Everything is a failure, nothing I do will be right. I want to sleep, sleep away the fear, sleep away the paranoia but the sleep only comes through the day; the nights are filled with a noisy mind, screaming at me that I am bad, I have failed; they hate me and they should. I feel under enormous pressure; everything is falling apart around me – nothing feels solvable.

Logically I know that this is just a very low mood and that none of the above is true. I know I am not hated, I can reason that nobody is talking about me… I can see that it is all a trick of the mind, paranoia, a symptom of my disease…

My therapist says reason and logic are the way forward, the way to combat the paranoia and squelch the anxiety but it seems beyond my capability. I think perhaps I have fallen too low and I am now past the point that management can help; not that I have the motivation to even try.

I have been this low and lower before; how frustrating that I cannot remember how I conquered it then. How do I climb out of the abyss? What reason is there to try?

Somethings gotta give…

Each day I expend a great deal of energy trying to keep up with the rest of the world, I am constantly analysing my feelings, actions and the motives behind them. But no matter how much energy I direct towards maintaining the facade of a well-functioning and normal me, eventually, somethings gotta give. Well, today something did give, I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty details because it is to do with money and work and all those other controversial things, but essentially I set out trying to take on the world and have been humbled into accepting that I can’t do things in the same way as normal people.

Most people will have heard the notion that you can do anything you set your mind to and you can be whatever you want to be; I have heard those mantras so often, in school, on television, from the people around me… It’s as good a notion as any, a positive message to send out into the world and one I shall strive instill into my own children, but what nobody really mentions is that although we may all be capable of greatness we cannot all reach it in the same ways and we will not all ascend toward the same level of achievement.

Right now, I feel as though I have failed. Failed myself and all those around me, those rooting for me and offering their support. It feels as though, by accepting this modicum of help in something so trivial, I have given up the fight and given in to my disease. Everything feels dreadfully negative. All because I cannot complete a mundane task, a task millions of others have completed on numerous occasions, without help… I am angry, frustrated and achingly disappointed because I was so determined that I could go this alone, that I wouldn’t succumb to what almost feels like laziness to me. Logically, I know that it is no awful thing to accept help when you need it; if not for situations like mine why would the help and support in these cases even exist? I am aware that I am not the only person in the world unable to cope. I can see that, if the tables were turned and I was to impart some sage advice to someone in my position, I would berate them for being so hard on themselves and impress upon them that it is no failing to ask for help. But all the logic in the world cannot stop me feeling as though I have just taken a gargantuan step in the wrong direction.

I think perhaps one of the most frustrating things for me is not yet knowing my limits. What am I capable of? How far can I push myself? I have never really paid enough attention, never really realised that my slumps of depression and anxiety were related so closely to the overwhelming amount of tasks I set myself. I have always aimed high and it has always been my downfall because I could never achieve what I set out to and so anything I accomplished was lost amongst the disappointment of not reaching the unrealistic expectations I had for myself. It is difficult though, to change a lifetime of setting the bar too high, what is the right level to aim at? How do I discover this without pushing myself over the edge? Do normal people have to ask these same questions?

I know I need to pull myself out of this negative slump and that it is doing nothing to help me; I will eventually. But right now, I want to be angry for my lost independence and frustrated for my lack of ability and competence. I want to cry for my murdered expectations and throw a tantrum for having to face the truth. I want to berate myself for needing help with such trivial tasks. Maybe then; after I am mentally beaten into submission, I will be able to accept that I cannot do it all, I cannot take on the world alone.

 

B pos, Ironically.

Over this past week I have been testing a new coping method; The February holiday plan. I wrote out a chart, giving myself a time, 8am, to get up each morning and tasks/activities for each day in the hope that it would keep me moving and give me some form of greatly needed routine whilst there is no school run regulating my days. The February holiday plan hasn’t been quite what I hoped or expected it to be, but it hasn’t been a catastrophic failure either. I think the hardest part in recognising my accomplishments is fighting against my skewed perception of what I should be doing. I look at the people around me juggling careers, children and extra-curricular activities as though it was a quiet week for them and I despair because, though I might be capable of just as much as anyone else in the short-term, no matter how many coping methods I find or how hard I try, I will never be able to maintain a life with that amount of pressure and activity and my greatest accomplishments will only ever be as big as getting out of the house to walk the dog or managing to attend a party without collapsing into a mess of anxiety.

I am trying very hard to accept that though the February holiday plan didn’t solve all of my problems, it was still a success, and I am failing miserably. I woke up at 8am every morning and did not sleep any days away; this is an achievement, this is new, but can it really be called an accomplishment when millions of other people manage to do this without issue every day? I got out of the house every single day, this is an achievement, this is new; though it is easy to overlook this accomplishment because of the mundane nature of the tasks that took me out of the house… can you categorise this as a success if all you did in a day was take the kids to a park? I did not give up on my plan, I saw it through to the end; this is an achievement, this is new, but why should I need a plan or coping method at all when other manage to live without them.

I don’t know how others would rate my accomplishments, I am well aware that my perception of what is ‘normal’ is wildly inaccurate, personally I am disappointed that I am not capable of more, I set my targets and they were too high so what am I capable of? Will I ever be able to expand my range of activities? or will it always be beyond me to fulfill what is known as the mundane to others?

I know I need to find a sense of pride in the things I can do, I have done more in this week that I have for a very long time and that should be something I am pleased with. But I want more, I want to do more and I want to feel worth more. If I can’t manage to maintain a ‘normal’ level of function what does that say about my future? What does that say about my worth to other people? What is the point in me?

 

 

Moving on Vs Staying stuck.

We can all suffer with an inability or lack of desire to move forward, we get stuck in the rut of life; comfortable but not always content – it is not a trait bestowed solely upon those who suffer with Bipolar disorder, it is a curse of humanity and I doubt there is anyone that can avoid falling into the oblivion of what we feel is safety and security because it is what we have always known. It takes gumption, perhaps a little slice of insanity (optional) and a whole slab of confidence to jump into the pool of the unknown, to risk what is cosy and familiar for a real shot at happiness.

I thought I took that step, that leap into the unknown, when I left my husband – neither of us were happy though neither of us would admit it. We were wrong for each other in so many, many ways and though we cared for each other and were both pretty wonderful people in our own right, in a relationship we could not create any more than a comfortable (and sometimes uncomfortable) rut for each of us to hide in. I left, wasn’t that when I took the great bound into the waters of the new? I was sure the answer to that was yes but now I just don’t know. My husband, has moved on in great leaps and bounds – he essentially replaced us all; he is in a new relationship and has been for quite some time and has a new child… does this mean he has moved further away from our mutual rut than I? It has been three and a half years and it is still painful to learn that he has moved on in such a final way; why is it painful? why should I care? I think perhaps it is more frustrating than painful because now I have to face the reality that, unbeknownst to me, when I left my husband clearly I did not take the leap both physically and mentally, my body may well have been creating a life here but in my mind I had the option of going back to my rut as a back-up if living got a little too scary and though going back was never really a feasible option I have subconsciously been holding on to it like a child holds its favourite teddy, comforting, safe, misery.

Hearing that my husband has created a new life for himself is only painful because I haven’t managed to get there yet and part of my self-depreciating mind believes that I never will because I don’t feel as though I am worth anyones time, I don’t feel desirable, what could I possibly offer that anyone might be attracted to? The truth, of course, is that moving on with another relationship would never have been the right move for me then, I needed to learn a little about myself first, I needed to accept that I have an illness that will need to be embraced by whomever I may move forward with.

Of course in other areas of my life I certainly have moved forward. Mentally I have taken massive frog jumps into uncharted lands, I am dealing with my illness in a more hands on and honest manner than I have ever done before, I have embraced the management of Bipolar disorder in a way that I don’t even think I was capable of before, I have a larger support network of both mental health professionals, family and wonderful friends and though the numbers of people around me are small, I am learning to rely on others for support a lot more meaning the relationships with those people are stronger and more secure than all those before them. I feel I am a more competent mother than I was when stuck within my rut, I am more careful in the way that I parent, more vigilant and with so much of my illness being managed in better and better ways now I am becoming a more stable parent and I suppose, despite my swinging moods, I am actually happy now. (a definite first for me!) So even though I have not moved forward in the same way as my husband, I have done what is healthy and right for myself… it is tough to remember that on the nights I am so lonely that I consider calling the talking clock just for some company but in the long-run I am sure I have made some positive moves for myself and really that is all taking the leap is about; positive change and happiness.

Lethargy

I am on day two of the February school holiday schedule. Yesterday, I managed to get up at 8am as planned and then, as it wasn’t a great day weather-wise, the kids and I had a craft day; we even managed to get out of the house later, the kids riding their scooters to meet my mum at her work when she finished at 5pm and then we went on to her house for dinner. It might not seem like much to Mr. and Mrs. average Joe but for me it was quite the accomplishment, It didn’t even feel too difficult to follow through with the plan, the kids had a fun day and I felt very proud of myself.

Today is different altogether. I woke at 8am but I did not want to move, I had to force myself out of bed and even then only made it as far as the sofa where I still am now… I feel sleepy, my head is heavy and my body is a dead weight. It’s embarrassing to be this way, I feel lazy and I am incredibly irritable because I am so fiercely disappointed in myself.

What can I do to overcome this?

Everything seems like too much of a stretch right now. It all feels just out of reach, there is a murky pool of tar between me and every task and each move drags me further into its grasp. I don’t see a way out.

It’s tempting to lie down and sleep this mood away but what would that achieve? I wouldn’t be aware of the lethargy encompassing me but I would still awaken to be horribly ashamed of myself. Even knowing that it wouldn’t help is barely enough to keep my eyes from drooping, how can I fight against something I have no desire to challenge?

I wish I could bottle all of the damaging excess energy I have during a high mood and save it for moments like this, I want so desperately to be just like everyone else, where doing the dishes isn’t something that drains all of your energy. I hate being stuck in this vicious cycle of having to force myself to live in one moment and force myself to live a little less vigorously in another. I would love to see what it feels like to be normal, have a life where the mundane is just that and not an accomplishment, to be capable of regular achievements, recognised as such by others.

Instead I have to live a life of force, where my instinctual compulsions are wrong and damaging. Now I suppose it is time to decide whether to categorise this day as a wipeout or find some elusive energy and force some movement…

Managing Progress.

Last night I took a really positive step. I couldn’t have done it alone or rather wouldn’t have done it on my own and I can’t pretend it was an easy step to take but I do know it was a worthwhile one and it has left me feeling uncharacteristically enthusiastic about the management of my illness. Last night, I went to my first Bipolar support group meeting! My therapist, Evelyn, recommended that I go before Christmas but, though I intended to attend last month, anxiety got the better of me and the same would have happened again this month were it not for my wonderful friends taking away all other forms of stress, like who was going to look after my kids while I was there… My mum came to the meeting in support of me and it was a valuable experience for both of us; my mum, having never experienced mental illness personally, often can not relate to a lot of the issues that I deal with and though she is tremendously supportive and believes in my illness she finds it difficult to understand (I can’t really blame her, I find it difficult to understand half the time!) – there can be an awkwardness in how she deals with my symptoms, I am sure she is not the only parent of a person with Bipolar disorder that copes this way. Having her at the support meeting last night not only gifted her a new understanding of the management of my illness and a little insight into the difficulties of living with this day-to-day but I feel it also brought us closer together.

The meetings are on the first Thursday of every month and I am aiming to attend all of them, some valuable management techniques were learnt last night. It was also curiously comforting to meet others afflicted with the same illness as myself and realise that they all looked perfectly fine, there was no sign emblazoned upon their forehead declaring their disease, they were just people… Kind, friendly people… I don’t know what else I was expecting, of course they’re just people, I am, but I suppose sometimes I wonder if other people have more obvious signs of their illness than I do – it can be such a subtle, abstract thing that its hard to reconcile with normal expectations of illness.

The group welcomes a different speaker each month from some professional capacity within mental health. This month it was a psychological therapist named Tracy Williams who gave a lecture on Mindfulness. I practice a lot of mindfulness already, my cognitive behavioural therapy with Evelyn is essentially the same thing; teaching you to be more aware of things like early warning signs, stress, knee-jerk reactions and to stay in the present rather than dwelling in the past or surging towards the future. It teaches breathing exercises to reduce anxiety and take stock of over-zealous emotions. It can sound a little ridiculous and I can imagine many people rolling their eyes as they hear about it, I can hear my dad in my head mumbling about ‘new-age rubbish’ and that it may well be but a lot of it really works and, whether ridiculous or not, if it works it works! I learnt a few new things that I’m going to try out such as Mindful eating, where you attempt not to let your mind wander whilst you eat – you remain focused on each mouthful and savour the flavours and textures in every bite and taking 5 mindful breaths when I wake up each morning. It was a very interesting and informative meeting, it was tough being in a new environment with new people and it’ll probably still be difficult next month but the benefits far outweigh the discomfort.

In the spirit of good management of my illness I have drawn up a plan for the upcoming school holiday next week; the lack of routine always hits my Bipolar hard and I end up with a swinging mood that could rival Tarzan in the jungle. My therapist and I have agreed upon a plan to combat this, I have written a rigid schedule for each day of the holiday; where, when possible, the children and I get out of the house and do something entertaining (but cheap or free so as not to spark my reckless spending, high mood self!)

Planning for a sane school holiday

Planning for a sane school holiday

I have set a time to get out of bed every day because without this I rarely have the motivation to move. I thought that 8am was a fairly acceptable and manageable time as on school days I get up between 7 and 7.30am and it is a holiday after all! I tried to make it bright and eye-catching and then sat down with the kids and we came up with ideas of fun days out; Feeding the birds, going swimming, a walk around the hills where we live… making sure to write out more activities than there are days so as there is still an element of choice and leeway if the weather is bad. I tried to make my schedule exciting for the kids so that in an attempt not to let them down I will do my damnedest to force myself to move no matter how lethargic I feel.

Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t; but it is worth a try, if it doesn’t work I will just have to find something else to try because that is what managing my illness is about. I have to take the time to be mindful of my needs and ask myself, what is it that I need? what works for me? what can help me? Its going to take time and its going to be disappointing when things don’t work out but hopefully it’ll all be worth it in the end…

I’d give up forever…

I’ve had a bad day, when I say this it always confuses the people I have spent time with that day; to them, I seemed to be perfectly fine, I’m sure I smiled a little, laughed even, conversed and even told a few jokes but me and my twisted brain know better than to think I’m alright. I forgot to take my medication this morning and did not realise until this evening and so I have been an unpredictable Bipolar time bomb all day…

I was within the throes of a rather high manic episode all morning, though ironically at the time I was marvelling at what I believed to be an ever elusive ‘normal’ mood; I felt outstanding, confident and motivated – I planned a new career, mapped my future, I felt beautiful and desirable (I’m not suggesting that I am unattractive but believing you are the centre of the universe and knowing you are not ugly are two very different things!) I revelled within delusions about relationships that should not and certainly will not ever come to fruition, I made a study plan for someone else, I cleaned, I sang… and my mind raced. I know that to the average person these things may seem rather trivial and maybe even normal, but the thing that makes them so disturbing to experience is the complete lack of control over these actions; I did not make a conscious decision to clean today, it was a compulsion, a need to move faster than my body is capable of moving. All of it pushing me ever closer to the edge of my capabilities; the consequences of which are that this evening I have been thrust into a deep and pensive low, where I will berate myself for not recognising a high mood until it led to this fiery hell of contemplation and lethargy.

Chief on the priorities of my faults to dissect while I am within this particular low mood is my dreadful relationship history and so in the spirit of painful honesty I am going to share the analytical skills of my merciless brain.

I have always been a hopeless romantic, I dreamt of being whisked off my feet and loved so fully that it would almost become a tangible thing. Realism was never my strong point…

Bipolar disorder, anxiety and a chronic lack of self-worth mixed in with my shockingly unrealistic ideal of love and affection destroyed any hope I had of a meaningful and worthwhile relationship. I sought the first person who showed me any measure of interest who, unsurprisingly, turned out to be the wrong person for me; I did not learn my lesson there though, I followed the very same pattern again and again… I rushed in forcing my perceived milestones of a perfect relationship, trying in vain to create my romantic ideal but of course all that led to was resentment and pain – for both me and those partners…

It took me a very, very long time to realise that those men were not bad people because they didn’t fit my ideal of a perfect partner just as I am not a bad person because we were not right for each other. Bad situations and circumstances were created because I tried to change people, I tried to force love, I settled for what I thought I was worth but was not right and those actions lead to both my mind and theirs rebelling, creating a cataclysmic set of events.

From the age of 14 I jumped from relationship to relationship looking desperately for someone willing to love me in the way I thought I needed and I had not been single for a significant amount of time until I left my husband 3 and a half years ago. This time, spent as a single woman, has enabled me to see that the love I was searching for was mine, I know it sounds cliché and more than a little cheesy but until I spent time by myself I had not really realised how thoroughly I loathed my entire being and that all I was really searching for was my own acceptance. This time alone has enabled me to search myself, learn who I am when not connected and influenced by someone else and to see that I actually like the person I have the potential to be.

I still worry that I will never find anyone who can love me unconditionally and then I remember that I have my beautiful children who look to me for love, guidance and acceptance; my family who strive to be the rigidity and structure I need and my wonderful friends who may be sparse in number but are gargantuan in heart and have shown me more unconditional love than I ever dreamt of. So though I still dream of romance and want a love that is just for me, I know without a doubt that I no longer need it.

 

 

Personality Vs The symptom

Who am I? I am not Bipolar disorder.

I can guarantee that at some point in their lives everyone, everywhere, will strive to answer the age-old question of ‘Who am I?’ some will succeed, some will not but those who do will likely be decidedly happier than those who never seek to discover their true self.

As someone correctly surmised this weekend, part of managing Bipolar Disorder is getting to know yourself. Knowing what makes you happy, brings you joy and excites you, lowers your mood or heightens it, lessens anxiety, raises paranoia… etc. Therapy and the management techniques you are taught are mainly one big course on how you tick and it can be both painfully harrowing and massively rewarding.

The difficulty for me has always been knowing what is symptom and what is just my personality, I am not Bipolar disorder and I refuse to identify with the symptoms of this illness as though they were part of my nature as I have in the past. For example; I am not the person the symptom of anxiety makes me; my nature is jovial and bubbly, I like to joke and tease, I like to be silly and I laugh a lot and in vast contradiction to the symptoms bestowed upon me by Bipolar disorder, I love social interaction. I know this because when I am with good friends this side of me blossoms, there is no need for anxiety to rear its ugly head with these people, I am comfortable, I am free; this is the person I am, not the anxious looking one in the corner avoiding your eyes in the hope that you won’t decide to talk to me…

I am confident, though you wouldn’t know it. I am not shy, though it may seem that I am. I didn’t learn how to interact with people as I was growing up – I was full of turmoil, I was keeping my head above the water and punishing myself for things outwith my control, I isolated myself in a vain attempt at self-preservation and practically lived within a cocoon of self loathing until my early twenties when I suffered a massive psychotic break, so when it seems as though I am having problems conversing, I am, but not for the reasons you think.

I don’t really know what I enjoy doing yet because I have spent so long hiding from the world and so I am on a big quest to try everything at least once. I have a long-standing love affair with books and I don’t think that will ever leave me, woe betide anyone who comes between me and a good book! I have found crafts really soothing and I like to swim (though I am painfully slow!) I love live music and walking… These are the discoveries that will save me, these are the things that, inserted into my life, will keep me going and ease the swinging moods that plague me.

I may not be able to make Bipolar Disorder leave me, but I don’t need to let it dominate my life either. I will seize control, I will find my true personality, I will be happy.