Andrew* shares his experience of living with bipolar disorder and how it has affected him.
I was originally diagnosed with severe clinical depression. It took almost a decade before I was properly diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
As part of the bipolar disorder, I have experienced periods of mania as well. When manic, my mood would either be falsely elated or very irritable. I would become extremely focused and goal-oriented around one interest at the expense of all else. I have amassed a wealth of knowledge and built up large collections of guitars, obscure music and Land Rovers in the past. I would become very poor at managing my money (usually spending it on amassing collections). I would need very little sleep and would usually devote all my time to work at the expense of my family.
Knowing that I have bipolar disorder means that I’ve had to learn to build a toolbox of behaviours, which help me to manage the condition and keep within a safe range of mood fluctuation (everyone gets sad sometimes). I take regular daily medication that helps in the moderation of my moods, but just as important as the medication are the lifestyle changes and psychological interventions. For me, this includes having a consistent sleep pattern every day, limiting how much alcohol I drink and keeping a mood diary.
My advice to anyone going through the same situation is to not be ashamed of your illness. Bipolar disorder (or any mental health condition) is just as real an illness as diabetes or a broken limb.
*Not his real name
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