As many of you will know, at the age of 18, whilst studying at the Unversity of Maryland, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder. My first experience of mental health difficulties actually started at the age of 14, but having moved abroad and fallen deeper into depression, I was finally relieved to know I wasn’t going “mad” and that there was a reason for my feelings and behaviours.
What followed are stories of police patrolled escorts to psychiatric hospitals and medications in various combinations, often causing sickness, hairloss, weight gain, tremors, and more.
I believed the experts. And why wouldn’t I? At those points of turmoil, I couldn’t trust myself but hoped in those that knew better.
Over the last 20 years, and a fantastic therapist for 10 of those years, I started to understand my emotions more. I remember the first time I told my therapist of my diagnosis to which she responded “I don’t think you’re mad or that you have bipolar”. At that point, I thought she was mad, but we took with it.
I began to get stronger, learn about myself more, learn about mental health and the brain in more detail, and as time progressed, I thought “maybe that wizard therapist was right”. But each time I would mention it to those nearest, a fear would spread, amongst them and me.
Having this label was easier to box and blame – for them and me. Often, in the process, feeling invalidated for thoughts and feelings. But I got it – blame the label.
Thing is – deep down I knew it wasn’t true. Did I have mental health issues? Yes! 100%. I am susceptible and have had critically mind paralyzing depression. But cocktails of drugs and Bipolar? I wasn’t sure.
I have lost count of the number of times of getting up when the chips are down. From moments of suicide and crisis teams to losing everything I have known in terms of family, friends and jobs. I cannot tell you the pain and turmoil of those moments. Of the noise that goes on in your head . The last couple of weeks in the news has reminded me of that at a raw level. It isnt a pain I wish on anyone and breaks my heart when I know people have got to that level of despair, it feels excruciating even to write.
At its worst, this label has been part to blame for broken marriages, refusals of adoption, and even refusal to believe I would be a good mother by those closest to me.
But last year, having gained the most strength and clarity off the back of yet another depressive episode in September 2018, I decided something had to give. Knowing I had already lost everything again in terms of love and a job, I felt like I was stood there alone with nothing to lose.
I threw myself into the unknown – of living life as if there were no boxes or barriers. I grew three businesses, began the process to start a charity, wrote 5 books, bought a house, reconnected with family, fell in Love, started IVF, and stopped medication whilst checking with doctors and psychiatrists about my diagnosis.
As of 4 weeks ago, I received notification from my GP that Bipolar is now considered “resolved” – which is as close as I can get to taking it off my file. As of 2 weeks ago, I received notification from the DVLA that I no longer have a medical license.
So as of right now, I am not Bipolar.
And as of now, you all know.
I have struggled to write this blog. A weird sense of shame of all the crazy life and stress that I have caused others by my behaviours in the chaos of those 20 years. And to those people, I am sorry for all the pain and hurt I caused. It wasn’t Bipolar but it was still mental illness and depression and internal chaos. This does not mean that I do not take ownership or responsibility for that. Because either way, I live with that daily and forever send out my apologies.
And so to a new life, to one outside of a box, to zero medications, with no limits or boundaries, to living dreams, building trust, learning love and starting over.
Why am I telling you this? Because tomorrow I am headed to the radio to discuss it. And I wanted it first to come from my own hand.
Why else am I telling you this? Because if you feel that a label isn’t your label, don’t be afraid to question it.
Don’t be afraid to say you do not need any label, you just need compassion, kindness, love and support.
It really is that last bit that is key and why I want to use this final line to thank Tracey for that compassion, kindness, love and support. The first person who has never questioned, who believed in me more that I knew possible, who has totally supportive and encouraged dreams to be followed knowing that she would stand by my side to catch or just fall and giggle “oh well, we learn”, who fully listened, who fully and wholeheartedly said “challenge this, it isnt you”. When you have someone who believes in you THAT much, it helps beyond belief – quite literally.
So please, be kind to one another. We really do not know what goes on in each others life. It will take turns we never expected. But always, bring it back to being kind.
Love and peace to you all x