I’m continuing my series of interviews this week with my lovely friend Alex, a blogger and mum of three from Southampton. This interview post is all about her and her life with bipolar disorder. If you missed the last post in the series, where I met Effie to talk about gender fluidity, then you can check it out here.
Today we’re going to be discussing bipolar disorder, a condition that has a serious effect on moods and feelings. It’s a fairly common thing, perhaps more than people actually realise. According to the NHS, one in every hundred adults will be diagnosed with bipolar disorder at some point during their lives.
This interview only touches on Alex’s own experiences, as always, if you feel that you need to speak to someone about your mental health, please make sure you get in touch with a professional. Links to some support services are at the bottom of this post.
Yet the fact remains that despite lots of good work being done around mental health awareness, there are still people who may not know what life is like for someone with the condition.
I wanted to talk to Alex a little bit about her experiences of
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your life?
Hello! My names Alex, I’m 27. I love to blog, paint, read and watch documentaries. I am a mother of three, I find being a parent very hard but it’s worth it. SEND COFFEE.
Today we’re discussing life with bipolar disorder. Can you tell me a little bit about how you first learned about the condition?
I think we’ve all heard things about bipolar disorder through film and TV etc but it’s always over exaggerated or glamourised. When I look back at my childhood/life I think I’ve just slowly fallen into it, if that makes sense. It’s like a slow wave that snatches you away, and before you know it boom you’ve got it. And everyone copes and suffers from it differently. I remember being around 6/7 and thinking “I’d love to just fall out of my bedroom window and die” and I was in a calm state. Not crying or in a mood. Those thoughts just come and go and it sounds proper grim, but at times it’s quite soothing.
How long have you been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for?
I knew in myself (and those closest to me did too) that I’ve had it for at least 5/6 years but it’s only been very recently that professionals have said “yeah okay let’s accept it and deal with this now”. Doctors are really funny about diagnosing people with bipolar, I’m not entirely sure why, but people I know who have bipolar all agree that it’s a battle to get diagnosed.
Did you know much about bipolar disorder before your diagnosis? Do you think there’s enough information out there for people who might be struggling with it?
Not really. I always thought you were totally crazy and unable to function with bipolar disorder. The fact that I could shower or leave the house made me think that I didn’t have it. Or that I wasn’t suffering enough. And I still think that professionals are still learning about
Can you explain in simple terms what life with bipolar disorder is like for those who might not know about it?
Some weeks I feel numb, some weeks I feel like I’m better than everyone. That I’m too good to talk to my friends or that I’m some genius who should be out there doing great things. I think I can read peoples minds, and that I’m super good looking. And then some weeks I feel like I need to end my life and I bring misery upon everyone. That I’m the ugliest person on the planet and I’m stupid, pathetic and a waste of oxygen.
I quite often think that my children deserve better and that I’m very selfish for having children. And then slowly I go back into this numb phase of not caring about much, not feeling low but not really feeling anything other than get kids sorted, I feel like a robot in that phase. and it starts all over again. I once saw this picture based on bipolar disorder and it was a carousel ride, you know that one where the horse goes up and down real slow. It’s like that.
Are there any particular aspects of your life that have been made harder by having bipolar disorder?
I think everything has changed. For example I’ve recently got engaged but I don’t want to book a wedding because I don’t know how I’m going to feel when I wake up that morning and I don’t want to ruin it. My medication does make me feel a bit more numb to these shifts in mood, but I do still feel like a totally different person. I’ve lost a lot of friends and I like to keep a safe distance with family because I don’t want to lose them either.
Was it a struggle to get the diagnosis and do you feel like it was the correct one for you?
It’s been a battle. I feel so sad for anyone who takes their own life because of the struggle. Or anyone that feels like they’re not being heard. I think a lot of doctors have been very patronising and lacked empathy with my mental health. I’ve been told things like “well you’ve not been arrested recently so you can’t have bipolar” or “you come across as such a smiley person though?” These overly small minded stereotypes aren’t doing anyone favours.
Have your family and friends been supportive of your bipolar?
Unfortunately not. I haven’t come out and said “I have bipolar” to everyone, but these people still knew it was a struggle for me to get out of bed sometimes or that I self harmed regularly. And yet their responses were “you’re not the only person in the world with mental health problems” or “you’ve brought that on yourself and it’s your choice to feel that way”. I really hate that mentality. There’s nothing enjoyable about wanting to die.
Do you think that you’ve got access to the right level of support from the NHS/Mental Health Services in your area?
No. But it’s not their fault. They’re so tight on budget because of the cuts made from the twatty Tories. They promise and tell you things are getting better, but to be taken seriously and listened to has taken years and years. I am one of the lucky ones and still I don’t think my treatment is exactly great.
What do you wish people understood about bipolar that they perhaps don’t, in your opinion?
That, I, myself, haven’t got a clue what’s going on half the time. I’ve lashed out at people that I love. I’ve hurt and caused pain upon people that don’t deserve it. But once those words and actions are out there, they’re there. And I can’t take it back. When I’m feeling at a normal meh phase I can reflect and work towards change, but apart from those weeks, I struggle to even get myself sorted at times. I just want everyone to know that I don’t like upsetting people. It’s not fun or enjoyable for me.
Have you found it helpful to be open about your mental health issues or has it been challenging for you?
A few people have reached out to me and said thank you or you’re doing such good by being honest. And then there are those who think social media isn’t a place for being this honest. Well, I’d rather someone tell me they thought about killing themselves than some “oh look you guys, buy this herbal tea it makes you skinny” post. Life and the world around us is bullshit so I think it’s cool being authentic no matter how scary or hard that is.
What advice would you give someone who was trying to support a friend or family member with their bipolar disorder?
I would say, yes having bipolar is a struggle but also supporting someone with it is too. So make sure you look after yourself as well. There’s no right or wrong way to feel about it, but just know that the person suffering isn’t feeling the way they do because they want to.
I love Alex. She’s been going through some rough stuff at the moment with her mental health but she’s so refreshingly open about it all, and I really hope you’ve found some of her thoughts helpful.
Remember, if you’re going through a hard time with your mental health then don’t be scared to talk to someone about it. If you don’t feel like there’s anyone in your real world that you could speak to, please do send me a message over on Twitter, or email me, whatever. Just don’t struggle on alone, please.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this interview and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments. As always, please share if you think someone else will find this post helpful.
Some links to further support and information:
Mind: Bipolar Disorder
NHS Information: Bipolar Disorder
Relate: relationship advice (for partners and family support)
Writer, tweeter and illustrator. Starving artist and thrifting expert. Pen for hire and first-time author at work.