Living with Bipolar Disorder
by See Change Ambassador, Holly Fehily
My name is Holly, I am 27 years old and I live with bipolar disorder type one. Bipolar disorder can look different on everyone, behind every diagnosis there’s a different story to tell. I was diagnosed in my early 20’s. I can go from periods where I can have an elevated mood and lots of energy, once being described as a Duracell bunny bouncing off the walls. During these episodes I can also portray out of character behaviour. I go through periods of very low mood which for me tend to last that bit longer than the manic phases. Periods of anxiety can also be another symptom for me.
Receiving a diagnosis was terrifying. I felt that label came with baggage and that baggage was shame. I didn’t want to share my diagnosis with anyone at first after experiencing stigma in the past. I was once referred to as someone who ‘suffers with their nerves’ by a previous manager when giving a reference for a new job. Stigma is something that had a big effect on me and it’s unfortunate that we still see it in society today. I especially feel the public stigma associated with the mental illness that I live with. The way the media portrays mental illness in my view is completely wrong and so misleading. It was almost like I was waiting for my life to do a 360 when I was diagnosed. Being the diehard EastEnders fan that I am, it left me thinking I’d soon be living a life like the character Jean Slater. I still experience stigma in everyday life; simple things like people referring to the weather or to someone just being in a bad mood as bipolar can promote the stigma and misunderstanding of mental health even more. In most cases I believe stigma is due to a lack of education or ignorance when it comes to mental health, a lot of people would be surprised to know just how common mental illness actually is.
Getting a diagnosis in one way was a positive thing as it let me move forward with the right medications and I was able to move forward with my recovery journey. I have picked up many tools along the way to keep myself well such as completing the Wellness Recovery Action Plan and enjoying things like mindfulness and meditation. Instead of being so hard on myself I have started to feel compassion for what I’ve been through. Today I am able to say I am Bipolar and thriving.
For anyone who may be struggling living with a mental health difficulty, know you’re not alone in this and nobody should feel like they are. Bipolar Disorder is manageable and life can be normal. Taking that first step and opening up can be scary and daunting but you’ll be glad you did it. There is support out there to help you along the way and most importantly be kind to yourself.
When it comes to stigma in society, we still have a high hill to climb but we will get there if we open up and normalise conversations around mental health.
If you are having a tough time at the moment and need to reach out for support, please contact any of the following