I was twenty years old when diagnosed with Bipolar Type 2. For years I was treated for depression until I was reassessed and bipolar disorder was suggested. On first hearing this I was in denial until I was told what bipolar is and it was like everything just clicked. I was in my second-year nursing at the time and began to panic as I didn’t know that an individual with bipolar can live a completely normal life, and successful one at that! My family and friends that I shared this information with were beyond supportive from the get-go and were so willing to learn more about bipolar and especially Bipolar Type 2, Yes, this was all new information to me that there are types of bipolar, in fact there are five types!
When I was given a bipolar diagnosis I was aware that any secrecy I displayed in situations when I would require accommodation or assistance was a result of my anxiety about how other people would respond. I didn’t want to, and still don’t want to live in dread. I already live in enough terror because of bipolar. I decided to disclose my diagnosis to the college and my workplace, and both were so understanding, supportive and excepting, and were willing to help in any way possible. This was not the case in every situation unfortunately and personally I think it’s down to a pure lack of knowledge or awareness around bipolar.
Firstly, I was put on medication and then after frantically searching hashtags on social media platforms and late night google searches, I found Aware’s programme “Living Well with Bipolar Disorder” and I signed up immediately. The programme ran for eight weeks and the knowledge I gained around bipolar and about myself was amazing, but the most special part was chatting with individuals from all over Ireland with a bipolar diagnosis, some recently diagnosed and others for a long period of time. The experiences and advice they shared will always stick with me.
I have many supports in place including regular check-ups with my psychologist, on-going counselling, weekly bipolar support group, and check ins with my local mental health nurse during difficult times. I am delighted to be an ambassador for Aware as I get to share my story in the hopes that I will help someone who has been recently diagnosed like myself or diagnosed for a period of time and feels isolated and alone. We will all choose differently what and with whom we feel comfortable disclosing. What I hope is that those of us who deal with this condition never feel the need to keep quiet when it seems wrong, when we feel confined by keeping quiet, or when we lose out on chances to connect or get help.
I am going to end this blog with a quote from a well-known singer Demi Lovato – “Bipolar depression really got my life off track but today I am proud to say I am living proof that someone can live, love and be living well with bipolar disorder when they get education, support and treatment they need”.
This blog is by Julie Reddan as part of a blog series for World Bipolar Day (March 30 2023).