Experiences of bipolar disorder: ‘Every day it feels like I must wear a mask’
I am once again in the mental health treatment sausage machine. Plucking up courage to approach a GP to admit defeat, being shoved on drugs to stop me topping myself, told that there’s a huge, long waiting list for treatment, the false hope of a “gateway worker” assessment followed by another interminable wait of undefined length. Then I know I will have my allocated batch of treatment before being deemed “fixed” and dispatched back to the world again. I am sick and tired of the roundabout. I suggested that instead of this system, once a mental health patient has had their allocation of therapy, they should remain on the books, so when they feel themselves slipping back down, they can call up for a booster session instead of having to go through the whole rigmarole again.
I’ve just quit my job of six years because, following a disclosure to my new boss that I have bipolar tendencies she proceeded to bully me into submission. She had absolutely no understanding of how to get the best out of (a very talented) employee who has mental health issues. I was stopped from working at home, an important aspect to being able to manage my condition. I had unreasonable targets imposed, with no support offered to go about achieving them. My job was chopped and changed, hours cut and autonomy removed. I have been pushed back to the brink of suicide and had to go on antidepressants to simply survive.
From September 2015 until December 2016, while I waited for an NHS referral, I was so ill I didn’t know how to cope and resorted to self harming. These aren’t all of my scars, but they’re the ones no one ever sees; so it’s easy to think they’re not there. One year of my life, and I will have to be reminded of it forever.
Cat, 24, South Yorkshire
People often mistake bipolar disorder as your mood rapidly changing from up to down. It’s not like that. That would be my other illness, borderline personality disorder (BPD) or as my psychiatrist put it, emotionally unstable personality disorder. It’s complicated telling people you have both bipolar disorder and BPD, as they both involve intense mood swings. Well, that’s when I do tell people – social anxiety sort of puts a brick wall between me and people. BPD makes your mood change within seconds and it is a strong mood swing. Like fire, it can destroy you and those around you. With bipolar, the mood swing sort of creeps up on you. It’s when the mood gets high (mania) or low (depression) that it becomes destructive.
Every day it feels like I must wear a mask, however, hiding never did me any good with these illnesses. It just becomes more of a shock to those around you when the symptoms start to leak through. Even as I write this, it’s hard to concentrate, thoughts and emotions are saying one thing, while that one bit of mind that tells you “everything will be ok”, is telling me to push on.