Stuck in a Depressive Episode

At the minute, I’m not feeling great. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been descending into a depressive episode, and I’m struggling to keep my head above water so that I can get out of it. This isn’t to say that I’m not happy in my life. I’ve got an amazing partner who does everything she can to make me happy, we’ve just moved to a beautiful house that we’re still in the process of making our own, and I have a lot of things going for me. But I can’t seem to bring myself out of the funk that my brain is putting me in for whatever reason.

I feel like I can’t do anything and that I’m just no good for anyone or anything. I’m not as bad as I have been in the past, and as much as I don’t see any point in me being around right now, I’m not feeling suicidal or anything, but unfortunately, I feel like it probably wouldn’t take a lot to make me feel that way.

I’m struggling daily just to get through and generally feel like I just want to spend my days in bed doing very little. But, I’m not doing. I’m getting up every day and doing whatever I can, no matter how little that is.

To help me through this time, Alex and I have created a schedule for me to give me some sort of routine. It’s not much, but it at least tells me what I should be trying to do that day. For example, today (I’m writing this on Monday) is a blog day, so I’ll be spending my day – working the same hours that Alex does – working on blog posts and trying to get ahead of the game.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) will be a writing day in which I will be working on my new WIP. I’ve not really spoken about my latest WIP all that much. In last week’s Friday blog, I said that I’m working on it and how much I’d written, but I’ve so far not revealed much else. I feel like I’m going to keep my cards a little closer to my chest than I have with previous novels and maybe only reveal some details when I’m a bit further on with it. However, I will say that it’s a bit different from my previous novels, and I’m really enjoying writing it.

On Wednesdays, I’m going to be working on game stuff. This might range from just playing stuff because I can or to review or even doing streams over on Twitch. I did my first proper stream at the weekend – I’ve finally got a set-up that allows me to use my camera and mic – and I really enjoyed it. I don’t know who watched it, but I had a few viewers, and it did a lot to help me keep my mind off the way that I’ve been feeling. I’m hoping that I can come up with a schedule that will allow me to do it on a more regular basis.

Thursday and Friday will be reserved for more writing. Writing does help me, although sometimes I struggle to get going, but when I do, I get lost in the story and characters. It’s a great way to get out of the depressed side of my head and create something that I can be proud of.

As of writing this, I’ve contacted the doctor and I’ve been given a new medication that’s been added to the ones I’m on already to hopefully help me through this tough time. As with every depressive or manic episode, there’s no telling how long it will last. I just need to try what I can to get through it and to the other side. I want to be positive as I know deep down that I have a lot that I can be thankful for and proud of, but at the moment, it’s hard to push past the part of my brain that’s telling me I’m just not good enough. I know it will get better; I just wish I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m just going to carry on with my schedule, adjust it if I need to, and get through this depressive episode the best I can.

I hope your week has been good and that you have a great weekend.

Bipolar Disorder: The Depressive Side

In previous blog posts, I’ve explained what Bipolar is and how the manic side can affect you. In this post, I’ll discuss how a depressive episode can come about and affect you.

When people think about depression they generally think about someone who is a bit sad for a given reason. This is absolutely not the case.

For starters, a depressive episode can come out of nowhere. Yes, an episode can have a root cause – something that has happened in the person’s life that has brought their mood down – but they can also occur for no real reason, which in part makes them difficult to control. This depressive side of the Bipolar coin is a hell of a lot more than just feeling “sad”.

When in a depressive episode, life can feel pointless and it’s a struggle to find anything that’s worth living for – no matter what you have in life. Some days it’s difficult to get out of bed and get dressed. The pain and hurt that you feel goes right to your very core and premieres every bit of your being. You can be surrounded by people that care about you, but you will feel utterly alone in the world and like no one can possibly understand what you’re feeling. In a word, it’s hell.

As with manic episodes, depressive episodes can come out of nowhere. You can be feeling perfectly fine, and suddenly you feel like crap and can’t see a way back. This can be particularly tough if you’re coming off the back of a manic episode where everything feels great, and you can do anything in the world. Sometimes you can experience an event that will cause one of these bad episodes, but at times, you can’t figure out where it’s come from. If you do CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)  this can help you figure out what’s caused the episode but sometimes even that doesn’t help.

CBT can also sometimes help you get through these tough times, but there are times when this just doesn’t work and trying to think about what has made you feel this way just makes you worse.

These types of episodes can also last for varying lengths of time. It could be a few hours to months, and there is no telling how long it will last until it’s over. It’s not something you can rush through either; you’ll come out of the other side eventually. You need to stick it out the best you can.

When I’m feeling bad, I have to find ways to distract myself. I write, I play games or watch movies. Anything that will keep my mind off the way that I’m feeling. Everyone has different coping strategies for dealing with a depressive episode. What works for me might not work for you. It’s all about finding out what does and getting through it the best that you can.

I recently had a moderate depressive episode after we moved house. The change in location and the disruption of my routine knocked me for six, and I struggled daily with how I was feeling. I spent my time playing games and focusing on anything that wasn’t my brain imploding. This time it wasn’t as bad as previous episodes that I’ve had, and I’m pretty much out of it now, but the threat of going back down is always there.

At times Bipolar disorder is exhausting. Trying to preempt future events and what might send you one way or another is so tiring, and that alone is enough to drag you into a downward spiral, and it’s a fight to stop that from happening.

Bipolar disorder can leave you feeling alone. It can make you feel isolated and that no one understands how you’re feeling or that you’re wrong for feeling the way you do. I’m here to say that’s bullshit. You’re not alone, and some people understand. I completely feel that way, though, and that it’s hard to ask people for help, but if you read this and feel alone, know that you’re not.

I’ll leave it here for now. Have a good weekend all.

Getting Prepared

The past few weeks have been manic – I don’t mean inside my brain either. There hasn’t really been a time when someone hasn’t been coming and going from our house and it’s taken its toll on my mood. Although I’m not hitting a full on depressive episode, I’ve not been feeling right.

After discussing it with Alex, we decided it was probably a good idea to get in contact with my doctor and see what they say. Unfortunately, they’ve not been in for the last two weeks so I’m currently stuck managing it myself. I’m not doing too bad of a job and have felt a bit better now things are getting a little less chaotic, but I still don’t think I’m at the level I was before we moved.

As the days pass, we get more and more things sorted out for the new house. We’re still in a little bit of a limbo as far as the flooring for the bathroom and en-suite, but it’s nothing that we can’t live with.

With this in mind, I’ve been wanting to get back to writing one of the many WIP novels that I have but so far I’ve not been able to. When I first started to struggle, I took not being able to write in this way to heart. It was really doing my head in not being able to focus enough to continue with what I wanted to. But now, I’ve taken my focus away from novels and more on my blogs.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I’m heading to university in September. Once I start I’m sure I’ll have less time for blogging, but I don’t want there to be any huge gaps where I’m not posting so I’m taking this opportunity to get some written and scheduled so I don’t have to worry about them. No doubt there will be some that I write at the time as I progress with my uni work or anything else that I’m doing, but as far as gaming posts and probably even some writing posts, I want to have them banked.

For the writing posts I’ve been writing up my paranormal experiences in my flat in Eccles. The first of these was posted on Monday and part II will be coming next week. I don’t know how many of these I will write, but at the minute I can see there being at least 5 or 6, but we’ll see.

Depressive episodes suck. But, it’s all about making it through to the other side. As I said, I’m trying not to be too hard on myself when I’m not able to do certain things, but at times that’s difficult. My time away from social media has helped me some as I’ve not been getting annoyed at idiots on there, so that’s something.

Another week is over, so I’ll wish you a good weekend.

Learning More About My Craft

This morning I had some great news about something that I have eluded to in previous blog posts.

From September, I will be becoming a student as I start my creative writing course at university. I didn’t want to say anything until it was all confirmed because I worried that something would go wrong and I wouldn’t end up going, but this morning I had final confirmation that I’m sorted, and I’m actually going.

Going to university was never something that I thought I would do. I kind of checked out at college when my bipolar was truly getting out of hand and thought I had missed my chance. If I did go, I probably would have done something IT-related, and now, given that I’ve fallen out with IT, it would have been a waste.

I’m going to study creative writing with a view to learn more about my craft and improve in any areas that I might be lacking.

Yes, I’ve written three novels so far that have generally been received well, but I’m not so up my own arse that I think I can’t learn and get better at it.

It’s been a long time since I did any kind of study, so I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t just a little bit nervous about going to uni, but I’m also excited to go and genuinely look forward to it.

Writing is something that I’ve only really discovered in the past few years, but I’ve found that I really enjoy it, and for the most part, it helps me get through some of my worst days.

When I quit my job in IT last year, I worried because it was all I’ve ever known. I knew that I didn’t want to go back into it, but it’s all I’ve worked in for over a decade, and I didn’t know what else I would do. I didn’t have the confidence to try to get a job that related to writing. I’m hoping this course will give me more confidence in my skills and allow me to build on what I can already do.

Whilst on the course, I will still be writing my novels where I can and posting blogs, but obviously, I will be a lot busier than I am at the moment. This does worry me a bit as I’ve gotten used to my current schedule and the way that I work, so making significant changes will probably knock me a little bit, to begin with. But I’m feeling optimistic about it all, and I know that it will be something amazing that could lead to bigger and better things.

Recently I’ve not been feeling great. The stress of our house move and everything that goes along with it has knocked me for six. But, this news this morning has done a lot to help me feel better and remind me that there are good things, and they do sometimes happen to me.

Regarding what I’m up to at the moment, I’m struggling to continue work on any of my current in-progress novels. Still, I am able to write blogs, so I’m trying to get a stock of them ready to go, so I’m not doing them at the last minute or worrying about doing them when I’m not feeling great. This news has left me feeling a bit more motivated so I’m hoping I’ll be able to get back to my novels soon.

I’m still staying away from social media platforms for a bit as they were just starting to annoy me, but I’m sure I’ll be back at some point.

For now, though, that’s it from me. Have a good weekend all.

Blindsighted is available on Amazon now.

A Bit of a Dip: Taking a Break

This blog is a little late today as it took me a while to write it for reasons I’ll explain below.

It’s been a stressful few weeks. We’ve moved into our new house, and since then, it’s been pretty much non-stop with people coming in and out doing jobs.

I wish I could say that I’ve been okay through this, but the stress has hit a limit over the past few days and has sent me down into a depressive episode.

So far, I’m doing okay (compared to other episodes). I haven’t forgotten where I am or thought that everything was a dream – so that’s good. But I’m still not feeling right. I only went back to writing last week, and I just couldn’t get into it. I’ve managed to write a couple of blog posts for the bank, but I’ve not been particularly productive other than that. I managed to do a read-through of what I have written so far for The Next Stage 2, but when it came to writing something new to continue the story, I just hit a wall. I don’t want just to type anything because I don’t want to ruin what I have, so for now, I’m just going to leave it.

I can’t pinpoint precisely when this depressive episode has come on, it’s just been bubbling under the surface for a few weeks, and I’m now realising it for what it is rather than just trying to push through. Tears have been shed, and now I’m just exhausted.

I think a break from things is required, so I don’t think I’ll be around all that much on social media until I feel a bit better. I’ll still try to do some blogs because writing does help me when I’m able to do it. I’ll try to work on my stories where I can, but I’m not going to force myself to do it if I can’t.

Alex and I agreed that I need to talk to my doctor about it, but as usual, she’s not in this week, so for now, we just have to try to manage this as best we can.

I’ve had some good news about something in the past week, but even that’s not been enough to pull me out of this episode. I know that I have some great things in my life, and I’m surrounded by people that genuinely care about me. But when I feel like this, it’s hard to see that. I feel myself just wanting to be alone or hide from the world.

I hope this episode won’t devolve into the one I had a couple of years ago when my mind pretty much melted, and I couldn’t function at all. I just need to manage it the best I can and do what I can to help me through.

That’s it for now. See you soon and have a good week.

The Editing Struggle

When the week started, I was determined to get the paperback proof copy of Blindsighted edited, but it so far hasn’t happened for one reason or another. I’ve managed to get around three quarters the way through it, but the past couple of days haven’t been very productive.

I find editing a difficult thing to do when my head isn’t 100% in it. Generally, I don’t mind the process, it’s a necessary evil and is a critical process in writing a book, but when my head is having an off day, I just can’t get going with it.

Writing is something that helps me get through some bad days. The act of creating and engaging with the characters and worlds calms my brain and gives me something good on which to focus. With editing, though, I don’t get that.

As I’m going through something that I’ve already been through multiple times, nothing new is grabbing my attention and focus. I find my mind drifting and thinking about other things more often, and I end up missing things that need to be altered or corrected, which, in the end, will only harm the story.

As much as I want to get this draft completed – I think it will be the last – I don’t want to rush it, miss things and then put it out into the world only for people to pick up on my mistakes.

If I could afford to hire an editor, I would do, but as it stands, I don’t have the money available to me to do so. So, for now, I have to do the bulk of the work.

I’m really pleased with how Blindsighted has turned out; it’s very different from my last book, The Next Stage. It’s been good to write a different story genre, from something that was heavily sci-fi to this paranormal horror is a welcome change.

I don’t know what genre I want to write at the minute, or even if I want to stick to just one, I think I may end up being more of a multi-genre author. Of course, for that to happen, I need to get Blindsighted released.

I haven’t set a specific date for release as I don’t want to rush things and put more pressure on myself than I already do. I’ve said before that I’m hoping to release in the next couple of months, but if I set a date, I will probably only beat myself up if I don’t meet the deadline. There’s no rush, and it’ll be out when it’s out. My mental health is more important than publishing a book. I need to make sure that I keep my brain happy; everything else will come in time.

Reading this blog back, I can see it’s a little bit all over the place. I’m struggling even to type this, if I’m honest. So, that being said, I’ll leave things here for now and get back to trying to edit.

Have a good weekend.

Anxiety and CBT

Anxiety. Like many other people with bipolar, anxiety is an added unwanted bonus that comes along with it.

For many, anxiety is a feeling that occurs every now and then and may be associated with a big event; for example, a job interview, talking in front of others. These situations are considered a normal cause of stress.

Some of the symptoms of anxiety may include;

  • increased heart rate
  • rapid breathing
  • restlessness
  • trouble concentrating

However, when you have anxiety in conjunction with another mental illness, these periods of anxious feelings can last days, weeks, months and can have a more significant effect on your mind and body, and the symptoms listed above could become overwhelming. They may stop you from doing things you enjoy, seeing friends or going to restaurants. In extreme cases, they may prevent you from even leaving your house. If you don’t do anything about these feelings, they could get even worse.

I’ve previously talked about my anxiety in relation to a hospital appointment I had, but in the recent past, my anxiety would spike at anything from going to work to seeing family to thinking about going food shopping. Over the years, I have managed to gain a modicum of control over my anxiety, and it now only tends to raise its head at larger events, but that’s not to say that it still doesn’t happen unexpectedly.

To get my anxiety under control, I’ve had several bouts of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which gave me some tools that help you take a little more control over your feelings. This isn’t a cure, it’s a management tool, and it doesn’t always work.

From CBT, I learned a few different techniques retraining my brain to not go straight to a particular situation’s negative aspects. For example, when I had to go somewhere, my brain would go straight to thoughts like “everybody will be watching me” or “what if X happens while I’m out.” To begin with, CBT was a difficult therapy for me, as it was all about pinpointing my thoughts about a given situation, which I found really hard to do as when I was sat with someone asking these questions, it was hard for me to think about what thoughts I would have.

For a time, I felt like I was going around in circles and that the whole therapy was a waste of time, but after finishing the sessions, certain aspects stuck with me, and I still use them today. For example, if I start to be anxious about going somewhere, I think about why that is. If I’m thinking that people are watching me or will be judging me, I tell myself that they don’t think that way and have other things to think about than me. Sometimes, even using this method, I struggle actually to talk myself into thinking everything would be okay, but those times are getting less and less as time passes.

When Alex and I got together, I struggled with going to her parents’ house. Although they are now family, I was worried about them judging me, and if I had a panic attack whilst there, I didn’t want them to think any less of me. I’ve since learned that they don’t care, and they just want to see me. It helped in a way that Alex and I both have Bipolar as she was able to tell me that they have dealt with her anxiety for years and mine was nothing new. It wasn’t something that they would judge me for or think any less of me for. It didn’t matter.

Unfortunately, anxiety still plays quite a big part of my life, and it can still be overwhelming at times. But for the most part, I’m getting better.

CBT isn’t a fix-all solution. There will be parts that help and others that don’t, but I would say that it’s worth at least a go if you’re really struggling. Of course, if you’re like me, you may get anxiety even going to the CBT sessions, which was fun. But after a few, I got used to them, and it just became something I had to go to for a few weeks.

Like with many things related to mental illness, anxiety can be difficult to talk about, especially if you think others are judging you. But be assured that everyone out there suffers from it at some time of their life and to varying degrees. You’re not alone.

Bipolar: The Manic Side

Before Christmas, I did an overview of Bipolar Disorder and what it means and what it causes. Being Bipolar/Manic Depressive means you not only have depressive episodes; but also manic ones.

In my life, the depressive episodes have far outweighed the manic ones. But allow me to let you in on how some of my manic episodes have gone.

When I’m manic, it’s not just that I feel happy. My brain runs 10x faster than it usually does and thinks pretty much everything is a good idea. There have been some bad outcomes to this, but also some good.

On the bad side, I tend to want to spend money I don’t have. This has resulted in me racking up a boat – possibly one of the few things I didn’t buy – load of debt. I didn’t always buy big things, but I would buy a lot of small items, and those little things mounted up. I’ve managed to pull myself out of this now, and it’s something that I don’t want to get back into. However, when I have manic episodes, I still have the urge to spend money I don’t have and need to spend some time talking myself out of it, thankfully I’m able to do this much easier these days, but it’s still hard. However, it’s something that always preys on my mind as I’m aware of just how easy it would be to slip back into it.

The other thing I get when manic is the urge to be creative. This has ranged from setting up online shops with various products – I’ve done a few of these that didn’t last long, although one of my t-shirt shops is still going over on Cafepress– to things that I actually stuck with for a long time like my animated YouTube series Todd the Zombie. Even my first book, Creatures, started as a need to get through a manic episode.

Todd the Zombie is something that I thought up one day when I was on my way home from work and had a need – like years later with Creatures – to get out of my head. The series is based around a zombie IT guy that worked at a large company, not unlike Apple – but shhh- a vampire security guard, a dumb receptionist, a ghost delivery girl, a devil accountant, and a totally inept boss. All done in an isometric 3D style, with a lot of game, movie, and TV references, sometimes the animation changing style to match the references.

Eventually, it would lead to me asking my brother to write some scripts, and I also had some friends that worked on it with me, either by doing animation or some of the voices. Soon I would end up meeting several other people online that would become part of TeamTodd. Sadly, after 4 years and 2 series, I kind of fell out with the process, everyone went their own ways, and Todd ended. But it’s still available online over on YouTube, and it’s website www.toddthezombie.com. I still hope one day to pick it back up and do more episodes.

Even though it started from a manic episode, it was something that I enjoyed and something that was positive. After years of only making mistakes when manic, it was a welcome change having something tangible come out of being manic. The people I met along the way also helped me through some of my worst depressive episodes, so I’ll be forever grateful to them and for all that they did.

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that for me, manic episodes can be just as bad as the depressive ones, but they can also lead to good things.

I’d say that one of the worst things about the manic episodes I’ve had, is that feeling I get when I know I’m manic and I become painfully aware that one day it will end and I will end up going the other way. The problem with that is that I don’t have the capacity when manic to do anything about what I see coming. It’s like running on to a train track as a speeding train comes straight at you, unable to move because the bright light transfixes you.

In my experience, it’s challenging to get a diagnosis of Bipolar. I would only seek help when I was in a depressive episode, so that would be all doctors or therapists would see. When I’m manic, the world is a beautiful place filled with shiny objects and pretty colours; I don’t think anything is wrong in my life. It’s also the time when I decide that taking my medication isn’t a thing I need to do anymore, and the urge to just stop them is overwhelming. Whereas when depressed, I know something is wrong, and I may need help with something. Although it’s still hard to go and get the help I need.

The manic side also doesn’t really catch the attention of other people. You’re seen as “the life of the party” or maybe just a bit “weird” or “random” as opposed to seeing a person that is struggling with a mental health problem. But when you’re in a depressive episode, people just see you as “grumpy” or ” angry,” or you’re just told to suck it up and get on with things; if only that were possible!

There is still a stigma around depression and Bipolarity. So the people that genuinely need help are either unable to get it or are too scared to ask for fear of people looking at them differently.

I’m still at the start of my journey of being able to talk about these things, so forgive me if all this is a bit rambly or disjointed, but it’s still hard for me to talk about some things, although I feel better for having done so. I’m also not trying to get preachy; I’m just trying to explain how my life and the lives of those around me are affected by the two sides of the Bipolar coin that flips in my head. Luckily it’s standing on the edge at the minute, but there’s no telling when it will tip to one side, and to which it goes.

I hope these posts help people, even if it’s just in some small way, with the knowledge that other people are struggling too. Thanks for taking the time to read.

An Author’s Holiday

As I’ve previously said, in May of this year I quit my job in IT, because I decided I just couldn’t do it anymore and it was affecting my mental health…blah, blah, blah, but this blog isn’t about that, it’s about holidays.

Now that I don’t have a “real” job and I’m writing full time, you’d think I could pretty much do what I want to, write? (Haha, see what I did there? Urgh) I’ve been trying to give my days a bit more structure because, 1) It helps my mental health and 2) it means I’m more likely actually to get something done. But, just like in a 9-5 job, I need time off. This year more than ever, time off is essential, to not only look after my mental health but also recover some from physical injury.

One plus for not working a 9-5 is that if I decide to take some time off, I only need to clear with my own brain. There’s none of this, trying to find out what other people have booked off, and trying to get it approved by some manager who you never see. The only obstacle I face is actually making myself take the time, and not deciding I will just write this little bit – and then realising it’s 4 hours later.

All I’m trying to say with this blog is that I’ve decided to take a few days off over Christmas and the new year.

Although I’m taking this time off writing, I’m putting together some blog posts and scheduling them, and I’ll probably still be around on Twitter.

As it’s Monday here’s a bit of a writing update.

I’ve shelved It’s All in the Eyes for the time being. I got a bit stuck with where I was going with it, and rather than muddling through and messing it up; I decided a break from it might help.

I’ve done some more work on the tentatively titled The Man (which may also be called Blindsighted, I haven’t decided yet.) I’ve still got a good idea where it’s going, and I’m almost at the end of creating the basic story, so I may pick this back up in the new year again to try to get the first draft finished.

This last week, however, I’ve been working on The Next Stage 2 – no that’s not going to be the final title…I just don’t know what it will be yet. I’ve got around 6000 words written, so it’s coming along. I’ve managed to put a few of my favourite ideas together, leaving some by the wayside for another time. I’m really hoping people will like it as much as the first one, but I guess time will tell.

Bipolar Disorder: What Is It Really?

I’ve mentioned before that I have Bipolar disorder. In the years since my diagnosis, I’ve come across several people that don’t really know what it is or misunderstand it. In this blog, I’m going to try to explain it a little so bear with me as things may get a tad technical/medical.

What is Bipolar, and what are the symptoms?

At a basic level, Bipolar is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings. So this isn’t just feeling either happy or depressed, it’s feeling them to extremes. These moods can last for weeks or months.

What we’re talking about is this;

With the depression side, it’s not just feeling “sad.” You can feel the below sometimes multiple ones combined;

  • feeling sad, hopeless or irritable most of the time
  • lacking energy
  • difficulty concentrating and remembering things
  • loss of interest in everyday activities
  • feelings of emptiness or worthlessness
  • feelings of guilt and despair
  • feeling pessimistic about everything
  • self-doubt
  • being delusional, having hallucinations and disturbed or illogical thinking
  • lack of appetite
  • difficulty sleeping
  • suicidal thoughts

On the flip side, being manic isn’t just “happy,” it’s all of the below;

  • feeling very happy, elated or overjoyed
  • talking very quickly
  • feeling full of energy
  • feeling self-important
  • feeling full of great new ideas and having important plans
  • being easily distracted
  • being easily irritated or agitated
  • being delusional, having hallucinations and disturbed or illogical thinking
  • not feeling like sleeping
  • not eating
  • doing things that often have disastrous consequences – such as spending large sums of money on expensive and sometimes unaffordable items
  • making decisions or saying things that are out of character and that others see as being risky or harmful

Sometimes, one side of the Bipolarity is felt more than the other, in my case – and indeed most cases – depressive episodes are experienced more often than manic episodes.

Between these episodes, you may have periods of feeling “normal.” Which is just not high or low, but still far from what other people would call normal.

The patterns for the highs and low can vary from time to time, and person to person. But these patterns can be classified as the below;

  • rapid cycling – where you repeatedly swing from a high to a low phase quickly without having a “normal” period in between
  • mixed state – where you experience symptoms of depression and mania together; for example, overactivity with a depressed mood

Living with Bipolar

Living with Bipolar can be hard at times sometimes – especially a manic episode – you may not be aware that you’re having an episode. After an episode is over, however, you may realise that you were and may even be shocked by what you did during it. But while you’re in it, you may think that people are just being negative or are against you in some way.

Just because you have a Bipolar diagnosis doesn’t mean that your episodes will be the same as someone else with the disorder, everyone can experience it differently.

The extremes of it may also affect your life in other ways. For example, it might be hard to stay in a job; personal relationships may suffer, and there’s also an increased risk of suicide. During an episode, you may also experience strange things, like hallucinations which can also affect your daily life.

Along with all this fun, you may also have delusions or psychotic episodes thrown in for good measure.

Causes

Bipolar disorder is widely believed to be the result of chemical imbalances in the brain.

The chemicals responsible for controlling the brain’s functions are called neurotransmitters and include noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. If one or more of these is imbalanced, then you may experience symptoms of Bipolarity.

For example, there’s evidence that episodes of mania may occur when levels of noradrenaline are too high, and bouts of depression may be the result of noradrenaline levels becoming too low.

It is also thought that Bipolar can be genetic. So if you have family members with it, you’re at an increased of also developing it.

From what I’ve read, there’s isn’t a single gene that causes Bipolar, unlike other genetic disorders, but both genetic and environmental factors can cause it.

A stressful situation or circumstance can often trigger the symptoms of Bipolar disorder.

How is it triggered?

Some examples of stressful triggers include:

  • Relationship breakdown
  • physical, sexual or emotional abuse
  • the death of a close family member or loved one

These are life-altering events and could bring about a depressive episode at any time in a person’s life.

Bipolar disorder may also be triggered by:

  • physical illness
  • sleep disturbances
  • overwhelming problems in everyday life, such as problems with money, work or relationships

As far as my Bipolar goes, I’ve spent year’s trying to work out triggers. Sometimes I can pinpoint them down to life events, but others seem just to happen. They also don’t have a regular pattern so I can’t even work out when they might occur and plan for them. The fact that they can happen at any time is also a cause of stress because I find myself worrying about when a depressive episode might hit me

Getting diagnosed can be a struggle. In my case, it was hard to get because I would only contact the doctor when I was in a low mood. When high everything was awesome – much like the Lego movie; just without the singing – so at the beginning I ended up being told I just had depression. It’s only when the moods went up and down regularly that I questioned this and spoke about it.

I’ve done several rounds of CBT, spoken to psychiatrists and doctors and been on more medication than. I can remember before I got to the “stable” place I’m in now. Don’t get me wrong, I still ups and downs, but now they didn’t happen as regularly, and when they do, I can handle them slightly better.

There are, at times, still bouts of depression that floor me. I had one of these at the back end of last year where I felt worse than I’ve felt in a long time. The fact that it was the first really low mood I’d had in a while made it feel so much worse than it was. It was so bad that I didn’t want to be here anymore, and if I didn’t have the love and support of those around me – especially Alex – then I might not be.

Living with Bipolar is hard, but it is not all that I am – even though it might feel like it sometimes.

In future blogs, I’ll talk more about how both the depressive and manic sides have affected me.

One last thing before I sign off. If you’re reading this and you think, “This is me” and you’re struggling day-to-day, just know that there is help out there for you. It sucks asking for help, and I’m someone who finds it really hard to ask for it and say what I need, but without being able to make that first step, God knows where I would be.

As hard as it is to tell my story, I feel like getting it out there may help people realise that they’re not alone because I know that that’s how it feels sometimes.