My friend Claudia bravely shares some of her journey with Bipolar2:

15 is far too young to decide to stand on a railway track and end it all. But if you felt like the world is around you is a dark vortex of despair, hate and no hope death seems like a really good option. Or at least that is what it felt like to me. 3 other attempts followed in the next 20 years. I was finally diagnosed last year with Bipolar2 and that has lead me to look back over the years and see patterns and missed signs.

I am the second child of an alcoholic mother and had a childhood that I would not wish on anyone. I was a fairly independent child that sought refuge in sports, books and fantasy. As I grew up I had moments of deep involvement in everything from community organisations to sports and church. This followed months of withdrawing from the world and shielding myself from every person. I fondly (sic) call this my “Cave” months. All this came to a head a year ago when a really good friend came to my flat and dragged a protesting me to the doctor and then onto Somerset Hospital where a psychiatrist was waiting to see me.

Life had become unbearable and the only thing (person) that was holding me to this mortal world was my son. I could not take a step that would do so much damage to him and yet I was deeply worrying him because I had not gotten out of bed in a few weeks. He was forced to adult at such a young age.

Mental disorders were not discussed because the only ones that I was aware of was kids with Downs Syndrome. All I knew was that I was extremely sad and down for periods and then happy and smiley for others. My family told me to pull myself together and stop being lazy after all I had a roof (one of many) over my head and other people’s lives were even worse.

Bipolar2 means that I have up and down mood swings. On my upswing for a few months I am a conqueror. I will be up early mornings for my runs, come home make breakfast and pack lunch for my son. I will accept extra work assignments and be so social that it would make people dizzy. I am optimistic about life and the possibilities that come with that. During these periods I would be prone to change jobs or take on bigger assignments – hell, it is during these periods where I sometimes would be doing the work of 3 different departments.

During my downswings I would “cave”. I withdraw from people because I don’t want to tell them how down I feel, how sad I am or how life is just a barrage of screaming voices. I don’t know how to answer the “how are you?” questions. My cave consists of my bed and myself. Insomnia becomes my best friend and I either sleep too much or too little. Often sleeping for 2 – 3 hours and being awake for 48hrs or I will sleep for 20hrs straight. The strong work ethic I have starts suffering as I can’t concentrate on the simplest of tasks and I simply freeze and can’t work efficiently enough. My self-esteem would plummet with my work abilities and this then just snowballs into all kinds of craziness including taking out loans to cover other loans further creating a vortex of humiliation and despair.

Medication helps somewhat as it calms me down sufficient to see my patterns but it does not stop the swings.

I have to live with this mental disorder, it is part of who I am but it is not what defines me. It is not the whole me.

What has helped me was having friends who did not insist on me pulling myself together.

Writing about it has helped.

Friends pitching up to go for a walk has helped.

Accepting my diagnosis has helped.

Meds help.

What I need is structure and that ever elusive community that has the patience to stick it out when I hide and not answer calls. But until then I will dance in the rain…..

[For more stories related to Mental Health issues, click here]