Don't fear me because I'm bipolar

Last updated 15:27 12/10/2016

People with mental illness need compassion, encouragement and support.

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Mental illness is a strange concept for people to grasp. We all consider ourselves vulnerable to physical ailments but when it comes to diseases of the brain people don't seem to care.

I don't have an issue with that because I know not everyone wants to read about complex medical problems.

What I take issue with is people who know almost nothing about my brain disorder and then become afraid of me, see me as a broken person, and exclude or avoid talking to me.

Some people try and control me too tightly too.

* Our knowledge of depression is still limited
* Depression is just another illness
* The black dog no-one wants to own

If society wants to improve, the least people can do is try and understand and relate to us so we are more likely to listen to their advice. Here's some information I hope helps to explain the disorder well.

People affected by bipolar transition in and out of different mood episodes or 'states' every few hours, days, weeks, months or even years - but we are usually always in one of a few emotional states until the next one takes over.

They are: depression, euthymia, hypomania, mixed-affective, mania and psychosis.

Depression is feeling in a constant low mood.

A euthymic state means a balanced state like the next person, with no symptoms. Hypomania is the start of an elevated mood which changes your personality so you talk more, and take risks.

A mixed-affective state means a person is experiencing the classic symptoms of depression and mania usually all at once.

Mania is the dark side of bipolar that all of us experience sometimes, otherwise we wouldn't have been diagnosed. People who are manic experience a range of symptoms such as hyper-sexuality, an inflated ego, delusions of grandeur, lack of or no sleep, a racing mind, jumbled speech and fast talking, a big mouth, a desire to self-medicate with alcohol or harder drugs, impulsive desires, the uncontrollable urge to buy everything and take out loans or ask people for money to achieve these ends, intense anger and frustration but never a low mood.

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Psychosis sounds scary to people. It is a scary state to be in but not in the way I think people think of it. It means you lose touch with external reality. Some people are only mildly affected. But usually we forget entirely who we are and live in a fantasy world in our minds, while being able to see the real world, until we are medicated. Bipolar-caused psychosis is somewhat rare, it is people with schizophrenia who unfortunately experience it often.

I'm starting to talk about my illness.

I know that I am a more of a danger to myself than the people around me. I wish more people knew this too, so they weren’t so afraid of me because it’s such a misplaced fear.

Some friends are helpful and sympathetic. Others just read my messages on Facebook but never respond.

What people with mental illness need from wider society is compassion, encouragement, support, to be treated nicely and not talked down to. It’s ideal to sleep well, take medication and not get drunk, but this applies to everyone not only bipolar-affected people.

The current social security system could improve but it is adequate for me personally, I make do.

If someone seems to always be acting as two different people at various times like I have mentioned above (depressed, then manic all of a sudden) they may have to see a doctor. The earlier you catch bipolar the better outcome for everyone, because the brain deteriorates every time you’re manic or psychotic. I had six manic episodes of 6-12 months before I was diagnosed in 2014. It should have been zero.

I didn't know I was bipolar until I was 24 and by then I had been through every emotional state a few times and people used to see me as an emotional, impulsive, selfish person or as a sad, quiet anxiety-ridden person depending on my state of mind.

It took seven years of swings before I entered a psychotic episode in Australia where my illness really became obvious. I spent nearly eight weeks in a hospital in Victoria.

When I woke up, confused and away from family, I didn’t handle it well for the first two weeks, according to my medical notes.

So I just want more awareness in our country. I don't want what happened to me to happen to anyone else.

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