80/20 - "To live with bipolar" by Sarah Woolf Sarah Woolf shares her poem "To live with bipolar" as part of our 80/20 arts project for young people affected by bipolar. I started to write this poem in the middle of the night when I was struggling to get to sleep. Initially it felt like there were far too many complex experiences to capture inside a logical layout of neat rhyming words. But I wanted to try to convey some of the daily feelings and moments that just seem to happen when you live with bipolar. Although I consider myself a creative person, the fluctuating nature of bipolar usually makes this creativity hard to harness into something effective. When creative energy wants to burst out of me, like cola from a shaken bottle, I've got to be careful to catch it properly to avoid an out-of-control mess. However, suppressing a burst of creative energy is equally as risky as this can cause stagnation where everything loses its fizz and becomes flat. I have had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder since 2013 following prolonged periods of depression whilst at university, subsequently spiralling into a hypomanic episode where I was hospitalised and sectioned. Since that chaotic time I have gradually became more stable and 'well' but I still struggle with daily struggles such as sleep routines. I am a facilitator for an NHS Bipolar Psycho-Education Group. I regularly attend my local Bipolar UK monthly Support Group. I recently decided to run half a marathon, raising £600 for Bipolar UK. I have accepted that bipolar is a part of me - but it sure as hell doesn't define me! "To live with bipolar" by Sarah Woolf Which brave face do I resort to today? I lie with a 'yes' To 'are you ok?' How to explain something I can't grasp for myself. Lithium Sat On my bathroom shelf. Appointments and blood tests Designed to protect. Yet All I feel is Disconnect. To feel life so deeply And then to feel nothing at all. Is the bipolar path The rise and the fall. Misunderstood Complexity It's not black and white. Mixed episodes Rapid cycling The fight and the flight. It's tricky to articulate The wall that I climb. Why can't I express more than 'Yes thanks, I'm fine.' Inspirational stories and quotes Grab attention Go viral. I am just here In this chaotic spiral. My harshest critic Won't detach from my thoughts. It's an internal battle A prison of sorts. The highs are more of a double-edged sword. It's exciting I'm agitated There's no boundaries I'm a powerful Queen Or a grandiose Lord. But escalating higher Means a harder crash down. Vibrant, colourful "mania" Becomes flat beige and brown. To live with bipolar Is to fight your own rival Sometimes, dealing with life Can be a game of survival But the more I experience The more I believe I am in fact Strong and resilient I can strive struggle and achieve.