Antidote to Shame In Anne Hathaway's episode of the TV Series 'Modern Love', she plays Lexi – a beautiful, charismatic attorney living in denial of her bipolar diagnosis. In episodes of mania, even the supermarket aisles become Lexi's catwalk. “I met a man in the peace aisle” she sings “There’s not a cloud in the sky”. She sweet-talks men, dresses impeccably and the backdrop of her life becomes a Broadway show in which she’s the starring part – work and play operating perfectly in tune. Then depression brings the pantomime to a standstill. Lexi can't get out of bed or bare to even open the curtains. She forgets all about her love at first sight and cancels her date. She slacks at work, eventually calling sick. Day and night merge into one. All the motivation and colour that saturated her exciting existence where inspiration seemed to drift out of billboards is dulled to the extreme. From leapfrogging to social events, she self-isolates and disappears off-radar. The series was adapted from Teri Cherney's 2008 Essay "Take me as I am, Whoever I am" in which she went public with her mental illness. Cherney hid her bipolar from her boyfriends, her friends, her colleagues. It wasn't until I read Cherney's essay, discovered Kay Jamison's 'Unquiet Mind' which examines manic depression from the dual perspective of healer and healed and watched Anne Hathaway navigate it's cruel allure that I understood I didn't have to be silent either and I didn't have to be afraid. Bipolar needs to be demythologised. My experience of Bipolar II involves a milder form of mood elevation alternated with periods of depression. For me, the hardest thing to live with is the sense of loss that will accompany sinking into a depression. I will go through a period of time in which I am filled with energy and potential, eager to see friends and share ideas, collaborate on things, learn, move, stay awake. Sometimes physically, it is like being high. Everything seems to be fatefully aligned and full of possibility. I am organised and strengthened, my diary filled up with plans. In many senses of the phrase, I am on time. Then suddenly, everything changes. Like Lexi, I begin to struggle with even the simplest tasks like washing my hair, maintaining contact with friends and family, going into uni, staying fit. But the worst part of this change is not the altering of structure, it's the cynicism of mindset – you doubt all the sincerity of time’s before. It is a process of erasure. In it’s extreme, it is terrifying and demoralising. You start to think that none of your work has any value, that no one will understand or cares, that there is no purpose in your dreams. That you are all alone. Depression is hard to write about because it is so internal. Depression sways your trust in reality; were the dreams I had before simply illusions? Do my best friends love a certain personality trait in me that isn’t consistent and therefore they won’t love me in my entirety? Can I ever be loved in my entirety? I am often left doubting the decisions I have made. Sometimes in a bad aftermath, I am left staring at an empty bank account after acting on a dangerous impulse; a spontaneous decision that has left me vulnerable. Sometimes I realise that I have forged an intense friendship or relationship with the wrong person because of living in an elevated state that has maybe left me more inclined to have misjudged or over-trusted them. For years I rejected my diagnosis because I feared it would define me. Like Cherney, I always believed that if I was open about my bipolar I would never be taken seriously. One of the reasons I believed this was because in my past people had used my mental health as an excuse to undermine me or to let me go. I thought that telling people would be an admission of weakness, I thought it would allow people to hurt me. I am still learning but being honest with my nearest and dearest has changed my life for the better. I am still just me like anyone else, bipolar or otherwise. Asking for help on blue days does not make you a failure- mostly, I realise the person judging me was myself. In the end, I embraced my diagnosis because it has allowed me to trust and believe in my life. It makes me angry that people mostly give bipolar lip service when they’re talking about someone having a mood swing or a tantrum, “She’s so bipolar” they will say after someone has had a minor tizz. Manic depression is both easy to sensationalise and for so long it’s been subject to great shame and stigma. I am grateful that times are changing and people like Terri Cherney are not afraid to tell the truth about their experience and I hope in turn someone reading this somewhere feels that they are not alone and that they are not defined, judged or weak. This is one of the reasons I love that someone as recognisable as Anne Hathaway played Lexi’s part. It is easier for people to understand something as complex as mental health when it takes the form of a familiar face and is not just something in a textbook. As Terri Cherney said, “It is an antidote to shame”, something I now know we don't need weighing us down.