I first experienced depression at 12 years old – I didn’t know it at the time or understand what was happening to me, but looking back this was the start of huge swings in my mood. As I got older I ended up in a cyclical pattern of highs and lows with very little time in-between which frequently resulted in contact with mental health services.

During my lows I could barely function and for many years I didn’t work or only worked part-time, which led to financial difficulties for me. During my highs I believed I was cured of my depression forever and would never be ill again, this resulted in me taking on a lot of commitments and projects which I was unable to sustain once my mood crashed again.

As the years went on my mood swings gradually grew worse, and whenever I came into contact with mental health services I would explain about my mood swings, even telling them that I would see them again in another 6 months’ time when I hit another low, but I didn’t receive a diagnosis as I never saw them whilst on a high. My highs began to frighten me as my mood spiralled out of control and I felt as though I couldn’t get a handle on my mood at all.

In early 2019 I experienced the worst episode of depression I’ve had to date and spent 5 weeks with a mental health crisis team before being admitted to an acute psychiatric ward for 2 months. At this point I hit absolute rock bottom – I had £2 to my name to buy food for 3 weeks and had ran up debts of £2000 trying to survive. I ended up having to give up a job I loved as well as my council flat, I lost friends I loved and was two stone underweight and collapsing frequently. As a result, I was too ill to attend University to train as a nurse which was another knockback.

I was eventually discharged and moved away from my home town to live with my dad in Derbyshire, but it wasn’t long before I ended up back in an acute psychiatric hospital. It was there, on the Radbourne unit in August 2019 that I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was put on mood stabilisers and two different anti-depressants but although I now had a diagnosis and was allowed home, my life was still in pieces.

It was during this period that I decided I wanted to make my dream of working in a caring role a reality, and I applied to every vacancy in the local area. Eventually after chasing an application I was invited to interview and was offered the job there and then. It seemed that things were finally looking up for the first time in a year.

Learning to live positively with bipolar

Putting on my blue uniform for my new job was without a doubt one of the proudest moments of my life. My new job was a steep learning curve as I had very little knowledge of dementia and so I decided to check a few books out of the library. It was there that I found a book called 'Dancing with Dementia: My Story of Living Positively with Dementia' by Christine Bryden. Having now witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of dementia I was inspired by the positive attitude of Christine. I thought to myself, if she can live positively with dementia, then I can find a way to live positively with bipolar disorder.

To me, living positively with bipolar disorder means trying to make the most of my life each and every day despite my diagnosis. It means looking for the good things in every day in between the highs and the lows. Each day I write a note on my phone of all the little happy moments that happened – often it’s the small things – a hug from a resident, playing with my little sister, an encouraging comment from a friend. But it’s not just about looking for incidental positives – I now also actively seek to create positive memories wherever I can. This practice has totally changed my approach to life. Although I consider my bipolar to be a disability because of the impact it’s had on my life, I’m determined not to let it define my whole life and will continue fighting to have the best quality of life I possibly can. My hope is to inspire other people to live positively with bipolar and make the most of their life despite it.

I’ve now been out of hospital for 5 months and remained stable – I’m in full-time work, have cleared all my debts, I’m studying at college and have applied to University again to study Adult and Mental Health Nursing. Each day I manage to hold down a semblance of a normal life is a positive to me and is worth celebrating. I don’t know what the future holds or when my next episode of depression or hypomania will arrive, but I do know that when it comes, I’ll find a way to see the positives in amongst the difficulties.

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I can be followed on twitter at @tsoforever and would love to hear from others what positive happy memories they have despite living with bipolar. #livingpositivelywithbipolar