Recently at Bipolar UK we held a support group for young people, and it got Louise thinking about her own diagnosis of bipolar 1 at 17.

I’d had symptoms of depression and anxiety since I was 13 but in 2001 I had my first manic episode. I felt fantastic at first, like I could do anything, but then I started having paranoid thoughts. I was taken to the GP by my very worried parents and put under the care of a mental health team. They prescribed Carbamazepine and Risperidone and I went to a mental health day centre every day instead of school.

The hardest part of this all was the stigma. I was so embarrassed by the way I’d been acting in a manic state and was terrified about telling anyone about my diagnosis. With hindsight I can see that in some ways I was lucky to be given a diagnosis at a young age; it takes on average 9 years to get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. With the right treatment and support from my family I returned to school, repeating my final year and making new friends. I then went on to university where I remained well and completed a Sociology degree.

At the time I wish I had known that 1 in 50 people have bipolar - I felt like the only one. Being diagnosed was a really isolating experience and I found it very difficult to talk about it with my friends. Through working in peer support I’ve seen what a difference it makes to people when they talk to someone who has been affected by bipolar and understands how they’re feeling.

My advice to anyone who thinks they may have bipolar is to not be afraid to seek help, whether that’s from a close friend or relative or a GP or mental health team.  Keeping track of your mood can be helpful as well as reading up on the condition to understand it better. Joining the eCommunity also gives you the opportunity to hear about other people’s experiences and to share your own.