Bipolar disorder Pendulum: stories and information How trigger-management and exercise help me stay in remission By Bethany Robinson I’m Bethany, and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2016. My original diagnosis was bipolar 2 but later changed to ‘unspecified’. The trigger, we think, was an abusive relationship I had with a partner, being under such extreme stress and completely forgetting who I was. This was the start of a downward spiral. On top of that I was becoming quite successful in my art practice (I was a sculptor and jeweller) but at the peak of success I realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do and I had been striving for something I thought others wanted me to be. Because of the relationship and my swings between mania and short, but difficult spells of depression, I had isolated myself from my friends and family and felt completely alone with no idea what was going on. At the time I didn’t think it was mental health related because I experienced what I now know to be mania and hypomania more than depression. I would start hundreds of new projects, become very productive, be very creative and then I would rapidly spiral. I would spend all of my money on strange things, have delusions of grandeur – thinking I was the next Alexander McQueen for example, or thinking the world was ending and preparing for it which was then followed by extreme paranoia about being followed by black cars, auditory hallucinations of a male narrator and other delusions. My depressive episodes were often mixed and very dangerous as I was suicidal and had all the energy in the world. I am so thankful for my diagnosis, initially I tried to convince them they were wrong because I had “seen bipolar on TV and I didn’t have it because I’m not up and down in the same day” but after logging my moods in an app my doctor showed me exactly how my moods and symptoms matched the diagnostic criteria and I was finally convinced. I tried lots of medications, most of which didn’t work well for me, but I now have medication I can take on a PRN basis (as needed) if my mood starts to elevate. However, the main reason I now remain stable and in remission is through trigger-management (sometimes to an obsessive level). If I start to experience any symptoms I look back at my day and see what may have slipped. The important things for me to manage are: 7-9 hours of sleep a night, no more no less. A healthy balanced diet full of whole foods and not excessive in sugar, avoiding alcohol almost completely, stress-management and the most effective for me… exercise. After diagnosis I fell in love with weightlifting and a sport called CrossFit. It is the single best thing that got me where I am today. All I have to do is turn up and my coach is there for motivation, whether I was high or low he got it. It was an incredible way to expend my energy, the endorphins helped me when I was down and stability happened really quickly for me when I started training 5 days a week. At the start of CrossFit I was 18 stone and morbidly obese, 1 year down the line I was a healthy weight for my height and I had muscle! I now compete in CrossFit, weightlifting and I was on 'SAS Who Dares Wins' – frankly the toughest most gruelling TV show around – which aired in January 2020. I know, with bipolar disorder the military wouldn’t accept me (not that I wanted to join) but I saw it as a challenge and the TV show itself is the toughest mental and physical challenge I could think of and I wanted to test how far I had come, and whether I could maintain stability in an extreme environment. I carried 14 stone men up mountains multiple times over and didn’t give up, I fought an Ex-SAS operative in hand-to-hand combat, I jumped out of helicopters and speed boats, boarded ships from the sea using only a tiny wire ladder, abseiled down rock faces and backwards dived off piers entering the water head first. I see what I have been through as a lesson that I can take into my life and any challenges I face. I have been into the deepest darkest corners of my mind and I knew they couldn’t put me through anything worse than I had already been through, and I proved that. I hope that others may see my journey and know that stability and self-management is possible and that we can thrive, given the right tools and educating ourselves on our own condition. Bipolar UK told me when I called them, all distressed after just being diagnosed, that IT IS possible be “in remission” and find stability. They gave me hope, and I’m forever thankful for that, because without that phone call I wouldn’t be where I am today. HOW TO STAY MOTIVATED| My workout motivation 2020: Follow Bethany’s journey on Instagram and YouTube.