Ash describes her unsteady relationship that she has maintained and kept in check over the years. Set amongst a background of PTSD, psychosis and anxiety.

Bipolar: a lifelong companion

As the saying goes and many people often say "there are no guarantees in life". It makes me reflect on what I have learned so far.  What I've learned is, there is an exception to the rule. My lifelong guarantee is having a relationship with Bipolar. "Bip", my long-life companion.

At now 30 years old, having been officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 25, I have been struggling from a young age with mental health - not just with bipolar disorder but with anxiety, PTSD and occasional psychosis. Seems like I'm going for a home run, doesn't it?

It's a very odd and unsteady relationship that I have with Bip, that's for sure, you could say we have quite a toxic relationship. Some days I love them, but most days I hate them. It's high, its low, and rarely in-between. I wouldn't know the word "stable" if it hit me in my face and shouted "hello". Twice.

For me, the relationship is unquestionably bitter but it's also sweet. That's why I call it bittersweet. How I would sum my relationship with Bip in one word? "Bittersweet". I wonder, can you visually describe bipolar disorder? For me, I often imagine there's a devil and an angel sitting on each shoulder. One pulling me to one side, just like each of my episodes.

When I'm in a mania episode - I have the nice angel on one side, happily pulling me up to such a high mood, where I feel invincible and feel I can conquer the world and other worlds for that matter! However, when I'm in a manic episode, I feel the devil on the other shoulder, sneakily pulling me closer and closer, pushing me down into a depressive state trying to isolate me from my loved ones, my life, and my reality. Some days I know when to expect the angel or the devil - the mania or the manic episodes. But sometimes I don't know when to expect them. They just show up unexpectedly, and creep up without an invitation and without warning- without a trigger. Often, there is a battle between them both throughout the day, it feels like I am getting pulled from one to the other- my mood just swings back and forth. That is how I would visually describe Bipolar Disorder, if I had to, in a nutshell.

Family responses to bipolar

I couldn't tell you the exact date I entered a relationship with Bip. It seems like forever ago- but like I said, it's toxic. It's certainly not something I had hoped for in life- it's definitely not something my Mam had wished for me. A lot of the time she blames herself for my relationship with Bip - it's not her fault though. Not at all. I constantly remind her isn't her fault. Although she may hear my reassuring words, I can still see the disbelief and pain in her eyes. The guilt that shouldn't be there.

I wish I could take that feeling away from her, even for a second. The way she takes care of me (in and out of episodes), she would walk the ends of the earth for me. I just wish I could make her see. "It's not your fault". Anyways, being in a relationship with Bip, I've had to learn to compromise, which has taken me many years to do. I've had to retrain my brain so that I can manage my episodes more effectively - it's not easy. Every day is a big struggle. Sometimes Bip forces me to stay in bed, they feel like a dead weight on top of me where I can't move, can't speak, can't shout for help. Other times Bip just keeps me up all night, day and then night again, they have my mind too wired to sleep but too tired to function.

Managing bipolar

Bip can be really kind to me at times, they can treat me really nice such as giving me a big boost with my confidence and give me lots of energy. Other times they can be quite scary- bullying me, controlling me, and manipulating me into saying and doing things I wouldn't normally do. I hate them for that. I can never make plans because of them. They really mess with my head, and I can't tell them to stop. I don't know how. I just know I have to try to manage them as best as I can. I can't end the relationship without ending me. If I did that I would hurt a lot of people - and I don't want that. I don't want to hurt anyone - that's why I feel stuck. How can I end my turmoil without hurting anyone? I just have to manage things as best as I can. I have to keep on going. I have to keep on fighting- Bip will not win! This is my life - not theirs. I have to constantly remind myself of that. It certainly isn't easy. But I just take one day at a time.