Carolyn talks about trying to be more open about bipolar and challenging self-stigma.

"One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls." - Carrie Fisher

Until very recently I didn't tell anyone that I had bipolar - even friends I'd known for 25 years. I used to make a calculated assessment to gauge how someone might react. It's taken me eight years to realise that by not telling people, I do myself more damage.

Carrie Fisher talked about the "lingering stigma" of bipolar. Sadly, the stigma I felt was self-imposed.

I received my diagnosis via an impersonal discharge letter from the hospital. So how did I feel then? Anger, shame, fear all coursed through me and the certainty that life would never be the same again. Also, it affected my sense of self - I felt that I didn't know who I was anymore.

So I've coined the term self-stigma. I was the one who built walls by denying my condition; reinforcing society's stereotypes.

Opening up about bipolar

In fact, by being open about my illness I've experienced support and kindness from the most unexpected people. Work colleagues I only said "hello" to confided in me after I was honest with them.

This is a hard lesson to learn and not everyone you tell will be receptive or understanding, but I feel I have a responsibility to educate people about bipolar; to give a voice to other people suffering in silence, self-imposed or otherwise. It's tragically ironic that I applied stereotypes of people with mental illness to myself.

With bipolar, everyone experiences it differently. It's not like a broken leg. I sincerely hope that this piece will resonate for people with bipolar, their family and friends.

In conclusion, echoing Carrie's sentiment that it "takes balls", you're stronger than you think. Having bipolar may change your life but it may also lead you to new and different or happier times.

Over a million of us from all walks of life across the UK have bipolar. Despite its prevalence, stigma and discrimination means we're all too often identified by the diagnosis, instead of the countless characteristics that make each of us who we are.

I am not an illness, I am a human being.

Your donation will help provide a range of services offering the support people need, when they need it. You can make sure there's someone at the end of the phone to listen, a nearby group to share lived experiences, a 24-hour peer forum and more.

Together, we can support the person behind the diagnosis of bipolar.