I received my diagnosis in August 2019 at 19 years old. Growing up, I had a happy childhood living with my mum, dad, younger brother and two dogs in Sheffield. I had lots of friends and did well in school. In hindsight, it is clear that I had early symptoms of hypomania from a young age. Besides from suffering with anxiety, as I got older, I rarely slept and had a constant need to be preoccupied, simultaneously working two part-time jobs and participating in multiple volunteering roles from the age of 14.

At 2 years old my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, which we believe to have been a major trigger. Though only a toddler, being well-sheltered from the situation by my parents, I knew something was wrong and the stress must have had an impact on my development. My condition was contributed further genetically by my dad, who was only diagnosed last year with cyclothymia.

After completing my A-Levels I started my English degree in Nottingham in September 2018, believing I would experience the best three years of my life. Unfortunately, this was not the case. My mental health declined drastically due to a number of factors ranging from the stress of worrying about family to the lifestyle I now had, where I was drinking frequently every day.

Eventually, the accumulation of stress caused me to snap and during the Christmas period of 2018 it all became too much. I ended up in a severe mixed-state condition, falling into a deep depression where I took to even heavier drinking. I knew I wasn’t very well but was too afraid to admit it initially due to suffering with extreme paranoia and delusional thinking as well. This exacerbated my health to the point I was having very aggressive, erratic outbursts towards those close to me, causing me to spiral further into a sense of despair and guilt.

Fortunately, in May 2019, I found the courage to speak up about how I was feeling, recognising that I needed help. With a great support network of friends and family, I was able to start my road to recovery and encourage my dad to start his own. I have now moved back home, completing my university studies in Sheffield.

With it being a year since I reached rock bottom, I’ve decided to start 2020 with a more optimistic outlook by running the Sheffield half-marathon on the 29th March. Not only for the benefit of my overall health, I’m participating in the run to spread awareness of my story in the hope that others can speak up about their own mental health too. However bad life may feel, you are strong enough to get through it and things will get better.

I want to finish by saying thank you to my friends and family for all the love and support they have given me over the past year as I wouldn’t be here without them, and to all those who are generously sponsoring me with this challenge.

Conor

 To read more about Conor's efforts to spread awareness and raise funds to support more people affected by bipolar disorder, please visit his JustGiving page here.

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