Nathanael’s story

Unknown to me or my family, I had symptoms of bipolar for about twenty years before I was diagnosed. I was flamboyant, energetic and imaginative and known as the rainbow sheep of the family. A GP misdiagnosed me with attention deficit disorder, but back in those days there wasn’t any support or medication. They just said, keep him off the Smarties and don’t let him have sugar after 6pm.

Dancing helped burn off the highs

Luckily I found an outlet for my energy at a performing arts school. After graduation I toured the UK with different shows and worked for Disney in Paris for two years.

Looking back, I was having manic episodes for months. A dance routine which took other people a week to learn would take me only an hour. My thoughts were always in fifth gear. During the day I’d crash and nap. At night I’d only sleep for six hours at most.

Therapy helped but didn’t uncover the underlying condition

When I came back from Paris and lived in Surrey for three years, I saw a GP and counsellor who helped me explore some of the trauma from my childhood but didn’t recognise the underlying condition.

To calm the agitation I felt in my body, I was drinking a lot. I’d welcome the hangover because it slowed me down a bit. Sometimes my mood would crash and the low would take over my whole being. I tried to take my own life a few times, but I put what I was experiencing down to exhaustion. Sometimes I was so tired I would mishear people and feel anxious and paranoid.

Rock bottom

After a hamstring injury which meant I couldn’t perform anymore, I had various jobs in PR and recruitment. I was drinking more and the symptoms of psychosis got more frequent.

After barely eating and not sleeping for three weeks, I was in a newsagent and things came to a head. I thought the other customers were plotting against me and that the police were on their way. I was sectioned and spent six weeks in hospital.

Discharged without support

In hospital I’d been given antipsychotics but was then discharged without medication, a diagnosis or any follow-up care.

I moved back to my hometown with a plan to reset and live a slower pace of life. But I still felt constantly exhausted, agitated and paranoid. Eventually my partner encouraged me to seek help because I was showing signs of aggression – a couple of times I threw things.

Textbook bipolar

I went back to the GP three times before he would refer me to a psychiatrist. And even then it was a six-week wait. I think I only got the appointment because I kept chasing. After explaining the whole story and my family history, the psychiatrist told me that I have textbook bipolar. He prescribed medication – quetiapine which I’m still on because it works, and a mood stabiliser which caused horrendous side effects.

Learning about bipolar

Although the diagnosis was a relief as it helped me make sense of what had been going on, I didn’t know what my medication was for or how it was supposed to be helping, I wasn’t given any support or advice about how to cope with the condition.

I wanted to learn more about bipolar and came across Emma Belle’s Let’s Talk Bipolar podcasts. The subjects she covers helped me start to understand the condition on both practical and emotional levels.

The eCommunity helps me feel less alone

Although I’d heard of Bipolar UK, I didn’t realise that it was a community pillar offering so many peer support services.

I registered with the eCommunity and now it’s a key element of my support network.

It’s good to know that 365 days a year I can log on at any time of the night or day and there will always be somebody there who’s been through similar experiences and who really gets what it’s like living with bipolar.

I go there to share my experiences and frustrations. I use it as a safe space to vent if I can’t get hold of medication, or if I need to moan about my psychiatrist with people who understand the system. We bat ideas off one another. I like and comment on what other people have been through – and they like and comment on my posts. The interaction stops me feeling so alone with my bipolar.

The eCommunity gives me a sense of family

I don’t have a family structure. Sometimes I feel so alone with my bipolar, especially over the Christmas holidays when it can feel like everyone’s with their perfect families in their cosy houses.

The eCommunity gives me a sense of family, a sense of being a part of something I can always depend on every single day of the year.

Join our eCommunity here