Nicky says living with bipolar hasn’t been easy but that therapy has helped him to make life-saving changes.

In one short moment, my entire world collapsed

At the age of sixteen I became unwell. Low mood, withdrawn, lethargic. A few months later, I became unnaturally elated. I had no idea what these mood swings meant. But in a psychiatrist’s office I was told what they meant. I was diagnosed with manic depression, now referred to as bipolar. In one short moment, my entire world collapsed. In one short moment, I was different from everyone I knew. For someone that age it was devastating. I felt totally isolated. A moment in time I will never forget.

I thought that would be my identity for life. I was wrong.  It’s a serious condition, but not an identity. When I look at myself now, I don’t see someone defined by bipolar.

Living with bipolar has not been easy. Never knowing when either mania or depression might launch its next clandestine offensive. Unexpected mood changes which at their worst invariably either soar to an indescribable manic episode or crash to a calamitous depression.  Both unbearable. Always lurking in the background, ready to strike when I least anticipate it. It always happens just as it did the first time. In a moment. One sudden, unpredictable moment.

On the upside, you can be wonderfully creative

In my case, before a major depression, comes hypomania. The exaggerated self-confidence and euphoria that accompany it are exhilarating. But it can also be dangerous. Known to incite personal havoc, break up relationships, cause appalling and potentially ruinous financial decisions. On the upside, you can be wonderfully creative, sometimes a secondary effect of the condition. For me that was the big payoff. I’m a songwriter. Bipolar, an illness that had blighted my life, had an advantage.

It would be the basis for my career. An Oxford professor of psychiatry once told me that a mild form of hypomania always had been and always will be with me. Part of the hardware in my brain, part of the creativity. The reason I write successfully even when I'm stable. That explained a lot and cast a light on something that had always been a mystery to me.

Hypomania, as well as at times being my best friend, could also be my worst enemy.  What goes up must come down. Newton’s law of physics. And it did, as it always had done. In a moment!  The inevitable depression. I didn’t believe I could survive. The illness was too aggressive, too chaotic, too painful. But survive I did. I knew that there was an element of luck to that, and luck can, and usually does, run out. I couldn’t wait for that to happen.

Therapy didn’t just change my life, it saved it.

I was going to have to learn how to manage my condition, instead of my condition managing me. I would have to make changes. It was a matter of life or death. I had to get help through therapy.

Therapy didn’t just change my life, it saved it. It wasn’t a quick fix. It was a major commitment, incredibly hard work. But I emerged a more grounded, healthier person, evidence that my decision had been a crucial one. However, I am aware of how fortunate I have been to be able to access therapy. I know it’s not available to everyone.

I have lived through many defining moments. My early diagnosis, my first hospitalisation and my first, and most importantly my last, attempt to take my own life. Frantic spells of mania, uncompromising moods. In stark contrast, getting well and staying well, one of my greatest achievements. No.1 records, song writing awards, acknowledged by my peers. Self-esteem, a distinctly welcome addition to my belief system. A brave new world indeed!

So many stand-alone moments. Some wonderful, totally breathtaking. But I have also been anchored to some of the worst depressive infernos, chained to screeching manic highs that tore out my soul. But conversely my success has allowed me to scale the highest mountain and reach for the sky. Going through those traumatic times had been worth it.

My life has undoubtedly been determined by ‘moments’. We all have them, some good, some bad. Living through the bad ones can be hell. I’m told every cloud has a silver lining. I'm not so sure. There have been times when that lining has been impossible to find. I have made my way through even the darkest of times and against all the odds I'm still here!