Bipolar disorder Pendulum: stories and information Young, Free and Bipolar Living with bipolar or any mental illness for that matter when you’re young and trying to figure out the world isn’t easy. There are so many pressures to be/act/look/talk a certain way that it can be a minefield to navigate. Life now is so fast paced and with everyone being on social media it can be hard keeping up with the Jones’s. Being a teenager For me my teenage years were filled with anxiety, worry and stress over doing well in school, being bullied and worst of all losing my dad to suicide at 17. That really turned my world upside down and made me reevaluate life and what I wanted to do and become. As heartbreaking as it was to lose my dad it gave me the kick up the backside to really go for what I wanted and that had to start with my education. I was doing the international baccalaureate (IB) and if I didn’t get a shift on in the way I applied myself things weren’t going to look too rosy. I had big dreams but at the same time I was trying to run away from my problems of grief and loss. The relationship with my mum had completely broken down when my dad died and I ended up moving out and renting a room. At the time I was working 5 jobs whilst at the same time retaking two of my subjects in the IB. Looking back on that time I was definitely hyper-manic as I was working every minute God sent me and was spreading myself too thin. The result of all the stress and pressure I was putting on myself quite possibly brought on my appendicitis (I’m not a doctor so this quite possibly isn’t the reason it’s just me guessing.) Moving to university I spent six days in hospital which was annoying as it meant I missed moving in day at Durham. I was so weak that it took a couple days to recover and when I finally traveled up I just threw myself into the partying and drinking culture that make up your first year at university. I have never been much of a drinker, however freshers week really introduced me into what would become the new norm...partying Monday threw to Sunday. I discovered all these drinks I’d never had, to name a few jäger bombs being one of them (admittedly I can’t stand them now) and trebles that you’d get in Newcastle which were 3 glasses consisting of 3 shots of vodka in each and the tiniest bit of red bull or lemonade. I was on a high throughout the first year throwing myself into anything and everything. I was having a blast. Then second year came along and during the spring/summer everything started to go pear shaped. I had just broken up with my boy friend and I went into a slump. Everything seemed to lose its colour and enjoyment. I felt like a permanent grey cloud was hovering over me that not even the summer ball or winning a boat race could lift. I was also due back to go to Camp Lokanda which was this summer camp job in America. To say I was feeling down and miserable about the prospect of going back is an understatement. I was crying in the car to the airport, I was crying in Carluccio’s as I attempted to eat my pea risotto (which was terrible by the way, I could have made it better...just saying) I was crying as my mum hugged me goodbye and I was crying as I went through customs. I probably had cried a small river into existence and I hadn’t even boarded the plane! Looking back it was clear that: one I shouldn’t have gone to America and two I should have asked for help as how depressed I had been feeling had lasted more than two weeks and was eating into every aspect of my life. I ended up flying back after a week at the camp which was a very tearful affair. I felt like such a failure at not being able to work as I had had such a good time the previous year. My rational for leaving was the belief that I would be happier at home as I was feeling extremely homesick and had built up this fear that something terrible was going to happen to my mum and that I would be nowhere near to help or see her. I arrived back and the dark cloud still remained. The summer came and just as quickly went. I was dreading going back to university to complete my final year and it took every ounce of effort to make the journey up north. Strangely as I settled back up north my mood started to lift and I found that I was becoming more myself. I was a WFREP (welfare freshers representative) for freshers week and I threw myself into the roll. I wasn’t drinking but I suddenly had all this energy and was feeling on top of the world. Thoughts, feelings and life seemed great, I was on cloud nine. The remnants of the disastrous summer completely a thing of the past. Little did I know this elated feeling would lead me to have a manic episode which would lead to a Bipolar I diagnosis and a two and a half weeks stay in a psychiatric ward. I couldn’t understand why this was all happening to me. I personally thought I was fine. I obviously wasn’t but in my head I wasn’t suicidal or depressed so in my head all was right with the world. Diagnosis The thought of having to take medication for the rest of my life and be careful to monitor my moods was such a dampener. I just wanted to be normal...whatever normal is (I don’t particularly think there is a normal really). What I took from hospital was that I had a new shiny label...Bipolar type one. Having this diagnosis at 23 felt like a death sentence, I just wanted to live my life and have fun not be at the beckon call of taking medication, getting enough sleeping, eating and exercising to stay stable. I ended up crashing out of my third year and going back home as the pressure and stress of third year was just too much for me to handle. Fast forward to today and while I might not have a full degree to hang up on the wall. I have come along way in respect that I have been stable for three years now. I not only hold down my job at Waitrose but I also have the privilege and pleasure to work for Bipolar UK as well. Life isn’t always how you may have dreamed or imagined it to be yet there is so much potential inside you to create the life and the person you want to be. All you need to do is keep dreaming and start taking little steps towards your goals to fulfil your dreams, laughing as that feeds the soul and loving as life would be a grim place without a little love. If you would like to talk more then we host live zoom groups for all you youngsters out there. Book now I look forward to seeing and talking to you all soon.