It's taken me years, I finally feel ready to do this. I don't want to hide this part of my life anymore. I'm not hiding this from anyone any longer. I want to share my story to inspire others and reduce the stigma of mental health, in particular, Bipolar. I've experienced discrimination, along with many people in my position.
This is difficult but empowering, this is the real me and is freeing to be my true self and take this massive weight off my shoulders.
Throughout the whole of high school, I felt lost. I spent many days hiding away in my bed battling depression and anxiety, being too scared to ask for help. I experienced psychological bullying and never fitted in.
When I left school, I experimented with alcohol and drugs to numb the pain and got myself into vulnerable situations. I was diagnosed with Bipolar not long after my 18th birthday, during my first stay at a mental health ward as an inpatient.
The next three years involved further ward stays with episodes of mania, depression and psychosis. Between hospital stays, I dabbled with odd jobs, tried to find the right medication/therapy and tried to make sense of the rollercoaster journey. I was still unwell.
One day when I was feeling very suicidal and vulnerable, I was out and about in the city and something devastating nearly happened. I felt so lost and tired of battling I just wanted it all to end. I'm so grateful to say this was a turning point in a positive direction. In the days that followed, I returned to the mental health ward that I'd stayed previously. This was my last and longest stay of six weeks.
I was discharged a couple of days after my 21st birthday. During this stay myself and the doctors knew something had to change. This is when I started my 2 year journey taking Lithium daily. This really turned my life around as it played a big part in helping to balance me - this medicine worked wonders and it allowed me to make healthy changes. Over those 2 years whilst taking Lithium I discovered lots of new tools and gave up smoking. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), running and yoga helped me find my true confidence and balance that I'd never had before.
After a while, my doctor supported my decision to wean off Lithium. I felt I had found healthy tools in life, and I wanted to see what life was like without the medication. I wanted to use my new wellbeing strategies instead. There were side effects of the medicine that I would rather be without. Lithium was a great stepping stone in the right direction though, I just feel it's time came to an end. A few months later, I came off Lithium completely.
I'm now 24 years old and it's been over three years since my last mental health ward stay. After what I've been through, I've learned how precious life is and to live every day to the full. I have the goal of further education and securing a career in the mental health sector in the future, I know I want to help people.
I still have challenges and I really struggle with my mind sometimes but I now have the tools to manage and am not hesitant to ask for help if I need it. I adapt to life and am flexible if things don't always work out, my experiences in the past have made me resilient. I feel very grateful to have such a supportive group of family and friends, and I'm so thankful for all the love they've given me.
Six years on from my diagnoses, I've found myself as an individual. I am not Bipolar, Bipolar is part of me, which makes my brain highly sensitive and I now have tools to manage these highs and lows. I am not a label, I am Ailsa. I've redefined myself and my life. I hope I can inspire others, so that they too can be the authors of their own lives.
I am writing my own. I ran my first full marathon in September 2018 at Loch Ness.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. The more we talk, the more people will get help, more precious lives will be saved.