Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition affecting around 60 million people worldwide that causes unusual and sudden shifts in mood and energy. What is it like to have bipolar disorder? How do you balance the ups and downs of this disorder?
Caroline, discovered that she had Bipolar Disorder whilst she was at school. She was 12 when the symptoms first started to show themselves and what followed was a period that was distressing for both Caroline and her parents ‘3 years undiagnosed for me, meant 3 years for my parents too.’ It also meant 3 years away from school.
When eventually Caroline received her diagnosis she was prescribed medication to help her symptoms and stabilise her moods. The medication gave Caroline her whole life back and she says it kept her safe for five years. She is forever grateful for what the medication gave her; a shot at life.
Caroline placed a strong faith in her own care plans to help balance the mood swings. She recognises the early symptoms, so when she feels ill she reaches out to her parents, and together they have formed their own effective unit.
Caroline’s a passionate and articulate advocate of the need for people to research their conditions and better understanding the methods for treating their symptoms. She has learned to deal with the bad days that Bipolar Disorder brings and has the skills to keep herself safe which she owes to being medicated. Now on a much lower dose Caroline talks about the need for positive wellbeing and self-worth as this is the door that allowed her to live a life where she was free from the perils of her diagnosis.
At the early stages, pre-diagnosis, her symptoms manifested themselves in ‘fight or flight’, the latter often winning out would see her go missing for days at a time. The worry and stress on her family was tremendous but Caroline praises the Police who became involved in regularly finding her and taking her home, and offering herself and her family much needed support.
It was the Police who recognised that she was unwell and pushed services to make the intervention that would eventually secure the treatment that she needed. Before that were painful and avoidable interactions with different social and mental health services.
‘The Police really appreciated that I wasn’t well, grasped the environment and circumstances around my health - the poor friendship choices at that time, but they also recognised that I had a very supportive family. I owe my life to the officers, they restored my faith in humanity.’
Today Caroline’s life has been transformed, in no small part to her own determination but more over to the overwhelming love and support from her parents ‘All I am they help me to be.’
After 3 years of struggles she was also offered invaluable support from her school that enabled her to return to education, something that she was determined to grasp. Even when fate threw another serious bout of illness her way, her school and local authority worked with Caroline and her family to find the funding and provide her with home education. It’s transformed Caroline’s life.
Caroline is now approaching 21 and the reason for sharing her story comes from a wish to give back to society and use her experiences to share knowledge, challenge stigma and help others. ‘I am bipolar it’s a big part of who I am. It’s inseparable. But it’s also made me determined to come forward and help others.’
It’s something her mother is also doing in her work within a children’s home and children facing similar disruptions in their lives. Together they hope that their work will encourage other people to discuss their mental illnesses and give them hope for their own futures.