As a child, I never really struggled mentally beyond the general angst and difficulties of youth. I did very well in school and sport; however, I never saw myself as normal and always sought alternative routes.

Then in March 2020, around the time I turned 18, my mental stability waned in the wake of a breakup. As the world locked down, like many of us I was thrust into mayhem and instability.

Initially, I enjoyed having a bit of time to myself; but as weeks became months, relations with my family soured as my mental stability deteriorated. This presented with massive weight loss, long nightly workouts closer to self-harm than a hobby. By winter, I had begun to experience severe sleep loss. As I lost sleep, I become more manic with high-energy outputs.

After losing sleep for a couple of nights over New Year, the mania became delusions of grandeur and conspiracy. I soon lost grasp on time and place. I often explain this as losing the feedback loop in your brain that corrects thinking patterns. Imagine every little thought, idea and concept that passes through your brain being amplified out into a detailed reimagining of everything you thought you knew. These delusions then rippled into my personal life and relationships.

Those around me grew ever more worried by my erratic nature and blurred speech.  Eventually, my parents were made aware, and came and collected me.

That was the worst night of my life. I developed an astounding resentment, fear and paranoia, which was so very real to me at the time.

In the morning, my parents took me to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, where I was admitted as a patient. A decision made because of love, and the correct thing to do; but which I struggled to come to terms with.

At this point, I felt like the entire world was watching me, so I saw this as a relief; it seemed safer than the reality I had fabricated. I was met with the kindest staff members who were incredible throughout; however my experience was far from nice. In fact, as it was peak covid some of the regulations where abhorrent.

The hospital was full when I am admitted, so I was placed in a panic room. This was not the kind you see in the movies. On the surface it was lovely; however, I was given no toilet, and it had full windows onto a hallway where other patients could see in and walk by. As it rained through the night, the windows pattered and I lay awake, watching the moon shift through the sky until the morning.

Only 18 years old, I was thrust into a world of adult issues nobody my age should have been dealing with as they try to get better. All the while, the measures taken meant I barely saw a human face, only masks, and quickly I was seeing people I knew behind the mask.

My life had become a movie; I was the main character but was so lost on how the story ended.

I now understand the danger behind mania as a cause of suicide, where it may not come from a place of unhappiness, instead being a product of delusional thinking. Days without sleep or food, detached from my support network and in an intense environment, I began to destroy everything I owned to shed the image I had created as myself.

Finally, I caved to taking medication, which up to this point I had completely refused. The delusions continued but I had found a route out of being hospitalised - by accepting medication I was set up with a mental health team on the outside. Once out, I sat down with my parents and a doctor and in an outburst of rage and emotion was able to speak to them about what I was experiencing. I offloaded much of the emotion and stress of the time in hospital in the coming weeks, decompressing as the medication combatted the total overload of dopamine in my brain.

After a couple months and a phased return to work, I was not myself, but I was stable. I had fallen into a depression with significant post-traumatic stress from the experience. I weaned myself off the medication, seeing it as a cause of these issues. Whilst this was no quick fix, it allowed my brain time to develop into having more enjoyment from life. Sport, diet and exercise kept me going for the next couple of months.

However, in the absence of any medication to regulate my brain, and under stressful circumstances, I relapsed into a world of mania and delusion the next year. Two weeks into this mania, I decided I had to escape and head to London. In some cathartic moment of realisation, I saw the whole world as some simulation, being player one I drove like a maniac, feeling invincible. After not long I crashed on a country road, and could easily have died. I found my way into an industrial estate where I danced on rooftops of rickety buildings until eventually in the late evening a police van stumbled upon me. I had no injuries but I was no longer there.

The part of my brain still able to make sensible decisions decided to self-admit to the hospital again. Seeking to battle the demons created on my last visit I went back. In a fit of rage, I kicked doors off their hinges and with that behaviour, I was sectioned again. Whilst I spent another 30 days in hospital this stay was far less stressful than the first. I found help in others and feel I helped them too.

One highlight of this stay was The Hive, run by SAMH.

The Hive is an old church on the grounds of the hospital that had been developed to look something of a cool games room. It had cool music, comfortable seating, games, karaoke and an environment that encourages recovery. Whilst there you do not feel like a patient, instead it prompts the mind to work in exciting and creative ways. That is how the hospital should be, far from a medical environment.

Back in the main hospital, the nurses were also phenomenal - the level of care they are able to provide with the amount of time they have to spend there is incredible and consistent. When mentally ill it is essential to have some grasp on stability and normality. It was not just the nurses who provided this. There are the staff who come in and just spend time with patients. They wear normal clothing, do not take notes, and fit the needs of many patients all at once. These people may provide art, music, sport, and normality into an environment that can be chaotic and scary. Whist there I never felt looked down upon even when I was at my lowest point in life. I truly saw some of the best of humanity there.

The patients in the hospital come from all occupations, truly confirming that these issues can arise in anyone. Upon reflection the scene was often just a group of struggling individuals living in close proximity. It often seemed like some big dysfunctional family on a manic Christmas dinner.

There were certain themes that ran across both my stays in hospital.

  • Technology, news and social media played a massive role in elevating my mania and delusions.
  • Lockdown and social isolation has had a longstanding impact on myself, along with every aspect of that time.
  • Quite high-level legal battles to be faced with when representing myself in hospital, which was an extreme level of management given the circumstances.
  • Often it was post-mania that was the worst aspect of the bipolar process. When my new reality of grandiose delusion fizzled out, I was left empty, embarrassed and depressed.

Since my second stay in hospital, I have maintained a level of stability.

I have to give credit firstly to those around me for being there for me at every stage of this. Whilst I did do the brunt of the work to get better, having them has been essential.

I now manage my condition with no medication. I have been stable through two winters with the odd hiccup but nothing major. I am managing my condition with consistency in diet, exercise, maintaining positive relationships, eliminating undue stresses, and gaining valuable support from the company I work for.

I have managed to maintain a great job throughout this process; the company have been incredibly supportive and understanding. I am part of a neurodiversity community within my job that makes reasonable adjustments and encourages employment of many individuals. At 21, I recently purchased my first house, an incredible turnaround.

I know that I will have to manage my condition and recognise signs of change but I have an incredible support network to do so. I feel a level of responsibility to maintain my own stability for my job and those around me.

I reached out to SAMH as I hopefully bring a positive outcome given everything I have been through. Given my condition, I have become successful and the bipolar has not hindered my progress in life too much, in fact it has given me an incredible understanding about the world, others and myself.