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World Bipolar Day

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GRATITUDE
I am very fortunate to have a family who look out for me and have my best interests at heart. I am also extremely grateful for having a brilliant consultant and medical team who do give me the support that I need.

So for me, things aren’t going too badly at all. However, since writing my story and becoming more proactive on social media, I’ve realised that this just isn’t the case for everyone.

SUPPORT
When I speak about mental illness, I always say that there are signs that people need to be aware of, including lack of sleep, racing thoughts, and acting impulsively. I feel so sad that there are people who do recognise the signs that things are just not right, but who cannot seem to get the help they so desperately need.

I’ve got people contacting me to ask me how they can get a diagnosis. I would always advise to just keep going to the GP and make them realise that you need help. Always be completely honest, and never hold back on how you are feeling. If you are feeling that you cannot go on, it is vital that you tell that to the GP. They cannot know how seriously ill you are unless you confide in them.

Whilst I understand that the NHS funds are low, I’m very concerned to see that people are crying out for help, but no one seems to be listening. Please talk to your family, your friends, and if you can’t, phone the Samaritans or similar. It’s so important that you talk!

EFFECTS OF BIPOLAR DISORDER
Bipolar disorder, as most people know, is a mood disorder. It is a life-long illness, and whilst you may learn how to manage it, you will never be completely free of it – I personally describe it as a ‘curse’.

What I have learnt with my illness is that I’m always conscious of my thoughts. Each day I question every thought I have. I always know how I feel because I’m in constant conversation with myself. Nobody could ever accuse me of daydreaming because sadly my mind just never switches off. I say `sadly` because I wish that I could just drift off in my mind, but that just never happens.

Bipolar disorder makes your senses very heightened. Someone could make a comment, or pull a certain expression, and to all those around them it would be nothing out of the ordinary – in fact, other people probably wouldn’t even notice – but I would. That action will play over and over in my mind – `what did he/she mean when they said that? When they gave me that look?` It then makes me question, ‘Did I do something wrong? Have I said something wrong?’

It can take a long time to switch off from those thoughts. This is still work in progress for me, something that I must continue to try to overcome.

MOVING FORWARD
I decided long ago that bipolar disorder was not going to dictate my life anymore and from the day I received my diagnosis I have worked extremely hard to prevent it every step of the way.
My main goal was to remain out of hospital, and that I have accomplished. It’s one of my worst fears due to my past experiences, and the thought of it keeps me awake at night. However, it has been almost 16 years now, and I feel confident enough to say that I will never again have to be admitted to hospital.

I was more than happy to share my story, as I have been through some very dark times. Life still has its ups and downs, as it does for everyone, but the difference is that I have now learned to manage that.

I don’t always feel fantastic when I wake up; sometimes I feel incredibly low. But I know that the feeling won’t last forever and that I’m just having a bad day, so I get through it and look forward to tomorrow – and it is often entirely better!

On World Bipolar Day 2018, I feel truly grateful to be in a position where I can finally reach out and help others. I now feel that I am in control of my illness, and I will never allow it to take me down the road to self-destruction ever again.

I know that I am very fortunate in my life, and I want to be able to help others to know they can fight this illness. They can become well and learn how to manage so that they too can one day be in control of it.

I still see people who feel ashamed to say that they have bipolar disorder, but I say `never be ashamed`! People who have physical illnesses cannot help that, and nor can we with any form of mental ill health. Always be proud of who you are. Mental health is a challenge but together we can conquer it.
– Karen Manton

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