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Opinion: On the surface, I had accepted that I was bipolar – but I now realise I was in denial

Recovering from a psychotic episode takes time, hard work and support. However, the absolute hardest part for me was truly accepting that I have a mental illness.

Anonymous

FOURTEEN YEARS AGO I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after an “acute psychotic episode” whilst working abroad.

I spent six weeks in four different hospitals on two different continents with the most time spent in a regional psychiatric hospital. The traumatic experiences in hospital require a separate account.

I was very lucky to have a family who decided not just to support me throughout this period but also, when necessary, to take matters into their own hands. For a multitude of reasons, and against the doctors’ wishes, my parents eventually took me out of hospital and cared for me at home for several months.

I was on prescribed medication but my parents complemented that with a routine of exercise and good diet. I also regularly went to a counsellor (who was a former psychiatrist).

I slowly began to regain confidence in myself (perhaps one of the hardest tasks after the terrifying experience of completely losing control of your thoughts) and ten months after my episode I went back to third level to do a master’s.

I decided I would be open about my experience and would regale friends and acquaintances with stories of my delusions. Being pregnant with the next prophet was the story that always drew the best response!

I gradually, in a very controlled way and with advice from experts, came off all medication and over the course of the next 13 years managed my illness very successfully.

I was aware when I was feeling high or manic so I’d go for a swim, a jog or a massage. I’d let close friends and/or partners know how I was feeling. I was managing things so well that I forgot I had any illness and probably began to believe that it was a one-off event and that I was fine.

I forged a career for myself, got married and had children. I ended up with a job with high responsibility and a lot of office politics.

Then, suddenly, I was in a state of acute psychosis. This time I had responsibilities – children of my own, in particular. I was fortunately in hospital for only 16 days, but I was away from my children in recovery for six weeks and was out of work for months.

Regaining one’s confidence after a psychotic episode takes time, a lot of hard work and support. However, the absolute hardest part for me has been accepting that I have a mental illness. Although I appeared on the surface to accept it, I know now I was really in denial.

Since the last episode, I’ve had random moments where I just shed a few tears accepting that I am ‘bipolar’. Now that I have accepted it, though, I can manage that aspect of my life and just get on with being who I really am, seizing the moment, stepping out of the moment when needed, reflecting, meditating, tapping into my creative side and most of all, enjoying what is a truly wonderful life!

This personal account first appeared on FirstFortnight.ie, a campaign to challenge mental health prejudice through the creative arts. The author wishes to remain anonymous.

‘This is an article by someone with bipolar disorder… by someone just like you.’

Opinion: My husband refused to believe he had bipolar disorder, and denial destroyed him

About the author:

Anonymous

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