It’s a bizarre feeling, being told you have a mental illness. At first it was like a light being switched on. Everything began to make sense, and the guilt I had carried around for years at the way I had behaved and the things I had done began to lift. There was hope of a new me, a happier me. I was no longer a bad person that did bad things, I was someone with an illness, who was going to get better. I became obsessed with finding out more and more, telling people about all the statistics and the symptoms, at how great I am doing and how I am going to get better and be a new person. Everything was wonderful.
Then came week 2.
The hangover to the obsession. Now all I could think about was that I have an illness that I am going to have to struggle with for the rest of my life. I may have to be medicated and with that comes the long list of side effects. I was angry. Why me? And why did no one notice this before now? I began to get depressed and angry. I knew now that my emotions weren’t real. I didn’t need to feel them. But I couldn’t stop them. I would fantasize about dying. That I could just flick a switch and the thoughts would stop whirring around my head. The idea of it was very appealing to me. But, there was still that little voice of reason that new there was an end to this emotion, there always was.
Eventually I got hold of him and we arranged to meet in the local pub. I arrived 15 minutes early and lit a cigarette, with every drag my stomach churned. Why anyone would call it morning sickness when it lasted all day was unbeknown to me.
My eyes scanned my bag, I pictured an x-ray whirring and locating the long thin object still wrapped in toilet roll. I had brought it with me in case he didn’t believe me.
You might be wondering why I was so paranoid about him not believing me. To explain that, I have to go back a year. Back to a park bench where we met to break up. I knew he wanted to break up, he had been pulling away and had started getting into contact with his ex-girlfriend again. I knew he was still in love with her, I could see that when he was looking at me, he was thinking of her. He wanted me to be her, and I wanted to be her too.
We had been together 3 months at this point, and I had already fallen for him, hard. He was my first boyfriend and I was 17. I remember the night he asked to make it “official”. We were in the cabin at the back of his house. He used this as a music studio, we were laying on the futon, laughing and he pushed the hair from my face- he was not an affectionate person so I felt special when he would show this side. It was only for me. For the first time in my life I was special to someone and it felt wonderful. He was drunk that night. He was so loving and open when he drank. I found when he was sober he was cold and uninterested in me. He looked at me and smiled and said “I want you all to myself” I felt a warm glow spread through me. I wanted this feeling to last forever. I looked back at him and smiled from ear to ear “is this you making us exclusive you cringe head?” He looked a little wounded at that. I don’t know why I made a joke, I should have just said yes I feel the same, because I did. Perhaps I was over compensating, I knew my feelings for him were stronger than they were for me and I wanted to hide it from him. I couldn’t stand how pathetic I was, I didn’t want him to hate me as much as I hated myself.
A few weeks later I went to one of his gigs and his ex-girlfriend turned up. I stood by the bar and watched as he played, the whole time he was watching her. I looked from him to her, neither could take their eyes off each other. I wasn’t the only one who could see how in love they were. My friends were trying to distract me and I could see the look of pity on their face. Once the band had finished their set he went straight home without saying goodbye. I caught her eye as we both watched him walk away. Guilt flashed across her face and she turned to leave as well.
So, when we met in the park that day I knew what he was going to tell me. He told me that it had nothing to do with her, that it was just that he didn’t want to be in a relationship. That we should just be friends. I accepted all of it, though I knew it wasn’t the truth, the truth was, I wasn’t good enough for him, I wasn’t the right girl. She was. I hugged him and walked away. I wanted to die. The rejection pulsated over me, filling every vein. I wanted to sob, to plead with him to take me back, but I refrained. If he didn’t want me before he knew how pathetic I was, imagine how little he would think of me once he knew. If I killed myself it might make him realise how he felt about me? I was at the bus stop now and the bus was coming. I pictured taking a step off the pavement at the right time, my body crippled and my mind blank. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t figure out whether that was because I still had hope of a better life or because I was too much of a coward.
As I sat on the bus ideas began to come to me, ways to get him back, ways to get that feeling that I had in the cabin 3 months ago. I wanted that feeling again so badly. I scanned all the boys I knew in my head, I needed to move on. I needed to move on now. If I found someone else that I could get that feeling with then the pain would stop. I was at a loss until I thought of Chris. It was perfect. He was a new friend to the group and was older, her wouldn’t do this to me, he wouldn’t hurt me like this. And, he liked me. I had been told this a few weeks ago by our mutual friend. I had him in mind, a target. He was attractive and kind and intelligent. I began to convince myself that it was Chris that I wanted all along. My feeling of loss and rejection were being staunched by my new obsession. I just wish I could shake the nagging feeling at the back of my mind telling me to slow down, to stop. But I didn’t want to stop. I wanted Chris. We were perfect for each other. This isn’t fake, this isn’t fake. This is real. My feelings for him. They were the fake ones. I was scared of commitment, that’s why I wasted my time with him. No. Chris was the one for me.
By the time I had got off the bus I had told him about the break up and arranged to meet him later that night.
The exact causes of bipolar disorder are not known. It can run in families, so someone with a relative who has bipolar may have a higher chance of developing it themselves. It may also be caused by problems in the part of the brain which regulates our moods. Episodes may also be triggered by stress.
Young people who are diagnosed with bipolar often have their first episode during their teens or in early adulthood. It is now recognised that some younger children also suffer from bipolar but diagnosis in children is still rare. This is partly because normal behaviour before and around puberty, caused by the brain developing and hormone changes, can also include mood swings and erratic behaviour.
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