If you told me I was sick I would not have believed you. I would of made every excuse under the sun for my topsy-turvy lifestyle. I would have run away…
I’d learnt to live with my risky behaviour, money spending, highs, lows, crying myself to sleep every night. Panic attacks were an everyday occurrence. Then finally someone actually cared enough to get me some help.
I had never heard of lithium, bipolar disorder or manic depression. As far as I was concerned, my family (who committed me) just did not understand me. They wanted to hold me back from achieving my dreams.
The day after I was hospitalised, I met the man who I now credit as my saviour, Dr Jimmy. He told me I had an illness and if I wanted to I could control it. He put my illness into a sporting context and told me I needed to focus on my goals and "fight".
The fabulous care I received from mental health services – both in the hospital and community care settings – helped me in my recovery journey. I was also lucky to have a community mental health nurse who believed in me and never doubted that I would recover.
My parents, brother and uncle were also instrumental in keeping me going through some of the darkest days.
On my road to recovery, I often felt as if I was fighting two opponents; bipolar and stigma.
The stigma, at times, hurt more than the depression, anxiety and mania. It follows you everywhere you go. People’s opinion and behaviour changes towards you.
The most significant change for me was in my profession. Some employers I worked for were simply unsupportive, others tried to obtain personal information from my GP, and others shared information about my health. None of it was been helpful.
Despite this, I do believe it is important to be open about mental illness. I really hope that through education, advertising and through people with experience of mental illness being more open, discrimination will become less common.
My advice to others who want to support someone in their lives who are experiencing mental illness is that they should listen to, and most importantly not give up on, the person they care about.
When I wake up in the morning the internal bell sounds and I’m ready to start the day’s fight with the illness I will NEVER be cured of but have learned ways of coping with and fighting.
My name is Maria. I’m a mum, wife, sister, daughter, niece, friend, sportswoman, animal enthusiast, teacher and kind, loving person AND I have bipolar disorder.