Zoe has always struggled to live what she calls “a normal life”.

“I have experienced manic states of compulsive spending, drug abuse, racing thoughts and also depressive episodes where I have fought to get out of bed and face the day,” she says.

Growing up as a child, Zoe learned that both her grandfather and mother had experiences of bipolar.

She says from the outside her family looked picture perfect, but the reality was she lived in two worlds. There was the world inside her family home, and the world outside, where she learned to pretend that everything was okay.

Zoe describes her own experience with bipolar as a struggle with “the demons of this monster of an illness”.

“Mental distress is vicious. I have found it difficult to feel good about myself and always felt not worthy enough, and unsure how to feel happy or sad, because of my feelings of numbness,” she says.

That struggle hasn’t stopped Zoe from trying to understand her illness and figuring out ways to manage it - although she admits it takes a lot of determination to stay well.

Learning to recover with support from others

Looking back as an adult, Zoe now believes her mother felt unable to seek the help she needed for herself at the time.

“It meant that I didn’t learn the tools and techniques necessary to cope with my experience of bipolar either,” she says. “Instead, I turned to other coping mechanisms that may not always have been the right choices.”

Zoe was eventually hospitalised, and once there found a way to manage her illness with the support of medical professionals, family and friends.

“Everyone has done their bit in any way they can to help me through my rough patches,” she says. “I also have a community mental health support worker, who provides tools and resources to help me get through my everyday struggles and is a point of contact for me when I need it.”

Zoe’s worked with her doctors to establish a wellness plan, which the hospital keeps track of in its system, so if she becomes unwell, her plan is easy to access.

Many ingredients create a strong wellness plan

Part of her wellness plan includes medication, however Zoe says it is difficult at times to try different prescriptions because it means she has to work through side effects and wait four to six weeks before she notices positive change.

“I have to keep in mind that my medication is one of the tools that improves my moods and helps me to achieve simple day to day tasks.”

Another important part of her wellness plan includes triggers and early warning signs of mental distress, as well as the strategies useful in helping Zoe through difficult times.

“It’s handy to put this information on the fridge as a reminder to myself, and give it to my family and friends so they know how to support me.”

Her advice to people who also experience mental distress is that they should be patient, be open minded and accept any help that is offered.

“We are not alone in this and we can make it through to the other end of the tunnel,” she says. “Persevere and use your determination as a driver to achieve your wellness goals. After all we are still human beings and…we’ve got this!”