This week’s mental health spotlight is by the lovely Cara, a mental health nurse and a vocal mental health advocate, who is discussing her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Please show her some love and consider following Cara on her social media and blog, especially if you’re interested in more posts about mental health.
What mental illness(es) have you been diagnosed with?
I previously had anorexia and I have a current diagnosis of bipolar disorder, so I will be talking about that in this post.
What are the main symptoms that affect you?
Day to day I am mostly symptoms free thankfully. When I am depressed, I get very tearful, struggle to get out of bed and have lots of very dark thoughts about myself. When I am manic, I spend a lot of money, don’t sleep and get very creative.
What prompted you to seek a diagnosis?
I’d had a diagnosis of recurrent depressive disorder for years, but I knew something didn’t quite fit. I suggested it to the mental health team who thought that it was a possibility based on the symptoms I had described but didn’t want to make a formal diagnosis until they had more evidence. About two months later I got manic and that’s when I was diagnosed.
How has your MI impacted your life?
The periods of depression I have experienced have had the biggest impact on my life as at times I have been unable to function properly. Being manic affects my life because I don’t have much control over my behaviour and the repercussions are bigger; for example not being able to work and spending lots of money. It also impacts my life because I have to take daily medication which may affect my health. Additionally, I cannot get life insurance and pay very high travel insurance premiums.
What are the things that your MI prevents you from doing?
I don’t feel like it prevents me from doing anything but I’ve worked very hard to get to that point.
What coping mechanisms do you use/what helps your MI?
I used creativity when I am depressed; I like to embroider, cross stitch and colour, all of which are simple and repetitive but give me a sense of achievement. I also find exercise helpful. When I am manic I don’t really have any other than medication and input from the mental health team.
Are you on medication for it?
Yes, a mood stabiliser and an antipsychotic.
What is one thing you would want your younger self to know?
That no matter how dreadful everything feels and how scary this all is, you will get through it and you will live a wonderful and worthwhile life.
What misconceptions about your MI do you want to break?
That it’s about your mood changing several times a day and just generally being unpredictable or all over the place. These episodes last for days and weeks and months – I don’t wake up fine and suddenly find myself manic two hours later. It doesn’t work like that.
What is something you would want people to know about your MI?
That it doesn’t mean I can’t live a normal and happy life with a good job, friendship group and relationship. I can have all of these things and have bipolar disorder too.
How can others help you with your MI?
Listen to me, remind me to look after myself and believe in my recovery.
Thank you so much, Cara, for taking part in this and raising more awareness. You can keep up with Cara on her blog, Twitter, Instagram, and Etsy store, where she sells a range of items aimed towards self-care and mental health.