I have been sitting at my laptop thinking and wondering what on earth I should write for a New Year’s post that would be profound or at least a little helpful. All the ideas that came and left my head I didn’t consider good enough until finally after a few days of staring at a blank word document it finally hit me.
Every New Year people around the world make resolutions, document their aspirations for the year and list all the things they want to do or change in their lives. This year, as I sat at home on New Years Day I reflection on my life thus far.
From being a hyperactive, curious child full of energy to a Bipolar teenage metalhead/rocker who discovered self-harm as a way to cope with life. To a 20 year old who was mad at the world, drank to forget and partied day and night to a 25 year old who strived so hard to please people, opened her own company and went back to university, only to find that everything was just as hard, if not harder than she had ever imagined. At 27 I was diagnosed with bipolar, by 30 I was stable with medication and now, I sit here at 32, finally happy with my life and its direction.
Instead of sitting and listing all the things that I want to do this year, I thought I’d tell you about what I’ve learned so far. As a child I learned that my mother would always be my rock and no matter what she would always believe in me, even when I didn’t see the point in being alive myself. As a teenager, I made a best friend who would stay by my side for the rest of my life, even when I put her life in danger with my aggressive behaviour that nobody understood, not even me. I tried to kill myself three times and I lived, which I truly believe is for a reason as I am now here to tell my tale. I hated everyone and everything, I didn’t know why I felt the way I did, I’d never heard of Bipolar Disorder and the doctors treated me for depression that sent me into a mania. All I ever heard from psychiatrists and GP’s was ‘it’s just hormones, she’s a teenager’.
In my 20’s I thought that the way to peace was to please everybody else, I went out of my way to help people, look after people until all my energy was sapped and I was left with a dead battery. So instead of recharging, I’d go out drinking and partying to mask the symptoms. I was so sure that I knew who I was, that I knew what type of lifestyle I wanted to live. I was trying to convince myself that I was happy as I surrounded myself with people like me, people who normalised my behaviour and thus in my little bubble I remained.
At 25, everything changed. I made a decision to more with my life. I stopped wanting to party all night in favour of working every hour available to make money with my new company and also studying to get my degree. I barely went out drinking, but when I did, I binge drank to the point I could hardly remember the night. This was my way to ‘blow off steam’. I realised that I wasn’t happy before and I tried to be happy in a different way. Again, I thought I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted for my life, which was totally different from the rock and roll lifestyle I previously was sure I wanted.
At 27 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Suddenly there was a name for this demon that haunted me every moment of every day and just knowing that it wasn’t ‘me’ was such a eureka moment that all of a sudden, I questioned my motives for everything I’d ever previously done. The next 3 years were a trial of medication, doses and I finally got my degree.
Then I hit 30. People had told me that in your 20’s you don’t think the same as in your 30’s and I’d always thought that I would never change my mind about anything. Partly because I didn’t believe them, but partly because I knew how stubborn I was. I was wrong, so wrong. I hit 30 and everything changed as the relationship I was in broke down. I decided to sell my shares of the company I had helped to build and I moved out of the city centre. I had no desire to go out drinking and partying, no desire to be super social, maybe that was just in my mania? I realised that my whole life there had been this black shadow hanging over me called bipolar and even though I now knew its name, I hadn’t really dealt with the fact it was there, forever. I made the decision to concentrate on myself, who was I, what did I really want from life? Had all my previous thoughts been influenced by the bipolar? What would I be doing if the bipolar wasn’t there?
It took me two more years to get to where I am now, New Year 2018. In that time, I started the Askmeimbipolar project, I studied all the ways I can help myself in lifestyle to take the edge off the effects of the bipolar. I’ve found the right dose of medication for me and that leaves me where?
Well, the short answer is happy. For the first time in my life in 2017, I experienced true happiness. It wasn’t from the bottom of a bottle and it didn’t come from anyone else or anything external to me. I found my pace in life, I exercised, I ate better, I hardly drink anymore and I haven’t touched a cigarette in years. All the things that I was adamant I’d do because I loved it in my 20’s are now things I don’t go near anymore.
If I had 3 bits of advice for anyone in this New Year, it would be this:
1. Don’t be afraid to be you. If you don’t like someone, say so. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. If you need some space, take it. Don’t let your pace of life be dictated by anyone else, this includes loved ones. To live well, especially with a mental health problem, you have to put your wellbeing as the priority in every situation. You don’t want to go to bar with your partner and their friends because it makes you anxious and you don’t really drink anyway – Don’t go, stay home and read something fulfilling. The power to say NO is the one thing that I never realised I had in my 20’s.
2. Follow your heart. I don’t mean that in a romantic sense, unless that’s what you want to do but you are a beautiful individual person with strengths and qualities that are unique to this world. If you want to walk in nature, do it. If you want to travel, find a way. If you want to start a pottery class or even distil your own whiskey, whatever it might be that you have a passion or a curiosity for, do it. For all those people who tell me they don’t have time, answer me this. If a freak storm damaged your house and you had to call repair people and get some major fixes done, would you have no time to do it? Would you live in a broken house with no plumbing or no doors? Of course not. You’d find the time. It’s all about priority, make yourself and your wellbeing the no 1 priority this year.
3. Vodka tastes better when you freeze it. Yes, this is not a discovery to anyone who lives in Eastern Europe but it’s something I only learned in later 2017! As a non-vodka drinker (I always thought it tasted like paint thinner) it’s a revelation!
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