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FIRST PERSON: Dark Evenings, Bright Mornings

I had a letter come through my door this morning – a psychiatric report with DIAGNOSIS – BIPOLAR SPECTRUM DISORDER (Bipolar II) at the top in large, bold letters. This was the report from a diagnosis I had received months and months back and I’d almost forgotten that it’d happened. The small, daily reminders are there; the self help books on the shelf and the regular doses of medication. However, I’d almost seamlessly slipped from desolate to content after the most difficult period of my entire life.

I won’t ever forget the night that my mind literally fell to pieces and I will never forget the pain, torment and strain that plagued my life in the months preceding this very dark and scary evening. There I was, sat in a medical waiting room with both of my parents (who’d been divorced since I was a young child). I suddenly felt extremely vulnerable and quite simply, young.  It was as if I had regressed from an adult to a small, scared boy, needing his parents to hold his hand whilst he waited to see the doctor. All of a sudden, just 6 months after graduating from uni with 2.1, I was facing the prospect of hospitalisation in a mental health ward.

Only months before, I had signed the papers for my first flat with my girlfriend, received the grade I was hoping for at University and offered the job I had strived towards – what on earth did I have to be unhappy about? Years ago, if i had been told that someone in my position had depression, I would have simply laughed it off as nonsense. The problem is, mental illness doesn’t really care for the successes and positives in your life, it is far more likely to hammer home the negatives, whether they are imagined or real.  Depression is a great leveller. Any one, regardless of success, money or perceived ‘happiness’, can become depressed, in the same way that anyone can break a leg.

I had spent months in and out of the doctors and received diagnoses ranging from stress to anxiety and finally depression. It had started off manageable, plenty of low mood and worry, but I was still able to go to work every day and was just about keeping my head above water. However, before I knew it I was sleeping just a few hours a night, if I was lucky, eating next to nothing and finding it difficult to even muster up the energy to leave my flat. I was exhausted, malnourished and heading towards complete disaster. I lost my job, lost my flat and essentially lost my mind in a very short period of time and before I knew it I was being cared for by my father all day, every day.

There were moments, very brief moments, that I thought I may get better but the majority of the time my thoughts were pre-occupied with my past mistakes and failings, emptiness, worthlessness, desperation and most worryingly, suicide. The day I looked out of my Dad’s flat window, over the surrounding greenery to the rail track and thought to myself: ‘I cant cope with this anymore, I’m going to walk over there later and jump in front of a train’, I realised that my situation was critical but I literally had no idea who to go to or where to turn. By this point and I was spending my days either staring into space with my mind racing at one hundred miles an hour or in tears, repeatedly beating myself up about all the wrongdoings in my past.

Things came to a head after I had gone to the pub, intending to have one drink but consuming more than I care to remember in a bid to drown my sorrows. By the early hours of the next morning I was completely and utterly suicidal, telling my girlfriend over and over how I would never get better and I no longer wished to live in such a cruel world. She was, as she always has been, my rock and took the decisive action of talking to my parents and helping to arrange a visit to the doctor to explain the enormity and gravity of my situation. I was immediately referred from the out of hours GP to my local mental health crisis team and given two options – admit myself into the ward or return home with the agreement that I would return everyday in order for them to assess my mental state. I was asked on a daily basis to rate the probability that I would attempt suicide or self harm, was put on a cocktail of medications and ordered to attend multiple therapy sessions.

As horrifying as this intervention may sound, I am so thankful that it happened. Without it I am convinced I wouldn’t be here today. It took many, many months for me to recover but without that help during my most acute period of mental torture I’m sure I would have carried out my plans to end my life.

Today I sit here my old, slightly chubby build, well slept, well rested, employed, stable and just about happy. I have a job, I’m working every hour under the sun and whilst the scars of the previous year have not healed, I am coming to terms with them and becoming gradually able to manage and deal with them. A doctor would probably tell you I’m currently in the ‘hypomanic’ stage of my disorder and there is no guarantee I wont slip back into a depressive cycle.  Despite this, thanks to my local mental health team, a wonderful charity funded therapist and some very effective medication, I’m the most stable and productive I have been in years. I’m cautious about using the word happiness, I’m not entirely sure of the last time I could say I was completely happy, but provided I’m stable, I’m okay.

The prospect of okay is one which many people suffering from mental health problems would love to have and my story highlights the importance of local mental health facilities, getting help, speaking out and most importantly – recognising you have a problem.  There’s nothing to be ashamed of, it doesn’t make you weak and it certainly doesn’t devalue you as a human being, or make you less of a man.  Asking for help is the most important step you can take, and could save your life.

If you’ve been affected by the issues in this article, you can find information  about agencies who can help you HERE, or call our helpline on 0800 58 58 58, open 5pm – midnight every day of the year.  Confidential, anonymous and free from landlines, payphones and most mobile networks.  Calls won’t show up on your phone bill.

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