Bipolar Disorder: Recognising Relapse

Updated: Jan 28

The thing about mental illness is that it can take you at any time.

The last couple of years, I have prided myself on being well and having a handle on my mental health. There have been fluctuations over that time, but nothing significant, and I have managed them independently and safely. I have been well, and relatively stable, since 2015. I take care of myself: I exercise, I eat well, I don’t drink much alcohol, I have a regular-ish sleep pattern (as regular as shift work allows), and I take my medication.

The thing about mental illness though, is that sometimes none of that matters.

Sometimes it just gets you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Three years of having neither a manic or a depressive episode had allowed me to start to feel safe. There has always been a shadow following me, knowing that with bipolar disorder, it will at some point happen again. But over the years I’ve felt more confident, more settled and more stable, to the point where I even questioned at times whether my diagnosis was right.

I let my guard down.

I didn’t really pay attention to the fact that my sleep was slowly slipping away, until it happened all at once. I didn’t really notice my creativity increasing, until I was writing ideas frantically in the middle of the night. I didn’t really notice I was spending more money, until my card got declined.

I didn’t really notice, until I suddenly noticed very quickly. By that point it was too late.

Apart from when I was signed off uni when manic, this is the first time I have ever had time off for my mental health honestly. I didn’t say I had a cold or an ear infection or a bad back or whatever else I could have come up with. I don’t know how I feel about that still. A mixture I guess of relief and extreme disappointment in myself. Disappointment that I have become unwell again, that I am letting people down, that I can’t be perfect at everything all of the time.

I said in a previous post that when I am well, I sometimes think I wouldn’t change my illness because it has opened so many other opportunities for me. I can now categorically say, when not so well, that I hate it. I hate that I’m now going to fall back into years of insecurity about whether my next episode is around the corner. I hate that I feel like I am back at square one. I hate what this illness does to me and people around me. I hate this reminder that I will have to take medication for the rest of my life. I hate antipsychotics. I hate side effects. I hate the fact that no matter what I do, it can still strike me at any time.

I hate it.

I am a glass half full kind of person. I am an optimist. I try to always see the positives in any situation. Pragmatically, I can say that I will come through this a stronger person. That I can carry on using these experiences for the greater good as I have tried to up until now. That I learn something new every time. When I started this blog, my aim was always to be positive but honest. I don’t want to minimise or romanticise mental illness; society does that enough already.

So, staying true to my original aim, I am choosing to be honest. And honestly – this is shit. One day it wont be shit again, and I know that.

But right now it just is.

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