This day last year, I remember scrolling through the twitter hashtags for World Bipolar Day. The theme was something about people’s experiences with bipolar, and a lot of people were talking about how they came to be diagnosed. I remember reading those tweets and relating to the things people were saying and I felt like it Made Sense.
This time last year I was relatively stable, after having experienced my first ‘proper’ hypo/manic episode over the summer. My community psychiatrist was once again starting to query a cyclothymic diagnosis after having seen me ‘elated’ during the summer. It had been over three years since she’d first wondered about bipolar illness, two since the consultant had. She decided she wanted to refer to me to a colleague. Someone new who hadn’t seen me before or had any dealings with my case, to see if he had any idea as to what might be going on.
This time last year I was unaware that in a matter of weeks my mood would swing back up, that in a few months I would see the second opinion who would write ‘cyclothymic?’ on my prescription sheet, give me a list of mood stabilisers to research, and tell me that in five, ten years it might be reallyfuckingobvious that it was bipolar disorder and they would be asking ‘how did we miss it?’ – I was too young to say yet for sure.
As it turned out, I did have bipolar disorder, and less than a week after seeing the second opinion, I was hospitalised. 8 days post appointment, I was diagnosed. When the second opinion walks onto the ward one day, I shriek at him: ‘you said I wasn’t that high!’ He avoids my gaze, bows his head and walks on.
This day this year I’m reflecting back over the past year. It’s been crazy, fun, intense, scary, exciting- an experience. And it’s been clarity. It’s been such a huge relief- difficult as it has been and sometimes continues to be, to accept it- to finally have a name for what’s been going on for so many years.
This year, the theme for Bipolar Awareness Day is calling for more research into the illness. Mental health research accounts for only 6% of all medical research. Research on bipolar disorder accounts for only 1.6% of all mental health research.
So we’re under-researched, and that’s dangerous, given that 69% of us have been misdiagnosed, it can take up to TEN YEARS to get a diagnosis and 30% of us will attempt suicide- and 30% of untreated bipolars will succeed in taking their life. Bipolar disorder is also the sixth leading cause of illness worldwide, and there are 1million sufferers here in the UK.
Bipolaruk has launched a petition to ask Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of Health and the government for more funding into the illness, so if y’all have twenty seconds to spare, it would mean a lot if you could sign. Here’s the link.
When I was in hospital back in March is was also World Bipolar Day. I remember reading a joke that went something like ‘Happy world bipolar day- but only clinical levels of happiness’ and skipping up and down the ward reciting it in hysterics to the nurses, junior doctors and my consultant, who all found it punny. So I’m signing off saying the same- happy bipolar awareness day, but watch where you are on the mood scale…