How to write a mental health and wellbeing article in TEN easy steps:
Ignore your manic highs and depressive lows for the first 25 years of your life.
Leave your job as a Prison Officer after 7 years because you "felt like it" during a period of mania.
Regret the decision and fall into a depressive slump isolating from friends and family.
Commit a crime and get sent to prison.
Leave prison, get a Bipolar diagnosis, get rejected by every employer you apply with, and attempt to take your own life.
Enrol in the Open-Door Scheme at Staffordshire Council, work voluntarily Mon-Fri 9-5, get offered a job by Amey on Staffordshire Highways Contract.
Become a Mental Health First Aider
Become a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, gain promotion to Team Leader and create a wellbeing training business in your spare time.
Become Amey's Wellbeing Coach.
Write the first thing that comes into your head
It is as simple as that. Yes, I could have done it the easy way, but where is the fun in that, right? Please do not tell my family and friends I said that.
So why am I writing this article now? The short answer is Kev Robinson asked me to. The long answer is, through the experiences I've had, I have seen a lot, learnt a lot and regretted a lot. I have a novel in me, no doubt a tragic comedy, but I have the writing skills of a toddler and the patience of one as well. I've also learnt a lot from reading other personal accounts of dealing with a mental health diagnosis and these accounts have helped me back from some bleak places and kept me level on some dizzy highs. So, the thought of someone reading this article and it helping them, fills me with joy. Whether that’s educating on or discussing current topics in the wellbeing realm, the reality of day-to-day life with Bipolar or even just a quick distraction from the hectic grind we call ‘life’.
In the coming editions, I want to discuss mental health and wellbeing and anything in-between I think you will find helpful or relevant to current events in our sector.
But first things first, in this introductory article you should probably know a bit about me and my bi polar, to give you an insight into my mind, my experiences and this way you can truly understand how I came to make the moronic decisions I made and how I wound up in some of the ridiculous situations that I have done. It will also help you understand why I am so passionate about helping others and supporting you, the reader.
So, a person with bipolar disorder will experience changes in mood, energy, and activity levels that can make day-to-day living difficult. From extreme highs to depressive lows, these experiences will differ from person to person. For instance, I've had conversations with people with bipolar about their behaviours and I've been so shocked I've felt the need to run out the nearest door, grab the latest copy of the DSM and check that I actually have this condition. Likewise, I've told people my stories and I can see them mentally deleting my phone number, email address and any evidence that we ever met before politely replying "you're so brave".
Look, we all experience mood swings at some time, but those related to bipolar disorder are more intense than regular mood changes, and often other symptoms can occur. Some people may experience psychosis, which can include paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions.
There are two main types of bipolar, there are a few more, but you will generally hear about Type I and Type II.
For a diagnosis of bipolar I disorder:
The individual must have experienced at least one manic episode.
The person may have had a previous major depressive episode.
The doctor must rule out other disorders, such as schizophrenia and delusional disorder.
Bipolar II disorder involves periods of hypomania (a less intense version of mania), but depression is often the dominant state.
For a diagnosis of bipolar II disorder, a person must have had:
one or more episodes of depression
at least one hypomanic episode
no other diagnosis to explain the mood shifts
A person with hypomania may feel good and function well, but their mood will not be stable, and there is a risk that depression will follow.
People sometimes think of bipolar II disorder is a milder version. For many, however, it is simply different.
But fear not, it's not all doom and gloom, because people can be stable for months and even years between episodes. if you are following a treatment plan then the chances of these stable periods increase.
People who do have a treatment plan for their bipolar disorder can work, study, and live a full and productive life and thrive!. But here for me personally lies the catch, the thing that pulls you in and then rips all your hard work from under your feet and back into that rollercoaster of highs and lows......false sense of security!
I am a creative person. I love to draw, write, create. My medication likes to dull some of the creativeness, and I feel it can dull my personality as well. I have on. numerous occasions stopped taking my medication because I thought I had beaten it, that I had recovered and that my brain chemistry was now fully balanced and could take on anything. Guess what? ...... I was wrong! Especially during Covid and lockdown, this threw a completely different kettle of manic and depressive fish at me.
What about symptoms I hear you cry. “THEY”RE BEHIND YOU!!” Well the good news is some of mine actually are now. However, here is my guide to the symptoms of Bipolar with a few examples of my experiences thrown in for good measure, which may help you understand how these symptoms can manifest themselves.
Mania or hypomania
*Symptoms can include:
impaired judgment (buying two £1000 plus iMacs within two days because the second had a slightly bigger screen and justifying having both sat next to each other on my desk, while I was eating pot noodles every day because I had no money)
feeling wired (my behaviour became so suspiciously hyper I was being drug tested at work on every "random" drug test and for the record your honour, not one positive test)
sleeping little but not feeling tired ( i lived on 7 hours of sleep a week for 2 years)
a sense of distraction or boredom (I felt that everyone around me was boring because they didn't want to spend a Monday evening out on the town until 2 am)
engaging in risky behaviour (gambling, drinking, mixing with people I wouldn't normally mix with because no one of sane mind was out until 2 am on a Monday)
increased libido (use your imagination, my mums reading this)
feeling exhilarated or euphoric (a constant rush and feeling of wanting to make the most of every moment .... until 2 am every night of the week)
having high levels of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-importance (God complex, I had to be the centre of attention)
talking a lot and rapidly (I would talk absolute rubbish! and ramble on, often talking to myself...... get the next "random" drug test ready)
jumping from one topic to another in conversation (as above)
denying or not realizing that anything is wrong (constant arguments with family and friends around my behaviour, they all had it in for me apparently.... I was wrong, they were trying to save me from myself)
During an episode of bipolar depression, a person may experience:
a feeling of gloom, despair, and hopelessness (I couldn't think past the next hour some days so therefore i couldn’t focus on a solution to my problems)
extreme sadness ( i would just feel sad, I couldn't explain it. I had great friends, family, a good job but I felt waves of crippling sadness that I could not navigate through. How can you stop feeling sad when you don't know why you are?)
insomnia and sleeping problems (as above, I would survive on 1-hour sleep, but still not be able to get out of bed when low. I would lie awake for 12 hours)
anxiety about minor issues (i would be afraid to leave the house to the supermarket in case people were talking about me)
a sense of guilt or dread, which may be misplaced (the only way i can describe it is, you know that feeling you used to get on a Sunday evening before school, that impending dread but you couldn't put your finger on why? now times that by ten)
eating more or eating less (it was the only thing I could control, so I clung on to that feeling of control)
an inability to enjoy activities or interests that usually give pleasure (i was devoid of all feeling)
irritability ( i would snap so easily at friends and family, I would get so angry because they had asked me a question or done something in a certain way, i was horrible to be around )
sensitivity to noises smells, and other things that others may not notice ( i would get angry at people eating loudly, or sneezing too loudly or too strangely or too much like a sneeze)
an inability to face going to work or school, possibly leading to underperformance (towards the end of my time as a prison officer I wouldn't be able to face going into work because I knew id be questioned and must socialise.)
*Symptom list taken from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com
In severe cases, the individual may think about ending their life, and they may act on those thoughts.(i thought it constantly and acted on it on two occasions )
In a nutshell, before I got my diagnosis and didn't understand how I could help myself, it was for most part, a living hell. Not only for me but for those around me too.
I HAVE BIPOLAR DISORDER,
I know that most people who meet me at work or during infrequent social situations would probably not know. I also know that this condition can be very difficult to deal with and sometimes it feels like a curse.
However, I've also learnt that this GIVES ME A UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP WITH MY MIND AND MOOD and that many high achievers have this condition.
Stephen Fry is the reason I have the confidence to talk about my Bi-Polar. I find that when I read his words or hear him talk that he verbalises what I'm thinking. Its small nuggets of support and reassurances that gives me the confidence to back my abilities and support others.
I have now come to terms with the fact that I will always have Bipolar, I will still have moments when I'm over-energetic and hyperactive and I will have moments when I don't want to be around anyone. I will have moments of weakness but i'll also have more moments of strength and achievement. But with medication and healthy coping mechanisms, my family and friends, I can thrive and do whatever it is I want to do.
Anyway that’s enough about me, I hope you will join me in in future editions and come on a journey and interact with me, where we can explore what matters to our businesses, our colleagues and us.
If you want to contact me, ask me any questions, suggest topics to discuss or just give me some feedback then message me on LinkedIn or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org