Living with Bipolar: My Journey

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Gerard is a former Twining client; he has developed a keen interest for writing. In this blog, he talks about his experiences of living with bipolar affective disorder – everything from how he got his diagnosis to his hopes for the future. 

Bipolar affective disorder, sometimes known as ‘manic depression’ or just 'bipolar' is a severe mental health illness characterised by significant mood swings including manic highs and depressive lows. A majority of individuals with bipolar experience alternating episodes of mania and depression.

Getting a diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder typically takes a number of years. This was certainly the case with me. The following blog outlines what happened in my case.

I live in London and am in my forties.

Six years ago I was practising as a barrister in the field of criminal law when I had a manic/psychotic episode.

I was hospitalised for two weeks and resigned from my job. I was put on medication for bipolar and started long-term psychotherapy on the National Health Service.

Two years later, I felt I had recovered and took up full-time paid permanent work as a bank clerk. I was re-diagnosed as having a personality disorder, not bipolar, because I had only had one psychotic episode and you need to have at least two episodes to be classified as bipolar.

As a result, I was taken off bipolar medication but remained in treatment with psychotherapy. I continued in the bank clerk role while having psychotherapy but no bipolar medication for a year, but then I had a manic episode and had to resign from my job. I think the reason for this second episode was not having any bipolar medication and the stress of the bank clerk position, which was not suitable for my skill set.

Following the manic episode I was diagnosed once again as having bipolar affective disorder and put back on bipolar medication. Since then I have been treating my bipolar with a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

I have not been in paid work but have been doing voluntary work as a librarian, museum guard and receptionist. I have also taken a number of creative writing courses. During the last three years I have sometimes felt 'high' in mood but I do not think I have ever crossed the line into full blown mania; I have always kept in touch with reality.

I think the medication has been a stabilising influence on me and the six years of psychotherapy is helping me to address the root causes of my mental health problems and transform my character on a deep level.

My long term goal is to return to paid work and stop psychotherapy but I will probably need bipolar medication for many years and perhaps for the rest of my life.

*Due to the stigma attached to mental health, this blogger has chosen to withhold their real name. 

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