I was doing my GCSE’s when I was first diagnosed with depression, at the age of 16. It was a tough time for many reasons, but of course the sudden onset of depression made it harder. Over the years, I had many episodes of depression, as well as episodes of heightened mood and I struggled with self harm too. But every time, it was just passed off as depression and anxiety. Deep down I knew there must of been more to it than that, but never could work out what that was.
In August of 2013, I was struggling again. I of course just thought, oh no, here comes the depression again. But it turned out to be a lot worse than that. I heard voices this time, destructive, criticising voices, that made me feel awful about myself. These voices turned into people whom I thought were real life people. I could see them, hear them, and truly believed they were real. All the while though, I kept them a secret from most people. There were a select few, that I “introduced” to these people, and my imagination ran wild with it. They too believed they were real people. I later learned that what I was experiencing was psychosis. That word scared me. I was convinced I’d be locked away in a psychiatric hospital if I was too honest with professionals.
It took me a long time to open up and tell the truth, and with the help of medication, I came back to reality with a very heavy bump. I’d hurt a lot of people in the process, and felt terrible about it. Of course they understood, which I’ll be forever grateful for. All except one. Who I don’t really speak to anymore much. That hurt a lot. But, I’ve had to move on, and leave the past behind me.
It took a long time to get my medication right, and I suffered terrible side effects with some of them. I felt worse than ever on some, and came to the realisation that I had to get worse, to get better. Which was hard. I had intensive therapy, CBT, and saw a psychiatrist (who I’m still under the care of today). It was an emotional rollercoaster for sure, and one I’ll never forget.
Fast forward to April 1st, 2014. I went along to my psychiatrist appointment, and being heavily medicated, I was more open than usual. She finally gave me a diagnosis. After all the years of knowing something more was going on, I had a name for it – Bipolar Affective Disorder. At first it took me a long time to make sense of it and come to terms with it. It felt almost like I’d been given a life sentence, because I knew this condition was lifelong and wouldn’t ever go away. But, as time went on, and the medications and therapy worked, it all started falling into place and making sense. I had a reason for the depressive episodes, the heightened mood swings, compulsive behaviour and other such symptoms. And it finally clicked; Yes I had Bipolar, but after surviving the worst time of my life, I knew it had to get better. There was light at the end of a very dark tunnel. A ladder or a lifeline out of the black hole of despair.
My inner strength started to come back, and I fought my demons harder than ever. I took my medication, went to my therapy sessions, and slowly came out the other side of the psychosis, and the depression. Finally, I was getting my life back.
I learnt a lot about myself in therapy, which helped me to recover. I realised I was a strong person deep down, and could endure the bad times, because I knew there were good times just around the corner. I was more open and honest about my feelings, and if I started to dip in mood, I sought help immediately with my GP. Something I was always reluctant to do before.
I learnt to control my demons (the voices), and knew they weren’t real. Slowly they began to fade away, until I couldn’t hear them anymore. I had taken back control and it felt great.
I’ve come a long way since then; I’m now a mother of one, a daughter. She’s my absolute world, and I’m so so glad that I never gave up fighting to get better. I still have the occasional shift in moods, but that’s to be expected. I’m mostly stable now, and loving life again. My daughter needs me to be strong, and I am strong. I’m not the vulnerable girl I was back then. I’m a fighter, and I’ll continue to fight for her. After being at rock bottom, it’s somewhere I’m determined never to be again.
I’ve learnt many things along the way during my recovery. The biggest one being that there is hope after mental illness; there is a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how small it may seem. Once I’d found it I focused on it, and it just grew and grew. On a bad day, I know that it’ll pass, and tomorrow may be better. On a good day, I make the most of every minute, and really appreciate what I have. Life is worth living and I intend to live it, to the fullest.
I hope my story shows that you can get better, no matter how bad it gets. Hold on to hope, and you’ll get there. It may take weeks, months or even years, but it does pass and you can recover. I’m living proof.