Letters from Vicky
Dear friends, hello! My name is Vicky. I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder over 20 years ago. I am a wife, a daughter, a friend, a sister, an employee of a social enterprise and have a long career history in the social services profession.
I am grateful to be able to offer insights from my journey in resilience and mental health, and the things I have learned about myself and the condition over the years. I hope it can help you if you are on this journey too.
How does it start?
How do I know when I am starting to tip over that critical point that usually accompanies bipolar mania?
I might be feeling on top of the world, highly creative and overflowing with enthusiasm for life. It feels so good doesn’t it? Or I could be feeling angry, defensive, at odds with the world, damaging my relationships and behaving differently than I usually would. I can completely change when I am in the grip of mania.
The cruelest thing is that I often have no insight, especially if the mania is accompanied by delusions and hallucinations. I can become convinced that what I am experiencing is real. Developing mental resilience to catch the early warning signs can help.
Contraction and expansion
I often think of depression and mania as manifestations in terms of contraction and expansion. When I am depressed, the world becomes bleak and the ability to function can be severely impaired. My world becomes smaller.
One of the toughest things I experience when being depressed is the inability to connect to those close to me with love. I cannot feel their love. I feel completely cut off and isolated. Like bipolar itself, depression is a spectrum which can vary in intensity and duration. I can experience anxiety, irritability and tearfulness.
Spotting the early warning signs can help me cope with the extremes of bipolar and minimise the damage it causes to my life. It might be that I am able to monitor these signs myself. I have also found it very helpful to receive support and feedback from close loved ones. It often depends on how far I have travelled away from my stability.
I have found that having a therapist you trust and feel safe can be hugely beneficial and can aid mental health recovery.
They will listen and provide a nurturing presence. Longer term therapy can be extremely useful, as my therapist will often be able to pick up shifts in my mood which may indicate the early warning signs of a relapse. This approach relies on a foundation of trust between myself and my therapist and a willingness to work together to achieve stability. Peer support can also be invaluable if we are experiencing early warning signs. Others who truly understand what we are going through and can offer support through lived experiences.
Building resilience and mental health awareness can help us as we navigate through our lives. It can lessen the intensity of our episodes, learn from previous periods of illness about what works and what may not, and build a strong network of support to help us weather the storms.
We may not be able to eliminate our symptoms entirely, but we can learn and develop strategies which help us to achieve our dreams despite our challenges.
Love yourselves and love each other,
Authored by: Victoria Epps
We thank our blog contributors and applaud their strength in finding the words to share their lived experience, not only as part of the personal recovery journey but to inspire and bring hope to others who might be facing mental health challenges.
Photo credits: Victoria Epps