Bipolar and Me

I've started writing this blog entry with no real idea as to where it will go. I set this page up during the Covid lockdown to give me something to focus on, and it served a wonderful purpose. Right now, I feel I need it as an outlet more than ever. 

Usually I would write something about Arsenal or at the very least, football. I suppose this post will still have some kind of tenuous link to those passions, but I wanted to use it today as somewhere to not only give myself a voice, but to attempt to articulate my thoughts in a way that might help me to make sense of them myself. It's not a blog looking for sympathy, nor is it a cry for help. It is simply me conveying my current thoughts and struggles in a way that I hope will help me to pull myself out of the hole that I have found myself in recently.

Over the past few months, I have been going through a very tough time. Those who know me or who read my posts during my shirt collecting project will know that I suffer from Bipolar. It's a constant struggle to maintain any sort of mental equilibrium and sometimes the pressure of simply functioning as an adult becomes too much. There are days that getting out of bed, washing and maintaining some sort of diet are just too much, and over the past couple of months I have had more of those days than I care to admit. 

The sheer fact that this has happened over the extended summer holiday that I am lucky enough to get as a teacher highlights the severity of the situation that I have been in. Upon returning to work at the end of this break, I found it increasingly difficult to pull myself out of bed each day. I made it through the training days, masking my true feelings as best as I could, and then prepared myself to throw myself into the new term. Just a day and a half into the return, and I suffered a breakdown that rivals anything I have had to deal with over the past few years. I could no longer mask my pain and suffering, and after multiple colleagues asking me about my wellbeing, I eventually took shelter in my car, phoned my Mum, and cried for my entire lunchbreak. Once I had composed myself, I took myself back to the building, encountered a colleague, and was set off again. It became clear to both myself and anyone who had interacted with me that I was in no fit state to work. 

That brings us to today. I am still off work and struggling with balancing my mood. I have had many people over the years who have tried to offer their advice with comments such as "we all have ups and downs" or "you just need to get to the end of the day". The truth is, these sorts of well-meaning comments simply make it harder to function as it makes out that you are no different than anyone else. In an ideal world, that would be the case. In reality, I am different, and that's okay. If I wasn't different, then I wouldn't have been diagnosed with a severe mental health disorder like Bipolar.

Over the past week, I have twice been taken to the doctors by my parents, with vastly different outcomes achieved. The first visit, the doctor signed me off from work, told me that my Bipolar "wasn't that bad" and that the only thing that caused me anxiety was work. Anyone who even half knows me will know that my anxiety, which by the way has previously been diagnosed as a recognised disorder, is chaotic to say the least. This dismissive approach left me feeling weak, overwhelmed and if I'm completely honest, like I was manufacturing this feeling of hopelessness in my head. I have to give my parents an awful lot of credit following this though, as they refused to give up on me or the situation, and arranged for another appointment with a doctor that I had seen previously. Finally, someone was listening and following that appointment, changes were made to my medication. I'm not fixed, but at least something that might help has been done.

While off from work, I have been unable to shift the feeling that I am letting my colleagues down, that by not being there I am not pulling my weight, and that in someway I could be there if I really wanted to be. This could not be further from the truth. I have to keep reminding myself that if I cannot look after myself, then I cannot go to a place of work and carry out my day-to-day tasks. I certainly cannot be in a situation where I am required to function socially for eight hours a day.

The international break has meant that I have not had my usual outlet to focus on, which is usually a football match to watch each evening. International football just doesn't cut it I'm afraid! But this weekend I'm off to the North of England with my brother to enjoy one day of gaming at The Arcade Club, and one day of football at Goodison Park for Everton vs Arsenal. Guilt has overridden me in preparation for this trip, as my head has been telling me if I can do this then I can be at work. True, many other people might think like this, but it isn't the case. This weekend offers me some respite, a chance to escape my mind and just hang out with my brother. I really hope it will help start me on the journey to recovery.

I like to think of my battle with Bipolar as similar to that of a boxing match. We are midway through a 12 round bout, with Bipolar leading on points. The only way that I come out on top in this is by winning through knock-out, and that's exactly what I intend to do. It may take me until the end of the twelfth, but I'll win, somehow.