My Journey so far. By Finn Prevett.
Hi, I’m Finn. I’m 34, co-founder of The Positive Planner with Ali and I live with my husband and son in Kenya. Living with Bipolar2 is something that comes with some pretty negative stigma, but for me, the diagnosis has enhanced my life far more than it has hindered it. Being diagnosed with Bipolar2 gave me a passion for life again.
When it all started
I’ve lived with mental health illnesses since childhood. It started off as anxiety and escalated in my teenage years into what I now understand was a cycling pattern of mania and depression.
The first time I went to the doctors to discuss my mental health I was just 15. I went alone, I told no one and I left with a prescription of antidepressants.
This horrifies me now. I remember feeling overwhelmed and alone, confused by what had just happened and questioning my worth in the world. How could I possibly articulate these feelings to family and friends? I was overcome with shame. Two days later I took an overdose. With hindsight, I now know I couldn’t find the words to describe what I was experiencing. Taking an overdose seemed the quickest way to show how desperate I was. It would take a further 18 years to receive a formal diagnosis of Bipolar2.
Finding a diagnosis
I finally received my formal diagnosis exactly 1 year and 1 day after my son was born. The signs had been there for many years, I was just unable to find a doctor who really understood the symptoms of Bipolar and sadly this isn't uncommon. People living with Bipolar face an average of 10 years of living with symptoms before receiving an accurate diagnosis.
Now I understand the condition much more I can trace my symptoms right back to childhood. This extract from The National Institute of Mental Health rings very true to me:
"When manic, children and adolescents, in contrast to adults, are more likely to be irritable and prone to destructive outbursts than to be elated or euphoric. When depressed, there may be many physical complaints such as headaches, and stomachaches or tiredness; poor performance in school, irritability, social isolation, and extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure.”
As a child, I ticked every box on that list. It breaks my heart to remember how lonely I felt.
In the months leading up to my diagnosis, I was struggling to get from one day to the next. I had no self-esteem and a voice inside my head was telling me on repeat that I was a ‘pointless person’. Life was a very dark place. Every day I wanted to die. I had absolutely no desire to be alive anymore. It was the most awful way to live, in a way I suppose it wasn't living, it was merely surviving.
The positives of living with Bipolar2
People assume being diagnosed with Bipolar is something awful and I’m sure for many it can feel this way initially, but my experience has actually been very positive. Personally, I say I ‘live’ with Bipolar2, I do not ‘suffer’ with it. That is not to say I live in a constant state of utopia, but since receiving a diagnosis, I have learned how to thrive whilst taking care of my mental health.
There are good days and bad days. Low weeks and high weeks. But I now have compassion for myself and accept my moods are fluid. By removing the pressure to always feel good, the lows become more bearable and I know they will pass. I made a choice the day I was diagnosed to take ownership of my condition, and not let it own me. I set the boundaries and expectations and it has actually enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined. Living life on the edge of being alive means you embrace it with every cell of your body when you are feeling happy to be alive.
As if this wasn’t enough, I can also say that every area of my life has improved since my diagnosis, my relationships with my friends and family are stronger, I'm more successful professionally, and I simply get more joy out of life.
Living with Bipolar2 means I have experienced most emotions incredibly intensely and in a very vivid way. My experience with my own emotions enables me to connect with others on a level that many are unable to do. It feels like a gift to be able to share these experiences with people.
Without my diagnosis, I don’t think I would have learned how to take care of myself properly or how to truly love and respect myself. It has also led me to explore and discover what my version of wellness is. I’ve learnt amazing things like hypnotherapy, meditation, mindfulness and yoga - all in pursuit of a happier healthier self. I am also acutely aware of what I need. On being diagnosed with Bipolar2, I started psychotherapy with a trauma specialist. This has been the single most important gift I have given myself.
It takes a daily commitment to myself to put my mental health and wellbeing before anything and anyone else, because if I don’t work, then nothing else in my life will. I have a lot of people who rely on me, and I want to be a support to them, and to do that I need to make myself a priority and not let my needs be forgotten.
For me, navigating life and living with Bipolar2 actually comes with a lot of amazing experiences. I hope my story helps to raise awareness about Bipolar in a positive way and gives hope to those going through low periods of mental health.
There is always hope, things always pass. Hold on and live each day for tomorrow believing it will get better, because one day it does, and that is beautiful.