Thank you for visiting my JustGiving Page. For the first time I am raising awareness (by dressing as a big, white Polar Bear) and asking for kind-hearted donations towards this cause because my family has been affected by Bipolar Disorder, and we have experienced first hand the chaos and disruption it can have. We have also experienced first hand the benefits of the support from Bipolar UK. If only more support could be available to us, and others.
6 months ago I became very ill. Everything in my life came to a sudden halt. In the middle of some of my most interesting and creative projects to-date, overnight I retreated into a dark hole and shut everything out. Including food, daylight, words, music and everyone I hold dear. The only thing I could tolerate was unrequited hugs from my children. After weeks of to-ing and fro-ing to various departments, I was finally given the diagnosis: "Yvie, you quite clearly have Bipolar Disorder," the psychiatrist said.
That was just the start of the journey. What ensues is figuring out medication; coming to terms with the diagnosis and what that actually means; asking myself "Who Am I?" if the symptoms of my condition reflected being unwell; waiting for therapy or going it alone; managing the condition with hindsight; and finding a way of getting back onto the wheel of life. Ironically, it is the medication that has the greatest impact on daily life. It's the time to make the choice between the blue pill or the red pill. Lithium, at certain levels, is toxic yet is widely distributed as the medication of choice. I've recently realised how toxic it is. Whilst on Lithium, hydration is a very serious issue. Being dehydrated can very quickly become debilitating. Training for these events has to be about getting enough water in a day, before I think about getting the mileage in — about 4-5 litres of water plus some. At night time, drinking whilst asleep becomes necessary, so I am constantly waking up to take another sip of water because I feel like I'm breathing sand. There are many similarities with Diabetes Insipidus. My kidneys and my liver need to be monitored. Competing in sport is a serious health choice. But this is a mental health condition...
With regards to the condition itself, what is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar Disorder is your emotions multiplied by a thousand; your fears, your anxieties, your sadness and your joy. You can become so elated and euphoric that you cannot function, you are simply amazed at the beauty and creativity of life. And you can become so depressed that crawling into a deep hole is the only place you feel safe, even though you don't feel safe, from anything. You can also feel deeply depressed and yet feel as if life is not moving fast enough for you because your thoughts are racing and you can connect the dots where no one else can see them, so you become irritable, and paranoid, and angry. It's all of this, repeated, again and again, and more. So much more. Did I mention the damage caused to family and friends? To careers, to ideas, the weight gain, to relationships, to finances? The paranoia of hallucinations, or the delusions of grandeur? Nothing escapes the effects of the Bipolar Disorder spectrum. There is no cure for Bipolar Disorder, and it is a condition that will continue to get worse as times goes by, though medication may stall it.
However, what Bipolar Disorder is, ultimately, is an opportunity to re-evaluate life. This is where Bipolar UK offers support which can only be described as a lifeline to those who are sufferers, and carers. My psychiatrist can offer medicine, but medicine alone does not alleviate the mental anguish, and does not answer the questions — mostly of life, understanding the condition, and therapy choices available — that can be discussed at support groups. In support groups, we are no longer alone facing this serious condition that is barely spoken about.
So this is why I am putting myself through the task of running (which is something I know I can do but is recently increasingly arduous due to medical side effects) whilst wearing a Polar Bear outfit. Simply to raise awareness, to get people's attention. 5% of the population are on the Bipolar Disorder Spectrum. One-in-five of those will go on to commit suicide. And yet we don't understand much about this condition, with its stigma, its lack of research data, its misunderstood symptoms.
As a run up to Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day on Tuesday 6th October, I’m swimming and running in the Eirias Triathlon in Colwyn Bay with my partner Tom cycling (in a tutu) on the 26th September, and then running in the Cardiff Half Marathon 2015 for Bipolar UK on the 4th of October 2015. I'll be the one dressed as a Polar Bear.
It would be great if you could donate and share my Page so I can raise as much as possible to help Bipolar UK support people affected by bipolar to manage their condition in everyday life.
Naturally I didn't know how much to write for this page, I haven't written anything online for over 6 months, and have barely spoken about this for fear of stigma and because talking about it simply isn't easy. The decision was only made two weeks ago because I still wasn't in the right mind to put myself out on the skinny branch. Finding my smile again has been one of the hardest things, the patient support of my children and Tom and the backing of the Bipolar UK group have kept me here, and kept me going.
Ironically, a symptom of my condition is overdoing it.
Thank you for helping to spread the awareness of Bipolar Disorder.
Yvie & Tom