When I was fifteen, my brain broke.
A magnificent childhood of love, nature, kindness and curiosity was abruptly replaced with loud intrusive thoughts of despising myself, a deep mistrust of every person who came near me and an obsession with God and punishment and hell.
By sixteen I was in a deep, unrelenting numbness and by seventeen I was wildly psychotic. I didn’t know it then but this was the onset of bipolar disorder – an incurable illness that would brutally hurl me back and forth between mania and depression for several more years before I heard that diagnosis. Somehow for all those years I was able to hide my illness.
These posts are my admissions of serious mental illness which is cloaked by a polished image of academic success. It’s a story that occurs far too often – the truth is there are many people like me hiding their illness for one reason or other.
Read the continuation here.
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Over the next few months I am writing my memoir – a process I have started twice before in the last six years. Each time the manuscript has been scrapped; the first because I was unhappy with it and the second as I was closing down my life in preparation for suicide which, blessedly, did not end up happening.
I will be posting sections and excerpts of what I’m writing here on my blog, so be sure to follow me to keep updated!
I’ll warn you now that some of the posts might contain triggering content for people who suffer from mental illness or are close to people who do, and I’ll endeavor to post a warning at the beginning of these types of posts as I publish them.
Lastly, I won’t be writing in chronological order but rather scenes and sections as I recall them or feel ready to write them. Part of the reason I’m writing this memoir is for the therapeutic value to myself of reflecting on the events which have led me thus far and appreciating the challenges I’ve met and overcome, so sometimes events will appear out of order because I’m following some therapeutic writing exercises.
The theme of my memoir is not just bipolar disorder, but how mental illness emerged in my life and posed extra challenges to the goals I was trying to achieve. I know there are a lot of students out there who struggle with mental illness and I want to share how bipolar disorder and other secondary illnesses affected my ability to study, especially at university when life is often a little disordered.
I want people to know that they’re not alone, for every person they know has a mental illness there’s several more who hide it. Some of these people are the ones you’d least expect. Mental illness is not suffered only by the homeless, bag ladies, cat ladies and the person you saw muttering to himself on the sidewalk last week. There’s a whole secret world of people in high-up positions with successful careers, beautiful families and polished outfits, but behind these smiling eyes lies a deep unsettling truth – suffering on sometimes a deadly level. It’s not only possible to have a serious mental illness and lead a successful career, it’s demonstrated every single day by millions of people around the world. This secret world is only unearthed when you start to talk about your own mental illnesses. I hope by talking about mine then people will start talking about theirs and we can end the silence.
Next memoir post: A brewing storm