Bipolarade: writing from the heart

When I started this blog, I had no real idea what I was going to do with it. I thought I might use it as a space to discuss my views on current affairs (to spare my Twitter followers my bad habit of expressing an idea over four or five tweets!) or to review books. Then at the start of April, I found I was so unwell that I had to take some time off work. Tentatively, encouraged by my friends and some of the many excellent mental health blogs out there, I began to write about my depression. Not long after, I experienced an entirely unexpected manic episode. Now I had to come to terms with a new diagnosis of bipolar, and begin a completely new medication regimen. More and more, blogging became a way for me to explore, and try to make sense of, what I was going through. I still didn’t have any particular thoughts of who might read it; I would post a link for my Twitter friends whenever I wrote a new post, but I was essentially writing for myself, and didn’t have any thoughts of seeking a wider audience.

This week, something happened that made this blog much more than just a therapeutic tool. My post Ten things not to say to a depressed person struck a chord with a number of my Twitter followers. I still can’t fully account for what happened next, but some people liked it enough to share it via various other sites. The mental health charity Mind very kindly re-tweeted a link to my blog and shared it on their Facebook page, which led to the post being featured in the Guardian’s Society daily. Before I could really understand what was happening, visitor numbers to my blog rocketed. Last week, tens of people – if that! – were reading my words. This week it has been tens of thousands.

I wrote 10 things not to say to a depressed person because it helped me to work through some personal hurts and frustrations, but I have been incredibly honoured to find that astounding numbers of people felt that I was speaking to, or for, them. Many took the time to visit the site and leave comments for me, because they wanted to let me know that what I had posted had helped them to feel less alone. Somehow, I had written what they felt, but sometimes struggled to put into words. Readers told me that they wanted to give copies of the post – and its companion piece, Ten supportive things I’m glad someone said to me – to their partner, their family, their students, their therapist. Some people shared their heart-breaking experiences of loneliness, suicide attempts, bereavement and grief. Because I had spoken to them, they felt that they could speak to me, and it was a privilege to be allowed a glimpse into others’ struggles and bravery. I want so much to thank everyone who commented on the pieces, shared a link to my site on Twitter, or participated in the discussions on Facebook, MetaFilter, Reddit, etc. Things got so busy that it became impossible to keep up with all the threads, but I did get some really good ideas for follow-up posts.

I’ve never been much of a one for the view that “everything happens for a reason”, or that adversity is best viewed as a learning opportunity. I don’t like to be told, “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” A month ago I viewed this most recent episode as entirely negative; painful for my family, damaging to my career, and a step backwards after almost ten years of stability. But by writing about my difficulties honestly and truthfully, with no plan beyond therapeutic benefit for myself, I have in a very minor way impacted on some people’s lives for the better. That’s significant. Without ever intending to, I feel like life gave me bipolar, and I ended up making “bipolarade”.



About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards
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17 Responses to Bipolarade: writing from the heart

  1. ‘life gave me bipolar, and I ended up making “bipolarade”’

    Ha! Well, you certainly did. As someone who witnessed in a vicarious, Twitter-fed, way your crisis as it happened, it’s been a privilege and a humbling experience to share, if only virtually, your courage and determination as you’ve wrestled with your difficulties. It feels as if the blog has somehow distilled that experience, and bottled it for the rest of us. Bipolarade indeed!

    I’m so pleased that many, many other people can now access your journey to their immense benefit. Long may your blog continue to humanise the experience of mental illness, and contribute to breaking down the prejudices and misunderstandings of so many.

    • Thank you! I’m glad I was honest on Twitter, too… if I hadn’t been, I would never have built up the fantastic on-line support team that I have. Sometimes it feels like I have my own cheerleading squad encouraging me through the bad times and celebrating my successes. Don’t worry, I have lots of ideas for blog posts bubbling about in that bipolar brain of mine 😉

      • James says:

        Don’t worry, I have lots of ideas for blog posts bubbling about in that bipolar brain of mine

        Yes. Very shrewd move of the web site manager of a mental health charity to give a blog spot to a someone with bipolar – after all they will always becoming up with new ideas for blogs!

  2. nessthehat says:

    As a newcomer to your blog and twitter feed, (I discovered it through the Mind link) I just want to say Hi and tell you what a pleasure it is to read and what a priviledge it is to share with other people. I have a personality disorder and cyclothymia, so much of what you write resonates with my experience and feelings, thank you for expressing my thoughts so well. I look forward to sharing your future thoughts. Take care of yourself.

    • Hi Ness, really glad that you enjoyed my blog and that you can relate to what I’ve been writing. I plan to keep posting as much as I can over the summer, although things may have to slow down a bit when I eventually get back to work. Thanks so much for you kind words 🙂

  3. Susan says:

    I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason but I so believe that you can make most things work out if you have the right approach and you are open to seeing new possibilities. This sounds simple but is almost impossible when you are clinging onto the brink of the abyss. You have done this and it has obviously provided a line of hope for many people out here, a reminder that we can be in control and we are not alone.
    Thank you.

  4. showard76 says:

    Well done you! Congratulatons hopefully sharing your experience has been helpful to others, which is all I ever hope for with my writing about BPD. Best of luck, we all need it when we have to live with these things, and keep up the good work! 🙂 x

  5. Phil says:

    I’m so glad I found your blog via the @Mind tweets. In Ruby Wax’s ‘Losing It’ she talks about the suspicion that underneath the mask, everyone has this turmoil boiling away inside them but for fear of coming across weird or fear of alienating themselves, they never reveal. But when they do, in a supportive environment, everyone else feels they take the mask off as well; when people resonate with each other we can bring out a harmony of hidden fears and human experience which is more than the sum of its parts.

    Mental illness is shitty. I’ve never been one of those who spoke about its precious side or hidden benefits. If a wand could be waved that removed it from my life and my past I’d happily accede. But the way that experiences can bring people together, and the way that shared pain and frustration can somehow make us stronger, is precious indeed

  6. And it takes a brave person to be so open. Congratulations C!

  7. Shah Wharton says:

    I was one of those sharing it like crazy. IT was so well put and painfully accurate. You deserve the exposure it provided. A fabulous post. As is this, because its inspirational. Would LOVE it if you stopped by my blog and linked it up. It’s Monday Madness for mental health bloggers at my blog today and I like to showcase my the communities writing to as many as possible, for the benefit of all who stop by. Shah .X

  8. Shah Wharton says:

    What a fabulous place. I left a message the other day and its not up, so I might have not done the word verification bit or something – I’m always doing that. Its so frustrating! Great post – you’re up on my blog roll and I’m following. I do a Monday mental health linky you might have heard of – feel free to link up. Today I’m reviewing a book about OCD/panic disorder/domestic violence – a thriller. A fabulous debut too! Have a great week. Shah X

  9. Di says:

    Something that I really struggle with is trying to overcome the prejudices that I have built up in my own mind because of the things I have heard other people say about depression and mental illness. Strangely they are prejudices which I only apply to myself – I never apply them to other people with mental illness. So desperate have I been for other people to like me and not to judge me by my mental state that I have denied being depressed and have refused to allow myself to seek help my entire life – until last year when my husband urged me to. I could add to your 10 things list, but I’ll spare you my ranting!
    Thanks for sharing.

  10. Viv says:

    Fantastic stuff.
    I am amazed at how far and how fast one post seemed to travel.

  11. People can react in two ways to suffering: they can turn inward with bitterness, or they can turn outward with empathy. You have turned outward by sharing yourself, and you have lit a candle against the darkness. I salute you.

  12. Kalie Hubick says:

    Ok, as you’ll see at the end of this post that I feel the need to tell you that my intention at the beginning of writing this wasn’t to give advice. I never do that unless I am asked or have a relationship with the person but I just have some encouragement for you near the end that I hope you don’t take offence to. I haven’t read other replies so perhaps I am not alone. Just caring about another person is always a good thing….


    Just wanted you to know that the place I read 10 Things Not to Say… was posted on CrazyMeds’ facebook page. And since I read that blog, I bookmarked your site. I believe it was read by many on CrazyMed FB page and with many many comments. And as it has a ton of followers on the crazymed site itself I would imagine you got a lot of hits from us who say we have “brain cooties” LOL (By the way anyone who is reading this, if you want the straight scoop on Psych Meds, Jerrod is the man to go to on there is also a forum to talk strictly about medication)

    But I digress, I’ve just started reading some of your posts today starting at the top so it hasn’t been many but already I know I will be coming here often. I too use humour (not ignorantly like some) to deal with my mental health and it has been heralded as one of my strengths in this battle both by close friends and the professionals I have dealt with. I can see it is for you too when appropriate. But Girl, I too would have been completely overwhelmed by a jump in readership from friends to the masses so I hope you can give yourself some grace in what you’ve went through.

    I just want to say that I hope you keep writing. I can see that it must help YOU, and I know that it has and will help others). From one survivor to another PLEASE only write when it’s for YOU!
    I believe if that continues, YOU will be ok. And as far as the public arena goes, I am confident that we will all feel as if we have read something real versus if it has been produced for the masses.

    I hope you know what I am saying. I’m in the Social Work field and so I KNOW what compassion fatigue feels like, you don’t want to get there. Don’t feel like you need to respond to ever person who comments. I know that you aren’t but I am surprised by how much you do. Maybe that is a good thing for you. But with increase in numbers, again don’t forget to take care of YOU first.

    So now I am going to go up to the top of this message and say that I don’t mean to give you advice, it all just came out in concern for a fellow “journey-er”

    Sincerely, Kalie

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