I know I’ve been blogging much less. I feel guilty about it; I love my blog, and I would never my fantastic readers for granted. Blogging’s been a core part of who I am for over two years now. But as I move further into recovery – and I have finally got to that point where I can confidently refer to the last three years as, “the bipolar episode I’ve just recovered from” – there are more and more things to occupy my attention.
The biggest thing by far is “the book.” I’ve been working on a book-length bipolar memoir, detailing with the effect of largely untreated bipolar on my life, for well over a year. At first the work went in fits and starts, because it had to be fitted around continued fluctuations in mood. Sometimes I had to down tools for days or even weeks at a time, because picking through my past became too distressing. In recent months, as I’ve become more stable and the book has passed through initial stages into editing/polishing, it has picked up a momentum of its own. My challenge now is to avoid doing what I would really like to do, which is to spend all day every day on the manuscript. When I’m doing other things, I feel the book calling to me. Away on holiday I found myself missing it in the way I might miss a person. But I have learned the hard way that twelve-hour writing days or sitting up editing into the night are surefire ways to get hypomania brewing. It’s frustrating not to be able to throw everything I’ve got at the project; I just want it finished! But I have to pace myself so I don’t jeopardise my recovery. I’m at the third draft point and am tentatively thinking about looking for an agent, which is both exciting and terrifying.
The book isn’t the only writing I’m doing, of course. I continue to blog monthly for the International Bipolar Foundation and I’ve just had a piece come in the new One in Four Magazine. But sometimes it feels like the memoir demands so much of me that, there’s not much creativity left in me.
Outside of writing, things are going well. It seems that after being unable to work for a couple of years I am slowly getting back into employment, although what I am doing now couldn’t be more different from the kind of nine to five, Monday to Friday public sector jobs I’m used to. What’s emerging is what I am told is called a “portfolio career”, all of it focused on mental health.
- I continue to deliver Expert by Experience talks for Mind to both private and voluntary sector clients.
- I attend focus groups or “listening exercises”, which can be really useful ways to influence policy. In the past few months I’ve contributed to a focus group on identifying key points for mental health intervention; another on creating a more positive narrative about the benefits system; and a listening exercise with senior DWP figures about what helps and hinders people with mental health conditions when seeking or retaining work.
- I’m also doing a piece of work for the Mind training team. Initially this was to assist them with gathering information from the many course evaluations they collect, but I’m currently really enjoying digging into the data and gathering delegates’ views on Mind training.
- A couple of days a month I work as a peer researcher on project run jointly with the McPin Foundation and UCL. The study is investigating how women make decisions about whether to carry on or discontinue psychotropic meds (mood stabilisers, anti-epileptics or antipsychotics) in pregnancy. I am one of four peer researchers who will be leading a qualitative pilot study, interviewing women about their experiences.
- My colleague Anna and I are starting a brand new venture, Insider Training. We’re just about to have a formal launch, but in the interim we’re tweaking the website and working on a list of potential clients. We believe we bring a unique viewpoint on mental health, since we are experts both by profession (Anna has worked in mental health for many years, and is currently a psychotherapist specialising in severe mental illness) and by experience (yep, that’s me, although of course I also have a decade’s health and social care experience). We think that when we work together we have a special chemistry, and we want inspire people, as well as provide them with essential knowledge and practical skills. We are very recovery-focused, so our aim is to equip professionals to support service users through the challenges and triumphs of their recovery journeys.
- There’s going to be more! I have some other projects with other people in the pipeline. The best thing about everything I am doing at the moment is that I am working with some of the most interesting and inspiring people I know.
So if I blog a little less for a while, please forgive me! I’m out in the world, doing my best to change opinion and prioritise the needs of people mental health problems. I’ll be here as much as I can, but in the meantime you can keep tabs on me via Twitter (@BipolarBlogger and @MH_Insiders) or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/BipolarBlogger).