I suffered undiagnosed for almost 15 years, struggling outside the system. My Recovery has been steady albeit with two relapses along the way. My bi-polar mood disorder has changed both the way I live my life and how I see the future. Looking back, most significantly was how I was able to resume full time employment. Following my last psychiatric admission in 2014 my confidence in myself wanned and hit an all-time low. Initially I was all consumed and super vigilant fearing another episode, another breakdown. My concentration and memory were hit hard and I struggled to absorb and retain information. I was very pessimistic that I would ever be able to return to my job as an IT Project Manager. I was afraid of failing of being shown as mental incompetent.
I gave myself and most importantly, my brain time. I took up full time study for a year in 2015/16 which gave me a focus and a goal. I had decided to leave my old career behind – in part because I didn’t want to fail and start again as a mental health advocate. This was something I now could relate my direct experience to and with a new found passion and drive help improve mental health services for others. Unfortunately, paid employment assumes a background in either nursing or social care – neither of which I have. So, I pivoted, I looked for opportunities on how to become an advocate. Luckily, I discovered a course covering advocacy and activism in my nearest city and signed up. I made lots of contacts and began volunteering with several mental health related organisations. I grew more comfortable and adept at sharing my story and talking to others whether it be family, friends, the public or others suffering.
I realized that sharing my story had a dual, beneficial outcome, it reminded me how far I had come and gave hope to others starting their own recovery that managing a bi-polar diagnosis well was possible. That a life worth living was possible. Being able to stand beside others to “hold their hope” until they too reached that understanding is one of my most rewarding and humbling accomplishments. It is a completely different feeling from the professional successes I have achieved in the past. It is a testament to non-judgmental compassion from one human being to another and recognition that we all have mental health, sometimes good, sometimes not so good.
So while my last few years have had some highs and lows I have been able to develop, to grow in areas I never expected as not everything has returned to how it was before – and that is a good thing! It’s may have taken a while but that has just made it all the more precious. In recalibrating my life, I am getting there; one small step at a time, one deep breath at a time and most importantly with a smile on my face.
Nicola first experienced mental health difficulties in her mid-twenties after an incident of self-harming. From that time until her first hospital admission over twenty years later she struggled outside the system without knowing she had bi-polar mood disorder. Now based in Eastbourne she works with Sunflowers Mental Health & Wellbeing CIC as a Peer Support Coach sharing her experiences to support others in Recovery.
Sunflowers Mental Health & Wellbeing CIC
Tel: 01323 840046