“For the first time I had a diagnosis that explains the massive highs and miserable lows I’ve lived with all my life.”
They were the words of Stephen Fry upon discovering that he had bipolar disorder.
Today is World Bipolar Day, and although it’s a good opportunity to raise awareness, it’s important we do so all year around.
Around 3 in every 100 people suffer from bipolar disorder according to mind.org – 2.6 in every 100 with depression and 9.7 per 100 with mixed anxiety and depression.
These are worrying statistics, especially for a disease which used to carry the stigma of ‘manic depression’.
However, the positive light within these concerning stats is that you are not alone. If you feel lost, worried, or scared there are many organisations and people who can offer support.
NHS guidelines for living with bipolar disorder:
- Medication – to help prevent episodes of mania, hypomania, and depressions
- Medication – to treat main symptoms of depression and mania when they occur
- Learning – to recognise the triggers and signs of an episode of depression or mania
- Psychological treatment – such as talking therapy to help deal and provide advice on relationships
- Lifestyle advice – regular exercise, activities that give you achievement, diet and sleep
Awareness is often raised by those who are in the media spotlight, like Stephen Fry. These people help to personalise the disease, and make their fans feel like they can speak out – that they are not alone.
“It was really hard,” she said. “I never knew when I was going to have the mood changes, it could happen at any time, sometimes even at school and it would be quite embarrassing.
“It would be like the flick of a light switch and it could just happen without a trigger.
“I have OCD as well, and initially went to the doctor about that, I never thought it would be bipolar. But I got the support, my psychiatrist helped me at school and with counselling sessions.
“I’m pretty stable most of the time, the medication helps. I know now, in low moments, that it’ll be ok and I’ll get through it. Sometimes, I don’t want the highs to end.”
Her mum, Kim, also found it difficult – showing that it not only affects the individual suffering from the condition.
Kim said: “Kelly was very popular in school, but used to feel other kids didn’t really like her. She couldn’t concentrate in class. We’d chat for hours about these kids texting her because they wanted to be her friend.
“She used to shoplift and I didn’t know what to do. I just kept talking about right and wrong but it didn’t make sense in her head. Logic doesn’t exist in a person with bi-polar.
“The mood swings were the worst, but I just dealt with them by talking to her and listening to what she said.
“It took four years, a psychiatrist, cognitive therapy and medication, but we are getting there. The worst bit is the lack of help for parents. There are no real answers on how to help your child.
Most people are aware of the struggles felt by Stephen Fry, but what about those celebrities you may not know so much about.
Demi was diagnosed in 2010 and has since become a big advocate for therapy and treatment. The singer is a spokesperson for the Be Vocal: Speak Up campaign – which looks at informing people about the condition.
Demi knew that she had two choices: “I could either not talk about my stint in rehab and hope that it went away, or I could talk about it and inspire people to get help for their issues, as well, so that’s exactly what I did.”
Demi suffered years of waiting to be diagnosed – a common problem. She has spoken of constantly battling against her friends and family who said she was ‘just depressed’ and failed to comprehend her moments of mania.
Was the man who guided Britain to victory in World War Two someone who suffered depression?
One quote from him reads: “I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand right back and if possible get a pillar between me and the train. I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything. A few drops of desperation.”
Although diagnosis in his bipolar can only be speculative, Churchill constantly referred to a ‘black dog’ – which many believe was his depression.
But if anybody can overcome it, and kick it down, it must be the great man himself.
Churchill, of course, lived in an age before anything such as bipolar or ‘manic depression’ was a treatable illness.
The corrie star, and model, opened up back in 2012 about her suicidal thoughts.
“One day I was driving into the ITV studios and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I just crashed my car now and it was all over?’,” she told The Sun.
She also revealed that she in on medication for bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder, but once she stopped taking it, she spiralled into despair. She described it as the ‘worst thing’ she could have done.
Again, the positive effects of medicine in tackling such diseases are shown and with the right help it can be controlled.
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Belgian action hero, Jean-Claude Van Damme, has previously spoken of his bipolar which emerged after problems in his personal life.
He told E! Online, “You just have to take a little salt [the drug sodium valproate], and since I’m doing that it’s, like, BOOM! In one week, I felt it kick in. All the commotion around me, all the water around me, moving left and right around me, became like a lake.”
He also told his reality show, Behind Closed Doors: “Sometimes you’re gonna like me, and sometimes you’re gonna hate me. But what can I do? I’m not perfect … I’m an extreme bipolar, and I’m taking medication for this… When I was young, I was suffering those swing moods. In the morning, the sky was blue going to school, and to me, the sky was black. I was so sad.”
Catherine Zeta Jones
The Welsh actress, married to Hollywood legend Michael Douglas, has helped to prove that anything can trigger the illness, BUT that they are curable.
She was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder (characterised by at least one episode of hypomania and one episode of major depression) after her husband was diagnosed with cancer.
In an interview, with the Daily Telegraph, she said: “when you get sideswiped like that, it’s an obvious trigger for your balance to be a little bit off – not sleeping, worry, stress.”
She checked herself into a hospital in 2011, and again in 2013 – taking the psychological treatment rout
Explore more here and don’t suffer in silence. Reach out. It’s the brave thing to do.
MIND: 0300 123 3393.
Samaritans: 116 123.
CALM: Outside London 0808 802 5858, inside London 0800 58 58 58.