My Name is Rachel and I Have Bipolar Disorder

April 2014


My name is Rachel and I have bipolar disorder. I'm glad to say that I'm one of the lucky ones for whom medication and a good counsellor keep the worst of it under control. That said, I'll never be "normal" by the standards of those for whom normal is something to aspire to. I try my very best to be a good and loving person and it wish it were that that defined me, not my illness or the ways in which I behave on the occasions it gets the better of me.

My name is Rachel and I have bipolar disorder. Most people don't like me because they can't handle my manic side, my depressive side or both. For some, they don't even bother to get to know me before deciding they don't want to; the stigma is enough. It's taken me 33 years to get to this point, but I'm (mostly) OK with that now. The important thing is, I'm not pretending any more. In my darkest moments I can't imagine ever finding someone who will truly love me, but then if you're not going to love me for who I really am there's not much point having it anyway.

My name is Rachel and I have bipolar disorder. Some people think that means I can't be a decent employee and I should just give up on having a worthwhile career. That's crap. I am just as good as anyone else and I can succeed or fail just like anyone else. The difference is, I've worked ten times harder to get to where I am and I'm going to work twenty times harder to stay here.

My name is Rachel and I have bipolar disorder. During periods of depression I really do feel as though I'm in hell, not just because of my own pain but also the crippling guilt and sense of failure that accompany mental illness. It's a cliche but there are times when I genuinely believe other people would be better off without me. I know how it feels not just to wish I was dead but to act upon that feeling. I know how it feels to fail and be relieved. I know how it feels to fail and be devastated.

My name is Rachel and I have bipolar disorder. This is an illness with a 15% mortality rate. Simply put, more than 1 in 7 sufferers will die as a result of suicide, and I'm still here more from blind luck than anything else. Suicide is also the most common cause of death in the UK in men under the age of 50 and someone I cared very deeply about took his own life a few months ago. From both a statistical and personal point of view, these figures are just not good enough.

My name is Rachel and I have bipolar disorder. I have spent most of my adult life being ashamed to admit that, because I'm afraid of what people will think of me. But the more I hear about other people's experiences, and think honestly about my own, the more I believe that the only way to start to make things better is to take the stigma away from suicide (and mental illness in general) so that people don't have to suffer alone. This is my contribution.

You might also want to read The Worst Week of My Life, about my time on a psychiatric ward in 2007.

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