Kate and Nathan
When I first met Kate she revealed a whole host of interesting facts about herself, but the one that I’m going to talk about is the fact she has bipolar disorder.
29th October 2013, 11.24am | Written by Kate and Nathan
When I first met Kate she revealed a whole host of interesting facts about herself, but the one that I’m going to talk about is the fact she has bipolar disorder. I had an inkling of what this may have been, but I didn’t know much more than that she may be a bit up and down. Knowing why Kate may be having a hard time or feeling the way she did made all the difference to me, and I hope to her too. There were times when she seemed a little unreasonable, but knowing that she may be going through a rough patch made more understanding, and strangely enough more empathetic.
I told Nathan early on in our relationship that I had had struggles with my mental health. I thought it was really important that he knew straight away – after all having bipolar disorder is a part of who I am, and I wasn’t going to pretend that it wouldn’t bring challenges with it. I tried to explain the basics of what that meant for both of us, but I don’t think anything other than actually going through the experience can make you learn the best way to deal with it. By having that initial conversation, when things did go a bit topsy turvy I didn’t have to go through the stress of explaining why, and not knowing how Nathan would react.
Talking is key, Sir Francis Bacon has been quoted as saying, “Knowledge is power” I tend to agree, but I’d like to go one step further and say that knowledge is empowering. If Kate hadn’t have told me that she suffered from bipolar disorder then I think we would have really struggled in our relationship, I wouldn’t know why she was suddenly feeling so down that she couldn’t move from the sofa or do anything apart from curl up into a ball. But I did so I just tried my best to help her and be there for her, it wasn’t an onerous task and I like to think it has made a difference having someone there for her.
Once I knew Nathan was willing to be there for me and try to help, I told him a few of the things that had helped in the past – like my mum popping over and making me put the washing on, bringing a few days of ready meals to put in the fridge – little things to make it easier to get back on my feet and into a routine. Now that we live together Nathan has been able to help me maintain a lifestyle that will help to stop me going downhill in the first place. In the past it would be easy for me to fall out of a positive routine – now if I don’t feel like going to yoga, Nathan is there to encourage (or force!) me to go. But he couldn’t do these things if I didn’t tell him how I’m feeling – if I don’t do that, he can’t help.
Your brain and your mind are part of you and if you suffer from mental health problems you should not be ashamed or afraid to tell people so that they know, so that they can better understand and offer support if needed. If a diabetic or an asthmatic has an attack people know what to do, there’s no stigma or finger pointing, and likewise if someone suffering from a mental health illness is struggling then people should be in the same position to offer help, support and more importantly there shouldn’t be any stigma attached.
The stigma attached to having mental health problems often stops people getting the treatment they need. That doesn’t just include things like medication and counselling. Having a good support network is essential and may even stop you deteriorating at times of difficulty. But the only way you can make sure you have a good support network is by telling people about your condition. If I was keeping this a secret from Nathan I imagine being under an enormous amount of stress – and that would just end up making me ill!
That’s why I think it’s so important to talk about mental health, there are many people who have similar problems who feel that they can’t talk about them because of the stigma attached, something I think is counter productive to their and their loved ones wellbeing. But we need to talk about this more, people need to talk about their experiences and methods of coping and unless we start talking about mental health more then we’ll never learn from the knowledge and experience of others.
I would hate to think any of my friends or family weren’t telling me about an illness (physical or mental) they were suffering from because they were ashamed or worried about how I would react. At the end of the day I think the majority of people just want to make sure you’re OK, and to help if they can – and usually that’s easier than it may seem.