Opinion: Confessions of a manic depressive #timetotalk

Time to talk dayAfter hearing/reading a lot of negative things about people with mental health issues recently first I got angry, then I got writing. This is what I came up with:

My name is Eleanor and I am Bi-Polar/Manic Depressive/crazy. Choose whichever of these you wish, everyone comes to their own conclusion eventually but they all amount to pretty much the same thing, it just depends on how negative a spin you want to put on things I suppose. I also have a phobia of tinsel and used dishcloths. This is completely unrelated to the Bi-polar of course, but they always say you should start with a joke and that’s the funniest thing about me I know.

I have had the symptoms of Bi-polar since I was about 15, but I wasn’t officially diagnosed until a couple of years ago when I was 26. This meant I went through 11 years of being put on the wrong types of medication, all of which contributed to my condition spiralling out of control.  I’ve taken virtually every type of anti-depressant known to man and had all the evil side effects and withdrawal symptoms that go with them. Unfortunately it was always the bad side effects that I managed to get, for example weight gain, which is still a problem to this day. I never got the interesting ones. All of them promised me hallucinations of one kind or another and none of them delivered….Just my luck!

Many people don’t understand what being Bi-polar actually means, I guess this is why I’m putting this down on paper. The most basic knowledge the population has is that someone with this illness “suffers from” extreme highs and lows and this is certainly true. One day I can be the life and soul of the party, extremely talkative, wanting to go out and embrace the world with open arms. But the next I can be so down that getting out of bed seems like an insurmountable task. There has never been any pattern to my highs and lows, either can last for days, weeks or months. Before I was on the right combination of medication, in my manic stages I wouldn’t sleep for as long as they lasted. I was always out partying, dancing, drinking, behaving recklessly, spending money I didn’t have on ridiculous items I would never need if I lived to be one hundred. I would sit up for hours writing pages and pages of rambling thoughts in notebooks, that made no sense when I came down and my mind wasn’t racing, but which at the time of writing I was convinced contained the answer to world peace.

At my lowest I can lie in bed or on the sofa for days on end, no motivation to move, leave the house or even to eat, spending days sobbing into a cushion because I feel so sad it completely overwhelms me – like the bottom has fallen out of my world, but unable to give anybody, even myself, an explanation as to why. It’s impossible to describe the psychological pain I am in a these times. So intense that it is almost physical – like someone had plunged their hand into my chest and was crushing my heart with their bare fingers. This may sound overly dramatic to you, but that’s the closest I’ve ever got to verbalising how it feels.

The un-predictability of my illness has always made me pretty unreliable, as I can never tell what my mood is going to be like on a day to day basis, let alone in a month’s time. I am always making and breaking plans and this has lost me a lot of friends over the years. I guess if you’ve never lived it, you can’t be expected to understand why this keeps happening and after a while people get fed up of what they see as my excuses and disappear  from my life, until I have been left with very few real friends. Whilst my highs and lows are not so extreme now that my illness is controlled, I still suffer from them to a certain extent. At least now they tend to be more manageable and I’ve learned to recognise the signs of when my mood is rising too high or sinking too low so I’m not completely unprepared for what is to come.

There are a lot of things that go hand in hand with mental health problems such as mine – panic attacks, severe anxiety, social phobia, insomnia, chronic fatigue and eating disorders to name just a few. I have experienced all of the aforementioned throughout my life. In my “bad phases” as I tend to call them I have panic attacks so bad that it really does feel like I may never be able to breathe again. These can be triggered by anything from the thought of leaving the house or being out alone, to watching something on tv that triggers something in my mind. Sometimes there isn’t an obvious trigger, which just makes them more frustrating. Meeting or speaking to new people always makes me anxious, I can’t answer a call to my mobile from a withheld number because I don’t know who I will be speaking to and I tend not to use the phone to talk at all if I can avoid it. It probably sounds like a contradiction that I can suffer from insomnia and chronic fatigue at the same time, but believe me it is possible. There are times, all to frequent, that I haven’t got the energy to move around the house, but no matter how tired I am I simply cannot sleep. Andover the years I have suffered from both Anorexia and Bulimia, due to both low self-esteem and a dislike of the way I look, and to using them as a way of controlling one aspect of my life when I had no way of controlling anything else that was happening to me. I have also used self-harm in that sense, I have scars all over my body from razor blades and burns, and have punched too many walls to count in my time. It will make very little sense to anyone who hasn’t been there personally that self-harm can be described as a way of gaining control, but when you are in that much psychological pain day in, day out, and the doctors can’t seem to get a grasp of a way to help you, focussing on the physical pain you cause yourself can be the only thing that gives you some release.

My hands shake constantly. On a good day it’s only a small tremor and it doesn’t really stop me from getting on with everyday life. On a bad day however, it makes everything from making a cup of coffee and gripping the mug without spilling it, to shaving my legs without looking like I’ve done battle with Edward Scissorhands and lost, virtually impossible. At times like these it gets to the point where I can’t order drinks with ice on a night out because the rapid clinking against the glass draws even more attention to the problem, and I gave up having sugar in my drinks years ago because when I’m out in public I end up with more of it on the table than I do in my cup. Room temperature JD and coke and unsweetened coffee and tea have always seemed like a better option than being stared at and judged by strangers who always like to assume the worst.

One of the most common misconceptions about people with Bi-polar, as with any other mental health problem, is that they are a danger to other people. Nothing makes me more angry than when I’m watching a film or television programme and they announce that the serial killer, murderer etc is Bi-polar and just leave it at that – like that explains everything. It doesn’t. Of course it can happen, and it does, but assuming that a person with a mental health issue such as mine is automatically going to go on a killing spree is like assuming anyone with a gun is going to go out and shoot someone in the head, or that anyone who drinks alcohol is going to become and alcoholic. The world just doesn’t work that way. Even at my worst times I have always been more of a danger to myself than to anyone else, which isn’t ideal, but I’d rather hurt myself than harm another being, be that man, woman, child, animal or “other”.


This is a very brief overview of what my life is like. I am not writing any of this to make you feel sorry for me, in fact please don’t. In many ways I am luckier than a lot of people. I have an amazing Mum, Dad, brother and sister who love and support me. We are closer than nearly all families I know. I also have a husband who is willing to put up with all the crap that goes with living with “someone like me” on a daily basis. None of them have ever made me feel like a burden, and they all care enough to be strong for me when I can’t be strong for myself. I also have some wonderful friends who have been there to hold my hand over the years. They know who they are. So I really do have some of the best things that life has to offer, even if there are some things I wouldn’t wish for my worst enemy, let alone myself. I am just writing this to give you some kind of insight into my life, to dispel some myths about people with Bi-polar, and to give you access to my world as I see it. So that maybe next time you hear the term Bi-polar, you see someone having a panic attack, or shaking violently, or obviously finding it difficult to communicate with other people either in a social or professional capacity, that maybe you’ll think twice before labelling them, before laughing, before judging, and before coming to your own conclusions about why they are like that – because they are already carrying a large enough burden without you adding to it. And at the end of the day they are simply another human being with feelings, just like me.


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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Grace Goodlad 6th Feb '14 - 9:00pm

    Thanks Eleanor, Really brave and no doubt hard to share, but invaluable that you did.

  • This piece is raw and from the heart. The ups and downs you feel, for better and worse, are indelibly part of who you are. You do not have a disability, you have a wretched, painful, and poorly understood gift. You need to write more, you have a lot more to say Eleanor.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Feb '14 - 11:11pm

    I think this has the potential to help so many people. Thanks for sharing. And I loved the humour in there too. You write so well.

  • Eleanor Draycott 7th Feb '14 - 11:06am

    Thank you for your comments. I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to my writing.

  • Shaun Haslam 14th May '14 - 10:05pm

    Captured so well by a beautiful Person

  • Eleanor Draycott 15th May '14 - 3:38pm

    Thank you, Shaun 🙂

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