Kirsty's Story

I started struggling with my mental health when I was about 16 or 17 and was in my sixth year of high school. I suddenly went from a straight A student who loved school to someone who was failing all of her classes and not going in. I wasn’t able to recognise that I was struggling with my mental health and I don’t think people around me were able to recognise either, and so I struggled for 2 years before a friend said to me, ‘I think you might be depressed’. That was a real wake up call and prompted me to seek help with my GP.

Over the next few years, I went on and off different antidepressants and dabbled in counselling to help with my low moods and intrusive thoughts. Still, I struggled and I found myself leaving my university course for a second time.

Depression continued to affect all areas of my life, until in 2020, during the pandemic, I started experiencing high moods. For me this means I slept very little, was full of energy, was overly productive without rest, talked fast incessantly, spent more money and had racing thoughts. It was only then it occurred to me that, like my mum, I probably had bipolar disorder.

I again went to my GP for help who referred me to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist assessed me over the phone and I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2.

Since my diagnosis, my life and mental health have improved greatly. I finally have clarity on what is going on in my brain, and now know how to manage it. I take mood stabilisers but I also do a lot of self-management including going to counselling every two weeks. I have also joined a bipolar support group which has given me a great support network. Moreover, I write out my feelings, exercise and cut out alcohol as it makes my moods very hard to manage.

I've also got a playlist called ‘songs for when sad’ which has some songs which are sad and cathartic, and others that lift you up. I think with music it’s universal and so is mental health so it’s a really good thing to put together. We all love music and we all have mental health so it’s good to relate those things.

I am happy to say that I now have a great job, loving partner and very supportive family and friends, all while living with a diagnosis of bipolar. I have found the more open you are about your mental health the more people understand and can accommodate you.

Over the last couple of years there has been a lot of discussion about mental health, but it needs to be expanded to all aspects of a young person’s life. It needs to be embedded in the education system and in the NHS, because there are a lot of doctors and nurses who won’t take a young person seriously. Even if when they are taken seriously there are long waiting lists. We have to have an overhaul on how people think about mental health. We need to change people's outdated opinions on mental health and put it on par with physical health.

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