For years, health professionals had seemed unwilling or unable to help Hannah Hogg as she battled depression and anxiety – but finally someone listened, and it turned her life around
Living with bipolar disorder is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. For years, I was trapped in a downward spiral, leading me to question whether it was even worth being alive. I was as low as I could possibly be, and didn’t see any chance of recovery.
I first noticed the symptoms when I was 17, not long after starting college. Though I didn’t experience the hyper moods at first, depression and anxiety were starting to take control. I had one particularly bad anxiety attack that put me in hospital; I genuinely thought I was dying because I couldn’t breathe.
The depression made college incredibly difficult. I would miss days simply because I couldn’t get out of bed, and when I did turn up, I didn’t want to contribute anything. The illness started to dictate my life.
Due to the very nature of bipolar, the symptoms soon changed into something completely different – the hyper stage. Instead of having any positive effect, this drastic and sudden change created more problems. I developed insomnia, which reduced my energy levels even further, and I also developed an eating disorder – I just didn’t feel the need to eat anything. On top of this, my spending started to become excessive whenever I was hyper, as I would buy things just to get me through the day.
It was at this stage that I decided to see my doctor for the first time.
Unfortunately, this only made the problem worse, as initially I was told that there wasn’t anything wrong with me; that what I was feeling would pass, that it was simply “a phase”.
I saw other doctors, who would say that I was anaemic and do countless tests that would (unsurprisingly) all come back negative. It wasn’t until I suffered a breakdown that one doctor told me I was ill, but he didn’t know what was wrong. But despite this, I was still repeatedly brushed off and made to feel that what I was going through wasn’t important, or even real. There were more tests, for diabetes this time, but once again I was no closer to knowing what was actually happening to me.
All of this frustrated the hell out of me. I felt I’d been failed by the NHS, and that my concerns weren’t being taken seriously because of my age.
For years, I was literally fighting myself and the urges of the hyper and depressive sides of this crippling condition. I found it much harder to cope with the depressive side though. When I hadn’t received the help I needed the symptoms continued to manifest themselves, and it wasn’t long until I gave in to depression and my suicidal thoughts and tried to take my own life. I couldn’t cope with the way I was feeling anymore. What was the point of living if I could never lift myself out of my depressed state?
It may sound silly to say that being told that I have bipolar was a blessing, but I just couldn’t believe that I had finally been given closure and recognition
If it wasn’t for a friend, I wouldn’t be here today. He noticed a change in my behaviour and was there for me. When I did act on my thoughts, he was with me all night, phoning an ambulance and staying with me in the hospital. He calmed me down and made me feel less crazy at a time when I felt really crazy and that the whole world was against me.
In 2017, I finally got the diagnosis I’d been fighting to get for years. Someone at last took the time to listen to me. It was one of the best feelings I have ever had, and I felt so overwhelmed that when I got home I just cried.
It may sound silly to say that being told that I have bipolar was a blessing, but I just couldn’t believe that I had finally been given closure and recognition. Something had finally been done, and it felt amazing.
Living with bipolar is like being stuck on a roller coaster. Getting through day-to-day struggles is an accomplishment on its own, but as the years have gone by and I’ve started to understand my condition, I don’t feel being bipolar has held me back.
I cope as best I can and take each day as it comes, as it’s almost impossible to predict what mood I’m going to be in. I can start the day feeling down, then suddenly swing into the hyper phase and feel amazing. It can be hugely frustrating, but now that I’ve learned how to cope, and recognise the little signals of the mood swings, it has become easier for me to manage.
Over the years I have seen countless counsellors, and while some have helped and others haven’t, just knowing that someone’s there to listen is amazing. I’m currently seeing a psychiatrist who has helped a great deal, not just with the diagnosis but also to help me talk through my feelings. I’ve never been the best at opening up, so having this outlet has been invaluable.
It’s been really comforting to have someone to talk to who isn’t my boyfriend or family. Although they have all helped me through many difficult moments, it’s sometimes better to be given advice by an experienced professional, who has helped others through similarly draining and emotional times. Having a confidant who doesn’t know you personally can also be reassuring, as they can help you understand your condition, give you tips on coping with it, and can also provide a non-judgemental environment where you can explain every emotion without feeling self-conscious.
Receiving the diagnosis has given me a new lease of life. I now have a job, and am hoping to progress within the company instead of hopping from one job to another, as I have in the past. I’ve developed a love for writing, that has really helped me verbalise how I’m feeling, and provides an amazing outlet for a lot of things that would otherwise just frustrate me by spinning round and round in my head. Spending time with my boyfriend keeps me grounded and, more importantly, he allows me to be my crazy self. I never feel judged when I’m with him.
If there are any words of wisdom that I can pass on after my own experiences, it would be to always speak up if you feel as if something isn’t right. Even if there’s a long fight to be given the right diagnosis, you will, as I did, get the outcome that you’re looking for. If your experience ends up being anything like mine, I can promise you that the journey will be worth it in the end.
I feel as if I can now live my life to the full, and I’ve already started making up for lost time! For the first time in a long time it feels as if the sky’s the limit, and I can’t wait to see what my future has in store.
Before receiving her diagnosis, Hannah struggled with a tide of difficult symptoms, which left her with moments when suicide seemed like a real option. Fortunately, the support of a friend helped her. Living with bipolar is challenging, but like many, Hannah found that writing and counselling helped, with space to unpack thoughts and feelings without judgement. Although the journey to diagnosis and treatment was difficult, it proved worthwhile, and Hannah is positive about the future.