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By Laura Chapman

If there’s one thing the last few weeks have taught me it’s that there really is no shame in admitting you’ve got a problem and want to open up about it.

When the death of Robin Williams was announced just last month, many people were stunned into silence that someone so bright, so vibrant and seemingly full of life and talent could take their own life. What many don’t realize is that a lot of the time, the smiles and the generosity of time and spirit can often hide something that runs much deeper and hits much harder.

I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder just a few short months ago, but believe me, it took me years to be able to talk and to be able to open up, even though I knew and suspected there might well be a problem (so did my family, but they were also too afraid to ask, or to push me to seek help).
My moods had always been what my mom called “all over the place”, but it seemed to be much more extreme than a case of clinical depression. This seemed to be so much more intense, the manic hyper states of anxiety juxtaposed with extreme lows, so bad I was debilitated and couldn’t even raise my head off the pillow for weeks at a time.

Once it got to a point where the moods were coming in cycles and happening more and more regularly, it was my partner who pushed me into an appointment with a professional. I think, if we were both honest, we knew what it was. But hearing it being confirmed a little while later still felt like a hammer blow.

I’ve had to, in a lot of ways, change my life. Treatment for the symptoms of the illness can vary wildly from patient to patient and finding one “cure all” way of helping sufferers isn’t possible. I’ve had to accept that for now I’m going to be on a strong regimen of anti-depressants and therapy, until I can come to terms with everything and also until my moods stabilize. But, I can honestly say, now I know I feel I can deal with life better than I ever could. If you’re suffering with any of the warning signs, speak up and get help.