I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, when I was 24.

Since then I’ve spent many years hiding it from friends, family and colleagues.

It’s only recently I’ve started writing and speaking openly about it, in the hope that other people, with or without mental health conditions, feel less afraid of them.

While I can’t speak for everyone with manic depression, bipolar disorder, ups and downs or whatever you choose to call it, I believe we have some things in common.

Here’s 21 things you only know if you’re bipolar.

1. It’s hard to finish one thing at a time

On the way up, you start doing the washing up, then you think of a poem and get a quarter of the way through it, then you remember you wanted to alphabetise your books, then you start watching a film, then you do more of the (now cold) washing up.

2. Sometimes the world turns black and white

When you’re depressed you stop enjoying things you used to, nothing seems worthwhile and all you want to do is sleep for a thousand years.

3. It doesn’t mean you’re up and down all the time

Everyone’s different – you can have rapid cycling (where you quickly go from high to low), mixed state (when you have symptoms of depression and mania at the same time), or go gradually up and down with periods of ‘normality’ in between.

4. You may be mildly amused by people who take drugs recreationally

There’s something rather tame about pill-popping in a field of muddy campers on a Bank Holiday weekend when you’re walking around with what feels like a permanent pharmacy dispensing random chemicals in a Russian roulette style in your head.

5. Madness

Everyone experiences mania differently, whether it’s delusions such as thinking you have superpowers, suddenly getting it into your head to get on a train to Scotland instead of the train home, not sleeping because you have so much to write or paint, or suffering hallucinations.

Losing control of your mind is odd to say the least. Imagine losing control of your limbs – having them dance about or do things without your input. Then apply that to your daily thought processes.

6. Stigma

Talking about mental health can be so scary that many people decide not to tell anyone.

The ignorance and discrimination surrounding mental illness isconsiderable.

Although sometimes the person who discriminates the most against you is you.

7. You are probably a great listener

Somehow you have become the one friends turn to with their troubles.

You don’t know whether this is because you’ve had counselling and therefore have picked up how to listen sympathetically, or because you are more guarded than others about yourself so others fill silences with chatter.

8. Pill podge

Oh great, so as well as being mad I have to be fat too, thanks for that, THANKS VERY MUCH.

9. Sometimes pills have unexpectedly cool side effects

I used to have poker straight hair. My pills have made it curly. Honest to God.

10. The buzz

The buzz of hypomania isn’t fun – it’s more like having espresso in your veins.

Admittedly you can get quite a lot done during these times though.

11. You don’t find suicidal thoughts scary

They’re more like preteens hanging round Justin Beiber’s hotel in the rain – sometimes they change, sometimes they go, occasionally we pay them attention but mostly they just linger.

12. Some people apparently don’t believe mental illness exists

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