A hypomanic bipolar episode made me believe I caused the pandemic

When lockdown was first announced back in March, I was going through a hypomania bipolar episode.

I was diagnosed with a severe mood disorder in my teens, but hadn’t had a serious incident since 2016, when I attempted to jump out of a window.

For me, when an episode happens, I can become very agitated. My speech is rapid, as is my thought process, and I think I can take on the world. I will make a lot of plans and sometimes ring people up to 30 times a day.

Symptoms of hypomania can also include intrusive thoughts, paranoia, lack of sleep, destructive behaviour and a loss of reality. 

This time around, I had been in an elevated mood for weeks, with bundles of energy following a busy January that saw me self-publish a book and host a big launch event.

All of this was, of course, going to over-stimulate me.

On the day of my episode, as I peaked into my manic state, I had been dancing around to the same song for six hours. I also let my son dress me up as a Star Wars character and he was having fun – for a while.  

Receiving a shopping list from my mum, who I live with, along with my child, tipped me over the edge.

She has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a serious lung condition, and is classed as high risk.

But as everyone was clearing the shelves at the supermarket, I felt I had no way of going out. Hysterical, I called my cousin, begging him to get my mum some bread and pasta while repeating ‘I knew this was going to happen’.

You see, about a year earlier, I had heard an intrusive thought that said ‘you think you have time’. Over time, I became convinced that this had been a warning of the coming pandemic.

I was in utter despair, thinking that I could have prevented coronavirus.

I started to lose my grip on reality and went into panic mode. I kept having intrusive thoughts, and as they got louder and more frequent, I snapped.

I called everyone I knew, telling them over and over again that it was my fault that the shops were empty.

And that I was to blame for coronavirus arriving in the UK.

A few hours after making these calls, I was rushed to hospital by ambulance and I don’t remember much of the next few days, apart from sleeping.

Once the episode passed, I had to build myself back up again, which is always difficult.

I was drained, both physically and emotionally. It was also hard knowing that my son had seen my in this state and that this experience will stay with him.

Thankfully, the rest of lockdown was much calmer.

I felt safer in my house and my career was going well, which helped. I also made new friends, threw myself into my writing and adjusted my food intake, and scheduled in regular exercise and meditation. 

I’ve also not had the best experiences with professionals. After my first major episode in 2016, I wasn’t monitored properly – and I believe that’s why I ended up ill at the start of lockdown.

I am now seeing my consultant again, but I’ve had to fight to get the care I deserve.

All my life, I have had my illness used against me.

I have been called an attention-seeker by people who I thought were my close friends, and it hurt. I didn’t choose to be different, and in the past, I have hated myself for it.

But I’m not angry anymore; people can only understand their level of experience and not everyone is supposed to be in your life forever.

The Bipolar UK chart, which shows the different levels of your moods by using numbers and colours, has been a godsend for my loved ones – especially for my son who, at only nine years of age, easily understands it.

I’m trying my hardest to stay as well as I can for him.

My son is the reason I am still alive, and I owe him the world. He makes me want to not just survive, but live.

It’s important to note that bipolar is not a one-size-fits-all illness. There are a lot of misconceptions around it and everyone’s episodes will affect them differently.

While I know that it can be terrifying to see someone in a state of mania, please remember that it’s not their ‘fault’.

If you encounter someone who is struggling through a low time, it’s important to love them a little bit harder and get them the help they need before it reaches crisis point.

I want people to educate themselves as much as possible about the condition, so that those suffering with bipolar – or any form of severe mental health issue – can access better support.

But above all else, I want you to know that, despite the setbacks, you can still achieve incredible things. 

You can find out more about Natasha’s book here. For anyone who needs help and support with bipolar disorder please visit Bipolar UK.

Need support for your mental health?

You can contact mental health charity Mind on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463.

Mind can also be reached by email at [email protected].org.uk.

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