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surviving bipolar

I wasn't diagnosed till I was 38 but - looking back - realise my first symptoms came when I was a 17yr.old A-level student, recovering from glandular fever. I am lucky - my manic phases far outnumbered my lows and they were wonderful. T.S.Eliot spoke to me, I related to Shakespeare and Chaucer, every song I liked was written just for me, I could party all night long, amuse my friends and converse in 4 languages - nothing was difficult, although when the lows came before exams I became a worthless, stupid fraud. I then got a brilliant degree with minimum effort - and thankfully no lows - maybe due to the adoration of my only one true love. When I started work as a holiday rep I charmed all my customers - I was outgoing, helpful, funny, I partied all night in Spanish discos, read Hundred Years of Solitude by the pool in my free time, worked every day without losing a smile. Then one winter in Lanzarote I lost it. A black cloud just came over me in the incessant sunshine, like in a cartoon - it rained only over me. I took excursions to local beauty spots by day but was racked by the choice of when I got home whether I should drown myself in the bay or put my head in the gas oven. I had to return home to my parents a mess but after 6 months building my life back without pressure was back on a high again. A wild summer working in Lloret, met my husband, got a great job in Mallorca, bought a lovely home and had 2 marvellous sons. Things were going so well but then all would suddenly go black again - usually when I was confronted by some trivial life choice. When the eldest was 18mths old I had a difficult career decision to make and I broke up again. I attempted suicide twice by going to drive off a cliff and then trying to jump out the car on the way to the hospital. I still have the letter I wrote him before setting off. When my second son was just a year old I was working briefly in London and was on such a high- all was going so well but I couldn't sleep and I heard voices. The radio in the hotel room told me to jump off the Post Office Tower. I was arrested there the next day and sent to a mental hospital for 3 weeks when they allowed me to return to Spain and my family. My GP put me on lithium. My life changed. I have now gone for 20 years without an incident. I miss the mania - the creativity, the way everything became connected and made sense, the energy and the feeling on top of the world. But the stablity lithium has brought enabled me to keep my job and raise my children alone (my husband walked out the moment I was diagnosed) and that is more than compensation for what my best friend mania brought. But lithium enables me to be content and to function without extremes, without danger. But I still really miss those highs.