Bipolar away from home

I have always felt different from everyone else. From an early age I have had to cope with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), making it hard for me to communicate with others, especially on a mass social scale, but a great positive of the condition is that it allows me to build up a vast knowledge of information on a particular subject, to encyclopaedic scale.

For me that area was broadcasting with a particular interest in radio, and eventually I got the chance to put that knowledge to its best use and learn even more, by getting accepted to the Radio Production course at the University of Westminster.

I wasn’t worried about being away from home, I was born in London and had lived there at an early age, and definitely felt more at home there than in my current home in Canterbury.

It was hard getting used to some parts of the course, but my involvement in the student radio station on campus helped me to make a lot of friends and develop a social life that I had never enjoyed to that sort of scale before.

As well as presenting, I had a role as Head of Production which involved producing jingles and trailers for the station, which felt really positive knowing that something I had produced was being aired on the station every hour of every day.

But gradually over the first two years of what was meant to be a three year course, a lot started to build up deep inside, and whilst I thought it was all positive, everyone else around me wasn’t too sure and didn’t understand a word I was saying to them.

It all came to a head in the summer in between my second and third year when I was back at home in Canterbury, and began writing all sorts of nonsense on Facebook and I wanted to implement imaginary scenarios in my head for real.

Which is natural for someone with ASD, they don’t have many friends around them day-to-day so they develop imaginary situations of their ideal world.

But it later turned out that it was something else altogether and I just couldn’t control what I was doing.

I was taken into hospital (although my memory is sketchy about the whole experience, it may have been more than one hospital) and given three weeks to recover. When I got out shortly before I was meant to return to University, all my enthusiasm had gone, and I was now depressed.

It felt like a punishment for being “too creative” if there was ever such a thing, but I had experienced a manic episode and was diagnosed with hypomania.

Hang on a second, is this a completely new invisible condition I am now having to deal with?

The word “mental” had been used in many forms as a derogatory term since I was at school, but only now did I realise what it really meant, and the side effects were hard to cope with.

My production role at the radio station had gone, and I was starting to realise that maybe this wasn’t the utopia I was expecting.

It wasn’t that my classmates weren’t interested, they just weren’t sure how to deal with my condition, and wanted to leave me in peace.

Despite my struggles I did return to University the following year, completed my course and graduated with a 2.1.

But leaving London and returning to Canterbury was never going to be easy, and trying to find my way into the real world has not been straightforward.

Getting by with ASD is hard enough, but having to cope with bipolar disorder is even more complicated and although I haven’t had an episode as drastic as the one that got me into hospital, there are moments when I find things too much to cope with and I burst into tears.

I am confident however that I will find something to help me get along in the long term, and if I have people who understand my condition and accept that getting along isn’t as easy for me as it is for them, then a brighter path will slowly emerge.

But I wouldn’t want my condition to vanish altogether. It defines who and what I am, and my life would be a lot duller without it.


You can follow Robin on Twitter @robinblamires