This is me..
Five years ago, after the birth of my first child, I thought my kite was damaged beyond repair due to a crippling and rare mental illness. Today my kite is soaring and I would like to share with you the journey I took to rebuild that broken kite.
Hello. I’m Hannah. I’m many things- a mum, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an HR professional. I have recently become the owner of a tech start-up. I have a degree in psychology. I’m a friend to so many beautiful people. I also have Bipolar Disorder.
Bipolar doesn’t define who I am but it is a huge part of me. Which is why I tell new friends about my illness very soon on in our relationship. Sometimes even the “first date”. It has become a bit of a running joke with my husband- when I come back from a drink or coffee with a new acquaintance he says “so did you tell them about your bipolar?”. Invariably I say “yes!”.
To be honest I haven’t always been so open about it. For a long time I felt so much shame.
If you had told me 6 years ago that I would end up having bipolar I wouldn’t have believed you. Sadly one of the reasons I would have had that reaction was because I saw myself as “normal”- whatever that means. I had a successful career, a loving marriage, stable friendships. I wasn’t on the fringes of society, I didn’t take drugs, I wasn’t a creative person and I wasn't particularly “moody”. All of the stereotypes that exist for people suffering with bipolar- I was the opposite.
But, after the birth of my daughter, my first baby, I became unwell. Very unwell. I became severely manic, followed by cycles of crippling depression, and was eventually diagnosed with Postpartum Bipolar disorder triggered by childbirth. I had no idea that this form of bipolar even existed let alone what the warning signs were. None of us did. What was meant to be the most exciting and special time of our lives became an absolute nightmare. This illness came storming into our lives like a hurricane, ravaged us, and left us to pick up the pieces.
There are many reasons I wanted to start this blog. The biggest reason is that mental health still has such a terrible stigma. There are so many people hiding the fact that they are suffering for the fear of being judged. Unable to tell friends or their employer and who feel so isolated and worthless. It absolutely breaks my heart.
So I want to pour that heart out to you, to help you understand what this illness is and how it affects people. I want to normalise it by speaking openly and honestly with you, to share some sad stories but also to share some amusing ones- to make it seem less “scary”. Because mental illness- especially illnesses such as bipolar, schizophrenia and personality disorders- scare people. We are scared by things we don’t understand. We make judgements based on very little knowledge of the facts. I based my opinion of bipolar on movies, TV shows and text books. Which is what we all do.
When I became ill I frantically searched online for other women who had experienced this form of bipolar. I found a few snippets and articles but what I desperately needed was to see a story of someone who had come out the other end- a success story. Who was living a stable and happy life. All I could find were the horror stories. The broken marriages and hospitalisations.
For a long time I felt that my life was ruined, that I was going to struggle for the rest of my life to keep my bipolar under control. It was truly frightening. So my hope is that this blog will provide comfort and hope to mums who have been diagnosed with this illness postpartum or who are struggling with any form of postpartum mental illness. For it to extend beyond that- to reach any individual with a mental illness who feels alone, hopeless or judged. And for it to continue to open up the conversation about the way we view mental illness as a society.
My dream is that one day people might feel as comfortable talking about their mental health as they do about any physical ailment. We wouldn’t dream of judging someone because they suffer from arthritis or diabetes. We don’t look away if someone is in pain with a broken leg. Mental illness should be no different.
So my blog will focus on sharing with you what this illness is, what happened to me in that first year, and in the years since, the ways I stay well and the impacts on my relationship and my marriage. Intertwined into these stories I will share some of my Kite journey and how I came to building the Kite App.
My main message through it all is that no matter how terrible you are feeling it can always get better. There is always hope.
We have to keep talking about mental health. We have to become better at helping those who are suffering. We have to make it “normal” not awkward. We have to become more educated so we can help. We cant bury our heads in the sand or look away anymore.
I look forward to you being part of my blog journey. I truly hope it makes a difference to you in some way