Since my diagnosis I have searched for answers, reading and watching all I could about people who also lived with this type of mental illness. But the subject still seemed so taboo and to this day I still prefer to keep my diagnosis to myself, fearing what assumptions others may make of me – many times in my life I have been left feeling awkward when people, not knowing that I have the disorder myself, have talked about it as if everyone who has it is crazy. ‘Ooh did you hear, so and so’s son has bipolar disorder… it must be hard living with someone like that.’ Perhaps it is harder to empathise with mental illness than physical. I can certainly say that from my perspective no one has ever truly accepted its effects on me – I must be able to control it somehow, I didn’t have to be feeling that way. I watched a documentary that asked people with bipolar disorder:
If you had a magic button you could press to take away your bipolar, would you press it?
To my surprise many people said no. For some it was a source of inspiration, it fuelled their talents and was a part of who they were. I would like to state, that if such a button existed… I would press it. I imagine it to be a relief, I have often marvelled at how people around me seem so ‘normal.’ I have always craved that. Now, for me, smoking cannabis is that relief, but it took me time to find it.
I remember attending my first counselling session at the age of 14, being made to go after some mild self-harm. I absolutely hated it, I simply felt uncomfortable being asked to explain to a stranger why I was doing what I was doing. I did not know the answers myself; inside I was ashamed and embarrassed. I have always been self-conscious about my ‘illness.’ I only attended one more session, and that was that for a while. I still continued the way I had, but put it down to the fact that I was a teenager. At this time I had dabbled with cannabis – of course – I had encountered it at house parties, I hung around with an older crowd and some of my friends liked to smoke it. I have to admit although I had tried it now and again; it was more for show than anything, a toke here and there to make sure I fitted in. To be honest I was a little scared of it, I knew that members of my family had had bad experiences with smoking cannabis in the past, I remember hating the dryness it gave me in my mouth, and so seeing no other benefits I disregarded the ‘drug’ as pointless and not worth my time. The few puffs of a joint I had had just made me feel tired, it didn’t make me feel invincible like alcohol did, or on top of the world like ecstasy (which I had also begun trying) and so I never bothered trying it again for a long time.
I am embarrassed to admit that the plant may have even inspired jealousy in me. All I knew is that my boyfriend of the time was smoking it a lot and so were my friends, but I didn’t get it. What was so good about a plant that made my friends not want to go out, and my boyfriend not turn up to meet me? And so I guess a lot of my previous irrationality about weed stemmed from there. It is not that I truly believed smoking the plant to be dangerous, I just developed a dislike for how it made people around me act (not that they were at all a fair sample to base my assumptions about cannabis on.) I had no concept of the vast array of beneficial properties the herb held, like many I was misinformed – or should I say completely uninformed! My life went on, I passed my A levels and went off to university. I had always been pretty independent and living away from home didn’t bother me too much. What I didn’t get on so well with I suppose, was the lack of routine. Of course I had a timetable but social activities took priority over that. My first year was a time of excessive drinking, excessive spending and erratic behaviour and so I decided to see a doctor again.