I’m not moody; I’ve got bipolar!
During Mental Health Awareness week, at RNC (Royal National College for the Blind), we will be hearing from our students in a series of blogs where they will be sharing their stories and their experiences through mental health. Unlike physical health problems, mental health issues are not something that people find easy to spot. One of the hardest things for someone suffering from a mental illness is not knowing what is ‘wrong’ with you and not being able to get a diagnosis for it.
Tamzin is a normal 17 year old girl from Wales, she likes “Clothes shopping (Urban Outfitters definitely), music (Bastille especially), Netflix and genuine socialising (pigging out and getting take away).”
Tamzin, like many teenagers, started a blog this year and her introduction reads “Blogging about being a visually impaired, bipolar teen who is an enthusiast for writing, and ending the stigma around mental health.” She was shocked that her first blog received over 1,500 views and she received comments from teachers complimenting her writing and saying that they would be sharing it with their class “It felt good to know that so many people were reading my story, I was happy that people appreciated it and that it had benefitted some people.”
Tamzin explains “Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder alternating from elation to depression. It’s very difficult to educate some people about this illness – or any mental illness as there is this huge stigma about it. You’ve probably heard that bipolar means somebody is just “moody” or, “fine one minute and then depressed the next.” This is certainly not the case and in her blog Tamzin talks about what it is really like living with a mental health condition.
Tamzin gets her diagnosis
“2014 was probably the worst year of my life… I remember being so frustrated because I had felt so low… I had no idea why… I used to cry in almost every single lesson I had… People were confused as to where the year 8 confident girl had gone to; she had disappeared. I would argue and snap at my parents a lot… I isolated myself in my bedroom… Things in my head were so bad I began to self-harm.”
In getting help, we cannot stress the point enough of being able to talk to someone you trust. Tamzin had the support of her family “I sat my mum down, she was aware of how bad things were for me but she had no idea about the self-harm. I told her, it all came out and I remember how brave she was, I knew she wanted to cry because of her face but she kept it in… She booked an appointment with my GP. They referred me to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service), for depression.”
Tamzin explains what it’s like living with a visual impairment
Tamzin recalls “When I look back, I think I did not cope well in mainstream until the age of 14 when I finally realised what my needs were… In primary school I used to cry, almost every day – nobody understood why. Neither did I. I was too young to know how I felt… Now I realise, it was because everything was inaccessible.”
Tamzin is now studying Psychology at RNC and realises the affect her VI (visual impairment) had on her mental health during childhood “Being a psychology student, it makes me think how it damaged me, and my confidence.” But she admits that the transition process to RNC was strange “It is quite weird going from mainstream to ‘specialist education’… Everything is different at RNC… You go from being the only blind person to one of many blind people. You go from not being able to see your work to walking into a classroom and being offered different fonts, colours and sizes. It’s so much easier.”
Tamzin wants other people in her situation to understand they have rights and for them to take advantage of the opportunities that they are entitled to “If you’re reading this as a VI student in mainstream just remember that you too are human- do not stand for any signs of bullying and if your school aren’t delivering the resources you need tell them where to stick it, but more politely… Us disabled people HAVE TO fight, otherwise we will not get what we need or deserve. I’ve learnt that.”
Tamzin urges “Don’t be afraid to talk to someone that you trust. If you think something’s wrong then you should definitely get help.”
“I’m so pleased that I managed to ask for help, get consistent help to make me better. I just wish it was that easy for other people too as I have spoken to fellow friends who have bipolar and it took them years.”
For more information about mental health, there are some useful web links below;
If you would like to find out more about RNC, please call us on 01432 376 621 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Article written by Bik Lee, Digital Media Officer at RNC