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Sally Buchanan-Hagen

Taming My Mental Illness

Quite a while ago I was told that during spring and summer I would most likely be controlling underlying mania and during winter I would be fighting depression. This is because medication doesn’t work very well for me, my moods are very seasonal and I have the type of bipolar that would make me constantly unwell if I didn’t control it. This is something I still think a lot about. 

Long Way Down

‘It feels like a long way down.’ Yes it certainly does. The crashing fall from the highest peaks of manic elation to the deepest depths of despairing depression is devastating. 

Walking the Bipolar Tightrope Without My Pole

A few months ago my mood tipped the scales into hypomania, dangerously verging on mania. This is an issue for me because once hypomanic I very quickly become chaotically manic. Fortunately I wasn’t bad enough to lose all insight and didn’t stop taking my medication which most definitely would have ended in psychosis and hospitalisation. It happened suddenly – literally overnight. I woke up from a short sleep with my head in the clouds flying high and was doing all the typical things I do when I’m elevated.  

Rebuilding After an Episode

At the start of the year I returned to work after 6 months off due to a depressive episode, and as always, it was hard. 

My Manic Summer

The summer of 2013/2014 was magnificent, exhilarating and glorious. It was also a manic summer. 

I had just come out of one of the darkest winters of my life, where I was hospitalised and everything had ground to a halt for months. Spring came around, and with it hypomania. I was extremely speedy and productive at work, I had countless energy for exercise, writing my thesis seemed like a walk in the park and my creativity had spiked and I was finally recording the songs I had written over the years.  Overall everything was tremendously easy and I was being extremely productive.  

Learning to Be Stable

What is ‘stable’? After 6 years of constant ups and downs I wouldn’t know what euthymia was like if it slapped me in the face. 

I was diagnosed with unipolar depression when I was 20 and up until 22 (when I was re-diagnosed with bipolar), I thought I had been cycling in and out of depression and euthymia on a yearly basis. 

Summer and the Festive Season

Living in the Southern Hemisphere where Christmas and New Years is a time of long, hot days, and having Bipolar with ‘seasonal affective components’ usually results in me becoming elevated. The 15 hours of sunshine, hot weather and days of being active at the beach is enough to push my mood above baseline. The festive cheer, New Years Eve celebrations and bountiful consumption of alcohol add fuel to the already strong burning fire of hypomania and mania. 

Getting Help

Getting help for my bipolar disorder was one of the hardest and best things I’ve done. I’m a pretty proud and independent person so opening up and making myself vulnerable was extremely daunting. 

Sally Buchanan-Hagen

My name’s Sally and I live in Australia. I’m 24, a nurse in the emergency department, an honours student and I have bipolar type I disorder.