Introducing myself, my name is Stuart Jessiman. I’m British, I come from London and I am Bipolar. I was diagnosed in Paris five years ago after seeing a Psychologist following a particularly hypo-manic period that nearly saw the collapse of my marriage and work. People react differently when diagnosed with bipolar. Strangely, this diagnosis far from shocking me gave me a quite profound sense of relief. For over two decades I only had Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) providing a guide to living, but try as I might, I couldn’t get their twelve step programme to work for me and I frequently relapsed into periods of heavy binge drinking despite knowing it could only end badly.
Life for me has changed considerably since being diagnosed. Not that I have cracked a way to live with it yet, but there have been very positive changes. No longer drinking or smoking are two very obvious improvements and my behaviour while still erratic has certainly improved.
Until knowing I was Bipolar it was, I believed, my failure to fully work the AA twelve step program that caused me to relapse. The feeling of guilt and failure corrosived my self-esteem quite considerably. Yet now I believe it was my bipolar that prompted the want to drink – either to pull me up from the pain of depression or to stop a loud, fast-moving mind crazed by conflicted ideas and thoughts. For a day or two perhaps drink did bring me a small measure of tranquillity. But within no time that calm descended into mayhem. It goes without saying that alcohol, if abused is a highly volatile ‘medicine’ that caused huge problems not only for the drinker, but their loved ones too.
Accepting I am bipolar has helped me make sense of the past. Much of what has happened to me over the last 25 years I now believe were the result of Bipolar and not simply a predisposition to drink: drink was a result of the problem and not the problem itself.
Having the diagnosis does not warrant applause, but at least I know where I stand. I now know what I am. I am Bipolar. The value I hope to bring to this blog is articulating my own experience of being bipolar. I am not a councillor. I don’t know what will keep you from spinning into a mania or falling into depression. All I can sincerely hope is that some of what I write resonates with you and perhaps sparks an idea that maybe is useful. Maybe I might make you smile.
I will be collaborating in part with Dr .Suzanne A. Black, a very experienced American Clinical Psychologist whospecialises in the assessment and treatment of Bipolar and to whom I extend much gratitude for diagnosing my condition back in Paris in 2009. I am no longer a patient of Dr Black, but we both feel that there is a lot of value in now transforming our therapeutic ‘patient-doctor’ relationship into a professional collaboration of a different sort: co-authoring blog posts and working together on other bipolar related projects.
For now, I wish you all the best.
P.S. Sorry, if from time to time I lapse into British English! One day I’ll tell you the story of my introduction to the London dialect. Standing at a bus stop one day about to light a cigarette I was asked by an old gentleman if I have a Salmon. To me, fresh to London from the North of England, this was a deeply strange request. I had no fish to hand so the story has not got a happy ending. I gave him a cigarette though.