A brave Rubery man has spoken frankly about his own mental health in an attempt to raise awareness on World Bipolar Day 2018 (Friday 30th March).
28 year old Alex Metcalfe is a volunteer presenter and web and media manager at South Birmingham Radio, a new community radio station based at Great Park.
Alex lives with his fiancé Samantha – who he describes as his “rock and best friend” – and their 4 young sons.
He says he can’t remember a time before Bipolar Disorder. However, he was only diagnosed a few years ago, so spent many years battling a mental health issue he didn’t understand.
Alex – and his loved ones – were plunged back and forth through periods of what he describes as being “dangerously happy” (with mania, a feeling of invincibility, spending money irresponsibly, no fear) or “desperately depressed” (with numerous attempts at taking his own life).
Once Alex was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder – after being sectioned into hospital during a manic episode – he was able, with the right treatment and support, to begin to get control of the illness.
In 2016, the former rigging engineer suffered a bleed on the brain, which his consultant believed was probably caused by the stresses Bipolar Disorder had put on his body over the years: lack of rest for weeks at a time, chemical imbalances etc.
Determined Alex progressed amazingly well in his recovery but has continued to suffer some side effects after the bleed, including a further rebleed, spinal fluid leaks, migraines and issues with concentration, memory loss and his peripheral vision.
Alex is now moving forward: his Bipolar Disorder is under much better control and his rehabilitation from his bleed continues. He and Samantha are getting married this year and he hopes to complete his degree and get back in to employment.
He wants people to have a better understanding of Bipolar Disorder so wrote his honest and open account of his experience on the South Birmingham Radio website for World Bipolar Day 2018. He encourages anyone who thinks they – or someone they know – may be suffering with the disorder to seek help and advice.
Alex is proof that – with a diagnosis, knowledge, treatment and support – a fulfilling life is more than possible.
We wish Alex and his family all the best for the future. Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story, Alex!
For mental health support and advice, visit the MIND website
Hear Alex’s Rock’n’Roll Breakfast Show on Sundays between 7am and 10am show on South Birmingham Radio
“I have been suffering with Bipolar Disorder for as long as I can remember but I was only diagnosed a few years ago.
There’s a misconception that Bipolar Disorder is merely moodswings. I suppose at its root core it is but it’s what those dangerous moodswings do that’s the problem. It’s not just happy and sad. It’s dangerously happy and desperately depressed.
Dangerously happy? You ask. How does one be dangerously happy? Well, for me it starts with whistling and singing around the house which is okay in itself but then that spirals as you get higher and higher on an unstoppable rollercoaster ride that is about to ensue. You get so euphoric, you become delerious, with a constant adrenaline rush. No sleeping, the constant need to be doing something, irritation when somebody is simply walking slowly ahead of you. Everything is fast. Everything has to be done there. Then. NOW. And to an absolutely impeccable and impossible standard which means you don’t finish jobs, you flit from one thing to the next.
At one point in my life, I was so manic that I was convinced I was put on this Earth to decipher the Bible and bring about Armageddon!
There’s also hypomania which is a little milder than mania. And this is one thing I love about having this condition. That may sound terrible but hear me out.
You’re not quite dangerously deluded, argumentative and lacking morals or common sense but you are high. You are so happy. Everything is a delight, dream-like. It’s an impossible state to try to describe accurately. You can do anything you could put your mind to. I literally could do any job without any training, you soak knowledge like a sponge. You can get things done so fast, smoothly and brilliantly.
In both states you do things like stop paying bills or going to work because you are more important than that or have more important and urgent things to do.
The hypomania state though is in itself a happy delusion, it’s a stepping stone to the full blown mania that I already described. You might be happy but what you don’t realise is you’re taking loans out for new business ideas that you think are amazing in your dream like state, you’re spending money like it’s nothing. You have no danger signals, no fear. Fear is how we survive. You have no fear if a group of people were to try and mug you, you have no fear when crossing a road, you have no fear when throwing your money away. There’s no consequences in your head.
This is what destroys families, lives because while you’re in that dream state, you are crushing those around you. Brushing them aside for your projects, angry at them when they try to talk sense in to you. You feel like they’re in the way of your path to become the next saviour of the planet or the next Bill Gates!
It’s not you who personally suffers at this point, you are in denial, in your dream while its those close to you that are truly suffering and having their hearts broken.
Then you realise.
That’s when everything crashes.
The rollercoaster is now at the top of it’s ramp, you’re in the clouds about to have a sudden, fast and stomach churning drop to the ground. Not just to the ground but smashing through it in to the deepest, darkest pits of depression with no middle ground.
You see letters from Corporation Tax or Gambling Commissions or loan companies. What have I done? Your loved ones are there but there’s a wall. They’ve got their guards up. You’ve hurt them again.
I don’t like writing about the depression, I could go on forever about the mania and hypomania. But let me put it this way, I cannot count the amount of suicide attempts I’ve attempted when in this state.
I remember the last episode, I posted a letter through my partner’s door. That’s all I remember until I remember 2 ambulances, 3 police cars and a psychiatrist pull me over in Stoke on the motorway.
How did I get there? When was I even driving? I still don’t know.
Bipolar doesn’t just mental and emotional implications – it has physical implications. Biologically, you are producing more dopamine than your brain can receive producing an unbelievable adrenaline rush throughout both your manic and hypomania episodes. This causes your whole body to be in fight or flight mode.
I suffered a bleed on the brain in 2016 and the consultant said that he believed Bipolar was an underlying cause because of the insomnia, the chemical imbalance and the lack of any rest for weeks on end
Through an amazing network though, my fiancé in particular, my psychiatrist and family I now have my condition under control but there’s so many out there that do not.
Never judge a book by it’s cover. I advise anybody to read up on Bipolar Disorder for themselves. It affects so many sufferers in so many different ways.
If you suspect you have bipolar disorder then please for those around you, I urge you to speak to your GP or one of the many great charities our there such as MIND UK.”