I’m bipolar. There, I said it. That’s the reason I’m struggling to find a job. Whose fault is this? Does it land squarely on my shoulders? Or is it other people’s perception of what bipolar means to them? Without doubt there’s something wrong with me, right?

It is hard to be on the end of a typical human response that appropriates blame to me in this scenario. We don’t know the full details, we simply don’t have time to investigate so we make a snap judgement that whatever the story was, I am guilty. In recruitment circles it is known as unconscious bias and it isn’t just about mental illness. Unconscious bias is appropriated to women, mothers and ethnic minorities. But what about conscious bias? Deliberate discrimination based upon avoiding a perceived problem causer. Judge, jury and executioner. All done in a split second in someone’s mind.

During a job enquiry the recruiter is looking for ammunition to fail someone’s application. Their job is to cut down the amount of candidates so they are looking for their ‘reason’ for putting a candidate in the rejects pile. So why on earth would I put broadly in plain sight at the top of my CV that I am bipolar? Wouldn’t you expect to hit a brick wall constantly with ‘please give me a job, I am bipolar’ written across the application or resume? So in that scenario it’s got nothing to do with unconscious bias. This is conscious and lucid segregation so I’m sorry but I’m not going to confess my mental illness at this stage of a hiring process thank you very much. I’m sure you can understand and appreciate my reasons.

I’ve tried keeping it a secret from colleagues and employers. Nobody knows I’m bipolar. You cannot tell on the surface. I look just like you. I don’t really suffer any symptoms, I just suffer other people’s prejudice and stigma. The bipolar ‘secret’ is not secret at all, in fact it follows you around in hearsay and gossip.

When you do tell others you risk a lifetime of misrepresentation and stereotypes, bullying, special treatment and above all, a career glass ceiling. I’m the black sheep nobody wants to be associated with. This sorry situation has transpired to make me isolated from major parts of my industry. And I’ve done nothing wrong to anyone. I haven’t hurt a soul. I don’t have a criminal record. In fact, I was discharged from psychiatric care in 2016. Read all about it ->

I cannot own the story of my bipolar because it always happens behind my back. Writing a blog piece is my way to attempt to own the narrative because in the normal context of things I never get the chance to say this because I’m in the reject pile and out on my ear. The is about the duplicity in modern HR. I send you a clean and professional CV/resume. You invite me to interview for a job I can clearly do on paper. You love my portfolio and you invite me to meet up. Then you check out my references. Then you find out from someone from my past that I’m bipolar and the red warning light goes on. It’s game over for me.

At times it certainly feels like the majority want to avoid me based on what? Gossip and hearsay or a perceived threat of violence from a crazed mental health sufferer holding a weapon in some dark, fucked up recess of our imaginations – planted there by media perception. It becomes my problem. I didn’t ask for it. I just got ill when I was 23 years old at University. I pay for that downfall back then. I doesn’t feel fair. It isn’t.

I just need people to stop writing me off before we’ve even got started. Please, please before you judge. Stop and think. Don’t write people off. Give them a chance. I’m a peaceful family man with a solid marriage having raised two wonderful children. That’s it. There’s no skeletons in my closet. I’m not a misogynist or a bully. I haven’t caused a single corporate embarrassment in a 20 year career in advertising. Although I’ve witnessed a few!

Think about the effect you might be having on someone else (and their family) by choosing to react a certain way about this. I am ultimately threatened with losing my home because of an unnecessary judgement about a condition I live with and have managed quietly at home since 1996.

Put yourself in my shoes. Could you put up with this level of marginalisation and questioning? Could you survive it? What if the roles were reversed and I was judging you simply for your biology being different to mine and I’m not even a doctor. What is my hypothesis of you based upon? Medical records? I’m not an expert. I’m not a psychiatrist so what right do I have to cast judgement? This is purely based upon a generalisation with fear as it’s foundation.

You can trust me. You will not need to babysit me or hold my hand for simple tasks. In fact, if you read my references then you will find that not a single one raises any issue of bipolar or that my mood swings had caused irreparable damage to any colleagues whatsoever. They will not talk about that because a) it has never happened and b) I have a a personal integrity and professionalism towards each and every employment I have ever had. And that is all that is relevant in an application. How professional was I? How good was my work? Was I a nice person to have around and work with?

This issue is one of many negatives to being bipolar, but there are also many positives. It’s made me stronger. I’ve felt more things, more deeply; had more experiences, more intensely; loved more, been more loved; laughed more often for having cried more often. It’s a sign that you’re a fighter – every day is about survival. It also gives you more empathy, caring, loyalty and makes you more conscientious – all very positive skills which employers want and can give you a boost in your career.

You are not responsible for your illness. It happened to you. You are, however, responsible for your recovery. So I am forced to fight for every concession and this article is my way of levelling the playing field and owning my career narrative. I just need someone to give me a chance.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

Posted by: hypomanic | September 29, 2017

The abbreviated and full anatomy of my nervous breakdown in 1995.

The eight stages of my nervous breakdown

1. Hubris
2. Sentience
3. Awestruck
4. Doubt
5. Retract
6. Recede
7. Revelation
8. Flux

The abbreviated version of my nervous breakdown


1. An approach/attitude to life
2. Feeling unbreakable
3. The rules do not apply to me
4. Living inverted
5. Too busy / Over stretching
6. Significant
7. Impatient


8. Responsive, sensitive, superhuman
9. Too tuned in


10. Self analysis / Doubt
11. Moral compass


12. Anxiety and restlessness
13. Always on
14. Paranoia / Focus shift


15. Trying to escape the gulag
16. Rejection / Pushed aside
17. Withdraw / Isolate
18. Confusion


19. Neglect
20. Psychosis / Shut down
21. Fear
22. Fight or flight
23. Hanging on
24. Overloaded
25. In another world


26. Clinging on / Triggers
27. Massive panic attack
28. Trance like / Dying


29. Unconscious
30. Release

The full version of my nervous breakdown


1. Insecurity
2. Desire to prove I’m no loser
3. Unhealthy ambition to be the best
4. Work hard, play hard
5. Self sabotage
6. Unhealthy lifestyle
7. Hedonistic outlook
8. 90’s culture of excess
9. Try anything
10. Taking drugs
11. Abusing alcohol
12. Risk taking
13. Anything is possible
14. Nothing can stop me
15. Move any mountain
16. World is my Oyster
17. Bend the rules
18. Self actualisation / Upside down pyramid
19. Stimulants: Caffeine ProPlus & Coffee
20. Bad body chemistry
21. Weight loss
22. Grandiose feelings of destiny
23. Too much responsibility
24. Too many identities
25. Active / Agitated
26. Computer in my bedroom always working
27. Irritability
28. Feeling manic
29. Struggle to make decisions


30. Sensitivity
31. State of awareness
32. Lightening rod


33. Tormented by analysis paralysis
34. Unable to concentrate
35. Unable to feel relaxed
36. Belief systems
37. Guilt from God / Forgive me
38. Moral compass


39. Drugs, sex, guilt, religion
40. Self loathing
41. Anxiety
42. Jumpy
43. Panic attacks
44. Unrelenting restlessness
45. Daily life is stressful
46. Frequency of problems to solve
47. Crisis
48. Incessant march of events and obligations
49. High stress
50. No downtime
51. No boredom
52. Always on
53. Lack of sleep
54. Paranoia / Numerology
55. Forgetting things


56. Escape fantasies
57. Imagination takes over
58. Heart break
59. Rejection / Hurt
60. Withdrawing socially
61. Careless appearance
62. Messy bedroom
63. Feeling alone
64. Isolation
65. Defensive / Unable to trust
66. Confusion


67. Blame
68. Neglect
69. Deliberate holiday from reality
70. In and out of psychosis
71. Speaking in riddles
72. Doors of perception
73. Convinced bad things are about to happen
74. Gideon will kill me
75. Clinging on to sanity
76. Fighting internal forces
77. Possession
78. Mistaken
79. Drama
80. You’re the mad man
81. Overloading consciousness


82. Police, doctors step in
83. Not with it
84. Another world
85. Like in a movie
86. Too much introspection triggering
87. Trouble breathing
88. The root of all insecurity


89. Massive 6 hour panic attack
90. Sensitive hearing
91. Sensitive to velocity
92. Institutionalisation realisation
93. Trance-like turmoil into hypomanic episode


94. Heart racing / vitals under burden
95. Unconscious


There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch the series Mood Awakenings at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1Jm2NAuUD7wdgJZrV8ZbqLPMaD-_092c
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

Posted by: hypomanic | February 21, 2015

20 years living, surviving and thriving with a mental illness

Weeks before a nervous breakdown

Me working late in my students digs in Harrow February 1995.

This week was the 20th Anniversary of a major nervous breakdown I suffered in 1995. Twenty years ago on the 19th February I dropped out of my final year at University in London and was carried 250 miles north into a South Lakeland psychiatric ward and put on a 28 day detainment order, under section 3 of The Mental Health Act. I was suffering from full-blown psychosis after experiencing a stress induced hypomanic episode.

What on earth happened? Well, to cut a long story short, I hadn’t been to sleep for nearly six days straight after using pro plus, amphetamines and copious amounts of coffee so I could write the best ever dissertation, so as to get a grade A honours degree, that would lead to a better career after graduation, which inevitably commands a better salary, leading to a better life in the future for me and my imagined family.

So I had a plan, but I also had a reckless young mind. I didn’t look after me, so nobody else looked out for me either. The spiral into psychosis wasn’t noticed by anyone around me because I was spending more and more of my time reclusively alone on my computer in the bedroom of my student digs in Harrow. I was caught in a perfect storm of circumstances that almost killed me and would certainly change the rest of my life forever.

What do I mean by that? Well, after a year out I returned to complete the remaining semester of my degree, I graduated with the grade I always wanted but only months later in October 1996, once again I lost my mind and ended up in hospital. This time though, the psychiatrist diagnosed me with what was called Manic Depression back then but has since been rebranded to Bipolar. The rest of my life was changed forever from that moment, I was only 24.

And now, twenty years later I’ve learned what it feels like living with it. By controlling my illness I’ve managed to experience the joy of marriage and fatherhood, I have been blessed with two healthy children and I’ve nurtured a career in the creative industries at a senior level, which I am also grateful for. But more than anything this week, I’m celebrating my own acceptance of myself. I’ve endured enough years living in stealth-mode behind the second greatest taboo after death. I wanna speak about it. If feel I owe it to the greater cause or nothing will change for the bipolar community. It’s time to talk. #TimeToTalk

I’ve been hiding my diagnosis in the day-to-day over the years. Why hide? Well, at only 24, when someone gives you the label of Manic Depression it is a huge cross to bear, especially during the social climate of the mid 1990’s. Not to mention that a young graduate has enough debilitating insecurities even before a diagnosis of mental illness is indelibly attached to them. At least I knew. Some poor people go through years of pain and destruction without ever getting the signpost.

Back then, within weeks I realised that now I was different, but not good different – unfashionably different. People drop you like a hat when they find out. There’s a conspiracy of silence from people you consider to be friends, girlfriends leave you and bosses fire you. At the time I felt like I was being run out of South Lakeland, that I had to go back to London and become anonymous within the masses.

That meant I had to survive somehow both personally and professionally avoiding the prejudice of stigma blocking my progress and therefore my personal development. My strategy since then was that you have to survive in plain sight like a Bipolar Zebra, black or white – never grey – but always in camouflage. Don’t be an extrovert, you’ll attract attention and scrutiny. Go to the library, be a book worm and read psychology, neuroscience and mindfulness with a verve as to finding out what actually happened to me in 1995. Why me? Why the fuck me? Was it something I said or did? Did I do something wrong? Did I deserve it?

I know from 20 years of research that acceptance as a manic depressive is an incredible journey for a lot of people who want to blend in and be unremarkable. Bipolar affects 1 in 100 people, so there’s a few of us around. We get together in fellowships and create bonds, the insights exchanged make each other stronger.

Am I cured? No, madness is like gravity, all it takes is a little push. However, I’ve learned you are not responsible for your illness but you are responsible for your recovery. You’ve got to get on with your life. I once went 9 years free without an episode. But it was only a window. My current window is 6 years and counting. Could it happen again? There’s a big difference between seeing a psychiatrist and a psychiatrist wanting to see you. Prevention is always better than cure in my experience. Bipolar can’t be cured.

So what is bipolar? For me, bipolar is like experiencing a good football or rugby match in a packed stadium of passionate fans. Think about it. Your emotions and your mood are affected by something you have little control over, especially if you are not on the pitch. Are you being yourself during the twisting and turning of those 80 or 90 minutes? Bipolar is not about Dr Jeckyll & Mr Hyde, or extremes, or movie depictions.

What caused it? The most important behavioural experience we have is sleep. At University I treated sleep with the upmost disrespect. That it was a waste of my time. Mental illness and sleep are not simply associated but they are physically linked within the brain. Sleep disruption precedes certain types of mental illnesses, including bipolar. Because I didn’t take my sleep seriously in 1995 I’ve then had to live with the consequences of my actions.

It’s widely known that people really only start to live after they’ve faced death. The majority of the last 20 years have been a beautiful and enlightening transformation into someone I would never have had the chance to become had I not had that first nervous breakdown. On the surface, a nervous breakdown implies you are weak, when in fact you are stronger for having gone through it.

The most difficult and painful lesson of all is that I’ve learned to live with something many cannot bear to be close to. They despise it and they can’t see me directly behind it. That is their target and I am caught in the crossfire. They don’t hate me. They can’t see me. They only see ‘it’. It is my bedfellow and it’s in my heart, I cannot remember what it was like before, I only know how it feels now. That’s why I try not to hide so much, to stand up and say something. For the sake of those who still feel they need to stay in the shadow.

I wash my thoughts in light. I am accountable for what I think, say and do. We can’t always blame. Be gracious, patient and grateful. Thank you for the time you just donated reading this. It means a lot to me. If you want to find out more visit www.hypomanic.co.uk.

Posted by: hypomanic | December 15, 2013

Stay curious. Stay well.

My guest blog post ‘Stay curious. Stay well.’ for Jill Sadowsky’s http://jillsmentalhealthresources.wordpress.com/

My name is Victor J Kennedy and I was diagnosed bipolar in 1996, the same year I graduated from university. At that time, I made a promise to myself that as much as I create and consume during the remainder of my life, I would always stay curious and keep learning. I decided to ask questions of everyone and everything to learn more about how to master both my condition and more importantly, myself.

I don’t remember any early bipolar symptoms at primary, middle or upper school, nor do I look back now and realize anything unusual about my biology at that time of my life. So, having a normal childhood meant I could not look backwards to find answers. We had no concrete evidence of bipolar being part of the family bloodline. Whilst at university in my final year, I was not sleeping – deliberately not sleeping to try and write a better dissertation so I could gain a better mark, so get a better graduate job and have a more rewarding career. My latent ambition became my downfall. After the initial breakdown, I decided my new story would be about my recovery, my fight back. I would not let what happened to me also define who I was. I put one foot in front of the other in the form of one question in front of the other. I educated and trained myself to beat what in my growing perception was the second most frightening diagnosis after cancer. I had the bone-rattling realization that for people like me there is a new order at work called stigma. It feels much more real. It feels like the whole world is against you. This is when you really need to dig deep and find the courage to keep asking the questions that will help you understand yourself and how you can survive in this new world you’ve discovered. As you learn and grow, the stigma seems more fragile and less entwined with the other more superficial everyday annoyances and frustrations that we all have. As time goes by, you find the power to brush incoming stigma off your shoulder at will, then you’ll really discover a breakthrough. At one profound moment, to your amazement, you will make a little joke to yourself about stigma and you’ll laugh along with it, quietly and confidently to yourself.

The self I am today, is not the self I was in 1996. And there have been other iterations of myself as I’ve gone through the process of learning. Simply put, I’ve grown up by taking the following steps. Firstly I made myself ready to manage my illness. Then I grew ready to treat other people with respect and became more of an open person despite feeling the omnipotent stigma was there, even when it maybe wasn’t. That openness enabled me the confidence to meet my wife, who took everything I am to heart; so I’ve grown to love someone else and been ready to accept her love in return. I worried for too long about my bloodline and passing on my condition to any future children, but alongside my wife’s support, I’ve grown out of that negative, lonely perception. With her behind me, I grew responsible enough to feel I could be a good father, not just to one child but now I am blessed to have two. I can’t imagine what my life was like before they all came into it.

Some might say my life is complete, but I am too focused on the promise I made to myself at the age of 24, and I know there are as many questions to face as there are to ask, but as long as I stay curious, I know I’ll stay well.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

Posted by: hypomanic | September 5, 2013

I’ve changed my mind.

I’ve learned these insights over the last seventeen years of my diagnosis of bipolar type II which have helped me understand both myself and my recovery. So as a result, I’ve managed to stay well for longer. I feel responsible to share this information. Please take the ones which work best for you and feel free to ignore the ones which are less helpful.

Realisation and acceptance in no particular order… 

– Feeling isolation yet being the one who imposes it, is the easiest way to trick yourself.

– When pejorative labels no longer hurt so much. They’re not an ‘ouch’ anymore. Just a twinge. That’s when you feel progress.

– Demonstrating self-help to yourself. Not to anyone else.

– Understanding and reading symptoms. Listen to your entire body. Really hear it.

– Discovering and realising the triggers. Then cutting them out of your game.

– Understanding your medication and learning to live with side effects. You live in this era of medical advancement, not in the future.

– Trying not to live in the past but looking for answers there is ok. Keep a diary in some form to look back on.

– Deflecting other people’s preconceptions about you or your condition. You don’t have to do this head on. If you have a close relationship with someone else share with them and discuss.

– Discovering ways to help control your thought processes. If you can get a free course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) then take it. You’ll never look back.

– Knowing what fair treatment is and living that way. Treat others the way you want them to treat you.

– Develop coping mechanisms everywhere, certainly for insomnia. Absolutely for the paranoia crisis. This hooks back into recognising triggers.

– Accepting debilitating insecurities and quietening them down. The voice can be dominating for years without actually noticing how it has been talking you into negative states. Conquor it by turning down it’s volume. It’s a tougher ask to make it go away entirely.

– Pursue authentic communication with other people. Don’t speak in riddles, it can confuse and complicate.

– Working on your perception of reality by grounding yourself. Reality is different for everyone. Reality changes because of history. Reality can be shared for comfort if you need to. There are no rules other than trying to avoid a slide into a place where your imagination is taking over and you feel magic shading in. I fear that state because it’s not reality.

– Aim to make each wellness window stay open longer than the last. Try to stay well for 12 months or 12 weeks if you prefer. Just aim further and you’ll do it.

– Always take your medication and never miss a blood test. This is as important as breathing air.

– Start a quest for answers and don’t stop. Read books, search google, watch bipolar videos in youtube, listen to podcasts. Go!

– Start a subscription to Pendulum magazine if you live in the UK. It helps your entire family.

– Finding happiness through lowering your expectations to balance self esteem.

– Seek out better ways to feed yourself which align with better mental health. Eating is as important as medication. Think about food and drink and make better choices accordingly.

– Seek out a local nutritionist and have a chat.

– Take comfort in rituals. Live life a little less extraordinary and a little more structured.

– Investigate to come to terms with your paranoia and then you’ll begin to master it.

– Go running more than once a week or jogging if you can’t run.

– Remember with Lithium, “Swallow the salt and try not to overdose on beauty.”

– Never forget that the brightest dawns follow the darkest nights.

– Everything feels a lot worse at 3am. It always gets better.

– Try and disregard that feeling of rejection. Keep going it will pass.

– Leave the house every morning with protection and with courage.

– Take heed to the words of wisdom that are written on the walls of life. No, not graffiti. Think deeper. They are all there for you. You’ll notice them.

– A side effect of learning to feel isolated is suffering duplicity and sarcasm. It may not be there. Try to look at the situation in another way. I helps clarify what is actually happening. You’ll be relieved.

– We can’t always blame. Be gracious, patient and grateful.

– Rage against the misunderstandings and misconceptions.

– Have faith in what skills you’ve already got and it will carry you on.

– Telling people you have a mental illness is not a sound byte conversation, it’s a big conversation.

– If you need quick fix to avoid stigma just blend in and be unremarkable.

– Biologically, bipolar is very much like diabetes only not as cool. If you were diabetic should you be ashamed of that?

– It’s not about what’s wrong with you, it’s about what’s happened to you.

– You are not responsible for your illness but you are responsible for your recovery. You’ve got to get on with life.

– Don’t try and find someone to save you. Find someone to stand by your side while you save yourself.

– Mood swings cannot be masked by alcohol in the mid to long term.

– Try to stop drinking alcohol or seriously cut down.

– In the UK, join a local MDF group and spend six months visiting once a month to meet other people who share your condition. Stay longer if you think it helps.

– Always keep your 3 to 6 month psychiatrist appointment. They are worth it.

– 1 in 100 people are bipolar. Think how many you must meet everyday. You can’t tell who they are can you?

– If you can, try to live near your doctor’s surgery so motivationally, it makes it easier to go.

– Having a nervous breakdown when you are young is not entirely a bad thing because you have the rest of your life to recover.

– It’s not helpful to convince yourself that you are not attractive or that you will never find someone to love you. You will.

– Who wants to be in the mass anyway?

– Every month when you collect your repeat prescription, the chemist will be 100 pills short and you’ll have to go back again for the excess the day after. Guaranteed.

– In the eyes of stigmata you’re different. But not good different, unfashionably different. It’s almost a complement.

– Some people will drop you like a hat when they find out. Some partners leave you, some bosses fire you and some of your team mates will ridicule you. But not everyone.

– Doubt sometimes can be healthy. Doubt all the time is really bad for you.

– A nervous breakdown in stigma terms implies you are weak, when intact you are stronger for having gone through it.

– Nobody knows your diagnosis by looking at you apart from the chemist.

– Smile at the chemist as you’ll be seeing each other regularly. They’ll eventually smile back.

– There’s a big difference between seeing a psychiatrist and a psychiatrist wanting to see you.

– It helps to have religious observance or spiritual authenticity. Whichever works for you.

– Remember, in adversity we all move forward quicker.

– Comfort food in moderation. But don’t go without.

– Try green tea. It may not be the tastiest brew but it’s very good at avoiding too much caffeine. Also try camomile tea before bedtime.

– Try and go to bed before midnight.

– Put some lavender oil on your pillow if you’re not sleeping so well.

– Travel insurance and life insurance will always cost more if you declare. That doesn’t feel fair.

– In a black sheep democracy, you’re the odd one out if that’s what you believe is happening. Try to think differently.

– It’s hard to find your way out of taboo but don’t stop moving around in it, even if you can’t come out.

– Stigma is just a way we try and control others. Fear of stigma is how it really works. Be brave.

– Why me? Why on earth did it happen to me? Was it something I said or did? Did I do something wrong? Did I deserve it? No, no and no. It’s not you.

I’ve learned to live with something many cannot bear to be close to. They despise it and they cannot see me directly behind it. That is their target and I am caught in the crossfire. They don’t hate me. They can’t see me. They only see ‘it’.

‘It’ is my bedfellow and it is also in my heart. I cannot remember anymore what it was like before, I only know what it feels like now, after the transformation. No way am I defined by it, not by me – not by anyone, but I ignore my well being at my own peril. Never, ever taking my remission windows for granted, however long they last for.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

Posted by: hypomanic | July 31, 2013

My discharge notification letter

18 July 2013


Mr Victor J Kennedy



Dear Victor,

NHS Number: xxx xxx xxxx DOB: 27/06/72


I received a message from my secretary saying that after our discussion during your last appointment, you are happy to be discharged from the outpatient clinic and to be monitored instead by your GP. As you know, the reason for suggesting discharge was that the medication has remained unchanged for a number of years, you have been asymptomatic, you have good insight into your illness, you have a supportive family, and you have been doing well at work. I appreciate that when people are discharged they are concerned about what happens should they relapse. Of course you can see your GP who can review your medication in the first instance. You also have the option of contacting our services directly using our Single Point of Access. They will ensure you get the most appropriate service for your needs at that time. I am also happy for your GP to contact me directly for advice about medication should this be necessary.


Finally I wish you and your family well.


Best wishes


Yours sincerely


Dr G Herbert

Associate Specialist Psychiatrist 

I’m not the prolific blogger I thought I would be about my mental illness. I guess I’ve been concentrating more on living my life than writing about it. I’ve been too busy, to inclined to focus elsewhere. I’m not really sure what ‘Hypomanic – the blog’ does anymore from a holistic point of view? What I always wanted aged 23 was a channel to let out publicly how furious I felt as a young man to be cut down and bound by a condition that most people deride, including my younger self, before I was diagnosed. It’s always about the stigma, S.T.I.G.M.A.T.A. Cut down and bound before I even got started with life. There was this incredible force to fight it inside me. I was petrified and mute in public and neutered socially but at home, alone in front of the computer it was going to be pay back time. Boy did I vent. My fuel tank emptied as soon as the book was published, the website made, twitter live, the youtube videos uploaded etc. etc. etc.

I hate the word ‘cathartic’ in some contexts so I’ll liken my own personal media exorcism to swallowing a milky, chalk-like enema – or even having a massive poo! Recovering from my initial breakdown in 1995, a psychiatric nurse on the ward said to me, “Keep a diary Victor, it’s really good to write things down. It can help your recovery” I think I sort of took that advice and ran with it, like Forrest Gump – sprinting off into an obsession with understanding what had happened to me, purging it and then sharing it all as beautifully as I could. Classic text book ‘blah blah blah blah blah.’ Stick whatever label into that you like.

The digital footprint of my massive drawn out brain-explosion has been online and searchable since the mid-noughties and slowly over time an enlightening and really special by-product occurred. The more people fed back to me the more I actually started to feel responsible to everyone who would be digesting what I had created (then curated) off the back of an acutely painful life event. I felt that what I write should be oriented to help the people visiting in some way. It must help them make a recovery or get out of whatever negative situation they found themselves in, related to whichever aspect of mental illness they have been experiencing. People search for answers on the internet, they say it’s about asking the right questions but in my case, I have to ask myself; am I giving them the best answers with the most hope and with realistic encouragement.

What I’m trying to say is that today, after 17 years under observation, I’ve been discharged from psychiatric care. My psychiatrist said, “It is because you have done so well and your moods have been stable for so long.” I’m no fool, I’m aware this could also be David Cameron and a Tory NHS initiative. That said, I guess I’m a bit emotional, hence this post was written in this open way. Just record my initial reaction to this news. Quite a lot of things, good things, are going around in my head. I wanted to share the news out of responsibility and if I’m sharing it then it would be helpful to tell you how I’ve managed it. I think in linguistic terms ‘managing it’ is the best way to describe how to live with a diagnosis of bipolar type II. Even though I may be discharged it will never leave my side. I’m still petrified in public of being ‘exposed’ and I do smile and laugh a lot but socially but I am still an outsider to everyone but my wife and kids, not forgetting my heroic parents. I think a hard truth to accept is you won’t find many new close friendships after diagnosis, partly down to your own personal stigma, particularly if you are like me and you want to keep bipolar and/or mental illness off the table in your relationships at work. I like ‘bothering’ people in the form of accessible text over the world wide web but I really don’t like vocally burdening people with my stigma-related news. If you ask me, the world’s not quite ready yet. In life, I think I just want people to know me as me. Everything else, all the chaos and the heartbreak, plus the strength and determination is hidden secretly away behind my mask, my smile. I’m defined by what I can do, not by how much lithium I take every evening before I go to bed. That’s another thing – always take your medication on time and as regularly as directed. For me, that is the one key foundation to recovery. The rest is much simpler than you thought. One step in front of the other. Oh, and try writing down how you are feeling as often as you feel necessary!

With hope and huge gratitude, Victor

There is a widespread belief among us that losing your mind is a one way, irreversible process to be avoided at all costs. Without education it’s always going to be treated that way because of the idea that death exists as a final destination. A destination which once arrived at and transformed into, cannot be fully understood or documented for the clarity and benefit of the others you leave behind. This is why death is the first great taboo and mental illness comes a close second. In terms of real human benefit, what we all need to have faith in, as we develop and grow as people is that although you may unfortunately lose your mind at some point in your life, you may also fully recover your sense of self.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

Posted by: hypomanic | April 16, 2011

Catherine Zeta-Jones and all those who outed before her

There has been widespread coverage of bipolar this week due to the announcement that actress Catherine Zeta-Jones has recently been diagnosed and spent time in a mental health facility in the US.

I was diagnosed bipolar in 1996 and since then I’ve witnessed a lot of occasions like the one this week when someone who is famous and becomes bipolar gets made an example of in news feed and editorials. Sometimes the media are kind, as they have been this week to Catherine but often in the past they were not. For example during 2004 in the UK when boxer Frank Bruno experienced the same transformation as Catherine has this week, he was derided by some of the British press for more reasons than just his mental predicament, particularly The Sun’s front page headline “BONKERS BRUNO LOCKED UP.”

Catherine Zeta-Jones does not propose a perceived threat to the safety of the wider general public because her physical presence evokes something entirely different, something much less threatening in the fear hierarchies of the perpetrators of stigma. The archetype story I use to demonstrate my point is Beauty and the Beast. Its an ancient fairy tale I often read to my 3 year old before she goes to bed so I guess I’m perpetuating too. Its difficult. Stigma has been around for a very long time, it is very well established and it is ingrained globally throughout the human psyche. Turning that around is no small task.

However, if the positive bipolar coverage of Catherine Zeta Jones represents progress along the lines of self advocacy and openness as a human race (with regard to mental illness) then I take encouragement and strength from that in my own struggles with coming out as a non-famous bipolar individual to the people I meet throughout my life. It is a different playing field altogether and that is why I’m remaining reluctantly defensive and somewhat closed.

The thing is, something in the deeper recesses of my mind is telling me to remain skeptic and therefore closed day-to-day even when revelations in the news about film star’s lives become company, even a bit close to home. Catherine Zeta-Jones has taken a decision to come out and tell the world she has the incurable condition bipolar that sits in second place only to Schizophrenia as the worst, most disruptive mental disorder known to man. She has clearly accepted that fact. The illness has been imposed upon her by her biological makeup and it’s susceptibility to depression and mania when exposed to the extreme stress of her husband’s recent fight against cancer. The biological aspect of this is important when I refer back to Frank Bruno’s case in 2004.

Frank Bruno had a divorce and his successful boxing career had recently ended. But that particular story, from our point of view as the audience, has less of an emotional hook than that which touches our empathy from what Catherine Zeta-Jones, in early reports, appears to have gone through. Also, in terms of dignity, Frank’s behaviour had gone awry not only with his family but it was being recognised by a wider group of people, who eventually got quoted by ‘sensational’ journalists (a lesser extreme version of what is happening to Charlie Sheen at the moment). Catherine has been relatively private. However, both cases involved a stressful life event and a medically understood vacancy of a certain brain chemistry essential for the ability to control mood peaks and troughs brought about by the events of the external environment. Fight or flight or medical intervention.

I also fear bipolar is becoming sort of a fashionable illness because so many people who make vast amounts of money from the culture of celebrity are by necessity outed as having a diagnosis of bipolar by the newspapers and magazines that help the celebrity economy to remain front and center in the early 21st century. I’m convinced that the ‘fame’ model is almost identically the same DNA that perpetuates stigma. I’m talking all kinds of stigma and associated bullying, not just about mental illness.

Out of 6 billion human beings, none are identical and everyone of them is unique. Fame has nothing to do with this. Bipolar has little to do with this either. We’re all special. There are 6 billion minorities walking this planet.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
Or you can follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

First of all, the answer isn’t entirely in the containment of your diagnosis because sooner or later you will unfortunately suffer your next episode and in whichever way it returns and then subsides again, you may find you have no options left other than to disclose to your line manager in an attempt to hold on to your job. Your career progression will suffer if you keep moving from job to job. A sad fact is that as soon as you disclose, your boss dictates whether your career in that organisation will progress or not. Unfortunately in their eyes, your ability to cope professionally has been tarnished.
Of course in the corporate scenario, the awareness of your diagnosis is best kept to yourself as much as possible because as soon as your boss, or worse, your colleagues discover you have a mental illness, the odds of any senior responsibility coming your way will be be almost zero. To some people stigma is a massive, accusatory word so let me explain how it is appropriate to describe what is actually happening in terms of an imposed career glass ceiling for an outed bipolar individual.

A lot of bipolar individuals like me do not enjoy the same livelihood capacity as Stephen Fry possessed when he leveraged his career in television as a platform to publicly disclose his diagnosis in the brilliant documentary, Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. Don’t get me wrong, he was brave and courageous to attempt it and I can only imagine how tough the british television industry would have become for him, had the documentary not been well received by the british media.
He took a risk and exerted pressure on all barriers, his efforts may not have been welcomed and that hypothetical scenario could have ended with a career downward spiral. That’s his professional risk but that was not all. He took the bravest risk of all. For himself to change things – to transform into something that meant he didn’t have to live a life of bipolar secrecy anymore and I know exactly why he manufactured the step change. I dream of being able to do the same thing.
He was also doing it for his fellow bipolar sufferers – and don’t get me wrong, when I say suffer I’m not just referring to symptoms, I’m trying to explain what stigma is.

Stigma in my world IS an imposed career glass ceiling. Do I feel stigmatised? I personally don’t. I don’t because I understand why my boss cannot trust me professionally enough to promote me. I confessed my diagnosis over a year ago after my latest episode, which in fact was a breakdown. I returned gratefully to my job after seven weeks and have not had a day off sick since then – August 2009.

Unfortunately my boss can never understand what I go through when I’m trying to keep a big part of my life secret and separate from my professional appearance. It’s a day to day secret. A need to know basis only. Other people reading this blog post might think I keep a secret because I’m ashamed of my bipolar but I’m not at all. I’m proud of myself and my biology but I prefer not to be defined by my illness when I’m at work because I can avoid stigma that way. In actual fact I’m so proud of people like Stephen Fry because they are fighting a battle for all of us. I’m trying to step up and raise the same awareness by standing on Stephen’s broad shoulders. I’m trying to assert more pressure by sharing the experience of my life, with you, in relation to the stigma I have to face sometimes.

However, the paradox of a career imposed glass ceiling has not even moved a millimetre for diagnosed bipolar individuals on the ground. The ones who will really pay if they come out at work and cannot afford to take the same risk that Stephen Fry took because there’s no going back. You cannot unring a bell.
If someone has been forced to disclose, for whatever reason, they might feel like they ‘got away with it’ when their working life appears to carry on as it was before. Believe me it hasn’t. Slowly it becomes apparent that their line manager is somehow protecting them by not exposing them to a perceived level of stress they assume a bipolar individual cannot cope with in a professional capacity. This poorly informed stance is based on a line manager’s limited knowledge of a bipolar individual’s determination, ambition or what it means to have and manage a diagnosis of bipolar – which is the biggest personal responsibility of all!

In this situation I have found it helpful to look at it from my line manager’s point of view. They are not a doctor or a psychiatrist. They are in a difficult position so they manage the risk – that’s what they’ve been taught to do as a manager. An outed bipolar individual working in commerce represents a subjective risk and that’s at the discretion of the line manager. They may think they are acting in the bipolar individual’s best interests and that they are somehow protecting them from their own destruction should they promote that bipolar individual and they somehow ‘prove’ they cannot cope with the promotion. It’s emotional for the line manager and they can get it fundamentally wrong so they try to do what is right and when push comes to shove, they certainly won’t risk their own position without warranty.

This situation is stigma but I’m referring to it as a ‘ceiling’ because the stigma is a limitation blocking upward advancement, and ‘glass’ because the stigma is not immediately apparent and is normally an unwritten and unofficial policy. This invisible barrier continues to exist, even though there are no explicit obstacles keeping bipolar individuals from acquiring advanced job positions.

So can a person diagnosed bipolar ever traverse an imposed career glass ceiling?

1) For the record, I think people who believe in limits end up being limited people. So keep asserting pressure.
2) Go stealth. You are not betraying anyone – especially yourself by keeping it secret, you are protecting your progress.
3) Learn to manage your illness as best you possibly can. This is the hardest part, I know. Self-management allows you to stay stealth for longer.
4) Become contextually good at your job, because if you’re not then all the other hard work establishing a foundation for progress, was for nothing.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

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