Lisa lives with Bipolar disorder and a personality disorder. While working with one of her psychiatrists, Lisa first came into contact with the Black Dog Institute and now is a presenter sharing her story.

I think it was around age 11 when I first noticed a sense of indescribable melancholy. I didn’t want to be with friends, I didn’t want to be participating in school. I just wanted to be. Be alone, doing nothing, and hibernating.

“At the time, my family and friends could see there was something different about me, but no one really knew what, or how to support me, so in turn, I got no support at all.

As I got older, I tried various mental health supports and medications, until one day I met a psychiatrist who saw me for me and understood what I was experiencing. Through working with them, they helped me learn more about what was going on, which meant I was finally able to then explain to my family and friends, the exact support I needed.

After I was diagnosed, I realised that instead of the highs and lows that people expect from Bipolar, I experienced mostly depression and anxiety. When I was 45, I was also diagnosed as having a personality disorder.

“Having a diagnosis and accessing professional help was a critical part of my mental health journey. It really was the defining moment when things began to change for the better.”

When I received my diagnosis, I finally understood why I was experiencing emotions to extremes. In the past, it had often felt like I was riding a never-ending rollercoaster, where I had no control. My diagnosis provided me with a positive way of approaching my mental health so I could manage and live with bipolar effectively.

At that time, my clinicians recommended that I establish a day-to-day routine, including exercise, prioritising sleep, as well as taking the medication prescribed to me. Since then, I’ve also learnt how to look for my triggers and how to recognise when I’m heading towards a high or a low, as well as educating my family and friends more. It has been a slow process, and lots of work and trial and error, But through working with my psychologist and psychiatrist, I was able to start repairing relationships, refocus on my education and move forward. Focusing on the future was and is really important to me.

“I think a diagnosis is important. I hadn’t changed, I was the same me. Just with more understanding about what I was experiencing.

From 11 until now, (55), I have been recommended so many types of medications, some worked, and others didn’t, and it took a lot of trial and error to find what really helped. It is still a work in progress because I am finding as I get older some medications have stopped working for me, so I then go back and try something new.

Part of my journey in learning how to live with my Bipolar more effectively was to find something that gave me solace, and the alone time I had craved as a child. For me now, I have found this while walking and listening to music as well as mindfulness, and art. Music especially is where I find that I can ‘switch off’ and concentrate on the lyrics and tunes, it’s peaceful.

Now because my friends and family know about my diagnosis, they will often notice me ‘going down’ before I do, and tell me, which is helpful. Stepping away from life, relaxing and spending time with my dogs also really grounds me.

“I have accepted that my mental illness is just a part of who I am now. I was born with a brain a little different to other people, and depression and anxiety come along with me wherever I go. I suppose it’s like my personal baggage but instead of weighing me down like it used to, it doesn’t feel heavy or hard to handle anymore.

It’s so important that you find someone who you can talk to who understands your mental health issues, and who you can trust for their advice and support.

The Black Dog Institute is phenomenal, really. They have created a space where I can share my story which has been invaluable for me in my journey. The second talk I presented was in regional Queensland to a group of 6 men who all were experiencing mental health issues and didn’t know what to do, or where to start to access support. It was such an honor chatting with them and I realised, if my story can help just one person, that’s worth everything. People hear my story and see similarities in our experiences, and it helps them know there’s support and hope out there.

If you or anyone you know needs help: