I’m sharing my experience with bipolar disorder today because I want to contribute to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. But maybe not the stigma you’d first think of. Societal stigma around mental health is something we collectively need to work on but, for me, the biggest obstacle to accepting myself and asking for help was the stigma I carried within myself. I’m telling my story to help bring down the internal barriers that can stand between an individual’s self-acceptance, and treatment.
My journey began six years ago when I started experiencing crippling depression, followed by extreme mood swings. I fought to keep it together, but I realised I couldn’t manage alone. I couldn’t function at work or at home. It was an extremely dark time, which took its toll on me and those around me - my colleagues and my family. And so I asked for help and began a two-year journey to recovery aided by therapy and medication.
While recovery was an uphill struggle, the decision to be open about what I was experiencing wasn’t easy either. My parents in particular were really worried about me losing my job if I opened up about my mental health. But when I weighed up the pros and cons, I realised that I couldn’t do this alone; I needed support to get better and if I didn’t tell people what was happening, I wouldn’t be able to ask for the help I needed.
I was really lucky at work. I started by telling my boss, then my closest colleagues, about what I was going through. I was able to take the time I wanted and then progressively return to work. I felt like I was in a safe space, and I got the support and acceptance I required which helped me on the road to recovery.
And getting my diagnosis really made a difference. It helped me understand what I was going through and gave me hope. Knowing that treatment was available and that I could manage my disorder came as a huge relief. People often say that fear is based on ignorance and I think in a similar way, my own internalised stigma about what it meant to live with mental ill health was linked to not understanding what I was experiencing.
With the diagnosis and treatment, I was able to challenge my own misconceptions about what it is to experience mental ill health. There’s no escaping the difficulty of what I went through, but my journey showed me that there is a way to manage my bipolar disorder and still perform at work and be accepted. Indeed, I’ve been promoted since returning from leave.
Today, I continue to manage my condition. As well as medication, I stick to regular sleeping habits, I eat well, I play sports early, avoiding anything too intense. These steps help contribute to my mental wellbeing, and I’ve also become an advocate for mental health, collaborating with a local mental health organisation, and giving interviews and contributing to articles sharing my story.
I’ve seen a lot of change in Spanish society over the last few years with more and more people in the public eye being willing to talk openly about their mental health. I think having visible role models is key to reducing stigma as it shows people that everyone has mental health.
So this is me. A colleague, a friend, a family member. My bipolar disorder doesn’t define me, but it’s part of my story – a story I’m happy to share with you.
Marçal, Deloitte Spain
Deloitte’s mental health story series aims to break down barriers to talking about mental health. It is not intended to – and does not - offer advice nor substitute professional mental health support. If you are experiencing mental ill health or are concerned about someone else’s mental health, please contact your national or local helpline or healthcare provider for support.