Today is World Bipolar Day and we have a very special MyStory to bring awareness to Bipolar Disorder.
“I always say that getting out of bed in the morning is one hell of achievement which should not be belittled.”
Introducing the amazing “My Story” journey of April Kelley; Actor, Producer and Ambassador to Bipolar UK.
Tell us a little about yourself? Who are you and where are you from?
Ah, well yes – the name’s April. I’m an actor and when I’m not acting, I’m running a production company, Mini Productions, with the Thelma to my Louise, Sara!
Living in London (cliché) and I’m the ambassador for Bipolar UK.
In a nutshell, for those who aren’t familiar – how would you describe Bipolar?
Ooft, scientifically – ‘a mental condition marked by alternating periods of elation and depression.’
My personal opinion – on a good day, a superpower including extreme productivity and the ability to empathise so deeply with anyone you meet. On a bad day – a crippling, exhausting battle with an invisible roommate in your mind where you lose your independence.
When were you first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder? How did this come about?
I’ve suffered with my mental health since the age of 15. Over the course of 10 years after many misdiagnoses and an assortment of medication which did nothing but exacerbate the situation.
I was finally diagnosed in March of 2018. The way that came about was at a mental health event, I just got chatting to a psychiatrist after getting to a stage where I was crying for help but didn’t know what help I needed. She recommended another psychiatrist and the rest was history.
How did you feel when you were diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder?
Like a whole weight was lifted and a new one chucked on all at the same time. It was such an unusual relief finally unmasking the demon I was fighting but then came the education. My loved ones (as well as myself) had to put in the time to learn and understand this disability. I was scared knowing that there’s no quick fix, nor a cure – only the ability to live with it. But as I said, on a good day I actually find myself grateful for it.
How was your life growing up with Bipolar Disorder?
Looking back on it… tough. I never considered it tough because I was under the impression it was just a rite of passage which all teenagers and early twenties folk went through. I have a very fortunate life, incredible family, wonderful friends and in a career I adore but there are milestones and episodes on my life I struggle to now remember because they were so dark… so, it’s swings and roundabouts.
How do you deal with your Bipolar Disorder on a daily basis?
Exactly that, I deal with it on a day by day basis. Routine is key for me and yet too much routine will ensure a heighten episode because I’ll be chasing high emotion to break out of a monotonous routine.
I stay in touch with people – human connection is key. I take my meds every night – missing those is a disaster. And I channel my energy, be it pump adrenaline or anxiety (both of which have similar effects on the body) into my work, especially since becoming the ambassador for Bipolar UK. The thought of helping even just one person with their days makes it much easier for me to get out of bed in the morning. Oh, and eating – that’s a struggle, people need to remind me to eat.
Do you have any advice for anyone going through a similar experience?
Wiggle your big toe! We’re currently living through scary, uncertain times… Waves of explosive emotions which will stop you in your tracks and numb you. When I’m paralysed by the whizzing thoughts in my head I take a deep breath and in true Ume Thurman in Kill Bill style I tell myself to wiggle my big toe. By doing so reminds me I’m still here and still in control.
I always say that getting out of bed in the morning is one hell of achievement which should not be belittled.
What could you recommend to anyone who is living with/related to/ friends with someone living with Bipolar disorder?
Watch episode 3 of Modern Love (on Amazon Prime) for me that was the one thing I could put in front of my loved ones and say “this! This is exactly what it is for me” … In fact, I’ve written an article for Happiful Magazine about it: https://happiful.com/modern-love-and-my-bipolar/
Things not to say: “everyone has a bad day” … the majority of us already feel bad and embarrassed about the way we feel and this only makes it worse.
Find and create your support network. I have a handful of friends who will see me through every episode, even a friend in America for those times where I’m still awake at 3am.
How do you feel about mental health first aid training? Do you wish they’d had this in previous work places? Have you ever taken part in the training?
I won’t lie to you; this is a new concept and I have yet to be in a situation to expect. I know there are a lot more efforts in introducing consistent mental health support within companies and this makes me very happy.
The only way I can relate is due to what has occurred over the last few months… my business partner, Sara is in fact now my carer. I think people all too often forget that mental illness is a disability despite not being able to see it. Sara on numerous occasions got me out of bed, she knows the early warning signs of an episode before I do, and she knows how to handle when they do occur. I don’t know what I would do without her but I sure as hell know the company wouldn’t exist without her.
If you’d like to follow April and hear more about her journey, you can find her at: