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2 min read

James Harrop, Co-founder of Minderful, on living with Bipolar

James Harrop, Co-founder of Minderful, on living with Bipolar

Diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 (formerly manic depression) in 2006, my twenties were marked by manic highs. Initially, it is alluring. Your thoughts become quicker and quicker; your mind is sharper than ever. All you can do is create - draw, paint, write, dance - you have to get this surmounting energy out. It appears people warm to you; you have a presence, can make people laugh, and enjoy thinking forty-three steps ahead.

Sleep is the first to go. As the mind becomes quicker and quicker, sleep becomes redundant. Then the battles begin. Wanting to stay in this new gear of the mind, you convince yourself you are fine. It's a gift; you can survive on 3 hours’ sleep a night; others in history can. The delusions are creeping in.

A week later, the battle has intensified. You look in the mirror to shake yourself back down. Not a chance. You're fine; read a book. Not a chance. Then sit and meditate. Wrong move. That's oxygen to the flame. Trying to make sense of it, you begin to rationalise without realising. Connections everywhere - words, names, colours, songs - all start to take on meaning. Exhausted with too much energy, you are desperate and grasping at anything to comprehend what is happening. The thought accelerator is flat down, and there is no stopping.

Reality begins to break down; you are split living between a world constructed by your own thoughts and the faint memory of a world you are leaving behind. Life resembles a dream. Letting your mind break its shackles and float away feels strangely familiar. But then you're back. Wise words begin as a murmur: 'This is not right,' then echo loudly, stabbing you back into everyone else's reality. What the f**k is going on? You're fine. You're a normal guy. You're fine.

Then clunk. Phone call home. I am stumped; please help. Again. I've opened the gate and once again led myself down the same path to psychosis, a distraught family, no sleep, weeks off work, and the gospel word of the consultant.

In the early days, you'd fight, there's nothing wrong with me. But with age, you learn to accept, to admit. You cannot outcompete a racing mind, no matter how hard you try. With age, you recognise the effect it has on others - particularly close family - and eventually accept it as an illness.

Now the priority is taming the beast. Taming the inner mind. You know the electrifying and captivating power it had. You know the speed it can work at. You know the places and adventures it can take you. But a sleeping dragon is less destructive than a flying dragon, and so you let it purr, let it rest, and take heed of the Do Not Disturb sign it has tattooed across its fiery chest.

What have I learnt? It is better to take your meds and live sanely in this world. Being sane in a one-man world is a hopeless place.




About the Author

James Harrop-1

James Harrop
Co-founder of Minderful

James is the co-founder of Minderful, with a vibrant creative background. He has worked as an art director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Fallon, and has also co-founded a luxury bag label called Eddie Harrop. His experience in the creative industry has fuelled his interest in the connection between creativity and mental health.

James has also lived with bipolar for over a decade and as a result, has a very real understanding of the importance of looking after the mind proactively. His mental wellness routine includes painting, long walks, yoga, and decluttering. 



Build your wellness culture with James




At Minderful, we take a 3-phased whole-system approach to building a sustainable wellness culture for your organisation by assessing your existing culture, embedding a framework for positive change, and providing ongoing support. This ensures long-term organisational improvements that are aligned with business goals.

If you'd like to learn more about how our proven approach can uplift your people and culture, get in touch today.


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