My name is Paul Scullion and I have a mental illness, and that illness is bipolar.

Although I have been living with this for some time, it was only in December 2021 at the age of 51 that I was diagnosed with the condition that had unknowingly always been part of my life. At the time of the diagnosis, it was not something I expected, welcomed or understood. The time since then has been life changing in ways that I could not have expected. Although some of these life changes have been negative, on the whole my journey has been very much a positive one as I began to understand my brain.

I can say that I am the happiest I have ever been in my life, however, given that for most of my adult life I have really, truly hated myself, this was not a difficult state to achieve. I am also probably the most unstable I have ever been in my life and require medication to keep me between the rails. But that is ok.

I still have highs and lows – more in particular of the latter, but I don’t seem to crash. With the medicated lows I now just feel numb and an emotional mess. Until I met my wife, the only emotion I had was depressed (with her I discovered love) so a mess is something novel and new for me. With the highs I tend to be somewhat of an arse still, but for shorter periods of time.

This blog is really for me, but if you find some of the content interesting then that’s an added bonus.

Hello Mr Freud

The Diagnosis

Way before the diagnosis I had been labelled by my doctor as “susceptible to depression and anxiety”. This was a tendency that I liked to keep hidden from the world. A few of my family and friends knew that I’d once spent time in a mental health clinic, but I didn’t label myself or particularly seek ongoing treatment for something that to me was an occasional mental health issue.

The thought of being someone who has a mental illness – or the more scarily phrased “someone who is mentally ill” had never crossed my mind. I just had a secret that I liked to keep from people that sometimes I went to very dark places, and at other times my brain would go at a million miles an hour. I was scared that my career would be in tatters if employers ever found out, and prior to meeting my wife, that I could never hold down a relationship.

My life then changed in a way that I did not expect.

Just before the diagnosis (retrospective thought is commonplace for me), for about four months I had been manic, annoying, snappy, overly talkative, crude, wasteful with money and to put it bluntly – a bit of a wanker. I did not know this – my wife told me this was how I had been. Then in November I crashed into a temporary depressed state. The time had been particularly stressful as my father was terminally ill, and passed away later that same month, but rather than falling further into depression, I reverted back to a high; but not before I had reached out to my doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist. 

I am not sure if it was because I gelled with the psychiatrist I went to see, but she was able to open me up like a book. In reality, I think in the first session she only read the preface, but that was enough for her to work me out. I was bipolar. I was mentally ill. 

The Unexpected

My wife and family already knew of my issues, so although quite a lot to take in, the support I received was amazing and no one was particularly that shocked. I think my wife was actually quite relieved, as it went some way to explaining my sometimes erratic behaviour and the bleak places I would occasionally drift off into. My wife is perhaps the only person to have seen me close up and experience my highs and lows so her opinion matters the most.

Perhaps even five or ten years ago, my journey would have been a very different one, but I have found that talking to people and being open about what goes on in my head is met with interest, sympathy or just a shrug of the shoulders. Much to my relief, not one person said “so you’re mentally ill then”. If they had – my answer would be “Yes I am, but that is not who I am”.

The Present

A lot of the time I am ok – being bipolar doesn’t affect me 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That being said, being bipolar is never far from the front of my mind. I have red flags I now look out for so I stand more of a chance of knowing when my moods are becoming more erratic. In addition to this, my wonderful wife knows exactly when something is up. I take medication every day to keep my mood swings in check, and although these help me get through most days, I still have good ones and bad ones – whether these be high or low.

I am supposed to take medication for the rest of my life – right now this is Quetiapine and Lamotrigine and for the most part it works. I also know that if I forget to take the magic little pills and I am under some stress, then I can end up a mess very quickly; I don’t think this is entirely down to my condition, but also to the side effects of forgetting to take them.

The condition has not impacted me so much that I have trouble holding down a job – I have forged a fairly successful career in marketing and I am very grateful to life that I have been able to do this.

I am more grateful that I have a wonderful, if slightly lively family. I thought that this would be something life would not grant me, but it has so sometimes the sun does shine down on you.

Outside of my family and my job, my life these days focuses on running and keeping my brain healthy.


The Blog

When I first started writing this blog it had the sole purpose of helping to keep me sane. Whilst writing it, I did commit to running a lot of races for the 401 Foundation charity, which in turn led me to not updating the blog. Messed up there, but I did raise more money than I thought.

This time around I am going to focus on the relationship between exercise and mental

health as the link between the two is so strong.

It may well be less interesting than some of my early posts where I used comedy to try and help lift me up, but in terms of helping me live a healthier, more sane life, I think this is the way to go.

I’ll try and be funny where I can.

“On the outside we all can appear normal”

— Paul, Outwardly normal person

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