When I was first diagnosed with depression, I didn't know what to say to my boss, so I didn't say anything. I hid under the duvet, with my phone switched off, for weeks and weeks.
I had no idea I was depressed when I took the job. I thought I was just sick of my previous job and that the change would improve my mood. Finally, we met up, and my boss was nice and let me resign.
I always knew that depression wasn't an adequate explanation for my mood episodes. For as long as I can remember - back to childhood - I would have periods of frantic activity, where I would work obsessively on projects. As well as those episodes, I would also have times when I felt really tired, and I could barely get out of bed. These opposing moods grew more extreme as I got older.
The first time my moods began to swing uncontrollably and affect my career and relationship, was when I got that diagnosis of depression. A couple of weeks after resigning from my job, I was working for 18 hours a day, making a game app for the iPhone. I hardly ate, I hardly slept. I was irritated by any interruption.
I worked for a few weeks solidly, and then I released it to the Apple App Store. It went to number one in the charts, briefly, which encouraged me to write more apps. I wrote another 2 apps very quickly, and one of them proved even more popular than the first. Money was flooding in, but I suddenly hated doing it and I abandoned the project... although the apps kept selling for many months.
I got another job soon after, almost by accident. It was a casual contract - I only got paid for the days I turned up. At first, I worked full time, but then I started to take more and more days off, until finally I disappeared for a week, then two weeks. My boss didn't care at first, because I always got the work done when it was needed, but after 18 months working there, he asked me "do you really want this job?" and I admitted that I didn't. I was bored, but we parted company amicably.
I had a lot of money from savings, my iPhone apps and generally having been very well paid. I started various businesses, made them profitable and successful and then abandoned them when depression struck. One company that I started was valued at close to a million dollars, and the richest man in Cambridge - who was worth about £2bn - was going to invest. The technology press interviewed me. I had tons of venture capitalists who wanted to meet me. Then, one day, I couldn't face it any more. I gave my business partner my shares and completely abandoned my role as CEO/Managing Director.
After another lengthy depression, I read every book I could buy on Quantum Mechanics. Then, I started to read academic papers. I became obsessed by the ideas of a little-known French theoretical physicist called Louis de Broglie, and started to write to the few professors who were familiar with his work. To my surprise, they wrote back.
The academics who I conversed with were kind and indulgent with their time; encouraging even. Many were flattered that I'd read their work and had understood their theses, and treated me like one of their students. My delusions of grandeur ballooned, and I wrote academic papers of my own and sent them to academic journals for publication. Some of the editors were kind enough to write back and say that I was running before I could walk.
Running out of money, I went back to work for one of my old employers. In 6 months, I rescued a failing part of the organisation, that was critical to its whole function as a business. I received special commendation and personal thanks from the CEO. However, I knew that I was very unwell and needed a long time off sick. Having private medical insurance, I consulted a psychiatrist who confirmed what I had long suspected - that I'm bipolar - and recommended that I have an inpatient admission because I was in crisis. I was suicidal and in terrible conflict with my wife, who I had just married in Hawaii.
I was horrified at the idea of being hospitalised. I couldn't possibly imagine taking more than a week or two off work sick, but my psychiatrist recommended a month-long stay. His report was very insightful and helped me feel a lot less guilty about my inability to hold down a steady job; to provide stability for my wife.
We were both taken aback by the conclusion that hospital would be best. As my wife and I argued, I became more convinced that I needed the respite of hospital, and she became more adamant that I should (and could) manage on my own. In the end, she begrudgingly drove me to hospital, threatening to divorce me.
In hospital, I was extremely concerned about my boss and colleagues discovering that I was a psychiatric inpatient. I was in a complete panic about how much damage would be done to my career, taking a whole month off work. I didn't want anybody in my professional life to know that I had a mental illness, severe enough to warrant hospitalisation, in extreme circumstances - a crisis could lead to my life being in danger.
Between the hospital, HR and occupational health, they were extremely discreet and mindful of my right to confidentiality. The hospital really reassured me that I could relax and recover, and need not worry about work. I had felt like it was the end of the world, and that my professional reputation would be in tatters, but the hospital expertly handled the delicate subject with my employer, as well as taking care of the medical insurance claim, which was nearly £15,000.
There was a question mark over whether bipolar is an acute or a chronic illness, and many medical insurance companies don't cover chronic illness, but my psychiatrist did an excellent job of convincing the insurers that my case was acute.
When I was discharged, my occupational health doctor was very sympathetic and patient, allowing me more time off and a slow phased return to work. A lot of my fears about what to say to colleagues - having been missing for nearly 2 months - were allayed by the occupational health team.
Nowadays, I work short contracts when I feel well enough. I've had a 2-week stay in a crisis house, and a 2-week inpatient hospital admission, but I don't live in fear of bosses and colleagues finding out that I have a mental illness anymore. I don't ask for any special treatment, but sometimes hypomania can make me quite unmanageable, and other times, depression means I struggle to get to work. If I lose my contract, I just get another one. Thankfully, my skills are in demand.
My wife did divorce me, and we had to sell the house because I couldn't afford to buy her share. but I've since had girlfriends who are kind, sympathetic and understanding, and they've helped me to manage my mood episodes.
I thought my life would be over, losing my wife, my house, my job and being labelled as mentally ill, but my fears were unfounded. I met partners who were more supportive, I've fulfilled a lifelong dream to live by the River Thames, I work when I'm well enough and I created an alter-ego - Nick "Manic" Grant - to blog about life with bipolar.
My readers and my Twitter followers offer help and support, and make me feel like I have a reason to live: to share my story with the world, and write things that people can relate to. All those "me too" moments make you feel a little bit less like a freak; a little bit less defective; a little bit less alone - there are lots of others out there, going through exactly what you're going through.
We live in a world of smartphones and social media. Many of us connect with friends and the world, digitally. I've made lifelong friends via the internet, and when you're going through tough times, you can have lots of friends aware of what's going on, and offering to support you, than would ever be possible if you just phoned your best friend or a family member.
When I was hospitalised in January, I had loads of visitors, and I felt really pleased that I've been honest and candid about my mental illness. Trying to pretend everything was OK eventually led to the worst moments of my life. Don't get me wrong... bipolar still wreaks havoc in my life at times, but I've got friends by my side and I'm not afraid.
It means a lot to be honest, and proud about how well you're doing, despite your struggle with mental illness. It means a lot to turn a label - like bipolar - into a positive part of your identity, rather than view it as a defect.
I thought my world was ending, but I've been so much happier since I remade my life around my needs.
A brilliantly honest account from Nick who has certainly seen the highs and lows of depression and bipolar. Proof, if proof were needed, that no matter how successful you are, you can still be hit with the mental illness stick. All our thanks to Nick for sharing it with us.